A tale of two cities with Google SPAN




      Gathering creatives to unpack the history and future of Newcastle-Gateshead.

      SPAN Newcastle-Gateshead was a two-part event combining a workshop and talks exploring post-industrial urban life. Collaborating with the Material Design team at Google, the event highlighted the creativity of the region and got our audience asking meaningful questions about the impact of technology on cities.

      SPAN, created by Google Design, is an international event series exploring the ways in which design and technology shape our everyday lives.

      Google Design wanted It’s Nice That to help deliver a UK SPAN event that brought together designers and technologists to explore the history and future of a post-industrial city. With a rich history of social, industrial and architectural change, the neighbouring cities of Newcastle and Gateshead were the ideal focus for this project.

      Through our SPAN Newcastle-Gateshead event, we set out to explore what the architectural and environmental future of the area could look like, by harnessing data, design and technology. Hosted in the iconic BALTIC art gallery on the city’s Tyne River, and with the theme “Newcastle’s Future”, the event was split into two parts. First, we hosted an invite-only afternoon workshop, followed by an evening of talks to bring the theme to a wider audience.

      We brought together a team of designers, sound artists and technologists local to the city to develop and deliver a workshop and live visualisations. The workshop focused on air quality in Newcastle, given its industrial past, and how data, design and technology could influence town and environmental planning.

      Groups went on data walks that incorporated field recording and air-pollution data collection. The walks were hosted by Tim Shaw, who processed, layered and remixed live sound recordings as they were transmitted to participants via wireless headphones. The outcome of the workshop was a set of AV installations, created by Novak and Ed Carter that were projected onto the walls of the event space.


      SPAN Branding

      "The talks showcased process, personality and above all the creative quality that Newcastle has to offer.”

      Ali Hanson, creative at It'’sNice That

      The evening event involved a series of talks by some of the city’s leading creatives, such as composer Ed Carter and graphic artist Jimmy Turrell. Hosted by Alex Bec, co-founder and managing director of It’s Nice That and Damien Correll, Google Design’s design lead, the talks covered a broad spectrum of disciplines, providing the audience with inspiration and insight into the speakers’ creative processes.

      The brand identity we created for the event was based on Google Design’s SPAN vignettes. We used the assets across wall graphics, a lectern, stage banners and free-standing signage boards. We also designed a fold-out reader supplement visually telling the story of the location, where Newcastle and Gateshead are separated by only a river.

      We also used this visual language within articles and social posts promoting the event online. The first article announced the event and encouraged people to get tickets, while the second provided a round-up of the learnings from the sessions, video links to the talks and beautiful event photography.


      Charlotte Gregory, The NewBridge Project


      Audience at SPAN

      • A sold-out event attended by engaged professionals in the creative industries
      • Collaborated with local designers, sound artists and technologists
      • Invited celebrated speakers including Ed Carter and Jimmy Turrell

      To activate a live event outside of London – and in a stunning location at the BALTIC in Newcastle – was a meaningful milestone for It’s Nice That. With an oversubscribed turnout of creative attendees, we were able to meet and engage with another creative community in the UK. “We learned so much about the creative scene in Newcastle,” says Ali Hanson, create at It’s Nice That. “I felt our ambition to create something at the event resulted in an outcome that we can all be very proud of. The talks showcased process, personality and above all the creative quality that Newcastle has to offer.”

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