Housing affordability is an omnipresent topic in Australia, particularly in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne.
According to an Australian National University (ANU) poll, 84% of Australians think that the cost of buying a house will continue to increase in the next five years. Even more telling, 70% of respondents are either concerned or very concerned that they may never be able to afford to buy a home.
An increase in the cost of housing may not be such a problem if wages were also fast-growing. But they’re not. ABS report that Sydney house prices have jumped 70% in the last five years, but wages have only grown 13%.
The rental market isn’t much better. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that private renters in 2013-2014 paid 62% more in weekly housing costs compared to renters in 1994-5 (and that’s after adjusting for inflation).
Affordable housing is critical, that much is clear. But what if we aimed for more than just affordable housing? What if we aimed for flourishing communities?
Two heads are better
Yarra Community Housing Ltd (YCH) was the largest provider of community housing in Victoria, with a particular focus on supporting people who have been homeless and experience high levels of disadvantage. An independent, non-profit organisation, they developed and managed affordable rental housing options for people on low incomes including families.
In November 2015, YCH merged with another leading name in affordable housing: Urban Communities Limited (UCL). Also not-for-profit, UCL delivered place management and urban regeneration in four locations in Melbourne and Adelaide: Kensington, Fitzroy, Coburg and the Adelaide central business district. Using an innovative service model that integrated public, social, affordable and private housing, they created more than just places to live. They created vibrant, mixed communities.
Liquorice was challenged with an important task: to help them define who this new organisation would be.
The Liquorice Process
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What’s in a name?
A lot, actually.
Naming is a strategic process designed to produce an identity that reflects the vision, mission and business objectives of the organisation.
After completing research into the existing brands, their people, audiences and competitors, we conducted a brand workshop. Together with the workshop participants, we began to identify some key features of this new organisation, including its personality, core values and how it would benefit the community.
The outcome of the workshop was a strategic brand brief—a solid foundation from which to build an identity. By involving key stakeholders very early on and listening to their perceptions, expectations and concerns, we were able to move forward into the naming stage with confidence.
Next, a team of Liquorice creatives brainstormed naming opportunities and carefully edited them down to a shortlist. This shortlist was presented, along with possible taglines and URL recommendations, to gather crucial feedback.
In 2017, Yarra Community Housing Ltd and Urban Communities Limited became Unison—two entities working together to create communities that thrive.
Unison solidified the mission of its prior incarnations, saying “We believe that affordable housing is the foundation on which to build a life of value, but that a good life takes more than just housing. A good life takes place in a community. We provide affordable housing and work to reduce disadvantage and social exclusion for people who have previously been homeless, by helping to create communities around them. Unison also assists over 3000 people each year who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”
Here comes the sun
Like the name itself, Unison’s visual identity needed to be optimistic and speak to the inclusivity and security that being part of a community can bring.
Exploring the concept of unison, we designed a logotype consisting of two identical lines which, sitting side-by-side, created the letter ‘u’. This logo is able to demonstrate the brand’s spirit; spelling out the first letter of the word “unison” by working in unison.
Encasing the logotype is a yellow ring, reminiscent of the sun rising above the horizon. The colour palette and photographic treatment also support this metaphor of the sunrise, bringing together bright, golden yellows, oranges and pinks in a warm, sunrise gradient.
Unison is illustrative of the principle that something can be “greater than the sum of its parts”, and this idea was central to the design of the icons. Two hands become a heart, two hearts become a home, and two cogs spark an idea.
What people are saying
The Unison name and brand has been exceptionally well-received by customers, staff and stakeholders alike. To some, the name Unison went beyond the coming together of two companies, and instead reflected the way the company works “in unison” with its customers.
We have been delighted with how well the brand works with the name. We wanted the brand to communicate an optimism and a freshness. As a company, we want to create communities that thrive, and our brand had to suggest the energy and openness required to create and maintain thriving communities.Matthew Torney — Unison Director Strategy and Growth
Our customers’ feedback overwhelmingly suggests that it does this in spades. Importantly the brand has also influenced the perception of many of our staff about the culture we want to create. Our bright, open branding reinforces the optimism and openness we want to see in our behaviours and values.