Property investment specialist NewRiver has begun the phased introduction of a new and refreshed brand identity for its 33 convenience-led, community-focused shopping centres throughout the UK, designed by London studio, Charlie Smith Design. The fresh and modern identity is a new opportunity for NewRiver to support its portfolio of shopping centres across the regions with locally relevant identities that resonate with the local community. It will also enable NewRiver to leverage the scale of the portfolio for the benefit of its occupiers and local management teams. Charlie Smith Design created the design assets for the new project, which communicates a bold new retail personality for NewRiver’s shopping centres. The designs have a cohesive identity, but are tailored to each community, so they have a unique and authentic look and feel. The ambitious project shows the positive power of design and illustration on projects of this scale. It also demonstrates that brands do not need to compromise on either structure or creative flexibility but can have both within a strong design system. Designing for the local community Founded in 2009, NewRiver specialises in buying, managing, and developing convenience-led, community-focused retail and leisure assets throughout the UK, with each of its shopping centres located in the heart of town centres, providing everyday shopping experiences. With a large portfolio, achieving design consistency has been a unique opportunity across NewRiver’s retail environment. Charlie Smith Design has focused on new environmental graphics to create a new look and feel in NewRiver’s retail spaces. Charlie Smith Design identified each step of the new retail branding process, including brand strategy, visual and verbal identity. “Our shopping centres are local brands and we didn’t want to change that, but we needed a solid design system to support our shopping centres that was friendly, fun and ownable to each community,” says Fabienne Morgan, Head of Commercial Design at NewRiver. “We saw Charlie Smith Design’s playful hoardings and signage work and knew they would bring the fresh perspective and creative flair we needed for this project. We’re so impressed with the result; it’s really given our onsite teams a clear brand vision and the physical spaces a distinctive new voice to bring the assets to life.” Morgan continues. Showcasing the power of illustration The new environmental branding is bold, bright and playful. An arrow device connects the community to retailers, and this is paired with vibrant colours and hand lettering to add warmth. 12 colour groups were created, with different colour palettes for each centre to choose from, so the tool-kit could be used in dynamic and different ways but still provides economies of scale and consistency. “We needed the visual aspect of the new identity to reflect the friendly tone of voice we had created with copywriter Anna Whitaker. Both elements reflect the human side of the business, and that these shopping centres are both the pride and hub of their local communities,” says Charlie Smith, director and founder at Charlie Smith Design. “We’re passionate about the impact of art on branding projects of this size, and commissioned illustrator Kate Sutton to create a set of playful illustrations and a series of hand drawn alphabets. Incorporating these bespoke hand-crafted elements offers a human connection and can really inject personality into the brand,” says Smith. Equipping brands with design tools The project shows how retail branding can be an effective way to bring positive messaging and visuals into the community, proving that property specialists and developers do not need to rely on traditional colour palettes, typography or corporate photography to have a reputable presence. Instead, property specialists and developers can have fun with design. “The design tool-kit we now have has enabled us to make positive design decisions, and we’re so excited to move forward to see how this new identity will improve the experience for those browsing, shopping and enjoying these local spaces,” says NewRiver’s Fabienne Morgan. The new identity will be rolled out across 33 NewRiver shopping centres across the UK in various forms in large and small scale.