Rebrand for LGBTQIA+ helpline Switchboard hinges on the humble speech mark

After 50 years in operation, Switchboard introduces a warmer logo which better speaks to its openness as a listening service.

Date
30 January 2024

One of the UK’s oldest LGBTQIA+ helplines has just rebranded with the help of Nice and Serious – a London agency known for its work with charities and nonprofits, from Rainforest Alliance to B Lab Global. The logo has moved from a symbol typically associated with a ringing phone (which in today’s landscape perhaps denotes Broadband brands more than your traditional telephone service) to a speech mark.

The wider visual identity is much more personable than the previous edition, which incorporated bright colours like purple and pink but was rather to-the-point. Approachable illustrations play a larger part in assets. The speech mark appears in the logo but also doubles as a graphic window and background element, anchoring typography or framing photography.

The speech mark symbol came to Nice and Serious as the team was trawling through around 50 years of archival material at Switchboard in Bishopsgate Institute, looking through each era of its design history. Anna Barton, senior designer at Nice and Serious, explains that while early 70s designs had a “DIY feel to them, usually stamped or photocopied, combined with messaging that included a lot of personality and wit”, during the HIV AIDS crisis in the 80s, “Switchboard’s campaign designs became more radical – with more shocking photography and unapologetic headlines, in bold typefaces.”

The identity references both periods in different ways. The speech mark comes from an 80s pin badge which also featured the symbol – Nice and Serious found pin badges in general were an important element of Switchboard’s story. Meanwhile, the use of pink references how Switchboard used the pink triangle as a logo to protest homophobia in the 1970s. Smaller details came from the archival process too, like “the tactile feel of the old notes and memos”, which Nice and Serious emulated through a typewriter typeface for support headlines.

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Nice and Serious: Switchboard visual identity (Copyright © Nice and Serious, 2024)

Nice and Serious wanted to keep Switchboard’s tone of voice consistent but arranged it around three new buckets – sensitivity, creating space for others to talk; dependable, bringing reassurance; and illuminating, putting a spotlight on hope. It’s a careful balance to strike, welcoming people while holding awareness for the seriousness of some of the subjects discussed. That’s where the speech marks come in as a flexible frame.

“The speech marks are designed to be a blank canvas to create an appropriate mood, so they could house anything from a celebratory, vibrant illustration for Pride, to a more sensitive photography campaign about a person’s struggle and conversation with Switchboard,” says Anna.

Nice and Serious has developed an open-ended illustration style and Switchboard will be collaborating with LGBTQIA+ illustrators to build a library of brand assets. In 2023, Switchboard also released the campaign film The Call to raise awareness of its service.

GalleryNice and Serious: Switchboard visual identity (Copyright © Nice and Serious, 2024)

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Nice and Serious: Switchboard (Copyright © Nice and Serious, 2024)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.

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