Times UP for inequality in the creative industries


Making a difference to the creative industries’ gender balance needs everyone to be on board. So we needed to create a brand expression that united and invited everyone to contribute. 

Taxi Studio has long held a collaborative relationship with the West of England Design Forum (WEDF) since its establishment in 2006. When their insight and involvement with the local design community sparked the seed of a ‘sister’ initiative to address the imbalance between the large number of females studying graphic design compared to the small number of female CDs, we were only too keen to help. 

Initiative founder Emma Blackburn knew something needed to change when we were still seeing rooms full of young women on university design courses and agencies at the start of their careers, but very few in leadership roles. Blackburn knew change needed to happen but what form that change would take was less clear to her. 

Taxi took on the project with open arms and an open call within the studio for all those keen to get involved. “New to the design industry, it was inspiring to start my career on a project promoting equality,” recalls Designer Andrew Hodgkiss.

Pam Partridge, Designer, remembers the project kick-off, “It was a perfect opportunity to get under the surface of campaigns around equality, from the likes of #metoo and #thisgirlcan, to gain a broader understanding of some of the problems faced. It enabled us to outline our approach and define what this could look like, and mean, for women in design in the West of England.”

During the initial stages, Taxi helped the WEDF volunteers turn their first-hand experience plus gathered statistics into a brand expression that had a name, a purpose, a positioning statement and a beautiful brand that would help make change happen in the West of England and beyond. 

Partridge continues: “It became clear this wasn’t just about salaries and promotions, but that each person has a different view on what success looks like for them. And that fundamentally we needed to encourage the creation of an ecosystem for women to thrive, feel supported, and achieve their dreams.”

From the beginning, we knew that making a difference in the balance of gender in the creative industries needs to be collaborative. So, the name, copy and visual appearance needed to be something that would excite and engage everyone.  

During the naming process, a clear leader shone out – UP. The name is simple, positive and certainly directional in achieving the gender neutrality that we are after. It’s an intriguing, memorable and infinitely adaptable name – with just the right amount of fighting spirit about it. 

The wordmark drew its inspiration from the WEDF logo created by Mytton Williams (to which it would often be sitting alongside) and beautifully alluded to ascension. Designer Lily Papadopoulos talks about how she approached the thinking and design of the mark:

The core creative idea was about elevating women in the industry. This elevation is evident in the name and the brandmark. At the early concept and sketching stages, I focused on creating a platform or ladder out of the typography, which subtly comes through by marrying the letters together. Born from the WEDF, the mark for the initiative needed to feel like a sister, so the chunky curves and the slab serifs from the WEDF logo were my inspiration.”

To reflect richness, celebrate difference and evoke optimism, we developed a palette of textures and colours and chose typefaces that reflected and complemented the existing WEDF branding.

The animation brought the brand to life and told the story with a simple rally cry to all, storyboarded and copywritten by Taxi with animation by Stu Humphrey.

And once we had our brand established, we were able to pass on the guidelines to Touchpoint Design in Bath, who designed and built the website: the focal point for the initiative. 

The website hosts the animation with resources for further inspiration, but UP’s key driver is the case studies’ collaborative encouragement and honesty. 

Agencies and practitioners tell the stories of what they already do, celebrating the often unseen practices and processes they have to ensure everyone can thrive – and readily sharing ideas that can be used in other agencies. The case studies shine a bright light on all the good practice happening in agencies across Bristol and Bath.

Being part of this change resonated with Papadopoulos: “Not every young female designer gets the opportunity to work on an initiative dedicated to celebrating and elevating equality within the industry, so it’s been really lovely to be a part of bringing something so worthy to life. I’m excited to see how this can spark a positive change for the design industry from providing a platform to nurture younger designers starting their careers, to providing continued support for women as they move up the ladder.” 

WEDF UP was first mooted about two years ago, and then initially soft-launched at a Multiplicity event to a receptive and eager-to-be-involved creative crowd. The interim two years have flown by and brought challenges aplenty but in the spirit of Margaret Mead’s quote, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ 

With final fury following on the heels of the Design Business Association’s 2020 Annual Survey Report, revealing the worsening diversity trend in the design industry, the volunteers launched UP in November 2020 and are looking forward to getting many more agencies involved in 2021.

We feel it is appropriate to end aptly and succinctly with a quote from one of our founders, Spencer Buck‘We say UP yours to inequality. We always have, we always will.’

Source: Taxi Studio

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