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Not all good design is good design

[1 minute read]

I recently spotted PR for some new brand packaging for a conserve (aka a jam with less sugar). The designer claimed ‘it was busting out of its health roots and hitting the aisles…’. The pack looked really good with a wee heart graphic supporting the health/superfood message.

But.

I’m not sure a conserve fits with an organisation whose ‘mission is to give people the kinds of foods we should be eating’. Let’s call a spade a spade, this pack is designed to confuse us into thinking it’s a healthy option.

It might have less sugar and better ingredients than its competitors but it still has around 37g of sugar per 100g (which according to the NHS is in the RED/danger zone). This dishonest design isn’t doing anyone any favours.

– Andy Gray

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Workshop: the first five #InclusiveSymbols

We’ve been putting our heads together for our #InclusiveSymbols project. In our first of three design concept workshops, we set up a sprint for discussing five of the 15 symbols to be redesigned. In a room with five creatives and three business professionals, we got to work on having an open conversation about each symbol and its reinterpretation, giving ourselves a strict 15 minute limit per symbol. To design symbols suitable for people living with dementia, we discussed how the instruction of the symbol could be interpreted at the simplest, clearest level. We challenged our most basic assumptions and pre-defined

Our first five symbols included:

  • Exit (for leaving a building)
  • Fire Exit (for leaving a building in case of emergency)
  • Stairs (for indicating location of stairs)
  • Elevator (for indicating location of elevator)
  • Escalator (for indicating location of escalators)

Laying in front of us was a collection of live examples of each symbol from our scoping exercise. This included symbols from well-known sources; BSI, ISO, AIGA, Bonnington and Noun Project. There was also a selection of additional unusual designs from a wider array of online sources to stimulate diverse discussion.

To give you a flavour of that discussion, here’s some of the questions we mulled over:

  • What are the most distinguishable characteristics of what the symbol is communicating? (visual and non-visual)
  • Do we need to show a person?
  • Does the symbol work better in 3D? If, so what perspective?
  • Do we need to show arrows? If we include arrows, does that confuse with directional signage?
  • How can we represent movement?
  • Do we need to show all of a thing or is it still clear if we show a key part of a thing? (i.e. the first couple steps in a stair or the buttons on a lift)
  • How can we easily visually represent less-tangible concepts such ‘outside’ or ‘leaving’?

Additionally, language/naming and colours cropped up time and time again. These are due to be considered at a later stage in the project but it was interesting to find how intertwined this is with interpretation and understanding at this stage. These factors impact meaningfully on our initial concepts.

The workshop has been recorded in audio segments and everyone was invited to jot down key points and draw initial thoughts/concepts. We’ve got many thoughts, designs and routes to investigate. Workshop two and three will be happening over the next couple of weeks and then it’s onto developing concept designs! And that’s where the real creative work begins.

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Tourism: An industry that’s going places

[2 min read]

My top takeaways* from the 2017 Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) conference.

With ASVA members reporting visitor numbers up c.9% (the numbers have risen year on year since 2012) tourism in Scotland is an industry we can be proud of.  We all play our part in contributing to its success – from strategic, national decisions-makers right through to giving a friend in the pub a recommendation for a weekend activity, we’re all proud champions of what our fine country has to offer.

My Takeaways

N500
Scotland’s very own Route 66 is giving thousands of people a compelling reason to visit the North East. It’s already 5th in Now Travel Magazine‘s “Top 5 Coastal Routes in the World”. The genius part about this project is that the roads were already there and it just took some clever thinking to outline and market a route (or rather two) as a destination.

Whisky Distilleries
From casual visitors interested in learning how our national drink is made, to whisky pilgrims who will travel thousands of miles to visit their favourite distillery, to bag as many as possible. The numbers will only keep growing (c.1.7m people are visiting distilleries each year) which, in some cases, is creating its own challenges. A reminder that a quality of the visitor experience should be at the heart of every tourism plan.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
As well as attracting c.220,000 people to Edinburgh Castle in August (and around 100 million people on international TV each year), the Tattoo (under the leadership of Brigadier David Allfrey) has global ambitions. Last year they attracted c.250,000 people (outselling U2 and One Direction) to five of their shows in Melbourne. This is staggering as it’s only one city in one country… just the tip of the iceberg.

Accessible Tourism
My colleague Lorna spoke passionately about this at the conference. Accessible tourism is a growing, high-value market and Scotland is aiming to be recognised as a leading destination for people with particular access needs. Our Founder Lucy previously banged this drum on the same stage as Chris McCoy (VisitScotland) who is championing accessible tourism.

Film tourism
Movies like Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, James Bond and Avengers have inspired people to visit Scotland. What other movies can we attract to our unique and wonderful locations?


