ENB says it with Aktiv Grotesk

Created by design agency The Beautiful Meme, The English National Ballet’s new rebrand features a logo that is “both opening quotation marks and ballet shoes en pointe”, a logotype created using Dalton Maag’s Aktiv Grotesk typeface, plus an ad campaign shot by Guy Farrow featuring clothes by Vivienne Westwood…

Created by design agency The Beautiful Meme, The English National Ballet‘s new rebrand features a logo that is “both opening quotation marks and ballet shoes en pointe”, a logotype created using Dalton Maag‘s Aktiv Grotesk typeface, plus an ad campaign shot by Guy Farrow featuring clothes by Vivienne Westwood

“‘We have something to say’ was the starting point for the brand identity,” explains The Beautiful Meme’s Ben Haworth of the rebrand. “We created a logo that is both opening quotation marks and ballet shoes en pointe, with a dash of Bauhaus aesthetic (a big influence on Tamara Rojo, the ENB’s artistic director) thrown in. It means that all that follows the logo – be it imagery, words or dance – is part of the artistic statement the Company is making.”

The above image shows the tweaks performed by Dalton Maag to the new logotype, the most notable of which is the replacing of the standard Aktiv Grotesk “g” with a specially created two-storey version.

In terms of the choice of Aktiv Grotesk as the new brand typeface (the agency wrote and set the above ENB brand manifesto in the Dalton Maag font), Haworth says that it seemed to be the perfect vehicle to profess the English National Ballet’s new position: “It’s clean and contemporary feel has a degree of neutrality, which is key for future collaborative projects across a wide range of the arts to enhance the vision of the ENB being the UK’s most creative company.”

As well as the new logo and corporate typeface, The Beautiful Meme has also art directed a new ad campaign for the dance company. “The identity is built upon the idea of working with different creatives, fashion houses, artists and photographers each season,” Haworth explains. These ads (above and below) from the launch campaign of the rebranded ENB features dancers wearing Vivienne Westwood clothes shot by Guy Farrow. “Our art direction was as much about bringing [Farrow’s] rich, sensual style to the adverts as it was about celebrating the dancers,” says Haworth.

Above: the new look ENB website

To coincide with today’s launch of the new ENB campaign and brand refresh, Dalton Maag are launching eight new styles of Aktiv Grotesk, Hairline, Thin, Exta Bold and Black – each with a matching italic. Find the typeface here.


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  • “Like humans, but more graceful” I liked that.

  • joe baglow

    wonderful stuff

  • Mustafa

    Divine – especially love the semiotics of the opening quotation / ballet shoes – and elegant short-hand for the identity that will work at any scale.

    Also appreciate the bold approach in establishing a stoic aesthetic for a fluid art! Daring and beautiful work!

  • The work looks great indeed, but two thoughts spring to my mind:
    — first, isn’t it a bit too ‘for designers’ or for the elite? Would this get people from the street to come in and buy tickets? Would they ‘get’ the nice minimalistic logo? As much as I love smart and subtle design, I can’t help thinking about Verdi, Shakespeare or Tchaikovsky. Their work was popular with the crowds, bringing ‘culture’ towards them.
    — second, I felt the copy reminds a bit of the now-valueless quotes / short reviews on film posters — does anyone believe them anymore?

    Plus, somebody else had a good point about the costs: if you take away the superb photography (low budgets, time etc), will it still work, or be too generic?

    Beautiful design might look great on the designers’ website, but it doesn’t mean much unless it gets people to do what the client wants — in this case, stop on the street, bus etc and think “this looks interesting, I have to buy tickets, I’ll write this down”.

    Obviously, these thoughts are based just on these few images — I do hope the designers have thought about and solved these problems already.

    Thank you,

  • G

    @Iancu – I think the reality is that the ENB will have a set of certain target markets, rather than trying to go all out to ‘please everyone’.

    I wholly disagree that this looks elitist and unwelcoming, I think it’s perfectly welcoming, friendly and accessible to the intended audience.

