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The Mac Tech-savvy, streetwise, cultured

A living brand for a vibrant international arts centre

The Challenge

The MAC  is something different on the Belfast Arts scene. Aspiring to be NI’s leading cultural venue for creative and transformational artistic experiences, a bustling hub of artistic and audience interaction where everyone is welcome, and to become internationally recognised for artistic excellence.

We were appointed to work with them in the creation of a compelling brand and visual identity which would ground them, launch them, be capable of accommodating the different dimensions of the venue and communicate with the wide-ranging audiences that they wished to attract.

The Approach

As the MAC’s brand design agency, AV Browne set out to create a marque that reflected the ambition and excellence of the MAC’s vision and embraced the opportunities afforded by digital communications.

 

From the very start our understanding and outward communication of the brand had to be rapid. The project required full immersion in their world and from the ground up. Literally. We were appointed before building work began – indeed there was no building for audiences to visit and understand for the whole of the first year, and the events programme was still under development. In order to develop a living brand that could grow and adapt to its many audiences over time, we had to really understand the structure of The MAC, their stakeholders, the local and international arts community and potential visitors.

Our goal was to create and help them live out a brand that engaged their stakeholder audiences, the local and international arts community and potential visitors. To help them to understand that the MAC was accessible to them and had something that could benefit them, no matter who they were.

 

We listened to what NI audiences had to say about leisure and the arts, we immersed ourselves in

research that had already been commissioned, we brought our own market intelligence and

understanding from which we could provide the optimum platform from which to progress. We

engaged with the architects responsible for the design of the MAC building and the MAC Board.

Through our work for other clients such as National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI), National Trust

and the Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) we were ideally placed to apply learnings from previous

campaigns targeting all types of NI audiences, and we examined what was recognised as best

practice in marketing arts and culture venues.

 

From this position of cumulative understanding we were able to implement a phased brand

development plan (which included Qualitative and Quantitative Testing) and develop a fully tested final brand identity framework.

The Execution

The brand that we created lived out their philosophy. The identity is a meaningful, conceptually robust creation based on a big idea that engages and reflects their myriad of audiences, both ‘grounding’ the MAC brand and giving it international standout.

There are two main elements to the visual identity system and they take their cues from the building itself, the materials and the angles within the space.

 

The first is a bespoke typeface using a 30 degree angle to create character letters.

 

The second is the wireframe pattern based on the bricks used within the building itself, with an angle that reflects the potential to appreciate art of all kinds from more than one viewpoint. The logo uses the bespoke typeface (with a few added extras) that was commissioned specifically for the MAC.

Going bespoke was a bold and brave move, a first for an arts organisation in NI, but a forward-thinking and strategic decision, allowing the MAC to make a firm imprint and take ownership when dealing with partner bodies, interpretation, or even on site installations.

The brand was launched officially at an event several months before the MAC opened where we demonstrated both the standout and flexibility that the identity had, being used across invitations, brochures, staging and set design, presentations for the speakers, showreels, ticketing, staff uniforms and outdoor advertising. In addition, we designed and branded a ‘pop up ticket office’ which opened that day, and designed and launched themaclive.com – a ‘mobile first’ website.

Results

The MAC’s new brand is tech-savvy, streetwise, cultured and knowledgeable. Having been open now for several years, the MAC is now firmly established as a destination not just for the art fraternity but one which has proven appeal to all sectors of community who are coming, and returning for the experience.