Exeter City Council, in collaboration with Exeter City Futures, recently launched the Exeter Data Mill – an open platform for the city’s data. It’s a project I’ve been supporting the Council with as the Creative Lead at Exeter City Futures, contributing design and branding.

The design and branding work I did involved mocking up the website layout, creating the iconography and developing the logo. The design started to emerge after the name was agreed on. I’d gone through a list of names that were synonymous with portals, hubs, and factories but the name ‘Mill’ stood out. It resonated with local industrial history, creating a direct link to the past and pointing towards an exciting future.

While the name isn’t original among data portals, there is a Data Mill North, I liked the idea that the word mill in an industrial context had a different meaning for the South than the North.

Industrious Design and Branding

Exeter’s economy suffered during the first Industrial Revolution because its water driven mills couldn’t keep up with the steam-powered alternative in more coal-rich areas. Since then there have been two more industrial revolutions – modern mass production and the digitisation of manufacturing – and we’re entering a fourth data-driven one.

This historical connection suggested that while Exeter had missed out in the first Industrial Revolution, the Data Mill means it’s prepared for the fourth one. The iconic millstone at Miller’s Crossing provided inspiration for the logo, looking like a pie chart and the letters E and D when split into six segments.

Water Colour

The shade of blue used for the Exeter Data Mill is one that was in the Exeter City Futures colour palette and worked well in the context of water-powered mills, and when combined with the amazing Drone Shot of Exeter that Exeter City Futures commissioned from Devon Drones.

In my initial mockups I used a more bucolic picture Miller’s crossing, but following feedback changed it to the Drone pic which gave the overall look more of an edge.

Exeter Icons

I drew the icons for the Data Mill’s topics in the style I’ve been using for Exeter City Futures graphics – thick lines with smooth curves and rounded corners. The stick men were created using the lines from the Exeter City Futures logo.  The outline of Exeter is something I use where possible to highlight the geographical space we’re living in, with Topsham stretching it out into something more recognisable than an amorphous urban blob.

Throughout the process I was lucky to work with Datapress who have developed several successful data portals including the London Datastore. Their feedback was really helpful and I feel satisfied that we created a Data Mill that is exciting, engaging and true to Exeter’s character.

Now I can’t wait for more data to be put on the platform and to see how it helps develop the goal of Exeter City Futures to create an Analytical City.

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