Postcode Portraits is a study of the relationship between consumer classification and the British landscape. Its primary objective is the production of 67 photographic portraits, each corresponding to the 67 demographic typologies the country is divided into by market analysis company Experian.
Since the middle of the 20th century, almost every country around the world has implemented some kind of postal code system to aid the delivery of mail.
Britain’s first postcode was introduced in 1957 in Norwich before being rolled out nationally in 1965. Today the UK has approximately 1.8 million unique postcode units, representing a street, part of a street or a single address.
While Britain’s postcode started out as a tool to help the mechanical sorting of mail, today the existence of consumer classification tools such as Experian' Mosaic means that it is more important as an instrument of geodemographic classification than as an aid to postal delivery. The postcode has become the basis through which the nation relates itself to the urban, suburban and rural landscape and is now a fundamental part of the national infrastructure.
Often referred to as the Postcode Lottery, the postcode is used to collect information, quantify wealth and poverty, regulate where shops are opened and how goods, healthcare and government policy are distributed. Beyond this it has come to be seen as a component of an individual’s identity and even an object of shame or desire.
Experian's Mosaic UK
Mosaic UK is a people classification system run by Experian. It divides all of the UK’s individuals, households and postcodes into a set of homogeneous lifestyle types. Mosaic assigns 48,126,959 adults living in the UK to one of 141 person types, and 24,651,093 UK residences to one of 15 groups and 67 household classification types.
These types, examples of which include ‘Global Power Brokers’, ‘Innate Conservatives’, ‘Worn-Out Workers’ and ‘Asian Identities’, provide detailed and specific information to form a picture of what type of person lives where and how their environment defines how they live.
Experian uses the UK’s postcode system to geographically assign its household types to aid its clients to understand place-specific markets and behaviours. These clients, who are from both the business and public sector, might be interested in finding areas with people who have a high probability of reading a particular type of newspaper to areas where there are groups of people with a high risk of developing diabetes.
Mosaic UK is the most extensively applied geodemographic classification system in Britain today. It uses over 400 data variables from demographic information on households, health and beliefs, locations and property values, development and tenure, socio-economic information on occupation, qualifications and employment status and financial measures such as credit behaviour, bad debt and shareholdings. It is used across a ‘diverse range of industries including financial services, telecommunications, healthcare, insurance, retail and catalogue, automotive, manufacturing, leisure, media, utilities, property, e-commerce and government.’
The results of the project will be exhibited in galleries throughout the UK.
Postcode Portraits is supported by the arts council.