BRITISH design consultancy Lloyd Northover Citigate (LNC) last week opened a Hong Kong office, having won the corporate identity contract for the Mass Transit Railway Corporation's (MTRC) railway link to Chek Lap Kok airport. Jim Northover, LNC's vice-chairman, said the contract covered everything from naming the new service, to its branding, interior and exterior train livery, signage, station environments and the visual integration of other aspects such as tickets and promotional materials. It would additionally include design contributions on precisely how the new service would be presented and marketed to the local and international communities. The brief also entailed developing the identity for the planned MTRC extension to Tseung Kwan O and linking both new projects into the existing network design. Mr Northover praised the MTRC for bringing in a design consultant at such an early stage. 'It is quite rare for design considerations to be included from the very origins of a project and it should mean that we can develop a fully coherent image that goes far deeper than mere co-ordination of colours and materials,' he said. 'By starting at the abstract level, we can include design as an effective strategic planing tool rather than an add-on element after the limits of the concrete reality have been set.' While corporate image development and change could be either incremental or abrupt, in all cases creating the correct identity required the balancing of reality, public perceptions and corporate aspirations. 'For the MTRC, the airport link represents an important transition from serving solely domestic passengers to addressing an international audience,' Mr Northover said. 'Our design will, therefore, need to include a good 'fit' with the existing system, while building additional image layers on top of it - a different weave but using common threads.' The company pitched for and won the contract 18 months ago and has spent the past year refining and further developing the themes - still strictly confidential - originally aired in its presentation. To ensure the local cultural and contextual considerations were given due weight, LNC has appointed Michael Ip Hing-lung as regional director. Previously with Landor Associates for five years, Mr Ip has a degree in Asian studies, focusing on social and economic development, from the University of British Columbia.