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Supercool is fourteen

Categories: Learning things, Silly, Useful/interesting

Fourteen years ago Supercool officially launched as a partnership between James and Kris. Fast-forward to today, and we’re a hands-on team of five doing some pretty awesome work with some definitely awesome clients. (And we’re delighted that founding-father Kris is over from Norway to celebrate the milestone with us.)

For all you fans of number-related trivia out there, fourteen is:

  • represented as E in hexadecimal
  • the atomic number of silicon
  • the number of pounds in a stone
  • the minimum age at which one can work, with parent's consent, in most Australian states, apparently 
  • the number of Enigma Variations composed by Edward Elgar
  • the number of lines in a sonnet
  • the number of years Greyfriars Bobby spent guarding the grave of his master; until his own death in 1872

And finally, a 14th anniversary's traditional gift is ivory which, as a gift is gross – so here’s a much better use of ivory (and handy representation of great team work):

Go team! \o/

2017 – A year in review

Categories: Our work

When looking back over 12 months of work it always (pleasantly) surprises me just how much got done. I’d thought it’d been a quiet year but …

Early on we collaborated with ace paper-cut illustrator Sam Pierpoint to create the season campaign look for the CBSO, with layered shapes inspired by Birmingham landmarks, sitting within instrument cut-outs.

We launched new ticketing websites for Eastern Angles, Buxton Opera House (both Spektrix) and The Stables (Tickets.com), and Culture Central approached us to create their brand identity and website. The minimalist look is centred around the idea of clear, joined-up thinking – with black and white colour palette and a pared-back editorial style putting the focus squarely on content.

Other launches included a light, bright and simple site for Artsreach, the rural touring organisation for Dorset, and a deceptively simple-looking website for Windsor Festival (with tickets sold via Monad).

Added to the brand new stuff, March saw the next phase of work with Chichester Festival Theatre – with application of their refreshed brand identity, and subtle but useful improvements to the ticket-booking process (launching in tandem with their new season announcement), which the audience certainly appreciated:

@ChichesterFT Bravo for your efficient ticketing system that allowed me to get two tickets to see King Lear with little hassle.

And we’ve designed two season brochures for Arena Theatre, and a season programme for Longborough Festival Opera (also a digital client).

In the summer we worked with Spektrix as a Technology Partner for the hugely in-demand RADA fundraising production of Hamlet; with RADA president Kenneth Branagh directing former student Tom Hiddleston in the title role.

A ballot system allowed tickets to be sold as fairly as possible – even theatre critics had to enter for their seats. This approach also allowed RADA to gather email addresses from a whopping number of ballot entrants who were vying for fewer than 4,000 tickets. 

More recently we’ve created a revamped brand identity for long-term digital client Midlands Arts Centre, with a newly-designed website in-the-works.

“[Supercool’s] ability to listen to – and then interpret – our needs makes this a stress-free and highly-valued working relationship.” – Lindsey Cook, Head of Sales & Marketing

And getting us into the festive spirit nice and early, in September we launched a fundraising microsite for Scottish Ballet’s revival of The Nutcracker – based on the production’s distinctive bauble backdrop. People have left some lovely, heart-warming dedications and messages – worth a browse to warm the cockles. (And you can still donate too!)

Added to all this, we successfully managed sell-out Gary Barlow and Cliff Richard concerts for THSH, and James spoke at UK Theatre’s Box Office 2017 Conference about best practice for online booking as well as attending the Family Arts Conference in Bristol, and AMA's Conference in Belfast and their Digital Marketing Day in London. Phew!

And finally, we welcomed fantastic new clients Bristol Old Vic, New Adventures, and Welsh National Opera into the Supercool family – along with newest team member Rob.

So, bring on 2018! In the meantime, warmest winter wishes – from everyone at Supercool.

Meet Rob

Categories: Events, Useful/interesting

Top-notch personal service and meticulous attention to detail have always been important to us; and they’re the main reasons we deliberately remain a relatively small team. 

But we know when to grow. 

Having been appointed by three ace new clients – Bristol Old Vic, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, and Welsh National Opera – we’ve expanded the team to make sure we keep-up the good work … and then some. 

