The Economist Events is a leading global platform that manages over 120 events each year. As such, it is a key revenue generator within The Economist Group.
– How might we align Events with the main Economist branding?
– How might we consolidate its branding across all regions?
– How might we improve the design process across an event cycle?
Over a period of two years I developed and implemented a new design system through different iterations, which brought brand consistency to the Events visual identity and greatly optimised the design process in the organisation.
The Economist Events is a platform that brings together C-suits, thought leaders and political figures to discuss the most pressing issues of our times.
It is a highly profitable operation within The Economist Group, and it presents unique challenges for design and creative. Firstly because of its aggressive profit margins, standing at 75%. Secondly, its vast portfolio of franchises and custom programmes together account for over 120 different events around the globe every year.
The initial task concerned the development and implementation of a consistent identity for The Economist Events at a global level. This had to be done in the context of a testing workflow and legacy issues such as siloed design teams across regions, inconsistent processes between teams, and outdated documentation including obsolete guidelines. Combined, they presented an ongoing challenge to raise the creative benchmark and required a considerate involvement of stakeholders.
Using 'systems thinking'
As a lead on this initiative my approach was to map out the entire Events ecosystem first. That included team members across regions, portfolio of events and its categories defined by topic/vertical, global presence, audience numbers and, of course, revenue. Once that exercise was concluded I sought to identify links, hierarchical relationships and potential areas for improvement.
The first hard task was to harmonise design processes across the three key regions, EMEA, Americas, and Asia, and deliver the first iteration of a design identity outlining new governing principles that were subsequently inseminated in other teams. The deliverables included brand and construction guidelines; third party app documentation; and an extensive inventory of digital, print and on-site templates such as social media cards, video stings, infographics, and others.
Twelve months later we initiated phase 02. It was a design iteration defined by a closer collaboration with the editorial design teams. It was done so to better align Events with the Economist master brand and ensure that the integrity of editorial was safeguarded from the commercial/sponsor based programmes.
The entire project took over two years and incurred several iterations. Throughout its several phases there were two big milestones: on Q3 2015, when I developed and implemented an interim design system for Events to bring more brand consistency across regions; and the second, from Q3 2016, which entailed a complete revaluation of the interim system against the upcoming Economist.com new user interface and new branding, which was developed over several months until launch in Spring 2017.
Our vast inventory of cross-channel assets presented a particular challenge on the consistency front. We had to use a pragmatic approach and dissect the business cycle of each category of event and organise design by areas of priority, e.g. marketing, acquisition and operations/experiential. Those assets ranged from digital and print ads including programmatic, social media cards, through to third party mobile applications, on the day collateral, backdrop panel, print signage, video stings and more.
Besides elevating design and brand expression we also engaged with stakeholders in marketing, operations and editorial to overhaul processes and promote best-practice across teams.
I kick-started the project by first understanding the business objectives of each event category (scheduled, custom, private and global franchise) and their unique cycles. Then, we organised the design inventory and adopted a 'bucket' approach whereby groups of design assets could be delivered in phases throughout the cycle, thus allowing better planning and resource forecasting. Management was done through a combination of Basecamp and bespoke tools using Google Cloud apps. The former keeping the communication thread organised and serving as a shared repository of design deliverables. The later helping with visualising design workload of each team member, time-tracking and project status.
The outcome was a consistent Events design identity across regions and a much more efficient, unambiguous process. Designers as well as marketing and operation teams gained more autonomy and greatly improved efficiency. The newly created workflows provided a solid structure to help deal with intense demand, increasing the bandwidth of the design team, thus allowing them to spend more time on high-value creative work away from day-to-day production.
Client The Economist Events
Agency The Economist
Creative and Design Direction Vilmar Pellisson
Design IDs Alex Horne, Shobhita Khundia, Mitul Sharma, Vaishali Saini
Motion Graphics Broadsword