Purpose and all its meanings has been the centre of much debate (and some confusion) in the branding and advertising world recently. Here’s my attempt to cut through this, and describe ways in which organisations can generate real benefits from having a brand purpose.
I recently attended the first of the three-part Creative Incubator programme, run by Pi School at its lush pastoral campus in Rome. We covered a huge amount in a few days, below are six key techniques we learned to use when applying creativity to social causes.
The course was led by the school’s always energetic co-founder Jamshid Alamuti, and was guided by the hard to kill Conn Bertish (Saatchi & Saatchi, JWT and now founder of Cancer Dojo), laid back creative Rey Andrede (72 and Sunny) and the ‘dark lord’ Axel Quack (Frog Design). It turns out that Axel’s methods weren’t really so dark, he just uses numbers sometimes, which I know is anathema to most creatives.
We attendees came from right across Europe, from Estonia to Georgia and most places in between, along with an intrepid American expat who travelled from China especially to attend. I learned about Russian prison tattoos from a Romanian, about Chinese TV from the American and never to cut pasta with a knife from an Italian. Our skills were equally diverse, and included service design, behavioural design, graphic design, art direction and copywriting.
Passion and compassion
Once a social need has been identified, Conn showed how passion and compassion for its beneficiaries are vital ingredients in any creative solution addressing a social cause. His compassion and passion came through having survived a brain tumour, and spending long periods of time with other cancer sufferers. He applied his creativity during his treatment in order to stay positive throughout it, and once again in developing the Cancer Dojo platform to help others do the same.
Making creative connections
Creativity at its most basic level is about making new connections between disparate concepts. We started to use this method, to look for ways to solve problems by connecting matching needs in different parts of society. This pattern has been elegantly put into practice in Holland, where students were accommodated for free within a residential development for the elderly.
Human centric design and community-led solutions
Axel Quack of Frog Design gave a masterclass on user centric design - how problems can be solved by making the user of a product the central concern in any design project. In a refreshingly ego-free approach, he went on to show examples of how users and community members themselves can develop effective, sustainable solutions to their own problems with the right guidance. The stand-out example of this for me was Frog’s work with the Red Cross in developing community-led ways to improve fire safety in Kenyan slums.
The five whys
A well known technique originally developed for Toyota, but little used in creative circles. This is a way of delving down to the root cause of a problem, essential when developing an effective creative brief.
The Futures Wheel
We used this tool to break down a complex issue into its component parts in order to find a specific area which can be addressed.
Creative critical thinking
Rey got us all talking about how to evaluate creative projects within an organisation, especially the crucial question of whether a piece of creative is really ready to be released into the wild.
Pi School combines creatives, technologists and start ups to share ideas and drive innovation. The incubator is supported by ADCE, its aim this year is to develop methods to apply creativity to the needs of social causes, a topic close to my heart.
If you are inspired by this, there may be a few places left on the second and third modules for 2019. Apply at https://picampus-school.com/
And if you have a social cause which would benefit from some creative input, please get in touch!
It’s an exciting time to start working in 3D. In the last year or two I’ve explored some of the tools available to designers, and am now sharing what I’ve found.
Getting audience feedback can be a nerve-wracking experience. Will anyone respond? Will they like any of the options? Will they like the option I really want to go ahead with?
Many a designer out there dreads December arriving because it means one thing: time to design the company Christmas card!
I’ve designed quite a few Christmas cards in my time, including corporate Christmas cards, charity cards for Ganet’s Adventure School Fund/Think Malawi and more recently Christmas-themed social media graphics.
For the first set of my Christmas cards from my own freelance business, I’ve kept it local by using photos taken around Brixton, an area I’ve lived in and around for many years. I enjoy incorporating my own photography into my work, so went out and photographed red and green patterns, signs, objects and textures around Brixton’s streets, shops and market stalls. With a US hedge fund buying Brixton Village indoor market, and Network Rail’s refurbishments forcing out many arch-dwelling businesses, so I wanted to record the colour and visual character of Brixton before it becomes further homogenised by big business.
I then selected the best shots, colour corrected them to sit well alongside one another and combined them into a grid system. My budget is small so I’m emailing the cards out to my contacts, but still wanted to make them special and personal in some way. To do this I changed the combination of photos used in my grid for every person.
I added a simple ‘Happy Holidays’ frame animation in order to give the piece some movement, and exported as animated GIFs in order for the animation to play when viewed in email software (with the exception of Outlook on the PC).
