Switchboard marks 50 years with brand refresh

After half a century of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, UK helpline Switchboard is setting itself up for the future with a new visual identity that references its historic badges

London-based creative agency Nice and Serious has partnered with the UK’s second-oldest LGBTQIA+ helpline, Switchboard, to create a new identity marking its 50th anniversary. Since 1974, Switchboard has offered crucial support and information to those across the queer community, as well as to their friends, families, and allies.

Wanting to further its mission of “reaching everyone who needs support” Switchboard tasked Nice and Serious with a rebrand that honours the organisation’s rich history whilst creating a pathway into the future.

“We developed a project process built around bringing together as many perspectives as possible to create a brand which feels both true to the Switchboard experience and relevant for the wider community,” explains Harriet Kindleysides, senior strategist at Nice and Serious.

“This included people who identify as LGBTQIA+ from across the Switchboard team, their volunteers, and voices from the extended community. Together, they helped influence our approach and were consulted throughout the project to strengthen our work.”

Delving into the past for inspiration, the team at Nice and Serious drew on Switchboard’s extensive archive of materials (hosted at the Bishopsgate Institute) to create an identity that referenced its history.

With a key part of the organisation’s story revolving around its pin badges, and the pride associated with wearing them, the team used these designs to build a new system. At the centre of this is a motif based on one badge in particular which depicts speech marks and alludes to Switchboard’s mission of holding space for conversations.

“Focusing in on the speech marks allowed us to design the new canvas for conversation, while honouring Switchboard’s history,” says Anna Barton, senior designer at Nice and Serious. “The logo itself takes its form from this bit of history, with bespoke lettering housed in the space between the two marks. The speech marks then become a key part of the brand’s graphic language – a dynamic canvas for different moods and different messages.”

Another integral aspect of the branding is the use of illustration, which is consciously open-ended “to allow the brand to continue to be a space for community expression”. The current series of illustrations includes human figures, as well as anthropomorphised objects and animals, with Barton noting that “Switchboard will be collaborating with illustrators from the LGBTQIA+ community itself to build a library of brand assets”.

A new colour palette also nods to previous iterations of the Switchboard brand, all of which have championed the colour pink. Here, this hue continues to play a central role, but is also accompanied by a “dynamic colour pairing system” inspired by the Pride rainbow flag, allowing the palette to flex to fit any mood or message.

Finally, a new tone of voice developed by Nice and Serious is designed to be equally as adaptable as the colour palette, centred around “three core principles” that were decided upon by the team: ‘Sensitivity’, ‘dependable’ and ‘illuminating’. Each of these speaks to a different aspect of the Switchboard ethos, and together they inform a tone of voice that is warm, welcoming, reassuring, and hopeful.