    This is obviously intended to appeal to a youthful crowd, who already like ballet, or see ballet as a valid social activity. It would be beyond the scope of just the brand identity of one organisation to do the job of actually converting people who don’t like ballet into going.

    I love this work, but I don’t like ballet, so I wouldn’t go. Your argument is invalid.

  • K-S-T

    Bravo. Its a great start to the year for rebranding! Fab job ‘The Beautiful Meme’, ‘Dalton Maag’ and everyone else involved.

  • Jem

    @lancu i think G raises a good point (though perhaps a little harshly?!).
    Pretty sure the intention is not to target everybody, but rather a portion of the market.

    The photography element is as key to the design work as the copy and typography, and the designers will have considered this in the branding process. If it is essential, then the brand will require the photography to be used on everything, it will be part of the brand guidelines.

    I’m not sure that it matters whether the man on the street “gets” the logo or not… Surely the key point is to communicate the message and to attract attention?

    Perhaps their main aim for this rebrand was not to attract new customers or push sales instantly? Perhaps it was merely about giving them a new voice and identity, getting them seen, and known, and communicating – which will in turn provide a strong vehicle to carry them forward towards such things as increased sales and customers?

    Just putting it out there :)

  • I will def be checking out the i pad APP.

  • I somewhat agree with the comments about it being minimalist and that it may not appeal to all but, that may also be the intention. Far too many creative briefs fly around with ‘everyone’ listed as the target market. It’s just not feasible, as we all know.

    The posters appeal to me, I don’t think I’m elitist. But I am a designer, maybe that’s why, maybe it’s not.

    Nice work.

  • fantastic work Mr Farrow

    and that headline is a killer.

  • josh

    I think the idea of quoting the audience is a good one for counteracting the view of ballet as eliteist.
    Allowing the public to become the voice especially in advertising might open the audience up a bit.

    That said, I think having quote marks as a logo isn’t ownable at all, it’s been done so many times before.
    It’s tenuous to say the least that the quotation marks look like ballet shoes en pointe, maybe if the marks had been crafted and slightly rounded to hint slightly more at the shoes, people may get it, but as it stands, they’re just punctuation…and yes I know it would be a shame to stray from the minimalism to introduce a curve, but if no one gets it, then the idea is lost anyway.

    Oh and the double storey g is naaaasty, stands out a mile to me

  • Lulu

    Dramatic, elegant and peaceful,…is this possible??!!

    aaaaamazzzing work,

    Well done Guy.

  • I love the distressed urban nature of the work, it give the national ballet modern grit and relvance.

  • David

    The photography is beautiful, but doesn’t the whole job feel a little as if it’s only aimed at photographers, fashion designers and typographers? If you strip away all the famous names, would it still have the impact?

  • Decimal

    Pointless change to the type – fee probably works out as a few grand per person that actually notices. Not sure why type in arts posters is so plain dull most of the time. Even a tiny injection of personality lifts it – like this for example: http://dancetabs.com/2012/04/scottish-ballet-a-streetcar-named-desire-london/

    Good clothes and photography but nothing very out of the ordinary for the sector – see Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet, etc. Not sure you’d feature a provincial company doing similar stuff without the big names (and their fans in the comments). I guess it fits with what Michael Beirut was saying recently about most clients wanting to fit in rather than stand out.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Decimal
    “Not sure you’d feature a provincial company doing similar stuff ”

    We would if we thought it was interesting and we thought our readers would find it interesting e.g. this story on the National Theatre of Wales by a Cardiff-based studio


  • Decimal

    Thanks for the link – much more cutting edge than the above. Maybe too much as the 2009 homepage doesn’t seem to have lasted. Good to know you cast the net a bit wider sometimes. Any chance of more regular features about different cities (along the lines of your Liverpool coverage from 2011)?

  • Rob

    I love the posters – the photos are incredible, but I am wondering why the specially created “g” is only used in the logo but not in the text on the adverts? Just a small issue for me, but once again – I love the posters!