A health think tank fit for the digital age

Nuffield Trust
Branding, Digital, Infographics

The UK has three highly respected think tanks that focus on improving the country’s health and social care systems. One of these –  the Nuffield Trust –  asked us to redevelop their website and identity to help them to stand out from their peers.

As part of a new strategy, the Nuffield Trust wanted to broaden its communications activities. In particular, it wanted to target more directly the practitioners and managers working inside the healthcare system. At the same time it wanted to maintain and improve its contacts with more established policy and media audiences. To achieve this the Trust invited us to overhaul its brand identity and rebuild its organisational website in ways that would encourage action and engagement.

The text "Evidence for better health care".

We kicked off the project with a high-speed version of our branding discovery process. We ran a series of co-creation sessions with a team from the Trust to deepen our understanding of their needs and get a sense of what made the organisation tick. 

What emerged from that process was one clear area of focus: data. As the foundation of the visual identity, this focus could be used symbolise the Trust’s commitment to rigorous research, evidence and analysis, and support its positioning as robust and analytical.

The Nuffield Trust logo repeated six times on (clockwise from top left) blue, purple, yellow, turquoise, green and red.

With the positioning agreed, we set about creating a flexible and digital-first identity system that could be used to enhance rather than replace the existing logo design. Bold, colourful geometric shapes sit at the heart of the graphic language, including peaks, lines and patterns inspired by actual data visualisations produced by Nuffield Trust researchers.

Six icons on a grey background.
Two coloured photographs (left, in blue) two people in a meeting, and (right, in red) a person speaks at a health policy summit.
Examples of how colours work in the Nuffield Trust brand, on (left) a graph and (right) a banner.

In order to ensure clarity and consistency across print and digital we considered all areas of the visual system, including developing a colour system that met onscreen accessibility requirements. We balanced the informative with the human by developing comprehensive and coherent gallery of icons, and created a bespoke data visualisation style so that every chart and infographic output feels distinctive to the Nuffield Trust.

Three icons on a grey background.

The design approach ensures a first-rate digital brand experience by providing a consistent typographic tone across all channels. Our font pairing is Circular, a bold and modern sans serif which creates an approachable and accessible feel, and Utopia, a highly functional serif selected to bring authority and balance. Both type choices are of the highest design quality and technical fidelity.

This approach extended to all brand touchpoints. Of particular importance was an easy-to-use and impactful suite of publication templates that we created to accommodate different types of content. This helped to provide consistency and coherence that had previously been lacking.

To support the Nuffield Trust communications team to manage the identity and website over time, we built a comprehensive set of brand guidelines relevant to both print and content online.

A collage of the Nuffield Trust brand guidelines.

The Nuffield Trust’s most important communications platform is, of course, its website – and we knew we would need to revise its visual design to reflect the updated visual identity. At the same, we took inspiration from a 2015 article by Washington DC-based communications strategist Mike Connery on The Digital Think Tank to pursue something much more ambitious.

Our aim here was to create a truly modular website, where all pieces of content are broken down to their smallest self-contained elements – so each data visualisation or graphic is given its own page, alongside more conventional content types, like blog posts and publications. These content items are then treated as building blocks that can be combined and presented in various ways to create unique syntheses and engaging narratives, reflecting the full breadth of the organisation’s knowledge and ideas.

A collage of elements from the Nuffield Trust website (clockwise from top left) publication cards, a navigation menu and icons.

Regardless of how it is presented –  as part of collection of items on similar theme, or embedded within another item – each content building block can be accessed and shared independently. And if, say, the data in a chart needs to be updated, the change only needs to be made once to the original item, and is then automatically applied to every blog post or publication item in which that chart has been embedded.

The new visual identity system translated seamlessly onto the website’s visual design, from abstract shapes and pops of colour to the functional iconography and the typographic hierarchies.

The 'Latest' page from the Nuffield Trust website.
A blog post page from the Nuffield Trust website.
An online long form publication as viewed on a tablet or mobile device.

The focus on data that had guided the visual identity refresh was also extended to the website. Here we wanted to implement a workflow where the charts created by Nuffield Trust staff for their reports and other outputs could be made more interesting and useful to site visitors.

We integrated the interactive data visualisation tool Everviz into the CMS, so that Nuffield Trust styling can be applied automatically to charts presented on the website. As well as offering interactivity, Everviz allows users to download the underlying data, share the visualisation easily and even embed it (with clear attribution to the Nuffield Trust) on their own website.

Since the site was launched, the Nuffield Trust has taken a continuous improvement approach, reviewing its performance and making important technical, design and content updates as the need arises. For example, when the funding for QualityWatch, an initiative jointly run with another health think tank, came to an end, we were able to integrate its content seamlessly into the website, while also retaining a distinct QualityWatch sub-brand.

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