Transport for London’s Ellen Sankey on the brand’s design-led approach to licensing

Ellen Sankey – Brand Licensing Manager at TfL – tells us how design-thinking drives the brand’s approach to collaborations.

Earlier this year, Transport for London launched an updated core style guide and four new trend packs designed to help licensees utilise TfL’s rich archive across different product categories.

With recent partnerships taking TfL into areas like whiskey, swimwear, apparel and puzzle books, we spoke with Ellen Sankey – Brand Licensing Manager at TfL – about how design-thinking drives the brand’s approach to collaborations.

Ellen Sankey, Transport for London

Hi Ellen; great to connect. Transport for London has launched lots of great-looking collaborations in recent years. From a design point of view, why is TfL is an exciting brand for designers to create for?
We are a brand intertwined with design and one of the first companies with a corporate design strategy. From our own type face and famous roundel logo in 1916 to becoming a patron of the arts in the 1930s, we continue to pioneer design to this day across our network, campaigns and architecture.

Our licensing programme should be a continuation of that, working together to create innovative and well-designed products. With such a huge collection of varied and iconic assets, as well as a diverse consumer base, the possibilities are endless.

TfL and TSBA recently debuted an updated style guide and trend packs. What’s the thinking there?
We are hoping that these new trend packs will inspire new and current partners to see the different ways the brand can be used, and open up further product categories, specifically high street fashion, homeware and active lifestyle products.

Ellen Sankey, Transport for London
Can you talk us through some of the fresh new looks that designers will be getting to grips with?

The packs offer exciting new graphics inspired by our heritage and current assets, with sophisticated and tonal to bright, bold trend-led colour palettes, as well as abstract to fresh and fun repeat patterns and icons – recognisable as TfL, but different and intriguing.

Ellen Sankey, Transport for London
Sticking with ‘different and intriguing’, a recent deal has seen Gresham Blake launch a TfL collection spanning tracksuits, shirts and dresses. What appealed about collaborating with a company like Gresham Blake?

Their passion – for the product and for what could be achieved with this collaboration. They approached us with a great idea, not just for the product but also how they could interact with the brand as a whole – presenting us with the journey from concept to store, capturing a moment, a feeling and really interacting with our brand and what it means to people.

Ellen Sankey, Transport for London

Do you think the range is a good example of how creative fashion partners can be with the TfL brand?
Absolutely. We love to encourage and see creativity from our partners and with such a vast history over 150 years we have huge portfolio of assets to choose from.

What was great was that Gresham Blake came to us knowing that they wanted to focus on the moquette patterns, from different periods in our history. They have used these patterns to create some eye-catching pieces but by keeping it simple and high quality the collection really stands out.

Using these patterns, they have really tapped into the recent nostalgia for things we miss from our everyday – travelling across London on the tube and interacting with others and the space around you. This along with the music track – from Shakeable Germ – and music video, shot on the network, remind us how TfL it is such an integral part of London and how exciting it is that we can start to get back out there.

Ellen Sankey, Transport for London

Ellen, before I let you go, how does the TfL team fuel its creativity?
Collaboration is key; sharing ideas and knowledge. It is great to work for a historic brand which is still moving forwards, looking to make positive changes for the future. From visiting the London Transport Museum, looking through historical artefacts at our archive in Acton, to simply jumping on our bus, Tube and rail network and noticing how every small element comes together to create a better experience – it all helps inspire ideas!

Great stuff! Thanks Ellen!

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