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Let’s talk about bad language

[2 minute read]

Something’s been bothering me for some time. I call it Bad Language and I see it a lot. Especially in public places and services.

I voiced my frustration last November at the OneTeamGov Scotland un-conference https://www.oneteamgov.uk/scotland. I realise the irony of doing this at an ‘un-conference’, but I hoped we might start something together to make things better.

A revolution to make complex communication simple, and human.

My provocation: let’s debunk and reinvent the confusing language used in public services

Bewildering examples are everywhere, you don’t need to look too hard…

On trains we’re told to ‘alight here’ for Falkirk or Croy.

In hospitals we see signs directing us to ‘Ambulatory Care’.

Children in the care of the state are described as ‘service users’, and the services responsible for meeting their needs are called their ‘corporate parents’.

Out there, in the everyday world, we don’t need to use language that de-humanises and trips people up. Let’s not set the train alight… let’s just get off at the right stop!

Please share your examples #letstalkbadlanguage

Inclusive symbols: end of year update

As we move to the end of the year our #InclusiveSymbols project is progressing quickly.

We’ve now completed three concept workshops reviewing around 15 everyday symbols, and we’ve started the exciting (and daunting) challenge of redesigning them to be clear and understood by people with dementia.

In a room of creatives, and members of our wider team, each symbol was discussed in detail for 10-15 mins. This included reviewing our scoping exercise to compare variations on each symbol, comments from the focus groups we held with people with dementia, and generating sketch concept ideas for a new version.

Workshop 1 (16th November) we reviewed:

  • Exit
  • Fire exit
  • Stairs
  • Elevator
  • Escalator

Workshop 2 (30th November) we reviewed:

  • Parking
  • Ticket purchase
  • Waiting room
  • Priority Seating
  • Toilet

Workshop 3 (12th December) we reviewed:

  • Information
  • Wheelchair access
  • ‘No’ symbol (i.e. no parking)
  • Hidden disability
  • Communication difficulty

What did we learn from the workshops?

His head looks like it’s falling off!

The detached head on the current ‘symbol man and woman’ is used consistently across all variations. It’s really odd, and potentially confusing for those with dementia.

 

It’s easy enough to design a toilet symbol as it has a physical form. How could we represent ‘giving information’?

Some symbols are easier to review than others. Symbols such as information or exit are challenging to distil into a simple visual idea. It is also interesting to consider the longevity of our interpretations (particularly for symbols impacted by digital technologies such as tickets).

 

Should we design this in 3D or 2D?

3D symbols are more readily understood but needs some consideration around clarity and simplicity. We need to be careful not to include too much detail in a 3D representation, further complicated by the introduction of a person to reinforce an action.

 

Blobby-humans or human-humans

Our 2D vs 3D conversation sparked some debate around the representation of people in symbology. Understanding that more detail often leads to more questions and literal interpretation from those living with dementia, our initials sketches show a person represented in a solid ‘blobby’ gender-neutral form, enhanced with more realistic body shapes and features.

 

Will using an arrow help make this symbol clearer?

The symbols are used to trigger an action and to help with wayfinding. We discussed including arrows within the symbol (i.e. arrow for exiting a door) but decided this could be confusing for literal interpretations. An arrow within a symbol supported by a directional arrow on the same sign could really confuse people!

 

P is for parking

We’re interested to find that the blue P represents parking internationally, regardless of each country’s alphabet or language. We’re recognising how valuable the review of language and the words we use will be to supporting each of the symbols.

 

Communication difficulty

After lengthy discussion we agreed that this symbol is too challenging to design without the benefit of feedback from the focus group on current versions (this symbol came into play recently and so it wasn’t included in the research project). We decided not to attempt a redesign of this one as part of this project but perhaps in the future, if we were armed with relevant research.


What’s next?

Moving in 2018, we’ll be completing the first concept design options of the new symbols in January. These will then be evaluated by living with dementia people from across the UK, facilitated by our research partner in February.

