Wednesday, 27 October 2010

On yer bike

Phew! It feels appropriate to be writing my first blog about a racing track as the past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind for me...

What started as a dream has grown into a full blown campaign and it’s with professional pride and personal interest that I want to write about the campaign to Save the Herne Hill Velodrome.

I have been a keen cyclist, racer and fascinated visitor to the Herne Hill Velodrome for many years now. However, this beloved landmark now faces closure due to deterioration and lack of funding, and with the country’s own Olympic moment just around the corner, it’s hard not to get sad at the prospect of the Velodrome closing forever.

The Herne Hill Velodrome is one of those rare things – an iconic landmark that’s in use and as relevant to it’s visitors today as it was in decades past. The oldest cycling track in the country, it was home to the 1948 Olympic Cycling Championships, with famous riders including Bradley Wiggins the three-time Olympic gold medallist, who began his competitive cycling career at Herne Hill. Today, it’s a favoured location for cycling enthusiasts the world over and local children alike, all training, riding and racing their way to a better time, fitter body or simply a fun day out. As I watch the children, including my own, gather for the various races and events made available to them, I hope and believe that there may be one, if not more, future Olympic champions among them.

With the threat of closure – and without forgetting Peter Cattermole and the unsung heroes who, over the last ten years, have kept the Velodrome alive – a new impetus was required. A group of us, led by Hillary Peachey, conceived the Save the Herne Hill Velodrome Campaign, with me in charge of the campaign’s identity, look and feel and of course all the materials. Many may think I can pull an identity out of a hat or cook up a campaign in my sleep but this was unlike anything else I’ve had to do in such a short time frame and with no budget. Fitting four days' work into a weekend, using matchsticks and only a handful of hours’ sleep later, I had produced the basics of a campaign including logo, website, stationery, posters, postcards, leaflets and helped with the Facebook page – branding and some content. Over the weeks that followed, I built on this with help on the campaign strategy and other materials including track banners, t-shirts, displays, stickers and badges as well as providing brand elements to third parties to produce their own materials.

One such party was Condor Cycles who believed so strongly in the campaign, that they devoted a large area of their stand at the Earls Court Cycle Show to help raise awareness to the wider cycling community.

It was great to work on something I felt so passionate about and personally connected to, and the collective enthusiasm and spirit kept me going during those sleep deprived weeks. I’m proud of the designs I produced and the message my work helped shape but, in a bizarre twist, I’m almost prouder of what’s happened since...

As a designer, I love what I do, but there’s something very special about people taking your designs and running with them. As this campaign is so personal to so many, taking ownership of the messaging is essential and creating a structure (with consistency across the various elements) gives people the tools to take it further and help grow the campaign. This is a true word-of-mouth, combined with social media, success story and the momentum the campaign now has, has really blown me away: we got widespread and heartfelt coverage in the country’s press including the Guardian, London Evening Standard and the Telegraph to name but a few. We’ve had BBC’s Newsround filming us, a tweet by none other than Stephen Fry (reaching his 1.8million followers), a hugely successful public meeting with over £70,000 pledged in support, backing by Tessa Jowell and a global Facebook following that now has over 4,600 friends.

To my family's amazement, I now even have knowledge of twibbons with Facebook profiles being updated to help show support for our campaign. I’ve learned more about the strength and spirit of communities and my own knowledge of how this can be harnessed and built on using today’s technology. After the whirlwind, sitting back to enjoy the fruit of our hard work to date and come up with ways to build on this success, I’m left with a smile on my face and a very warm feeling of satisfaction and achievement (or is that muscle cramp?). Make my day and show me it was all worth it – support us and pledge money at

Carl Ison
Branding and Design Strategy

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