Transforming a Great British Theatrical Powerhouse

Amidst a rapidly evolving cultural landscape, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, a titan of British theatre, embarked on a bold rebranding mission. Guided by the creative minds at Rose, with creative directors Simon Elliott and Garry Blackburn and designers Yafet Bisrat and Ryan Peart-Donaldson, they aimed to resonate with both new and long-standing audiences in a post-pandemic world. Their innovative approach, meriting a Design 2024 Gold Award, redefined The Rep’s identity, intertwining its historic roots with contemporary finesse. Their story unveils their path and strategy, celebrating the theatre’s enduring legacy and its renewed connection with the vibrant community of Birmingham.

“Birmingham Rep was a sleeping giant—a theatre with an unparalleled history in the UK industry, but one that had lost ground with competitors and audiences. As a new leadership team, we knew we needed a completely refreshed brand to help us make good on the original vision of the theatre, excite new audiences, and reignite its pioneering spirit. Rose’s expertise and their immensely creative but extremely thorough approach to this brand revival have enabled The Rep to successfully harness its ‘classic’ history with a relevant and modern offer.” -Sean Foley, Artistic Director, The Rep

By: Simon Elliott & Garry Blackburn, Creative Partners

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre is the longest-established building-based theatre company in Britain and one of the most consistently innovative.

Our brief from them was to capture the imagination of new audiences—post-pandemic—whilst delivering a revitalized experience to their existing customers. It was also to ensure touring productions can deliver an equally consistent experience to local audiences when the Rep plays host and inherits third-party artwork beyond their control.

At the heart of the new brand strategy is the ambition to deliver experiences that are created by, with, and for the people of Birmingham. So we adopted this commitment and used it to inspire the new brand identity. We started with the name. Everyone in Birmingham knows the theatre as ‘The Rep.’ Consequently, we dropped their full name and replaced it with their more familiar and memorable colloquial name.

The new logo (crafted from Brummie-born Baskerville) provides them with playful opportunities to talk to different audiences and democratize ownership of the Rep as Birmingham’s theatre for everyone.

We also took inspiration from the rounded front windows of The Rep’s listed building for the friendly and contemporary secondary typeface family.

Unlike many theatre brands that focus on production titles and actors who may not resonate with theatre aficionados, we wanted to challenge preconceptions from people who might have decided theatre wasn’t for them, and highlight to the Netflix generation that there is a fundamental difference when experiencing theatre—that performances are ‘live’. 

So our new approach to Rep imagery (whether new productions or the back of their tickets) captures live moments in time—placing audiences in the thick of the action, as they would if experiencing it live.

Our marketing framework also enables them to amplify homegrown productions (so anything associated with their name must be worth a look), while providing a consistent way of delivering the eclectic artwork they receive and need to use from touring partners and third parties.

The new brand identity launched in April 2022, and has been rolled out across all areas of the organization.

Rose, a firm of London-based branding specialists, has successfully connected clients with their desired audiences for almost a quarter of a century. Creative Partners Garry Blackburn and Simon Elliott have partnered and collaborated with hundreds of organizations in that time, from small, owner-managed businesses to global corporations with offices in more than 100 countries worldwide. Their work is globally recognized, with over 200 awards, including Design Agency of the Year from D&AD and International Design Agency of the Year at the Kinsale Shark Awards. They are also one of the UK government’s Top 100 Creative Agencies for exporting the best of British design around the world.

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Author: Graphis