Introducing our new Strategic Director, Rob Langley-Swain.

A perfect combination of passion for the arts, commercial mindedness – and impressive facial hair – Rob was formerly Head of Client Services at The Ticket Factory (the NEC Group’s national ticketing agency).

Over the past 15 years he’s worked for some of the biggest arts and entertainment organisations in the country – including Live Nation and the Guardian Media Group – as well as arts organisations such as Birmingham Contemporary Music Group where he was Marketing Manager. 

“I am thrilled to be joining such a well respected business, with a highly regarded reputation in the arts and cultural sector. I look forward to working with all of Supercool’s clients, to strengthen our relationships and help deliver continued excellence in design, web development and strategic marketing consultancy.” said Rob. 

Awww, he’s a good egg. Great to have you on the team, Rob!

If you’d like to talk to us about a project, email rob@supercooldesign.co.uk

Fun for all the family?

Categories: Events, Learning things, Useful/interesting

Supercool postcard – sponsors fo Family Arts Conference 2017

Last Wednesday we went along to the bi-annual Family Arts Conference, this year held at St George’s Bristol and sponsored by our good selves along with Spektrix.

Billed as an exploration of age, diversity and inclusion in Family Arts, it seemed a good fit for us, as for many of our clients their family-focused activity is an important way of expanding audiences.

I guess it's a similar principle to MacDonald’s having Happy Meals, minus any grease or guilt – introducing people to something (in this case 'the arts', rather than salty, extruded potato) at a young age helps build a habit; engraining cultural activity as a regular part of everyday life, and so encouraging a lifelong love of – and support for – the arts.

The conference's opening keynote was great – Estella Tincknel, Deputy Mayor of Bristol and an enviably strong advocate for arts and culture in the city, told us all about Bristol (without glossing over its less impressive side, which was refreshing) and the huge role the arts plays within it.

She proposed that art and culture are important catalysts for change, for challenging what needs to be challenged, and for renewing social cohesion; with families cited as being a key part of this.

Further reinforcing the importance of family audiences, members of the Bristol Family Arts Network relayed some research showing that, although turnout for specifically-labelled ‘family’ events can be lower (initially), engagement is consistently much deeper.

Another stand-out talk was from Kate Organ, who referenced a comment someone had made about – I’m paraphrasing here – local arts attendance being made up of a lot of old, grey-haired people … and their parents.

Rather than this being seen as a problem to be overcome, Kate suggested that arts organisations should be embracing older people. Within the next 20 years 1 in 3 adults will be ‘an older person’, so there are economic – as well as ethical – reasons to engage with all ages.

Thinking about this as a designer, appealing to something as wide as a ‘family audience’ is a challenge – there’s a tendency for briefs about family events to automatically assume promotions should look very child-focused when, in fact, it’s parents who’ll be planning a trip or buying the ticket, not the kids. And mightn't child-like styling be putting off families who don’t include younger people but would still be able to enjoy an event? There’s no easy answer.

In terms of making digital things family-friendly, however, it’s a lot simpler as this essentially means making sure everything’s built to be as accessible as possible (i.e. well-built).

Websites need to be quick to load and to navigate, and work on any device – whether it's being used by a busy parent trying to browse a mobile web page on a rubbish 3G connection with one hand while wrangling an irritable infant with the other; or a Baby Boomer looking for an event that’ll be suitable both for their grandchildren and an elderly parent.

Much of the discussion at the conference centred around what actually constitutes a ‘family’ – with the conclusion being that it covers myriad relationships and age-groups.

We have, however, noticed one common thread that runs through all family-focused arts and cultural events – and that's a very clear and unmistakable focus on encouraging people to experience the arts with others; conveying the arts as a sociable activity which creates shared experiences – and shared memories.

As poet, essayist and visual artist Etel Adnan told the conference – via a recorded message stood in front of a big screen, which was then projected onto another a big screen; INCEPTION! – "The need for human company is and shall continue to be essential. Theatre [indeed, the arts in general] can play a significant role in this area.”