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New logo and identity for Northern Beaches Council by Principals

Old Warringah, Manly and Pittwater Council logos, and new Northern Beaches Council logo
Old Warringah, Manly and Pittwater Council logos, and new Northern Beaches Council logo

Northern Beaches Council is a local government area (LGA) located in the northern beaches region of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. The council was formed on 12 May 2016 from the merger of the former Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils. The Council comprises an area of 254 square kilometres and as at the 2016 census had an estimated population of 252,878, making it the third most populous LGA in the Sydney region.

The new logo and identity were developed as a result of a consultation process with community groups and Council staff to ascertain a representative image for the unified Council. They will be rolled out gradually across the area including the built and natural environment, as well as Council’s operations and communication channels.

Our new identity was developed by the community for the community and echoes the charm and extraordinary nature of the Northern Beaches. Love for the natural environment, vibrant and thriving villages and collaborative community were common themes that shined through each step of the process.

Northern Beaches Council media release

Old logos for Warringah, Manly and Pittwater Councils
Old logos for Warringah, Manly and Pittwater Councils

Of all the three previous logos, the one for Warringah Council was decidedly the most unfussy, although something other than a large W might have made for a more interesting mark. The Pittwater Council logo was fine, except for that superfluous swoosh beneath the text. And the Manly Council logo – the oldest and most divergent of the three – contained imagery that obstinately acknowledged the area’s early history rather than reflecting the premiere seaside village it’s famous for. (I also note its similarity to the City of Parramatta Council logo.) Overall, though, there was nothing terribly wrong with any of them.

Below: video introducing the new brand.

New Northern Beaches Council logo (reversed)New Northern Beaches Council logo

Sydney’s northern beaches are legendary. The landscapes. The lifestyle. The wildlife. […] Three councils came together to […] find a new identity that would capture everything the area’s famous for. They wanted to celebrate diversity, and give locals something to feel proud of. […] The result is a vibrant, colourful identity that captures their optimism and sunny outlook. We created a look and feel that includes symbols, icons, stories and an invitation to fall in love with the Northern Beaches.

Principals project page (updated May 2018)

The new Northern Beaches Council (NBC) logo contains a number of different symbols that represent the most iconic features of the Northern Beaches lifestyle and natural environment (see the breakdown below). They are arranged in a wave shape, which is, obviously, a nod to the beaches. If you’re any kind of logo nerd like myself, then you will know that the Unilever logo does something similar in a U shape.

Meanings of icons within the new Northern Beaches Council logo
Meanings of symbols within the new Northern Beaches Council logo

And just like the Unilever logo, there are some symbols that are immediately apparent – such as the humpback whale and the heart – and others that will reveal themselves over time, as the logo is broken up in applications. I think this will give the logo some mileage, as people will progressively discover what the symbols mean, and perhaps even form their own interpretations. Incidentally, there is also a set of ancillary symbols floating around that aren’t featured in the logo; it’s not clear whether these were just ideas in the design process or will indeed be utilised in some way.

Regarding the actual shape of the wave, it’s neatly contained in a generally circular silhouette and has a certain energy to it, in the way it draws your eye through the tail and body of the humpback whale, then up and over the wave crest. The mixture of all the symbols is intriguing, and feels like it represents a place that’s full of life, where there is always something interesting happening.

However, its liveliness is somewhat flattened by the use of black and white. And applied to this particular composition of abstract shapes, it, perhaps unintentionally, lends the logo a tattoo vibe – specifically the sorts of tattoos that incorporate symbols from the Maori culture of New Zealand. (Random, I know.)

The accompanying typeface, a geometric sans, is fine. It’s unobtrusive and allows the graphic to take centre-stage.

New Northern Beaches Council logo outlined
Outlined logo as a background fill
New Northern Beaches Council bus stop poster
Bus stop poster
New Northern Beaches Council truck livery
Truck livery (Source)
New Northern Beaches Council van livery
Van livery

In applications, a relevant symbol is pulled out of the logo and becomes a mask for photography. For example, the heart symbol for “Community and Nature” is used in the Park Maintenance van above. I like how the symbols each become a window into a particular aspect of the Northern Beaches lifestyle and landscape. It allows the logo to be infinitely expressive while simultaneously encapsulating the rich culture and fascinating wildlife of the area.

I do worry that some of the symbols may not be conducive to showcasing photography because the shapes can be a bit awkward for that. And this is evident in the two examples below, where the Weedy Seadragon symbol and an ancillary symbol for an endemic plant species have been used, on their own, simply as colour fills. These applications are not as engaging but at least they inject some much-needed colour to the identity. Furthermore, they will help residents and visitors become acquainted with the symbols, while it might be a bit more demanding for them to see the connection with the logo when photography is involved.

New Northern Beaches Council billboard design
New Northern Beaches Council themed wall decals
Wall decals

Where I think the colour-filled symbols are used more effectively, though, is in groups, like in the event invite below, where they are scattered on the layout within a defined space.

Northern Beaches Council event invite
Northern Beaches Council event invite

Aside from all that, there is a lot of (literal) white space, and combined with the use of a thin weight of typeface for copy (Muli), there is a calm feel to the identity that suits the sort of relaxed vibe you would expect in a seaside community.

Overall, the new look for Northern Beaches Council is a pleasing outcome. Given that it was the result of an extensive consultation process, it could easily have become a too-many-cooks-spoil-the-broth-type result. And while there are indeed several elements weaved into the logo, they each have a meaning, they each have a place, and they represent best and most unique aspects of the Northern Beaches offering. I expect the new branding will reinvigorate the community as well as the touchpoints to which it is applied. Nice work.

Below: a video about the consultation process for the new identity including comments from stakeholders.