East Sussex Record Office

Faces of the Keep: The creation of a portfolio of high quality photographic portraits for using in branding for The Keep (Autumn 2011)


The Keep is a major new repository in the Falmer area of Brighton. It is a shared facility housing the East Sussex Record Office, the local history and photographic collections of the Royal Pavilion and Museums of Brighton and Hove, and the Special Collections of the University of Sussex including the Mass Observation Archive.

It will also house the library and resources of the Sussex Family History Group.

The Keep provides a single, integrated public access service for the three archive services, a shared storage facility and shared work spaces.

However, each collection remains under the ownership and managerial responsibility of its original organisation.

The project

‘The Faces of The Keep’ was a small project which developed out of the creation of a brand for The Keep prior to its opening in 2013. Work on the brand began two years prior to opening and was developed over six months. The work was divided into three stages:

  • stage 1 work covered collecting staff and stakeholder interviews; development of the brief and conceptual approach; presentation of concepts to the Brand ID Project Team, four user focus groups and finally presentation of the chosen logo to the Project Team and Board.
  • stage 2 involved the creation of the core elements -colour palette, image style, and tone of voice – for developing the guidelines.
  • stage 3 involved developing best practice examples for the use of the Brand ID, including two ‘The Faces of The Keep’ photographic sessions (October and November 2011); and finalising the Brand ID guidelines.

The portraits depict stakeholders from across the three partners. These include users, depositors, service staff, university staff and students, residents, Friends of East Sussex Record Office, members of the Sussex Family History Group and the Sussex Record Society, the local vicar and local children. The subjects ranged from four to over 80 years old.

The  project was carried out over six weeks in Autumn 2011.  This period included:

  • identifying and inviting participants
  • organising the photographic shoots  – one in the town of Lewes and one at the University of Sussex
  • two days of photographic shoots
  • a certificate of participation for each photographic subject.

Partnership working

The Brand ID Project Team included representatives from all three partners. All three partners’ communications teams were consulted and involved in the overall brand work as well. For ‘The Faces of The Keep’ the Brand ID Project Team worked very closely with their Brand ID consultants including their professional photographer who took the images.


The main cost was the use of a professional photographer for two days. The Keep’s programme manager acted as ‘artistic director’ to save on the costs  for this specific role and  the project was funded out of the general marketing budget for The Keep.

There were some other very small costs such as creating in-house a certificate of thanks and treats for the children. Participants were offered travel expenses but most did not take this up because the experience of the shoot was so enjoyable.


  • Ensuring the portraits were representative of all three partners’ stakeholders
  • Finding dates that all participants could attend
  • Obtaining permissions to enable wide usage of the images

Responding to the challenges

  • All three partners were involved in the development of ‘The Faces’ as well as the wider process of developing The Keep’s brand
  • Holding one of the photo shoots at the University to more easily accommodate University subjects
  • Subjects signed a permission form based on that regularly used by the photographer


  • Promoting the value of the Keep to participants
  • Creating an inexpensive asset with long-term value

Making use of opportunities

  • The photographic shoots were relaxed with a photographer who was very experienced in putting people at their ease. Each participant was given a certificate that had originally only been intended for the children but proved popular with adults as well. The children were also given toffee apples as the shoot took place on Halloween. The participants left strongly identifying with The Keep and some have since received a copy of their portrait
  • Applying the images across a wide range of branding activity

What were the outcomes?

The Keep has been branded to give it its own identity. It is clearly linked to its constituent partners but is an identifiable entity in its own right. The impact on sustainability is to create a very high profile presence both locally and nationally. The branding generates a strong awareness of the public service The Keep will provide amongst organisational decision-makers, managers and staff, and amongst other stakeholders such as users, residents and potential partners. As a result The Keep is a point of institutional and civic pride which will help it attract support and resources.

The creation of a set of engaging and positive images which have been used right across the branding and marketing of The Keep including the website, brochures, presentations, and signage in the new building. This includes a mosaic of Faces as part of the main signage behind the reception and enquiry desks.

‘The Faces of The Keep’ has been very effective in connecting various types of stakeholders with the new building. Participants have felt valued and engaged. They have enjoyed their experience and communicated that enjoyment to others from their community. For local residents, in particular, the ability to identify people they know and take a part in the publicity surrounding The Keep has been a really positive way to enable them to engage with the presence of a new and large building in their social and physical landscape.

It proved a very enjoyable day for participants who were happy to become part of The Keep in this way and to share their experience with others. They loved the experience of being photographed – in some cases they said it was the best image they have ever had of themselves. ‘The Faces of The Keep’ took on ‘a momentum of its own and the Faces became ambassadors in their own right for The Keep’.

‘The Faces of The Keep’ is now a reference point for the communities of the stakeholders. For example local residents recognise their neighbour in the images which are used inside the building and they have been able to follow the progress of The Keep through the updates made by the Programme Manager at their monthly community meetings.

Learning from the project

  • Be prepared to try something different
  • Follow your instincts and see where it takes you. This is not always easy in large organisations or local authorities where the working culture is predicated on clear cut structures and plans with multiple layers of decision-making
  • Make sure you get buy-in for the whole process. All three partners signed up for ‘The Faces’ and the wider Keep brand, which was generated out of careful consultation with those partners
  • For the cost of a professional photographer for two days you can obtain a wealth of material that can last you for years
  • Learn from sectors outside of the archives and heritage sector about how they approach marketing

Developing this work in the future

‘The Faces of The Keep’ are a long-term resource which will be used throughout The Keep’s marketing and branding activity for the medium-term.

Find out more about The Keep.