DNCO's recent branding project involves a reinvention of the historic Heal's building in Fitzrovia. Its creatives explain how they built a bridge between the past and the present in their designs.
Anyone who's ever worked in central London will be familiar with the iconic and imposing Heal's building on Tottenham Court Road. Designed in 1916 by Cecil Brewer for the well-known furniture company, it's a landmark in shop architecture that's gone through many changes over the years, including its conversion into a parachute factory during the Second World War.
Now it's embarking on a brand new era as a mixed creative reuse development by General Projects, in partnership with investors KKR and architects Buckley Gray Yeoman.
Heal's will retain a flagship store within the building, while the upper floors and a former mattress factory will become office space for The Manufactory, a restoration and reinvention that aims to attract a new generation of tech and creative businesses.
To create the branding for The Manufactory, its owners brought in creative studio DNCO, whose clients include The Mayor of London, The V&A, Brookfield, The Crown Estate, Stanhope, and British Land. They were tasked with developing the name, brand strategy, brand identity, website and wayfinding for The Manufactory and a suite of on-site and online applications.
The resulting brand bridges past and present. Built around the idea of 'crafting the work of tomorrow', it honours the building's deep design heritage as a centre for manufacturing. It celebrates the values of contemporary and future workplaces.
The name resurfaces an old Victorian word for 'factory'. The new brand honours the building's mattress-making past, conveys its scale and evolves its heritage for the future. With a contemporary, robust typeface, this brand identity is a modern take on traditional decorative design. It takes inspiration from the bold border language of Heal's archival materials, transforming it for the 21st century.
DNCO also brought to life a piece of Heal's story: its bronze cat mascot, which, as an illustration, injects mischief and liveliness into the identity and becomes an innovative storytelling tool for the building's reinvention.
"This is no ordinary building," says Brenda Sjahrial, strategist at DNCO, who recently rebranded themselves from dn&co. "It has scale, beauty and a long history of producing generation-defining designs. We needed a story that would honour and evolve that legacy. The brand positioning, name and visual identity weave a thread from the building's furniture-making past towards a future as an inspiring stage for new ideas.
"The Manufactory will be home to an assembly of original thinkers and creative businesses dedicated to crafting the work of tomorrow," she continues. "We wanted to capture that vision with a confident brand that appeals to forward-thinking businesses while feeling at home beside a design icon."
Senior designer Arianna Tilche adds that from its beginnings, the Heal's Building was a place of craft and making, where attention to detail was paramount. "We wanted to celebrate that tradition with a brand that echoes this meticulous approach," she says.
"With a strong sense of movement and fluidity, the visual language is expressive and playful, bold and confident. It all comes back to craft, now and in the future. Strong typographical language weaves through the building, the illustrated cat playfully engages the audience, and intricate line drawings capture these buildings' idiosyncratic architecture."
Ben Cross, development director at General Projects, adds, "Heal's has been a landmark in Tottenham Court for more than 200 years. To sit alongside such a prestigious and recognisable design icon, you need originality and strong ideas. DNCO rose to that challenge and more.
"The Manufactory brand is distinctive, playful and decidedly unconventional. It has become an essential part of the building's creative fabric, responding to what makes the place unique to the point that it is hard to tell where the brand ends and the building begins."