The Ministry of Defence’s Procurement Executive (PE) annually
spends around pounds 7 billion on new equipment and spares for the armed
forces. In 1991 ministers decided to bring together over 7,000 staff
from three main areas - London, Bath and the south coast - in a
purpose-built headquarters at Abbey Wood in Bristol. The collocation was
also intended to act as a catalyst for broader changes: job cuts, new
business practices and restructuring.
By means of an internal communications programme, to ensure all PE staff
understood the business reasons for collocation, and to prepare them for
new ways of working in a new business environment. The campaign was also
intended to persuade sufficient members of staff to relocate.
Redhouse Lane began by creating a relocation brand identity which would
give coherence to all material used in the programme and capture the
attention of the audience.
PE’s existing newspaper Preview was used as the key tool for regular
communications with staff. A four-page pullout called Collocation Update
was produced. Initially this was designed to conform to Preview’s rather
formal house style, but branded with the relocation identity. However,
as the programme developed a stronger graphic identity was gradually
introduced, first with four-colour printing and then a livelier, more
Information rooms were established in London, Bath, Portland and
These had relocation branded exhibition panels that were changed every
three months to encourage re-visits, fact sheets on local issues, and
allowance guides that used clear design and plain English to explain the
complexities of civil service allowances.
As the new headquarters, Abbey Wood was a green field site much of the
programme was dedicated to highlighting the attractiveness and benefits
of the new building, and sold new working practices such as open-plan
Over the five-year programme there were four key events when audience
attention and response was critical - a staff survey, first preference
exercise (initial decisions about moving), second preference exercise
(final decision about moving), and the move into new offices.
For each stage a special booklet was produced which broke away from
existing house style in order to achieve impact and encourage a big
response. The first booklet, Update, stood out through its use of white
space and colour, but was still recognisably MoD style.
The final commemorative booklet, Abbey Wood, produced to coincide with
the formal introduction by the Queen, was designed to reflect a bright,
modern organisation embodied in the new building, and showed how far the
organisation had come in its use of modern design.
Staff opinion was tested at various stages throughout the five year
Within a year staff rated relocation information higher than PE
information generally. Survey data in the first two years shows gradual
attitudinal change and a growing willingness to relocate. The initial
staff survey achieved a 63 per cent response rate, first preference
exercise 95 per cent and the second preference exercise 99 per cent.
Of some 3,000 mobile staff issued with compulsory posting notices, there
were fewer than 10 resignations.
Design played a significant role in changing staff perceptions about
relocation. It was thought that MoD staff would reject a radical
redesign of core literature as expensive gloss and management
propaganda, so change had to be gradual and subtle.
The impact of the new designs is evident from the high response rate to
The success of the project recently also led to Redhouse Lane scooping
the 1997 Design Effectiveness Award for corporate literature.
Client: Ministry of Defence Procurement Executive
PR Team: Redhouse Lane
Campaign: Collocation to Bristol
Timescale: 1991 to 1996