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The Signs We’re Most Proud Of: Foreign Office Conferences
For the next chapter in our “The Signs We’re Most Proud Of” series, we’re featuring the signage at conferences hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a UK Government Department.
The FCO promotes the United Kingdom's interests overseas, supporting citizens and businesses around the globe. In order to promote UK interests, the FCO regularly hosts summits and conferences in London inviting overseas officials including heads of states, prime ministers, presidents, kings and queens.
Identity Events provide a full turnkey service for conferences, working closely with Cottimore Design and Identity Signage and Printing. Identity Events also provide services such as logistics, project management, staging, audio visual, translation services and branding. The branding, a key part of any event, is provided by Identity Signage and Printing – the unsung hero of a conference.
Identity Signage and Printing’s specialist branding teams work closely with the FCO and other stakeholders (which can range from the Royal Family to No. 10 Downing Street) to provide each conference with its own unique brand. The brand can be seen by a handful of officials or millions of citizens worldwide – so it has to be perfect.
This article will provide an in-depth look at Identity Signage and Printing’s role in the delivery of a global conference with a spotlight on The Friends of Yemen Conference.
The Friends of Yemen Conference, hosted by the UK, Saudi Arabia and Yemen aimed to transition Yemen towards a constitutional referendum and elections. The Friends of Yemen was established in 2010 and includes 39 countries and organisations, all of which are committed to securing a better future for Yemen.
THE PROJECT MANAGER
The project manager is the glue for any complex project. Our signage project manager for this event was Tom O’Niell. Tom was chosen for his on-site experience in signage and knowledge of global conferences. Previously, Tom had played a key role in the delivery of the London G20 and The Afghanistan Conference and therefore had in-depth knowledge of the proposed venue and was ready with plenty of ideas to showcase the Friends of Yemen brand.
Political projects can often be last minute depending on the political landscape at the time. The Friends of Yemen conference was no exception, with a little less than one month between the first conference call to delivery. Identity’s approach to planning is tested and proven. The teams work with GANTT charts, project checklists and collaboration software. The systems used are designed to be as transparent as possible providing the FCO with up-to-date status reports at the click of a button. This event was no exception and the planning phase kicked off with an on-site meeting.
The initial meeting is one of the most critical parts of the planning process. The first meeting on-site provides Identity Signage and Printing with an understanding of the event and its role in the helping the FCO communicate its message. The Friends of Yemen conference required branding to the exterior or Lancaster House, internal branding in key areas, press backdrops, staging with backdrops and wayfinding signage. During the kick-off meeting, the FCO is provided with independent expert advice looking at each area and discussing various difference methods for branding. Identity’s experience of the venue always helps the meeting to go a lot smoother as initial ideas and concepts are created before the meeting and act as a key discussion document.
SPECIFICATION & DESIGN
After the initial meeting, the design and specification for the signage can be created. Identity’s specialist teams (Design and Project Management) collaborate to create 3D visuals and written specification to present to the FCO. For this particular conference, a full 3D walkthrough was provided to illustrate a delegates journey from arriving at the venue, the journey to the main conference room, the journey for refreshments/lunch, the journey to the press breakout areas and finally the journey out of the building. By providing 3D visuals the client can fully appreciate how the conference branding will be displayed.
When will I see the design? When will the signage be manufactured? When will the signs be installed at the venue? Each project has a detailed GANTT chart, helping clients understand their project from start to finish and avoiding questions like these. The planner details all the key stages from initial designs through to manufacture and installation.
For a conference such as The Friends of Yemen, a key factor in how a sign is manufactured is time. The time to produce the signage, the time to install the signage and the time to remove the signage. On this occasion, time was short – from visual sign-off to installation there was a total of three days – sign-off can take a little longer when each graphic is signed off by three countries! Lancaster House is a busy venue which meant that the conference was working to aggressive lead times with only four hours for install and two hours for the breakdown.
CHECKING (AND MORE CHECKING!)
When a brand is to be showcased to millions of people worldwide it has to be right and it has to be consistent. Identity’s signage team work closely to establish clear guidelines in terms of colour, text size, spelling and grammar, and translations with regular checks throughout the process.
The art of simplicity - for this conference Identity used off the shelf modular signage systems which could be built on-site by hand. The convenient nature of the chosen system enabled all signage and backdrops to be quickly assembled ready to be placed once the staging has been built. Each system allowed for magnetic or slot-in graphics dramatically reducing the time to install.
With just four hours to go until delegates from 39 countries arrived Identity were on-site and the team from the previous conference were on the way out. Each Identity team was fully briefed the day before (using the 3D walkthrough’s) which meant that build could start immediately. After protecting the venue flooring with impact resistant flooring and polythene the build began! Split into A, B and C the teams began working through its project plan – venue dressing, backdrops and wayfinding. Once signage systems had been built graphics were fitted and re-checked against signed off visuals. Once an area was complete signoff would be completed with the project manager. The result was finishing the branding two hours early.
For a conference of this nature, Identity provided on-site support throughout the event, responding to last minute request for wayfinding signage.
After the conference, the FCO give the all clear to breakdown – with only 2hrs remaining until the next event begins the team execute its plans, with the final step to remove the protective covering and leave the site.
The seventh ministerial level meeting of the ‘Friends of Yemen’ was a success endorsing a new structure of working groups designed to align support for Yemen. Identity Signage and Printing’s branding was well received and used across the world’s media for a number of weeks after the event.
Identity continues to be a proud partner of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and look forward to the next global conference.