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.






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.



Qualitative research



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.



Quantitative research



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.



Practice-based research



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.






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