‘China ready’

The Chinese market is growing. The extent of this emerging trend is not fully known yet but we’re already gearing up to become ‘China Ready’. A typical itinerary for a Chinese visitor might be
London – Dublin – Loch Ness (to look for the monster of course).

More to do

All’s not perfect and we’re arguably behind the toughest competition, like Ireland. Investment is still much needed in many areas like broadband, a new film studio, roads etc, but there’s an army of people working hard to drive this to the top of the agenda. Brigadier David Allfrey also talked about ‘the bits in between’ in the tourist offer, such as clean streets and clear signage which are vital to the quality of the visitor experience. This is a useful reminder for us to consider, how are our ‘bits in-between’?

 

 Pie Bobs, Arbroath, 5-star rating on Trip Advisor

*My Top Takeaway
The best insight came from my local taxi driver. When I explained what the conference was about, he gave me a full rundown on his usual holiday town of Arbroath. The passion he spoke with about Arbroath left me in no doubt I must visit and try the ‘scrumptious steak and gravy pies’ from Pie Bobs Bakery, which has a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor. He even asked Siri on his phone to confirm that Pie Bobs has the best pies in Scotland, which she did.

No doubt in my mind that even the best marketing can’t beat the humble honest word of mouth (from the taxi driver, not Siri).

We’re a tiny country but have so much to offer, and I for one plan to play my small part wherever possible in creating unforgettable experiences.

– Andy

 

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It’s time to design #InclusiveSymbols

[2 minute read]

Good design can make the world a better place. Living this belief has led to our latest project to design a new set of symbols for people with dementia.

The fresh new set of symbols is part of the drive to empower and enable independence for those living with dementia. Beyond this, the new inclusive symbols will be more effective for everyone right across society, in all public places – clear, easy to understand and relevant to people’s everyday lives.

How we got here

In the knowledge that the ageing population is fast becoming one of the biggest challenges facing society, we sensed an opportunity to help empower older people and those with dementia.

The idea to explore and consider the design of symbols was inspired by participants in a workshop discussing the design of toilet signage. Henry Rankin, Chair of the Scottish Dementia Working Group, sowed the seed when he pointed out that the male and female toilet symbols often appear ambiguous and too similar.

A symbol is simply a mark or thing that stands for something else. The toilet symbol is a ‘learned’ symbol that clearly doesn’t visually represent the function of the room, and so it can be difficult to understand for people with any cognitive impairment.

So, we wondered if any other everyday symbols might be confusing or misunderstood. From signs in the train station, to information in brochures and websites, symbols appear in a variety of contexts in our day-to-day lives.

Some really interesting pointers came from our scoping exercise of existing symbols, for example the ‘P’ symbol that represents Parking is used consistently across the globe, even in countries where the word for parking doesn’t begin with ‘P’.

With the focus groups and scoping exercise complete, it’s over to the team here at StudioLR to start the concept design for each of the new symbols.

Watch this space . . . #InclusiveSymbols

Follow our progress here on our blog and on Twitter (@StudioLR_Lucy). We’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment below.


About the project

In 2016 the Life Changes Trust solely funded StudioLR to conduct a research project across Scotland with a ‘Life Changes Trust Award’, followed by additional funding in 2017 to support the re-design and evaluation of 15 everyday symbols. The project is expected to conclude with a new set of symbols made available free for all to use in August 2018. The Life Changes Trust is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. StudioLR worked with support from the University of Edinburgh.


Who the LR we?

We’re always looking for ways we can use our skills and experience to improve people’s everyday experiences and make a positive impact on the whole of society. On every project, we start by thinking about the impact our work will have on how people feel.


 

 

 

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Let design into your boardroom and change your world…

[2 minute read]

I recently attended a workshop organised by our industry champion, the Design Business Association. Held in the spectacular Imagination office in London (where our co-Founder Lucy spent the early years of her career), the day was billed as a chance to ‘explore and debate how to embed design across every business function to harness its transformative power.’

Maybe a few too many big words but we managed to cut through the jargon…

We talked about how to get design onto the top table and how a Chief Design Officer (CDO) can champion design’s value across an organisation… from within the boardroom.

Design can’t be seen as a dark art that takes place in innovation labs and runs sprints and hackathons with co-created blueprints and other such wonders.

Design is fundamental to the success of an organisation, embedding innovation in its culture and DNA. From this position, design can drive businesses forward and make the world a better place to live.

My top takeaways from the day:

  • A CDO doesn’t need to be a designer but has to speak the language of business and understand the impact of design (beyond just the design of the product or service). Strategy, marketing, operations, systems, HR, finance… they can all benefit from design thinking
  • The CDO’s mission is to take design from the design studio into the company culture – encouraging creativity across the organisation to solve problems and drive growth
  • Quick wins are great to galvanise people but it takes time and commitment to change culture

Imagine how great our financial, utility, transport and healthcare institutions could be if they had a Jobs, Branson, Zuckerberg, or Dyson at the helm.

