Week 2: Test and rehearse

The Challenge

Map a resourcing model for budget and staff allocation to deliver a project or creative initiative of your choice.


You have been asked to pitch by National Theatre for a campaign to promote a new play, to include:

  • Promotional poster;
  • Programme;
  • Digital banner;
  • Print;
  • Design production.

Your client has not given an indication of the budget but would like to pay you fairly. There are no existing images. Please outline the time and costs required to deliver initial stage one body of work across three concepts. Also provide an indication of production costs based on your design proposals.

Whilst it is an example, I’m going to go with it: I love the National Theatre and have been to see many of its plays from when I was a teen up to now, including the example play Small Island. I’ve been on costume tours, building tours and walked along the Shearling Walkway to see the backstage production process many times. 

Small Island was a gift to my mum, as she loved the book, and also My Brilliant Friend – to make the presents more special for her I used the poster materials I found on the internet to make a giftcard. Here is my one for Small Island:

Small Island gift card for my mum

So I can ape the style, can I create one of my own?

A couple of years ago I met an Art Director at the National Theatre through a mutual friend at the ABCD awards (The Academy of British Cover Design), which is an industry event to celebrate cover designs all over London. Designers submit their covers, the organisation shortlists them and on the night we all vote for our favourites in the category. It’s a great evening of meeting up with old colleagues and making new acquaintances and is of course, a very jolly evening. Emelie, the NT Art Director, has since moved on to starting her own freelance studio and I’ve given her a message to see what it was like in her role and if she would be happy to talk to me.

First, research: What kind of images have National Theatre in the past used in the past? Is there a theme and how can I do it differently?

This webpage has a thorough history of different styles, from Keven Briggs building a strong identity using typography and a Swiss style grid in 1960s from which to base most of the photos, to his abandonment of this style in early 1970s in favour of a new design for each play:

Kevin Briggs

When the theatre moved to its current home on the Thames, Richard Bird took the designs further to have a strong typography with striking illustrations:

Around the same time, Michael Mayhew used photography with strong type:

More recently, Charlotte Wilkinson (2004–2014) has steered away from using photography already in existence to art directing photoshoots for the purpose of the campaign, with strong Helvetica type.

Since 2014, National Theatre has branded its work as Graphic Studio rather than a specific Art Director, with strong branding but wide graphic styles:

After taking a look at the history, I can see it is a useful tool to be see where the brand has come from, but I can’t fall back on that. Theo Inglis mentioned in his presentation that for one pitch he went with the constraints set, but they were safe compared to the pitch that won. Emelie Chen also puts her hiring at the National Theatre as going beyond the brief:

I was sent the script for the play Ballyturk and had one week to come up with two concepts for the poster. I went beyond the brief to show how we could turn one of them into an installation for people to interact with at the NT. They loved it and offered me a 12-month contract. 

Emelie Chen for Lecture in Progress

Setting myself outlines

For this brief, I am giving myself the role of Art Director, where I can hire for the roles I need and be responsible for the overall look.

This brief comes at a time when National Theatre is closed, and is doing an online series of previously filmed plays to raise money on Youtube. When lockdown can lift, what will happen? Maybe plays online will be another part of the cultural programme that the National Theatre can offer to reach more people. How will the designs be appropriate online as well as print? How can the programme be displayed online?

National Theatre have founded Public Acts initiative to involve people around the country in participatory theatre. The first Public Acts was Pericles and it involved partnerships with Body & Soul, The Bromley by Bow Centre, Coram, DABD, Faith and Belief Forum, Havering Asian Social Welfare Association (HASWA), Open Age, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Thames Reach for a huge cast and amazing costumes. This year’s Public Acts was The Caucasian Chalk Circle and has been postponed.

My play will be an imagined 2021 Public Acts work from an existing play and from this I will have three concepts:


  1. Illustration, using hands such as Pericles and As You Like It
  2. Photographic, using body parts such as legs or hands so as to not single out a character in an ensemble production
  3. Another photographic idea I have yet to decide upon.

Within those concepts, I will play around the typography. Custom or Helvetica? In a white space created by the imagery? Fitting around the imagery? Deliberately breaking the imagery?

What do I need to do right now?

On the Ideas Wall, Richard has suggested that we focus on framing the costing process as:

  1. Costing of consultation, concept routes and pitch.
  2. Costing design development of clients selected route.
  3. Costing of production and implementation.

So while I need to keep in mind the deliverables to make sure that my initial stage fits I need to work on how long it will take me to

[to be posted later] Here is my final outcome, in this post.