One small step for (wo)mankind, one giant leap for me.
Type www.4manchesterwomen.co.uk into your browser and you'll see the start of an evolution. It may only be a holding page - and it might be a bit on the purple side, but '4MancChicks' (my pet name for my new project) now has a web presence.
Behind the scenes I have employed the mice from the mouse organ - hot foot from Bagpuss, to build me the mother of all blog sites. Still a few tweeks to go - but this is now version two of the homepage design.
With research showing that nearly 50% of my audience access the internet via their smart phone, I'll be making sure that the design is also phone friendly. I'll also be making sure that it is accessible for visually impaired people. Having worked for the National Library for the Blind for five years - if I can't do that, then it's a poor show!
A massive well done to Emma my web designer who has just landed a brilliant job working for Tone & Brandshank - the latter apparently "custom builds awesome web sites for the music industry". So hold onto your hats and dig out your old flute from the loft ladies, we might be about to go (sub) urban!
Even though Emma is now bound for the digital stratosphere, I'm hoping that if I buy her enough cocktails, she will stay involved with '4MancChicks' and help us to develop even bigger and better things once we get going.
In addition to the web design, Emma's also helped me to develop the branding. It's gone through a few incarnations in Emma's spare room, but once I noticed that we'd been copied by M&S Woman and inadvertently re-created Paul Smith - I thought we must be on the right lines.
When we started out, I didn't really know what I wanted - but I knew I'd know it when I saw it. This wasn't a very helpful design brief, so I tried to put a bit of science behind it.
I knew I wanted something that reflected the feel of the web site and audience - something that was up beat and practical with both gravitas and warmth. Something that was intelligent and no nonsense, but that had a sense of fun.
In my head I kept coming back to the spirit of Beryl Cook. While I might look like a Beryl Cook model, I'm not saying that all Manchester Women look like her iconic 'fat ladies'. It was more the feeling of fun and plain irreverent joy of life that these pictures gave me that I wanted to capture.
So it was from a selection of Beryl Cook paintings that we found our key colours.
Colours are so important. I wanted something that looked feminine without being candy floss or shocking pink. In Manchester, colours are particularly important - I didn't want the site to be too inadvertently red or blue (United or City), so for our signature colour it seemed sensible to mix the two and plump for purple. And if purple is good enough for Loose Women, then it's good enough for me!
In terms of the name of the web site, I wanted something that would really clearly reflect the audience, be easy to search for and translate to other cities (my future plan for global domination). 4Manchester Women could just as easily be 4Brighton Women etc.
The 4Manchester Women name did clearly come out top when I did my research (with my 100 ladies), but there were some other really good suggestions which have inspired ideas for features and other general Manchester references. Whoever came up with 'The Mancunian Way' please reveal yourself - I'd like to buy you a cocktail!
We finally arrived at the 4Manchester Women logo by looking at the logos of the brands I felt marketed themselves at the same audience.
To cut a long story short we tried to combine the power and class of brands like John Lewis, Selfridges and Dune, with the warmth of Boden, hence the type face / handwriting combo.
But we didn't stop there. One of the key features of 4Manchester Women is that articles should be easy to find. We are all busy and we haven't got time to faff around deciding whether or not to read something and searching for information, so articles will fall into one of four categories (plus editorial) which will all be colour coded. In doing so we created a family of sub-brands.
Going forward, I'm not quite sure how we are going to use the stripes (see what I was saying about the Paul Smith logo) - and the corporate looking dark blue has now changed to purple - but you can see how things have evolved and taken shape.
The reason for sharing all of this is to hopefully show that we haven't plucked colours and fonts out of nowhere. Everything that you see has been a decision that's been thought about and based on something. It's been a massive amount of fun and this will no doubt be the start of a very long evolution - but where ever we end up - this is where it all began!
If you want to read a bit more about 4Manchester Women and see some of the research results, then click here - 4Manchester Women starts to take shape.