-Andy Gray, MD

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We could help end homelessness in our sleep

But only with your help.

This year we’re taking part in Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park to help end homelessness in Scotland. For good.

On the 9th December four of us will be huddling together for warmth as we sleep out in Princes Street gardens. The world’s largest ever sleepout, the event aims to raise an incredible £4million. The money raised will fund employment programmes, housing solutions, rehab facilities and a national strategy to eradicate homelessness.

The good news is you don’t have to brave a baltic December night to help. Simply click a button and donate whatever you can. We believe no one should be out of a home in Scotland. Your kindness will change people’s lives. Thank you.

Help end homelessness by sponsoring us at:

http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/studiolr

You can keep up to date with Social Bite’s progress and plans at: www.sleepinthepark.co.uk

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Social entrepreneurs… here for good

If we only got our news from the media, or even worse social media, we might think that society is doomed.

Well maybe we just need to get out more to find the country is full of good people who selflessly give their skills and time for the benefit of others.

A couple of weeks ago I had a bowl of soup with the Rev Iain May. You may have seen Iain on the One Show recently. He’s had enough of seeing people selling their souls to payday loan sharks. So, instead of moaning about it, he’s started up Castle Community Bank – a place where people who need a loan are dealt with fairly and with humanity. Iain was a banker in a previous life and is now using his finance experience to help some of Edinburgh’s most vulnerable people.

A wee shout out

Iain’s not alone – there are many more like him…

Guys like Josh Littlejohn MBE, co-founder of Social Bite – a business set up to help people who have struggled with homelessness – and also Brewgooder, a company using the power of craft beer to provide clean water around the world. They’ve already funded projects in Malawi, helping to transform rural communities.

Or my pal Craig Graham, a management consultant who helped set up and run The Spartans Community Football Academy. With the slogan Here For Good they’re re-defining what’s possible for a football club – delivering positive social impact through the power of people and sport. From breakfast clubs, alternative schools and community outreach programmes to simply providing a safe place for local kids to play and socialise. They’re making a difference to society.

-Andy Gray, MD


At StudioLR we enjoy doing our bit for The Spartans Academy and Seamab School, and helping feed the homeless on the Bethany Care Van. It doesn’t take too much to make the difference.

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WHAT MAKES A BRAND REMARKABLE?

A perfect storm of key insights, bold ideas and a brave positioning (and client). That’s exactly what we’ve done for Scotland’s definitive people development organisation, Investors in People Scotland.

Their new brand, Remarkable, launched on the 20th of June in Edinburgh.

Clients say it best.
“We faced an awesome challenge of building on the success of the hugely well known brand of Investors in People, whilst developing something distinctive and aspirational for Scotland.

The outcome is remarkable in all senses and we believe it will capture the imagination of employers and stakeholders. StudioLR rose to the challenge set by our Board of finding a brand that spoke of what could be and who we wanted to be. We are delighted.”
 – Peter Russian, CEO Remarkable

It’s a bold move to secure its position as a leading people organisation. The new branding places Remarkable as an insightful and critical friend with a heartfelt belief in the potential of people.

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Scottish Design Award Nominations

We are delighted to be nominated in three categories of the Scottish Design Awards 2017: Publications for Balfour Beatty, Baird and Anchor Book; Exhibition for National Trust for Scotland, Inverewe House, and Craft for Terex Trucks Factory Experience.

Click here for more information

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Three men standing in a box

From signs in the train station, to information in brochures and websites, symbols appear in a variety of contexts in everyday life. A symbol is simply a mark or thing that stands for something else.

Look a little closer and you’ll find that some commonly-used symbols don’t clearly communicate what they stand for. They rely on learned associations or figurative meanings and can easily be misinterpreted in literal translations.

This seed was sown in a dementia-friendly workshop last year. We were discussing the design of toilet signs when one man pointed out that the male and female toilet symbols were pretty similar and often ambiguous – of little help at a time of need!

So, we wondered if any other everyday symbols might be confusing or misunderstood.

If the stick man and woman represent toilets, then what does three men standing in a box represent?

What, exactly, does ‘P’ stand for?

And should you sit down at 4 o’clock?

Our instincts turned out to be right – the research* concluded that people living with dementia were often confused when faced with many of the standard symbols currently used throughout society.

So, as part of the drive to empower and enable independence for those living with dementia, we’re embarking on a mission to design a new set of symbols. The new inclusive symbols will be more effective for everyone in society – clear, easy to understand and relevant to people’s present day lives.

* The Life Changes Trust solely funded StudioLR to conduct a three month research project across Scotland with a ‘Life Changes Trust Award’. The Life Changes Trust is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. StudioLR worked with support from the University of Edinburgh.

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