BACK TO THE FUTURE. HOW 600 YEARS OF HISTORY INFORMED OUR DIGITAL-AGE BRAND REDESIGN
Updated: May 27
This week sees the official launch of our rebrand for an extraordinary, 600 year old organisation.
The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn educates and trains talented law students, developing them into successful barristers. It is one of four ancient societies with the exclusive right to call barristers to the Bar in England and Wales.
New times, new challenges
For centuries, Gray’s Inn has been developing the careers of some of the most extraordinary people in British - and World – history. However, the Inn was failing to communicate its distinctive benefits, at a critical time when persuading students to choose a career at the Bar had become a challenge. The Inn’s marketing communications were looking dull, dated and stuck in the past. Our brief was to reinvigorate the brand, by identifying what makes Gray’s special and then by bringing that message to life across a fresh brand ID and comms platform.
Our approach: to rebalance communications
We recognised that rational information and formality was getting in the way of building emotional connections. We set out to move our audience. For new prospects we wanted to stimulate desire to join Gray’s and for existing members we wanted to evoke pride in belonging. To reach new generations, we required a clear and inspiring ethos, a distinct sense of cachet and the promise of a fulfilling career. We needed to understand Gray’s’ points of difference.
Discovery and insights
To be authentic, a brand positioning must be driven from within. Our process began with research. We surveyed over 400 existing Members. We spoke to undergraduates in universities up and down the country. We conducted group discussions and one-on-one interviews with a wide range of barristers and judges. We audited the online and printed communications produced by a wide range of academic and professional institutions. We wanted to know what made Gray’s Inn stand out.
We identified confusion amongst students over why to choose one Inn over another. For many, there was a lack of understanding concerning the role and the value of the Inns. But our research revealed two distinguishing features of Gray’s Inn: its size and its culture.
We began to uncover a picture of an Inn that offers a remarkably personalexperience – a place where every Member counts and where interaction between barristers of different generations and specialisations is more productive and rewarding. Gray’s Inn, we realised, had the potential to be recognised as a powerful catalyst for the opportunities that will shape our Members’ future lives and careers. In a single sentence: Gray’s Inn creates more opportunities for you to make your mark. An Inn that champions its Members and is ‘Creating more opportunities’ provided our brand proposition. The next question was, how to bring this idea to life.
The brand identity redesign
Previously, there had been inconsistency across Gray’s’ visual identity – in typefaces, imagery, colours and styles. Even core equities like the griffin, had varied enormously.
We started with optimizing the badge for the digital world, incorporating a variety of subtle, yet important design evolutions. We have a slightly rounder shield, and a slightly bolder griffin with larger wings. Small differences that add up to a sense that Gray’s respects its long and proud history but is looking to the future.
In tandem with developing the badge, we selected a graceful serif typeface, to replace the wide range of different fonts variously used across the Inn’s communications
The third pillar of the redesign is a focus on the use of ‘in-the-moment’ photography. As an organization that elevates and champions its Members and creates more opportunities for them, we needed to show people and their stories. We needed to humanise.
In moving the Inn’s communications forward, we were inspired by a ghost of the distant past. If you walk around the Inn and look up, you see a shield featuring the blue-and-white horizontal stripes of the arms of the Barons Grey de Wilton, on the site of whose London home, Gray’s Inn was founded. We took the Grey de Wilton stripes and reinstated them as an important part of our new design system.
Finally, we defined the tone of voice to be used across all communications: bold, motivating, proud, and persuasive.
Communications that stimulate action
With the brand position work complete and look and feel defined, it was time to roll out the brand into a suite of Gray’s communications:
Website: www.graysinn.org.uk – Designed and copywritten by Frontroom, built by our partner agency, Core, the new website is where the new brand world really comes into sharp focus. Emotive headlines, stunning imagery and engaging copy combine, to create a dynamic environment in which to explore Gray’s.
Video Content & YouTube Channel – Gray’s may be 600 years old but it is a living, thriving community of extraordinary people. We wanted to bring the experience to life by focusing on human stories. We concepted, shot and produced a comprehensive suite of films that do just this. From a stir-the-blood brand ethos video, that features some of the biggest names in English law, to Meet Our Members films that offer a slice-of-life at the Inn, our content encapsulates Gray’s at its best.
Prospectus – The definitive printed brochure and a pivotal sales tool that communicates all the many reasons to choose Gray’s. Inspiring, galvanizing, premium and distinctive.
Social activations –Design templates that make day to day communications simple to create and engaging to view and share.
Stationery – From letterheads, to business cards to compliment slips, every touchpoint is an opportunity to convey our values.
Branded merchandise – Badges of honour, worn or carried with pride.
Outreach sub-brand identities – Our master brand was created with enough flexibility to extend to cover two of the Inn’s pioneering outreach initiatives: Griffin LAW for 6thform students and Vocalise for in-mates in prisons nation-wide.
Towards the future (and a challenge for Gray’s Members)
The new brand repositioning not only ensures Gray’s meets its external objectives, such as boosting Member recruitment, engaging more students and ensuring brand consistency, it also delivers powerful organisational benefits. Repositioning is about defining a shared, internal mission within the organisation. ‘Championing our Members’ and ‘Creating more opportunities for them to make their mark’ become mantras, that will kick-start fresh approaches, ideas and initiatives at Gray’s.
When we first embarked on this project, it was with a deep respect for Gray’s Inn tradition and history. Now with the rebrand complete, we’re super excited about what the future holds.