‘People Make Glasgow’ agency shares blueprint for resonant city branding

People Make Glasgow by Tangent / Tangent

‘People Make Glasgow’ is a strapline that’s become synonymous with the city, equally captivating to ‘Weegies’ as much as the tourists splashing through its dreich streets. The Drum caught up with Tangent, the campaign’s creator, to learn what the agency will be up to next.

Glasgow’s history is deep-rooted in creativity, from its iconic art school designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh to the many bands that have come up through the vibrant music scene and its world-class galleries. It’s an energetic place filled with opportunities, but it would be nothing without the spirited people who live here.

‘People Make Glasgow,’ says the famous strapline. It was created by Andrew Stevenson and David Whyte, co-founders of Tangent, back in 2014. The pair were tasked with creating a city brand that not only positioned Glasgow as a brilliant place to live, work and study, but also incorporated its essence. They had been working as the lead design consultancy for Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, so a city rebrand was a natural next step.

The brief required them to capture Glasgow’s character – as Glaswegians wouldn’t have been shy in vocalizing their grievances if they had missed the mark. “The proudest element would be the parodies that have come from it,” says Stevenson. “It gives a sense that the people are starting to own it more and it becomes their brand.”

In a full-circle moment, the bold statement is emblazoned across the city’s old College of Building and Printing tower – which is where the duo first met. It’s visible all over the city, and acts as a daily reminder to uphold the friendliness Glasgow is known for.

“Branding can be really influential in lots of ways, but we’re conscious that for many people it solely represents market forces and commercial interests,” adds Whyte. “We don’t believe talented designers should clock in the hours purely for the pursuit of driving other people’s wealth.”

Tangent aims to produce work that changes perceptions and demands action, which is apparent through its latest work with the Alliance to End Homelessness and Sustainable Glasgow. And that brings us to today, where People Make Glasgow is evolving.

It took on a sustainability edge while the eyes of the world were on Glasgow during Cop26. The sense of urgency in the climate emergency was palpable in the finished designs (featuring a ticking Doomsday clock). They needed something that demanded a “behavioral change from audiences,” added Stevenson, while noting that the aim is to get more commercial businesses on board.

The brief came when the team was working from home. It had to pitch ideas on Zoom – something both admit was difficult and impacted the creative process. At times, Whyte jokes it felt a little bit like, “right guys, now’s the time to be creative.”

Meanwhile, like many major UK cities, homelessness is a huge issue in Glasgow. But there are hopes the campaign can help move the dial. “We’re quite a small agency, but some of the projects we’ve got really have substantial impact and scale,” notes Stevenson on their work with the Alliance to End Homelessness in its bid to eradicate rough sleeping in Glasgow by 2030.

The brand identity Tangent created demonstrates hidden elements of homelessness and how the everyday pressures of life can slowly overwhelm many people, yet it offers a positive message about how the city can work together to tackle the devastating problem.

For the team at Tangent, the power of effective branding is the ability to open up new conversations and create an understanding within your community. Including everyday people within the work will always ensure that it feels authentic – especially when it comes to city branding.

Whyte concludes that: “Design exists as a form of social communication, helping change attitudes and open people up to new ideas.”