Omse rebrands Hackney Church, using its stained glass windows as a frame

The window shape provides an underlying grid for the sophisticated and vibrant branding, which does justice to its home in London’s creative hub.

23 September 2020


It’s not often we write about a church rebrand, but this is truly one-of-a-kind. Executed with finesse by design studio Omse, the new identity for Hackney Church truly speaks to its community in London’s creative hub and beyond. After the church won a multi-million-pound restoration grant, the rector and team worked with John Pawson Architects on the building’s redesign, featuring an entrance installation by Es Devlin. With such esteemed creative collaborators already involved, the pressure was on Omse to create a brand befitting its multifaceted role in the local area.

“It became clear early on that Hackney Church wasn’t like any other church,” Omse director and co-founder James Kape says of the three-year project. “The ways they support their community and foster creativity are as diverse as the community itself – from operating one of London’s busiest knife bins, to providing over 100,000 meals across East London this year alone.” It also acts as a venue for gigs and weekly events such as baby groups, and had plans to open a brewery and honey farm, alongside regular church services. “It needed to work for occasions ranging from formal and sobering to joyous and celebratory,” he says.

The concept underlying the new identity is “a cathedral for creativity”. Taking inspiration from the building’s large stained-glass windows, the visuals are based around a tall arched frame, which acts as a grid for all imagery. Type follows the form of the top arch, graphic shapes are taken from the windows’ quadrants, and photography and illustrations sit within the frame, tying a variety of aesthetic styles together. The outline of the window itself has become the core symbol for the brand, and the shape is used as a simple yet distinctive signifier in wayfinding and signage (made with EBBA architects & Family), and to great effect on highly covetable merch (especially that tote bag, pictured below).

GalleryOmse: Hackney Church (Copyright © Hackney Church, 2020)

In the sophisticated launch campaign, impactful type and graphics are paired with photographs of East Londoners by Vicky Grout and Toby Thomas, and films by Louis Bryant and Tasha Duursma. To showcase the range of events and audiences the church attracts at its multiple venues, Omse wanted to work with illustrators of different styles. “We wanted to help create a unique identity that each age group would get excited about,” Kape says.

For the Kids of East London program, the studio worked with Joseph Melhuish who designed characters based on the real-life members of the church. “His CGI style feels quite reminiscent of the cartoons kids often aspire to,” says Kape. For the Families of East London program, aimed more at parents and guardians, the team worked with Jay Cover (one third of Nous Vous) whose “jovial editorial style strikes a unique balance between serious and fun,” Kape says. Regular Omse collaborator Thomas Hedger was also enlisted for the brewery’s fun packaging artwork.

The identity and campaign launched just ahead of the church’s grand reopening, an event which Kape says was remarkable. “Walking into the finished building last Sunday after three years of renovations was indescribable. Also having the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of creatives, and enjoying the creative freedom to really explore the best solutions, was a highlight. Most of us live in Hackney, so it feels extra special to give back to the community you live in.”

GalleryOmse: Hackney Church (Copyright © Hackney Church, 2020)

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Omse: Hackney Church (Copyright © Hackney Church, 2020)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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