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narrative work

Sunderland Smart City (Sunderland Council)

Sunderland City Council approached us to tender for a full brand and website project for its new Smart City Vision which was announced in the 2019 City Plan and as a proud Sunderland agency we were determined to win the pitch and create something outstanding for our city.

Sunderland City Council had identified that “by 2030 Sunderland will be a connected international city with opportunities for all” and because of the partnership nature of this ambition, and the need for it to be set apart from anything that has come before, the Council require an experienced supplier to work with the Council and Partners to lead and deliver a brand, narrative and digital platform.

Upon commission of the project, we held a Discovery Workshop with the client to extract the essential meaning and most important aspects of the visions USPs. From this workshop the creative ideation was born.

The aim of our ‘identity and creative direction’ campaign was to quickly communicate the three output areas and the connected nature of the Smart City Vision – our dynamic city, our healthy city and our vibrant city – with the audience as early in the journey as possible.

The geometric icon in the logo forms an ‘S’ shape from the three connecting lines that represent each outcome in its most basic format. The shape also creates an abstract illustration of the City of Sunderland; the teal shape representing the River Wear cutting through Sunderland North and Sunderland South which are signified by the mustard and coral shapes.

Following the Discovery Workshop, we all felt the name ‘Smart Sunderland’, although easy to understand, didn’t do the project justice. We felt the name needed to be owned by everyone in the city, from residents to businesses, from stakeholders to visitors and everyone in-between. After a re-think, we all agreed on the name ‘Our Smart City’ which as well as ownership creates a sense of pride in the results and vision of the project and everyone involved.


A Project Manager was appointed for this project, working closely with both the client’s internal team and the Delivery team at Narrative to ensure all deadlines were met. Internally, the Narrative team used Trello to organise workflow, and externally email communication and Basecamp were used to organise and communicate with the multiple external stakeholders.

Once the brand was signed off, we moved on to the website design and development. The website sitemap took inspiration for the City Plan’s outcomes (dynamic, healthy and vibrant) and we developed a narrative that establish the story behind Sunderland Our Smart City and the digital exemplars already in place within the city, distilling its Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and making sense of the otherwise potentially complex use cases for a wide range of audiences.



With the logo and creative direction in place, we created a set of easy to follow guidelines that set out how to apply a consistent creative route across all online and offline collateral going forward.

Although very early days for Sunderland Our Smart City, initial responses to the new branding and website ( have been extremely positive from our client and their partners.

Dawn Harrison, Project Lead said:

“The engagement with the team has been excellent throughout. They helped guide us in establishing the site and have then worked with us to tweak, enhance and generally refine the website once we knew more about what we wanted and had something tangible to talk about. We are really pleased with the results obtained and have had positive feedback from the external parties that have now seen the site. Communication has been very easy with timely responses and it’s great to use a local company as it links in nicely to social value spending with them being a local employer based at the NE BIC.”

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