Explore, through practice-based research, how the pharmacy profession might harness its brand identity and apply new technology to secure the role of the pharmacist over the next 50 years.
Explore, through practice-based research, if it is possible to re-brand the pharmacy profession and develop a visual identity system that can successfully communicate the brands messages through new media channels.
i. How might the technology influence the way in which pharmaceuticals are used and the way in which pharmacists
practice over the next 50 years?
ii. In what ways will the visual identity of the pharmacy profession manifest over the next 50 years?
iii. How can pharmacists remain relevant to the act of pharmaceutical supply throughout the changes to supply
mechanisms over the next 50 years?
iv. How can the established ‘pharmacy cross’ symbol be developed to make it relevant to a modern audience and
flexible enough to work well across a range of communication channels?
v. How can the expanding role of the pharmacy profession be communicated visually through the ‘pharmacy cross’?
vi. What graphical devices can be developed to support the developed ‘pharmacy cross’ to deepen
understanding of and engagement with the pharmacy brand?
vii. What is the visual style, tone of voice and vocabulary of the new pharmacy visual identity system?
It is evident, following initial review, that the pharmacy profession does not have a consistent visual identity through
which it can communicate with society. The self-image of its members is changing rapidly as their role develops to
become more clinically diverse while retaining the core characteristic of being experts in medicines.
An increasing number of pharmacies are operated by large multinational corporations and their homogenised,
corporate and retail focussed approach to branding is producing a professional identity more similar to other large,
general retailers rather than other medical professions. Smaller independent pharmacists who have the flexibility to
adapt their professional image do not have the expertise or the resources to do so.
This, alongside other factors, has resulted in the public’s perception of the profession being altered to occupy the
general retailer space. Significant stakeholders in the future of pharmacy including politicians and health commissioners
are also influenced by this change resulting in a devaluing of the potential of the pharmacy profession to contribute to
meeting the health needs of the nation.
A clear Modernist aesthetic exists across the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry which originated in Switzerland
following Bauhaus principles and has spread internationally and while functional may be seen as unapproachable and
unfeeling. (Medley, S. 2009 pg 146-151.) This aesthetic may hinder patient engagement with the pharmacy profession.
A demonstration of how a visual identity can be developed which reflects the self-image of pharmacists as scientists
and accessible healthcare professionals who are experts in medicines could start a debate within the profession
about how to address this threat and opportunity.
Subsequently engaging professional representative bodies may bring about a change in the way that the
pharmacy profession presents itself to society.
The mechanisms of pharmaceutical supply will inevitably change in line with the supply of other consumables,
driven by technological advances. How these mechanisms change will influence the ways in which a visual
identity for the pharmacy profession manifests and the development of such an identity. Forecasting the types of
changes most likely to occur is an essential precursor to the development of a conceptual identity.
KEY RESEARCH AREAS
A range of primary, secondary and tertiary research methodologies (Nobel, I & Bestly, R. 2011, pg 18) has been used
to increase my understanding of this area, identify work previously carried out by other designers and assist in
answering my research questions.
Primary research | Mixed method
Initially taking a predominantly qualitative approach I have identified areas of common thought amongst two
groups; Members of the pharmacy profession and the public.
A more quantitative approach was then be taken with members of the pharmacy profession to achieve a more
detailed understanding of their self-image.
I carried out a range of one to one interviews with significant individuals within the pharmacy profession including:
i. Steve Jeffers, CEO, Medicx Pharmacy.
ii. Vicki James, Professional Services Lead, Medicx Pharmacy.
iii. Stephen Gough, Local Professional Network Manager, NHS England.
iv. Mike Holden, CEO, The National Pharmacy Association.
v. Alastair Buxton, Head of NHS Services, The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.
vi. Neal Patel, Head of Corporate Communications, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
vii. Ian Facer, Ex-chairman, Pharmacy Voice.
viii. Jennifer Richardson, Deputy and Features Editor, The Chemist and Druggist Magazine.
ix. Steve Mosley, Strategy Pharmacist, Community Pharmacy Humber.
x. Victoria Birchall, Community Pharmacist, Medicines Optimisation Pharmacist, Staffordshire and
Lancashire Commissioner Support Unit.
xi. John Davies, Pharmaceutical Services Director, Mawdsley Brooks Ltd.
xii. The curator of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Museum collection.
xiii. James Battersby, Senior Lecturer at the School of Art, Design and Performance, UCLan.
xiv. Carol Kennedy, Membership Director, The National Pharmacy Association.
A vox pop survey was carried out in Covent Garden to gather a sample of views from the public regarding the current
brand and visual identity of the pharmacy profession.
I visited the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum and reviewed both textual and contextual documents relating to
the original development of the ‘pharmacy cross’ in 1984 to understand the historical context and lessons learnt.
I have researched future forecasting mechanisms via a range of contemporary texts and remain abreast of
technological advancements that may influence the supply of pharmaceuticals.
The insights from the interviews were then used to develop a quantitative, web based survey which was completed
by 242 people from varying disciplines within the profession.
These results were published on the project website and shared via a project twitter feed (~1300 followers across
the world) with the profession for informal peer review.
The project and survey results were covered in a range of press articles and features in the industry press
further raising the profile of the project.
I was asked to host a very successful twitter chat about pharmacy and branding which further enhanced my
understanding of the professions views.
A wide range of concepts relating to changes in the supply of pharmaceuticals in the future have been
realised through 2D illustration and the development of 3D prototyping.
A temporary conceptual brand has been applied across the full range of concepts to explore the ways in which
such a brand must adapt to myriad platforms and uses.
Development of a conceptual visual identity for the pharmacy profession which reflects the self-image of its
members adopted by the profession in 2017.
Through practice based research techniques including photography, 3D printing, illustration and other techniques, f
ollow a number of lines of enquiry exploring the development of ‘pharmacy cross’:
Proportion. Pattern. Rotation. Twist. 3D. Lighting. Motion. Taste. Texture. Smell. Material. Typeface. Colour.
Sharpness. Shape. Decoration. Sound.
Develop a brand tone of voice and vocabulary based upon research outcomes.
Develop a visual style based upon contextual research which communicates the brand messages.
Develop a typographical and editorial style which communicates the brand messages.
Presentation of applied brand elements and styles to the CEO’s of the national pharmacy representative bodies in 2016.
INTENDED PROJECT OUTCOMES
A future forecasting process cataloguing potential changes to the future of pharmaceutical supply in the short,
medium and long term future.
A conceptual visual identity for the pharmacy profession which reflects the self-image of its members adopted by the
profession in 2017.
The commencement of a debate within the pharmacy profession about how to address the perceived
threat and opportunity.
The publication of a number of articles within the pharmacy commercial press relating to my research.
The publication of a journal article in the relevant design and pharmacy press.
© Gavin Birchall 2015