Alphabetical behind inspirational community centre branding

The once neglected facilities in the southeast London district of Thamesmead give arts, physical activities and education by graphic design studio Alphabetical

Computer Arts: Tell me about the client: how did you get the gig, what was your brief and how did you approach it?
Bob Young:
The client is a brilliant charity called Trust Thamesmead. They concevied the idea for a community centre, which they called The Link, and secured the funding. We were approached by the charity who asked us to brand the centre. The client knows the Thamesmead area better than anyone, so we started by listening to why they felt the centre would make such a difference to the local community and what they wanted to achieve.

CA: Who or what inspired the overall aesthetic?
BY:
One of the biggest influences on the project's core idea and aesthetic was the centre's unique location. It's built within the connecting abandoned spaces beneath a dual flyover in the heart of Thamesmead. So much of the walls and surrounding area are a mass of grey concrete — we wanted to create a look and feel that would bring this vast concrete space to life in a positive and characterful way. We also quickly understood that listening to the local community would be vital to the success of the project. We wanted the local residents to be involved as much as possible and for their opinions to be heard — this way they would feel a strong connection not only to the brand but to the centre itself.

CA: How long did the project take to complete?
BY:
Officially the project hasn't finished — we're still working with Trust Thamesmead on developing different aspects of The Link. But from first brief to finalising the identity and then completing the environmental and wayfinding graphics was almost 18 months. The most challenging aspect was the large hand painted murals, some were over twelve meters high and took some serious planning. We did, however, get a bit of help from Thamesmead Youth Voice, a local group of young people with links to the centre. We managed to get them to muck in with some of the painting which was really good fun.

CA: So local youth groups had quite a bit of input?
BY:
Yes. We started collaborating at the very beginning by holding workshops with young people from the area and getting feedback on initial ideas. Later, once we had the final concept for the brand, a key element was creating positive messaging that inspired everyone in the area to get involved. So it was fantastic to have young people who were excited by the project and willing to inject some of their ideas into the designs.

CA: Do you think similar projects should be rolled out in other areas, and how does they benefit the locals?
BY:
Centres like The Link have a dramatic impact on their local community and beyond. Young people in particular really benefit from the support and opportunities that are on offer, not only from the social aspect but learning about subjects such as healthy living and fitness to furthering their education.

CA: What was you favourite part of the project and why?
BY:
I think my favourite part was finishing the slinky on the ground level stairwell. It was such an intricate design and there were so many fiddly parts to it that it was such a relief to see it up on the wall, looking the way it was supposed to. I slept a bit better after that one had gone up.

Check out more from Alphabetical on its website. More information about the Trust Thamesmead at trust-thamesmead.co.uk