Sleep in the Park: our thoughts after thawing out

[5 minute read]

Last Saturday, four of our bravest team members joined in Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park event to raise money to help end homelessness. Taking to the park, armed with our many many (many) layers of clothes & a sleeping bag, we were as ready as we could be be to face sleeping in Princes Street Gardens on a chilly winter’s night.

Some slept, some didn’t. But despite temperatures dropping to -6 degrees they made it through the night – warmed by a sense of purpose and solidarity.

So far, the team has raised a fantastic £1,280! We’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to our clients, colleagues, friends and family for sponsoring the team. If you didn’t get a chance before the event, there is still time to donate:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/studiolr

Here are the takeaways from our thawed-out team:

Dave (the shiverer) says…

“The whole event was pretty inspiring. So many people in the same place for the same cause. It warmed my heart right through the layer of frost on my sleeping bag.

Nobody’s perfect and what I love about Social Bite is that they know that. They’re full of positivity – absolutely no finger pointing or blaming and no disconnect between strategy and hands-on action. They’re here to make things better for people, whatever it takes. Their positive attitude makes it easy for everyone to take part and help – from the top of the government to the average joe.

Although the event was primarily a fundraiser, there’s been a lot said about the level of empathy you can really feel by sleeping outside for one night only. I actually think that impact has been huge too. Everyone you speak to now asks how cold it was and follows it up with a thought about people who have to do that regularly. Making people think about others is a pretty great side-effect of raising £4m.”

Kim (the toss’n’turner) says…

“It was pretty cold on Saturday night, everything was covered in frost. I didn’t sleep a wink but how often do you get to be part of something that is helping to eradicate homelessness in Scotland while you stare up at Edinburgh castle and the stars on a winters night.

The sleep out raised a lot of money, and I am in awe of people’s charity so close to Christmas. I’d like to thank everyone that donated.”

Nic (the slider) says…

By the time we arrived at the event we were all passionate about the cause. We had watched the numbers rise on the sleepout website: money raised, jobs pledged, accommodation found… it was awe-inspiring to watch. 

When speaking to the sleepout crowd on the night, Josh Littlejohn reiterated the outstanding fundraising efforts but more importantly, something I hadn’t realised, the awareness raised around this event has knocked down a wall between Edinburgh and it’s homeless community. We can’t turn a blind eye to this anymore, we can’t go back to where we were a few months ago, this really is the beginning of the end for homelessness in Scotland.”

Raini (the snorer) says…

“A movement. That’s what Josh Littlejohn and other speakers spoke of. This wasn’t a one time novelty event – this was another significant strategic step in creating a community of people who can no longer ignore homelessness.

The experience of sleeping outside itself, having only the smallest of tastes of what life for rough sleepers is like, chilled me to the bones but all of our friends and family rallied behind us (and the cause) with their support!

This was the true power of the night – making everyone feel like they have the ability and responsibility to make a difference. Where any blame was deliberately pushed out and all that’s left is the opportunity to shine as one of the good guys who took action. Count me in.

Mental health: is your mind full?

[2 minute read]

Most people I know, including myself (who I know vaguely), have minds overflowing with stuff and things. We live in a world where there’s so much to take in, and at such speed, it’s a minor miracle we’re able to function at all. To help us, and our brains, mental health needs to be discussed often and freely, so we can create healthy working environments.

At the recent Marketing Society St Andrew’s Day Dinner, Ruby Wax highlighted the importance of mental health in a way only she can – with humour and discomforting honesty.

The analogy I remember most vividly was that the modern stresses applied to the brain are equivalent to filling your computer with files and wondering why it’s slowly grinding to a halt. It reminded me of a quote I’d read recently for a new project…

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things.” Sherlock Holmes.

All of this got me looking into my ‘attic’ and realising how similar it was to my actual attic. Full of crap. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of my colleague’s book. He’s been abstaining from all news for the last six months. He’s noticeably more relaxed and is blissfully unaware of how angry he should be about all the things he has no ability to control.

I will now attempt to dump enough information so that I can remember my kids’ birthdays…

– Mark Wheeler


End mental health discrimination: https://www.seemescotland.org/

Mental health in the workplace: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-support-mental-health-work

 

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

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.

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.


 

 

 

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

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