I considered writing some code in Processing in order to output the necessary number of combinations. In the end though, as I needed under a hundred combinations I decided to output them one by one from Photoshop manually. This took a few hours and avoided me getting stuck with the coding, as my Processing skills are admittedly rusty. With the right coding, over 100 billion combinations of my Christmas images are possible, which should keep me going for the next few years at least.
Using a couple of rules of thumb in order to balance the amount of red and green, I have created a set GIFs which I will now send out to my clients and contacts. I also now have a bank of imagery that can be adapted for social media, animations or print graphics, and have some ideas for how to enable people to generate their own Christmas image. Watch this space!
Request your own unique animated Brixton Christmas image
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As a trustee of the charity formerly known as Ganet’s Adventure School Fund, I’ve been closely involved with the process of changing its name to Think Malawi. This change has been made in order to better reflect its expanded aim: to support education projects throughout Malawi in addition to Ganet’s Adventure School which it was originally set up to support.
Having lived with the previous logo for way too long, which was put together in extreme haste and then never updated, I am keen to ensure that the new branding really works as an asset that will support the charity’s efforts.
I am a big believer in incorporating audience research into my work, in order to help ensure its effectiveness. Being a fan of the way Johnson Banks and Mozilla opened up the brand development process for the Mozilla rebrand to the public, I am opening up the development process of Think Malawi’s branding in the same spirit.
Your feedback is very welcome throughout the process, you can send it to me via email@example.com
The new name, Think Malawi, has been now been approved by the trustees and the Charity Commission, so I have now been able to get to work on the visual research.
Next steps: developing a brief
Having done the visual research and developed a basic strategy for the brand, the following brief was developed:
Put simply, Think Malawi is an opportunity for people to directly improve the futures of children in one of the poorest countries in the world.
The brand is a catalyst which enables Malawi’s next generation to shine.
We believe there is an opportunity for Think Malawi to position itself as an enabler of innovation. This will help it to stand out from the many other small charities focussed on Africa, and to address some of the concerns around foreign aid.
Sign up to my mailing list to find out how the new brand develops, along with creative news and advice.
I’ve just returned from Belgium’s Kikk Festival thoroughly inspired and creatively refreshed, after two days of talks, art installations and a live sausage-making demonstration incorporated into a club night. Kikk is that sort of place.
With a loose theme this year of ‘Species and Beyond’, the festival mixes the arts, science and technology and explores the interesting spaces when these areas are combined. Being conceived by the creative minds at Dog Studio and Superbe, the emphasis is always on the creative.
My highlights of the conference included Nikita Diakur explaining his unique approach to animation in Developing an Ugly Idea, Margot Myers on designing an experience to get teenager interested in Charles Dickens, and Kate Dawkins explaining how her studio animated a whole stadium for the London Olympics. Kate’s talk especially captured our one year old’s attention because it started with a photo of a dog.
Installations, set up inside Namur’s many grand buildings, were truly weird and wonderful. I was pleased to finally see a generative digital work by Refik Anadol in person, and explored a UV jungle of sound-responsive plants in Miranda Moss’ Timid Wilderness. The audio installations were very impressive, I had my voice sampled to produce a full choir in Superbe’s installation SMing set in a grand church, and strangest of all I attached tubes to my nose and mouth to experience Jo Caimo’s interactive Human Organ Concerto.
It was one of those festivals where no matter what you do see there will always be more good things you didn’t see, especially in my case as I was chaperoning our one year old for part of the time while my other half prepared for her talk. Among others I was sorry to miss DBLG’s Grant Gilbert (known for their work on the Channel 4 rebrand), MoMA’s Paola Antonelli and also François-Joseph Lapointe talking about microbiome selfies.
On top of the conference and installations, there was a bustling marketplace of innovative projects to try out, two club nights plus (at extra cost) a range of in depth masterclasses and workshops.
It’s one of the few festivals where children are welcome, with a selection of child-friendly events, some well-behaved babies to be spotted in the conference and plenty of weird and wonderful art installations for children and adults to explore.
Most importantly, this is a very social festival, with lots of chances to chat to the friendly speakers, artists and attendees over a pre-lunch Belgian beer in the grand conference theatre bar (it seems much more sophisticated doing this in Belgium than back home in London) or around town at the installations.
Amazingly, and of particular interest to fellow freelancers out there, the festival is free to attend, thanks to a host of government and commercial sponsors and volunteers.
Thank you Kikk for giving me a creative ‘kikk’ up the backside, long may you continue to evolve in your strange directions!