Mark F. Grogan (16BiT Creative)

I launched the 16BiT Creative brand in 2017, since January 2014, I’d been originally running with the name MG Web Design, but after several years of marketing myself under that name, I was inspired to launch a brand to reflect the true ethos of what I was about and the roots of my computing history, which started in 1990 with the 16-bit Atari ST personal computer. From the point of initially launching the brand in September 2017, 16BiT Creative began collaborating with a project called The Code Show, where the mission was to reach out to every teacher and child in the UK, by visiting schools and colleges across the UK with a travelling computer museum. We were the first in the UK to introduce computer history into the national curriculum with an emphasis on the 1980s home computer boom here in the UK.

A 1989 Atari STe with the 16BiT Creative 3D logo

In September 2014, the information and communications technology (ICT) curriculum in England’s schools was replaced with a flexible curriculum in computer science & programming, this was a welcomed step forward and a route back to the halcyon days of a 1980s computing curriculum that encouraged computational thinking, although it did not cover the UKs heritage as a pioneering nation, essentially democratizing the home computer, by making it an affordable and practical solution, and how an industry was created, starting from the roots of bedroom coders in the early 1980s, so this was where The Code Show came in with a travelling computer museum, visiting schools across the UK with historical hardware from this era. We also have to remember just how much of an important role the BBC Micro computer played in education, when it was launched in 1981 by Acorn as part of the BBC Computer Literacy Project. The way these machines felt, there was something deeply philosophical about the whole user experience, which would explain why they provided such a good platform to aid the learning process of computational thinking.

Ian McNaught-Davis was well known for presenting TV programs such as Micro Live, Making the Most of the Micro and The Computer Programme, a series of programs aired on BBC TV in the 1980s, as part of The Computer Literacy Project, where they commissioned the BBC Micro home computer and taught viewers how to program

My role at The Code Show was to handle the brand direction and marketing at national level, with a target audience being UK education establishments, and the core focus on reaching computer science teachers working within the national curriculum, with the end goal resulting in computer history roadshows being booked by schools across the UK. Being asked to join the project from the very start, where 16BiT Creative provided a dynamic range of creative services to include brand direction, identity & narrative, website design & development, social media brand & content marketing, copywriting, display banner design & production (for computer history roadshows/events/exhibitions in schools, colleges & libraries), writing of computer history (for online publication with a target audience of educational staff), hardcopy promotional material (flyers, information booklets for schools, business cards), national educational media/press contact, which led to a feature in Hello World issue 7 (a magazine for computing & digital making educators), podcast interviews and That’s TV Scotland feature as a result of my services. I essentially took the brand from initial concept, right through to fruition, where The Code Show has grown into an established and recognizable brand within education, as well as vintage computing circles and events outside of education.

From a first hand marketing perspective of working with The Code Show, it would be fair to say that 16BiT Creative was the first in the UK to market a project like this, and the material that I was working with was very much at the right time, on reflection of getting into the vintage computer restoration and curation scene from around 2016, inspired initially after working with Zach Weddington, director of Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine on the web marketing, ready for the launch of his new documentary, so by around 2018 when The Code Show marketing was into full flow, then it very much felt like we were riding a wave on the cusp of a vintage computing renaissance as at that point, vintage computers were at a point where they were gaining traction within mainstream circles, and the fact that I was marketing a vintage computer project for the national curriculum that was a UK first. The content marketing, if we were to take an example of using historical content on the BBC Micro computer used in education throughout the 1980s, and we were to compare what was happening with the new flexible curriculum in computer science & programming, coming in from September 2014, so the mode of thought had switched to a more computational level of thinking, like the 1980s, when the BBC Micro provided the backbone of the computing curriculum, and we also saw things coming full circle with the makers revolution, STEM focused tech like the BBC Microbit and Raspeberry Pi, at a time when we were bringing 1980s computer history into schools and the material that I was using as part of a targeted content strategy, and as I was marketing at national level, amplified dynamically via website, social channels and educational media coverage, then the project had a big footprint and a high level of reach in the UK, which ultimately resulted in a wave of schools across the UK booking computer history roadshows.

The emphasis on creating The Code Show branding was to create something that had a clear ethos behind the 1980s home computer boom and also something that was appealing and recognizable for children in schools

Being given the initial concept and vision for The Code Show, and establishing that it was a very special project, essentially a cause, where the mission was to reach out to every teacher and every child by visiting schools across the UK with a travelling computer museum, so starting with the branding, with an initial emphasis on colour psychology, hues that were previously seen on some of the UKs home computers of the 1980s, and therefore a branding strategy to bring a strong ethos to an audience familiar with this (teachers), many who cut their teeth on this era of technology, but also at the same time, the branding needed to be bold and appealing enough for children in schools, for example if we think back to some of those school classes of the 1980s (if, like me, you come from a certain era), then we can take some inspiration from those vibrant colours we’d see in the classrooms, so the branding also represents those reminiscent colours of the classrooms of the 1980s.

When it comes to brand direction and identity, I always take a bold approach visually, as well as a very strong emphasis on colour psychology, and my belief is that you can move mountains with this design philosophy, by creating strong emotion and ethos at the core of the brand, if for example, we were to look at consumer perception of a brand within the first split second, then the strongest emotion is with colour and this is why colour psychology is a very powerful element to branding and should never be overlooked, we could trace back time and look at how Andy Warhol with his unique approach of artistic expression in advertising, styles which flourished by the 1960s, which set a new blueprint for branding in supermarkets, a very bold visual approach and something that has been carried forward today in commercial branding and advertising. At fundamental level, once a brand is created, the ethos of the brand identity can then be taken forward with a narrative, which is dynamically streamlined through use of targeted audience based content marketing on web and social media channels, as well as physical forms of marketing material.

On 18 September 2020, 16BiT Creative became a UK registered trademark, because of the unique story of the brand and the reasons behind naming it, I felt that it was very important that I protect the brand name, so as well as continuing to work within the niche of computer history, and as a result of a restructure due to the pandemic, then I am also now taking on clients outside of the vintage computing niche.

For a full list of services that 16BiT Creative is currently providing, then please visit the SERVICES page. If you’re interested in working with me, then please get in touch via the CONTACT page or email mark@16bitcreative.co.uk.

Share this