Twenty years on: Changing our name

Nigel Tuckett
Nigel Tuckett

Nigel Tuckett joined The Spastics Society on 4 January 1980 as a graphic designer. Previously Nigel had been working as the creative director in an advertising agency in Nigeria. He set up in a small office at the end of the corridor in the Society’s HQ in Park Crescent in London. It was the hot metal era of the mechanical typesetter, manual typewriter and Rotring pen – when cut and paste meant literally cut and paste! He headed the Creative Services department that brought in the new Scope brand in 1994.

Attitudes were changing

Public convenience poster
Public convenience poster

“Disabled people were starting to have more of a voice within the organisation, encouraged by the new chief executive Tim Yeo. The charity began to take a bolder stance in their advertising with a series of black-and-white posters that highlighted attitudes to disabled people. There was one showing a lift with a wheelchair user who couldn’t reach the top button. There was another which showed steps leading down to some ‘public conveniences’ which were neither public nor convenient to the wheelchair user pictured by them. The one that caused the most trouble portrayed the taxman as a bank robber with a stocking on his head and a sawn-off shotgun, stealing VAT from charities!

In the field of film, Nigel Evans was highlighting the shocking reality of long-stay ‘mental handicap’ hospitals where a boy was shown tied to a pillar in the middle of a ward.

Our name was holding us back

Despite the progressive advertising, what was holding The Spastics Society back was its name. It had become an embarrassment because of the derogatory use of the term. Companies who wanted to support us said they couldn’t because of our name. Also it was proving a difficult name to work with graphically – a three-word name plus an explanatory strap-line, “for People with Cerebral Palsy”!

Fundraisers reported feedback from potential supporters to the Executive Council. Alpha, a group of disabled people who acted as a sounding board for the organisation at that time, also told the charity that the name did not have confidence of most disabled people.

Most staff wanted the name to change but they had to stand at the back of the room, along with disabled people who also didn’t have the vote. The extraordinary general meeting voters were made up of local group representatives who were mostly parents.

It was nail-biting stuff. It was by no means certain that the local groups would vote for the change. The local groups (who were independent charities in their own right) were worried about the potential loss of income and of disappearing into obscurity.

What name?

After the vote, there was a small matter of the name. I was practically involved in meetings with branding consultants Interbrand. We produced a long list of names and then reduced them down to 15 and then just 5. We designed logos for the five alternatives and I presented them to Executive Council who then had to recommend a name to the membership. Cerebral Palsy Society was a front-runner, but there were concerns about people’s ability to say it. Capability was another possibility. Scope was just a word, wasn’t it?

There were quite a few sun motifs and also a few flags in the preliminary visuals. This was eventually echoed in the publicity stunt for the launch where the biggest flag in the world was unfurled by soldiers abseiling down the front of St Thomas’s Hospital in London, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Practical considerations

After the name Scope and its design were decided on, our in-house Creative Services department took on the task of implementing the new identity. A key element of this was developing the sub-branding where all our departments and services were united under our one main logo. We sent a questionnaire to departmental managers, fundraising shops and local groups to find out what print requirements they would have. This included letterheads, business cards, compliment slips, till receipts, swing tickets (price labels), collection boxes, posters, point-of-sale materials, information leaflets and stickers, exhibition stands and signage for our schools, skills centres and regional offices. It was an exciting time chivvying people to find out what was needed, managing multiple checklists and meeting tight production deadlines. Under the direction of the shops’ marketing manager, Chris Wallace, shop fronts were all changed overnight in 300 sites – quite a logistical feat!

In my 28 years with Scope, I wish we had been able to change attitudes more but the name change and our distinctive new branding system helped to unify the organisation and to express what we stand for more clearly.

Read our ebook on Scope’s name change.

Find out more about Scope’s history.