Tolworth is a small suburban town with a rich history. However, due to the construction of the Surbiton train station in 1837, Tolworth didn’t grow into a flourishing town with a proper town centre and a community. There is little to offer to its inhabitants with most of them having to go elsewhere to find what they need. While there is no visible sense of community and identity, there is a desire to do better and provide for its inhabitants.
The brief was given to us by Community Brain. Their purpose is to help develop communities, cohesion and opportunities through art, education and local history. They aim to build healthy and striving communities the people are proud of.
Our brief initially consisted of creating wayfinding tools that mapped the civic and community services available in Tolworth with the help of the primary and secondary research conducted by the Geography students.
My team consists of three other people: Ellice, Mengyuan and James. I had never worked with the last two and was a little apprehensive. However, I had worked with Ellice before and knew her to be hard-working, creative and brilliant with photoshop. I was reassured to have her there.
I. Project Process
At the very beginning of the project, we visited Tolworth to familiarise ourselves with the town. We noticed that there is no visible sense of community and visual identity. Moreover, there is a distinct lack of signage which makes navigating through the town to take advantage of what it has to offer rather difficult. The station and green spaces aren’t taken care of, which only encourages the population to leave things as it is.
Prior to us receiving the brief, geography students collected primary and secondary research, came to conclusions based on what they observed and presented their findings to us. Here are a few slides of the presentation that helped us and from which we drew inspiration when discussing our concepts. When speaking to residents, they noticed that there was a lack of sports and welfare-oriented facilities. As for the existing ones, they were poorly documented and didn’t encourage people to use them.
Ellice attended a tea party at Our Lady Immaculate church. She talked to residents about living in Tolworth and collected fond memories growing up in Tolworth. The statements obtained came to support our primary and secondary research while adding a sentimental and humane touch that we didn’t have before.
Following that research, especially the one given to us by the Geography students, we decided to articulate our project around the notion of well-being. We were also well aware of the lack of a shared identity and visuals reflecting it. As a group, we selected to go beyond the expected wayfinding tools and introduce visuals reflecting Tolworth and its’ residents, and, hopefully, by extension, a sense of community.
Establishing the brand guidelines was a long process as the communication within the group wasn’t at its best yet. We were scattered. We worked well as individuals but not yet as a group. After realising how little structure we had and how it was affecting our work, I determined what needed to be done and tried to bring structure to the project. This started with selecting keywords around which the project would articulate itself: Wellbeing, community and identity.
Ellice and I then moved on to the creation of the brand guidelines. We selected a colour palette that aimed to be both soothing, close to nature but also energetic and youthful depending on its use. We wanted to emphasize wellbeing and health without disregarding vibrance and fun.
Additionally, we agreed on a recurring visual element that would tie the project together: lines. The start of its use can be seen in the mood boards below. Lines reminded us of representations of both synapses in the brain and muscles in the body. They also have a soothing and fluid aspect to them that we believe represents well-being well.
We also started talking more, developed the reflex to ask each other’s opinions and discuss every change and idea that we had. It went much more smoothly once we had a clear structure of the project but also of the roles each of us had.
Our aims could be summarised into two main points. The first one is to give the town an identity which will people together and that they’ll be proud of. The second one being the creation of wayfinding tools to permit residents to navigate Tolworth more easily and take advantage of all it has to offer.
As the project leader, I was in charge of overseeing the project. I established brand guidelines and it was up to me to make sure that the content created adhered to those and remained coherent.
We wanted our logo to be something symbolic of Tolworth, something the inhabitants would identify and link back to their town. There’s a nature reserve where the Kestrel, a bird of prey, can be observed flying. The bird a recognizable symbol of strength and freedom, which is why we made it our logo. The design process involved a lot of communication between the person making it and the rest of the group. I think we all knew what we wanted and, once it was created using lines, we all quickly agreed on it.
We developed merchandise based on it to promote a sense of community and belonging.
Ellice created a map with two trails. The first one is the nature trail that highlights green spaces such as the Hogsmill Wood nature reserve, the Alexandra Park and the Farm of Futures. The second is the civic trail which is composed of locations such as St Georges Church, the food bank and Our Lady Immaculate church. Our goal was to give people the tools necessary to navigate Tolworth and learn about its facilities.
Mengyuan created a set of wayfinding tools that would trace the trails shown on the map.
Posters were created as a way of advertising and setting the foundation for change. Below are our first attempts before we introduced the lines. Then we experimented with them, tried to find the right number and the right thickness.
We also wanted to make a visual statement, bring more emotion and excitement in the streets of Tolworth. To do so we created two murals, one of which tells the stories of residents that live in the town. This is a way of engaging the community and highlighting their stories and heritage.
- Place manifesto
We want the population and businesses of Tolworth to have the freedom and ability to create and/or continue our ideas. We believe providing them with a fixed solution is counterproductive. We designed our ideas to be as fluid as possible, which is why we want to create a place manifesto that includes brand guidelines. Current and future businesses would have the opportunity to become involved in the community by continuing the chosen visual identity.
Here is a vinyl illustrated by Ellice as an example of businesses using the place manifesto to create visuals cohesive with the identity of the town. The lines run along shop windows to unify the highstreet and reinforce a feeling of community.
- Renovation of the station
Finally, our most ambitious idea is the renovation of the train station. During our visit to Tolworth, we gathered that there was a lot of activity on the highway and residents were complaining about it. Additionally, the station is old and in need of reparations, it doesn’t give a good first impression of Tolworth. In order, to fluidify traffic and link Tolworth to its’ surroundings, we believe the renovation of the station to be necessary. However, it also further illustrates our concept and what can be done with the visual tools we provide.
III. Team dynamic
The roles within the group were well defined with myself as team leader, Ellice as an illustrator and the first person I’d go to for advice and Mengyuan and James as illustrators for their respective tasks.
At the start I was nervous. There was a good dynamic between Ellice and me, we established what take to have on the project, how it would go and the major ideas, concepts and deliverables.
Overall, I am proud of what we achieved. We worked well together, communication was fluid, ideas flowed well and the content created is beyond what I was expecting.