Celebrating 50 years of the Virgin brand

  • Client: Virgin / Thames & Hudson
  • Disciplines: Content strategy, interviewing, copywriting, brand voice
  • Duration: 10 months

I am the author of Virgin By Design, a premium ‘coffee-table’ book celebrating 50 years of the Virgin brand.

Collaborating closely with the Virgin Group brand team and the book’s publisher Thames & Hudson, I helped develop a content strategy to appeal to brand designers, creative marketeers and ambitious entrepreneurs.

Rather than a chronological retrospective, we agreed it would be more compelling to tell the story thematically, exploring the unique characteristics that make the Virgin brand special.

Buy a copy of Virgin By Design on Amazon

The process involved over 120 interviews with CEOs, CMOs and other influential individuals responsible for shaping the past, present and future of the Virgin brand – from the early days of Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic in the ’70s and ’80s, through to present-day innovations from the likes of Virgin Galactic and Virgin Voyages.

Drawing on hundreds of thousands of words of transcript, I crafted the many diverse stories into 10 distinct chapters. These explored areas such as Virgin’s ‘cheeky start-up’ mentality, the importance of taking risks and innovating, the ‘feel-good experiences’ and ‘magic moments’ at the heart of the brand, and how Virgin can stay relevant for the next 50 years.

With multiple senior stakeholders involved – including Virgin Group’s chief brand officer and global CEO, as well as Richard Branson himself – my copywriting brief was to capture Virgin’s brand values, while remaining engaging and entertaining for an external audience.

Nick helped us shape a cohesive narrative from multiple voices. He was quick to understand Virgin’s brand principles and history, and convey it seamlessly throughout the book. Nick’s skill in finding compelling stories translates to a joyful yet comprehensive read. He was a joy to work with.

Charlotte Bufton – brand manager and project lead, Virgin
Virgin By Design’s 10 thematic chapters. Image credit: Virgin

Fascinating archive photography, striking campaign visuals and playful commissioned illustration bring the featured stories to life.

The design, by Pete Rossi at RM&CO, encourages different levels of engagement. Readers can flick through for visual inspiration, or deep-dive into each chapter’s theme.

Content formats vary from bite-size captions to long thematic reads, bound-in as inserts amongst full-bleed images to maximise visual impact. Gatefolds expand the canvas at key points to do milestone campaigns justice.

“Nick’s deep understanding of how branding and design work within a business, and his industry knowledge and contacts, make him an invaluable member of a creative team.”

Andrew Sanigar – commissioning editor, Thames & Hudson

Virgin By Design was published by Thames & Hudson in March 2020.

Awards for Virgin By Design
Silver Award – Graphis Design Annual 2021
Highly Commended – Drum Design Awards 2020
Shortlisted – Creativepool Annual 2020

Rolling out tone of voice for a European bank

HROD logo showing four quadrants. Image credit: 31% Wool
  • Client: 31% Wool / EBRD
  • Disciplines: Copywriting, tone of voice
  • Duration: 9 days

I helped 31% Wool make EBRD’s HR department more engaging and approachable.

31% Wool’s verbal narrative for the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development’s newly formed ‘HR and Organisational Department’ (HROD) is based on four ‘quadrants’ that play on banking terminology.

All communications are framed in terms of assets, liabilities, risks and returns. HROD might describe people as its “greatest asset”, for instance, or discuss “unlocking returns” for its staff.

My brief was to translate this conceptual approach across a range of materials – from landing pages to onboarding packs – while balancing the need to be punchy and direct, but also warm and welcoming.

Read more on 31% Wool’s website…

Landing pages from HROD website. Image credit: 31% Wool

I also wrote guidelines to help HROD staff maintain this tone of voice across other day-to-day applications.

Tone of voice booklet for HROD. Image credit: 31% Wool

“Nick quickly grasped the intricacies and breadth of the client’s verbal comms, and brought to life some previously quite generic pieces with our new verbal language and a consistent tone of voice. He was happy to turn around some tight client deadlines, and I hope we’ll be working on more projects together in the future.”

Julia Woollams, creative director, 31% Wool