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Reimagining the National Portrait Gallery

A once in a generation opportunity to reimagine the NPG

A three-year site closure, to allow for a £41M transformation of the National Portrait Gallery , afforded the leadership team a once-in a generation opportunity - and unique perspective - to work with us to assess and redefine their Vision and Values, as well as to create a new future-facing Brand strategy.

The Gallery transformation project, called Inspiring People, had at its heart the ambition to engage a broader and more diverse audience with the Gallery and its Collection; in London, nationally and internationally, in person and online. The aspiration is for the renewed National Portrait Gallery to be a truly national gallery for everyone, reflective of the Britain of today, as well as home to stories of lives that have shaped its past.

We were engaged to Refresh and update the institution’s Vision and Values, create a new, shared definition of its Role and create a new brand strategy that would direct a new brand identity.

Image credits: Freddie Mercury (detail) by Neal Preston, 1986. Photo by Neal Preston © Queen Productions Ltd

The Strategic Shift

A Living Portrait of Britain

The Inspiring People project had started to create new ways - online during closure - for the institution and its Collection to engage with contemporary conversations about British society, culture and history. We set out to ensure that a refreshed brand could help support the aspiration to become a truly national gallery, relevant to anyone looking to understand Britain’s culture and to engage with Britain’s stories; demonstrating the wholly unique ability of portraiture and of NPG’s collection to share stories of the lives of the people of Britain.

At the heart of how we encouraged NPG to think about their future positioning and brand we defined the 4R’s, as a memorable and useful ‘shorthand' for the requirements of the NPG of the future. So, we asked how could brand help NPG to Reach more people - whenever, wherever, however; to be more Relevant - with more meaning, for more people; more Responsive - vital and vibrant - and more Recognisable - distinctive and desirable?

Our solution? A new definition of the role of NPG as home of The Living Portrait of Britain; and a brand strategy built out from that definition of role as that of “bringing to life the human stories that have shaped and are shaping Britain’s ever-changing history”.


A new Vision as well as a new brand for NPG

In addition to creating a new definition of the role of NPG as this ‘living portrait’, we encouraged the institution's leaders to refresh their Vision, in order to articulate a new ambition for the impact that NPG will create as a result of connecting everyone with the stories of the nation.

How can we best define the clearest possible Vision and greatest impact for NPG through connecting everyone with the stories of the nation?

Simply this: ‘Lives and society enriched and enhanced through deeper connections with the nation’s stories’

Truly Values-driven

The once in a generation opportunity to re-assess Vision and brand strategy also afforded the chance to create an all-new understanding and articulation of the Values of NPG of the future, recognising that the Gallery that would reopen aspired to differ in culture from previous, whilst retaining all that was loved and respected.

We embarked on an organisation-wide, ‘open and democratic’ approach to co-developing Values that would complement the new Vision and new brand strategy, to underpin and direct NPG’s culture and the behaviours of its people. We also created, with staff, the framework upon which to embed Values and put them to work at the heart of the organisation’s work, management and performance measurement.

Alive with life

To complement and bring to life the new Vision, Values and Brand across every form of engagement for audiences and stakeholders - from experience design to social media and everything in-between - we determined three guiding principles to ensure that ‘what the Gallery feels like’ for all to engage with, everywhere, serves to reinforce the institution’s unique proposition and appeal.

These principles reflect what makes the Gallery and its brand distinct, differentiated and compelling, as well as supporting the institution’s future ambitions and priorities. The principles, which are unpacked further to help guide the Gallery team, are

All about people - We tell stories of people, for people.

We are for everyone; warm, welcoming and inclusive.

Alive with Life - We create lively spaces, full of personality. We use art to bring our ever-changing history to life and explore living today.

Passionate about Portraiture - We are always progressing our art form, championing artists and encouraging creativity. We celebrate the power of portraiture to create person to person connections and experiences.

Making strategy count

We worked over a long period of time, during a unique period in the history of NPG, with the executive team, Trustees and wider team to revisit the fundamental strategic pillars upon which future plans are going to be built.

This manifested itself in one of the most collaborative and immersive client relationships we have enjoyed and it has resulted in all members of that wider leadership team truly owning the resulting strategy. Ownership which is playing out in the coherent way in which future plans across the organisation are being built with these pillars firmly front and centre; a definition and strategy that are truly ‘felt’ and ‘owned’ by those driving the institution forward.

Subsequently we have been engaged to support in the development of NPG’s 10 year plan; a unique opportunity to reinforce and put to work the newly-developed Vision, Values and Brand in all ‘conversations and consideration’ of the future of the institution and in all resulting plans.

Denise Vogelsang, Director of Communications and Digital

The National Portrait Gallery tells the story of the United Kingdon through portraits, and our Collection is filled with the stories that have shaped, and continue to shape a nation. We progress the art-form of portraiture and celebrate its power to create person-to-person connections; offering encounters with some of the world’s greatest and most exciting new artists. This is a Gallery for everyone; full of life and filled with life stories. A place to look, learn, question, listen, eat, drink, meet, play and join. That’s who we are, and this is brilliantly encapsulated in our new Vision, Values and Brand , which define why we exist, how we behave and how we communicate to the world. They act as an internal guide that influences the experiences we create and the services we provide and they provide a common, unifying thread connecting everyone who works with us. In developing these together, boardroom consulting's expertise manifested itself in a truly collaborative, research-informed and insightful approach - and together we have created a definition of the future that all at NPG are excited to help achieve, as well as a strategy to do exactly that.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery
Building on the concept of our architectural renovation, which is to reveal and celebrate our history while creating a Gallery fit for 21st century audiences, our new vision and brand reflects our rich heritage but re-imagined to be more relevant to more people in 2023 and beyond
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