Building belonging

Charity brand design case study

Barnwood is a charity whose mission is to ensure that no one feels isolated or alone by helping disabled people and people with mental health problems feel connected to their communities. They do this by shaping homes, helping people discover opportunities, growing communities, and sharing their insights with other professional services and authorities.

They are a catalyst for social change and their operations are often described as having a ‘ripple effect’ on the lives of individuals, their families and the community. What may start out as a simple conversation around a grant or idea often transforms into something much bigger that benefits the wider community and sometimes sparking other initiatives. And while it may be Barnwood that provides the initial funding, support or connection, it is the people themselves who create the focus, ideas, and energy.

Barnwood originally opened in 1794 as a private hospital for those with mental health challenges but after the formation of the NHS it closed the hospital and became a community-based organisation offering grants and other support. As the charity’s offer continued to evolve, meeting and setting the best practices of the day, the complexity of the offer became more and more difficult to communicate concisely.

Brother was commissioned to bring coherency and succinctness back to the messaging through written and visual brand language.


Our method

Like with all of our charity branding projects, we split the task into four stages: Discovery; Definition; Design; Delivery. An inclusive, flexible, client-focused process tailored to each client or brief.


Put simply, the Discovery stage is all about research and finding out all we can about the organisation – its hopes and fears, market and competition.

Focus groups

We kicked-off the project with four workshops involving each of the stakeholder groups:

  • Trustees and governors – the governance of the charity
  • Barnwood team – the team that sets and evolves best practices for the charity’s key activities: shaping homes, discovering opportunities, growing communities and, sharing insights. This team included funding policy coordinators, heads of funding, programme managers, strategic development managers, researchers, engagement coordinators, directors of housing and community spaces.
  • Referrers – those within Barnwood who are described as the charity’s ‘welcomers’ and ‘connectors’ – people who reach out to those in the community to start conversations around support.
  • Social reporters – the eyes and ears of Barnwood. A group of current and previous Barnwood service users who reported and contributed articles about mental health and disability issues to Barnwood’s You’re Welcome website.

The workshop combined incisive questioning with practical exercises to encourage debate and the voicing of opinions.


For external stakeholders who would find attending in-person focus groups problematic, we conducted a number of one-to-one interviews with:

  • Professionals and influencers – doctors, police officers, social workers, local authority, etc
  • Enthusiastic residents – a term used to describe the social do-ers. Those who rolled up their sleeves to organise community-based projects, clubs, and social events.

Research document

The findings from the research above were then published, presented and recommendations were made.


At the Definition stage, we distilled what we learned in Discovery and, together with copywriting partner Andy Rigden, articulated the brand in words to create the brand platform.

Short-form boilerplate

This is Barnwood’s elevator pitch – Barnwood in a nutshell. It is the shortest and most concise description of what Barnwood is, does and stands for.

Barnwood builds belonging. We work together with the people of Gloucestershire to bring the county closer together, exploding myths about disability and mental health. By sparking new community connections, sharing ideas and providing grants, we enable people to shape where they live and discover new opportunities.

Long-form boilerplate

This builds on where the short-form leaves off, elaborating on how Barnwood goes about its activities.



Distilling Barnwood’s activities and messages down to a succinct, single-minded, and memorable phrase produces the strapline – Building belonging. More than just a descriptor, the strapline acts as a rallying call and positions the brand.

Operational activities

Discovering opportunities, Shaping homes, Growing communities and Sharing insights are the labels used to identify Barnwood’s areas of work. Deliberately energetic, positive, and forward-moving, the labeling deliberately follows a similar structure and rhythm to that of the strapline, Building belonging.

Discovering opportunities enables disabled people and people with mental health problems to follow their passions and interests. We want to make sure that everybody has access to a range of positive experiences and no one living in Gloucestershire feels excluded.

Shaping homes ensures more people with disabilities or mental health problems can live in homes and communities that enhance their wellbeing. We do this by influencing the design and delivery of housing and encouraging others to build inclusive communities, not just housing.

Growing communities focusses on making sure that everyone in Gloucestershire is included in communities, spaces and places. It is vital that disabled people and people with mental health problems are fully involved in creating welcoming, inclusive communities.

Sharing insights involves sharing information, ideas, and commentary to influence the experience of disabled people and people with mental health problems in Gloucestershire. It also involves communicating the findings from our own work evaluation.

Brand characteristics

The brand characteristics are human traits attributed to the Barnwood brand. Borne from their activities, values and collective goals they remind the team how to communicate coherently and with one voice.

Socially sensitive

We’re aware that lasting change is only ever achieved step-by-step, day-by-day. So we work hard to make incremental improvements, building on the subtle changes we can see at an individual, community and county level.

Quietly revolutionary

We’re working to make Gloucestershire a more welcoming and inclusive place to live. We’ve a clear vision of everything the county could be, but an equally firm commitment to the people we work with, nurture and help.


As people change, so do their communities. When their strengths are revealed and passions re-ignited, everyone benefits. So we look for, celebrate and encourage people’s strengths, unlocking their power to change their own and other lives.

Undaunted and undeterred

Creating a more inclusive Gloucestershire won’t happen overnight. However, we won’t be swayed from our vision of a closer county. We’re determined to remain grounded by the people we work with every day. And we’re undeterred by detours and delays.

Warm-hearted, team-spirited

Our openness to new ideas and experiences has twin sources. We combine approachability with intellectual curiosity. As well as a down to earth, team-based approach, we are always keen to share ideas, realising different perspectives bring new ways around old problems.

Forward-looking, past-powered

All our ambitions for the future begin with our understanding of the past. We are using the experience and financial independence gained in the last 200 years to create a county in which everyone has a part to play.



Stakeholders during the Discovery stage often described Barnwood’s activities as having a ‘ripple effect’ on the lives of individuals, their families and the community – what often started out as a simple conversation around a grant or idea usually transformed into something that benefitted the wider community, sparking other initiatives and building belonging. It was this ‘ripple effect’ that influenced the graphic elements in the brand visual toolkit.

Logo and secondary graphics

We like to describe the logo as the pebble that starts the ‘ripple effect’ as it is Barnwood’s initiatives that bring people together.

The secondary graphic elements continue the metaphor through the use of circles. These circles interact with each other to tell stories, show relationships, map connections and networks, and demonstrate Barnwood’s role from different perspectives.



Building belonging requires Barnwood to live its values and be open, empathetic, approachable, reassuring, accessible, open-minded, affable, inclusive, and trustworthy. The Barnwood team photography reflects this by removing Barnwood’s ‘walls’ and welcoming the viewer in.

This is achieved through candid, unposed and unforced images of real subject matter in real-life situations using available, natural light.


Illustrations can be used when photography is unavailable or not appropriate so we created an illustration style that was informed by the circle/ripple theme. The style is easy and cost-effective to produce.

design agency bath, london, bristol


This circle treatment translated well to graphic icons creating consistency, ownership and recall.


Rolling out the brand to engage stakeholders, appeal to service users, stand out against the competition and ultimately exceed organisational objectives. For Barnwood, this included their annual review, external large-scale graphics, stationery and grant leaflets.

Finally, we created a brand book and visual brand identity guidelines to act as a benchmark and reference for the written and visual brand language.

Brand book and visual brand identity guidelines

Grant leaflets

Annual review

Out and about