The last of the independents: branding the back office
If maths isn’t your strong suit, you tend not to become a mathematician, you hire an accountant instead. It’s a lesson I’ve learned well over the last twenty years: seek out the help of people who are good at the things I’m not. A good application of complementary strengths shall we say. Funnily enough, this article is about Langham Hall, a firm who handle (among other things) accounting administration. In fact in their particular case, many of the services they offer are legally required to be run by a regulated independent agency. So, as a third party, presenting themselves well is key, not least because with most of their competition swallowed up in a series of mergers, they are the last independent back office business in the UK. Ultimately, branding the back office needs to be elegant, strike the right tone and have a sense of individuality. Something we can definitely bring to the party.
We first started talking with Langham Hall about this project back in May 2021. They were exploring the idea of a new website and fresh ways of presenting their growing business and approached us with the brief to consider how they go about it.
We started working on this project around the same time as our work for Horizon Private Wealth, but unlike the total reboot of that branding project, Langham Hall were clearer on their approach. As is sometimes the way, this brief came with very specific constraints. One of these was not to change the identity design at all. However we had a feeling that the design had huge potential and might benefit from a fresh approach to type.
Central to their offering is that Langham Hall are truly independent and founder-led. I’ve called this article ‘the last of the independents’ because almost without exception, their contemporary agencies in London have been swallowed up by large corporates. This important distictiction was central to everything we’ve done for the company.
This consideration of financial services identity and brand led to a conversation about other ways of presenting the business. Primary among these was how they showcase their staff. More than almost any other financial services business we’ve worked with, Langham Hall is about people and personal relationships. So it made sense that they’d have every part of their workforce at the heart of the website.
Corporate photography is where clichés go to spend their retirement and finding a new angle is particularly difficult. To do this, we first thought about people and interaction, looking beyond the furniture of an office and how people work together. To actually shoot the new images, we suggested working with photographer Steve Lancefield. The end results speak for themselves and have a vibrancy and energy that means the project was off to the most fantastic start.
Our new branding for Langham Hall begins with the current identity. It’s a very straightforward shift forward, the most significant difference being an updated approach to typography. There’s a better sense of alignment in our design and we’ve squared off the formerly round, slightly iPhone-y app style edges of the Hall-mark.
In recent years as we’ve worked with identities such as MovePlan that we didn’t design, I’ve found it helpful to pretend that we did. It’s a way of honouring whoever did the original as well as finding a new way forward. In this case we’ve done some work to the logo, but the essence is unchanged, so that process has proven necessary – and helpful.
In turn the identity has led us to develop a series of new brand elements, not least a new motif we’ve added to the website work we’ve done, which has been nicknamed the ‘piano keys’. These lines are taken from the temple in the icon and then repeated with our new colour palette. The idea is this concept is applied to stationery, office signage as well as the animations on the new website.
Across the hall
Of course the central purpose of all this work was to consider how we devised a new website for Langham Hall. With a refreshed logo, colours and photography, the next step was finding a way of using all these elements together.
Beyond the ‘piano keys’ we began applying a series of shapes that were inspired by the logo and typography, and using them as elements we could deploy as a set of windows for the photography. In turn, these elements were brought to life with a light touch of animation to the pages, giving these visuals movement.
The wide range of these fantastic blend of graphic animation and imagery is a first for us. To date we’ve used graphic animation on projects such as our work for Apis Partners or Cornerstone but never blended these ideas with original custom shot photography.
Hall of fame
One of the key aspects of this project has been to place the team behind Langham Hall at the core of the brand. With the strength of the working relationships between client and team being central to the ethos of the firm, this approach was vital. The bigger question for us was how we applied these images. We worked on a series of ideas related to collages and a contrived approach which actually looked alright, but in the end nothing worked better than putting people in a room together and watching them interact.
This approach is true whether the people were working, eating, playing ping-pong or taking time away from their desks to chat about their weekend or last night’s tv. Our new site, branding the back office for Langham Hall, achieves all this while establishing the business as both independent and individual.
From branding back office firms to family offices and investment advisors
Working in the personal service-driven side of the City, classic but distinctive branding is vital. If you’re working in a long-established company or leaving the big outfits behind to start a new consultancy, why not get in touch to discuss a range of different approaches?
Whether it’s a case of branding the back office or a client-facing company, we can work on designs from the creative to the corporate, depending on your brief and budget.
Call us on 020 7351 4083 or email us direct.