Monkey Baa is an Australian theatre company dedicated to inspiring young people. We explore the thinking and process behind their new branding, led by local agency Universal Favourite.
Attracting children's attention with branding – or anything, really – is a rare art. Kids simply see the world differently from adults, and getting into that mindset takes real skill and insight. Qualities that Universal Favourite, a design studio based in Sydney, Australia, demonstrated admirably in devising new branding for Monkey Baa Theatre Company.
Based in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Monkey Baa has spent 25 years empowering young people to shape their lives through inspiring, imaginative theatre and creative experiences. They create, present and tour performances powered by imagination and boundless fun.
"Monkey Baa is a theatre company with genuine character, and it's not every day you get to work with a client as exciting and energetic as this," says Kate Brookes, studio manager at Universal Favourite. "So when they approached us for a rebrand, we knew we were in for something fun.
"They needed a visual and verbal identity that could live up to the invigorating and imaginative nature of their offering," she explains. "So we worked with the team to create a brand as rich in emotion and character as their performances and resonates with audiences, both young and old alike."
"Monkey Baa's brand wasn't doing justice to the fun and creativity at the core of who they are," explains Kate. "They needed something that would not only express their brand positioning of the power of imagination but also encapsulate the storytelling that oozes throughout their offering. It also needed to talk to a range of audiences — from children as young as five, up to young adults of 16 and, of course, the credit card holders, caregivers and decision-makers who guide and organise their activities."
Many Monkey Baa shows take inspiration from familiar Australian children's literature and characters, so to get started, the team began by immersing themselves in the classics.
Considering how these stories can spark imagination in young people, they established the creative idea of 'At every stage', a reference to both the literal stage their shows are performed on and their ability to speak to audiences at all stages of life and development.
And when it came to inspiration, the team weren't short of sources to draw on. "The world of classic children's literature has a rich, magical and timeless aesthetic," explains Kate.
"We drew on everything from playful layouts to bold shapes, papercut to screenprint and a huge range of hand-drawn textures. Then we took to the tools to create a visual system that reflects the unlimited imagination evoked by a Monkey Baa experience and brings literature to life as their shows do."
The new logo is based on Sebenta, a contemporary slab-serif in a style often seen in Monkey Baabooks, and the lockups are playfully put together, creating a mark that's grounded yet lively.
The wordmark is paired with Gellix for headlines and body copy; a modern, bold, geometric sans serif that's easy to read but still holds character and quirk.
The logo can also be shortened to a 'Monkey Baa' masthead, adding impact to applications that advertise theatre shows.
Universal Favourite also created a suite of simple, playful and expressive brand characters to give the brand an ownable asset that could easily evolve and change over time.
These shapes and expressions can be mixed and matched to create diverse audiences, plus the papercut-styled shapes can house content and images, ensuring consistency across the brand.
The same shapes and textures can also be used to create a more sophisticated visual language that speaks to an older teen audience. The diverse colour palette was designed to be flexible and adapt to suit different audiences and emotions.
Universal Favourite worked with copywriter Cat Wall to create a verbal identity and tone of voice that could run the gamut from nursery to nursing home when it came to comms.
This evokes a personality that's rich in charm, warmth and wonder and can be dialled up and down in volume and complexity depending on the specific audience it's speaking to.
To demonstrate the new system's flexibility, Universal Favourite wrote a suite of messaging for each audience component that communicates Monkey Baa's offering and positioning in a way that's both exciting and inviting.
Universal Favourite also relaunched Monkey Baa's websites, from wireframes through to the final design, in partnership with the development team at Ten Two. The new sites bring the brand to life online through fun interactions and cheeky characters.
With the announcement of Monkey Baa's 2023 season, the rebrand made its mark across posters, brochures and promo materials.
Given the physical nature of the brand, there were also a number of environmental applications. Universal Favourite explored how they could use scale for impact while incorporating the new characters into the theatre space, increasing the emotion and excitement of the Monkey Baa experience overall.
"After 25 years, it was time for a little makeover," says Kevin du Preez, executive director of Monkey Baa. "We loved that Univeral Favourite are a local bunch of creatives with big ideas who were happy to immerse themselves alongside our team in building a fresh interpretation of our brand. We are thrilled with the result. Universal has created a brand that sums Monkey Baa up perfectly. We can't wait to take this brilliant concept and run with it over the coming years."
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