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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.

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.

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.

Lucy Richards to speak at the International Masterclass on design for Dementia and Ageing

Lucy Richards is due to speak the International Masterclass on Design for Dementia and Ageing on the 1st of June on the topic of Wayfinding and dementia in relation to the environment. The masterclass is being held at the Dementia Services Development Centre on the University of Stirling campus.

If you’re interested in going, please click the following link http://dementiaevents1.blogspot.co.uk 

Seamab and StudioLR’s sea changers nominated for fundraising award

A partnership between a charity supporting children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and Edinburgh design consultancy has put Studio LR in the running for the Institute of Fundraising’s 2016 Scottish Fundraising Awards.

The unique relationship between Seamab and StudioLR was nominated in the “Best Partner Relationship (Corporate or Trust)” category. Results will be announced at an awards ceremony in Glasgow on October 4th.

Seamab was introduced to StudioLR by one of the charity’s trustees, with a view to creating a new brand. In the past, Seamab had difficulty connecting emotionally with potential donors – for privacy reasons, the charity can’t show the children’s faces in promotional material or tell their specific stories.

StudioLR took on the task of creating a new brand identity for Seamab, visiting the school and meeting with the staff and children to find out what Seamab means to them, and the things they would like to tell the world about what the charity does.

The outcome was the Sea Changers – a set of characters who give Seamab an endearing voice to tell their story. Entitled Free, Hope, Joy, Safe, Brave, Calm and Hug, the Sea Changers are designed to express all the things that Seamab strives to achieve for the children in supporting their physical and emotional recovery from loss, abuse, neglect and trauma. They also introduced three Unwelcome Visitors – Sad, Scared and Angry – to tell the story of some of the challenges the children face.

Chief Executive of Seamab, Joanna McCreadie, said: “The benefits of this partnership have been invaluable.

“StudioLR gave us a brand that would otherwise be very expensive to be able to produce and deliver – as a charity, we couldn’t have afforded this. We’re so grateful to everyone at StudioLR for creating something that not only shows what we do to care for children that have been through very difficult experiences of trauma, loss, neglect and abuse, but also gives the children themselves a means of expressing how they feel.

“We feel honoured to have our partnership with StudioLR recognised by the Institute of Fundraising in this way.”  

 

seamab_balloon

Our hands are the Superbug Super-highway

I read a piece in the paper recently about how washing our hands properly – by following the 5-step guide to effective hand washing – could be vital not just for our own or our family’s health, but for that of the country and even the species.

Colds, flu, gastroenteric bugs, even ‘man-flu’ – they’re all hanging around on our hands and every time we touch something or someone there’s a chance that we’ll pass on a bug. Research concludes that only one in five of us washes our hands when we should. I guess that means before and after cooking, eating, going to the loo, using a keyboard, sneezing, coughing, touching other people… In fact touching, or even thinking of touching, anything at all.

This has become a serious issue in hospitals where one in 16 NHS patients ends up with a hospital-acquired infection (according to NICE). Hospitals are meant to be sterile, safe places where we get better, while thousands of patients each year actually end up sicker through systemic poor hygiene habits. Some types of superbug can live for years on hospital surfaces. On a trip last week with my son to the Emergency Department, I noted that the doctor who treated him didn’t wash her hands before or after touching him, the bed rails and the other equipment in the room. She did a great job doctor-wise apart from the potential infection-spreading.

This year in our studio we’ve been designing infection control graphics for healthcare environments – we’ve integrated visual communications onto hospital walls to encourage patients and visitors to wash their hands. We’re adapting the design to remind the busy medical staff too and we’ll measure the effectiveness to check it’s working for everyone.

Sir David Brailsford famously transformed British Cycling’s fortunes with his concept of ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’. His belief was that if you improve every area related to cycling by just 1% then those gains would add up to remarkable improvement. And teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection and illness was one area that led to success.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray carries hand sanitiser gel in his pocket and uses it every time he shakes hands as a precaution against catching bugs that might interfere with his optimum health and performance.

So what can we all do to save the world?

Global Handwashing Day is on 15 October… It’s not the most inspiring-sounding day on the calendar but it’s a great reminder and a call to action. We should be following the 5 steps and washing our hands thoroughly at every opportunity.

And, where possible, stay away from hospitals.

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Lucy Richards
StudioLR

Getting Kids Active

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I love sport and football has always been my passion. Through school, Boys’ Brigade, Spartans FC and now, in the very competitive over-35s league, football has kept me fit and healthy (save for two broken legs).

To be fair I never really gave the wider benefits of sport a thought until now. Why? Because my eight year old son has just told me he isn’t in the football team at school.

No big deal, except that his school doesn’t offer any other sport options that he likes. So, how do children who don’t like competitive sports but need lots of exercise (at least one hour per day if current advice is to be believed), get involved in sustainable healthy activity?

Some adults don’t like opting for indoor play centres. Yes, getting outdoors in the fresh air is best but the thought of standing around in a cold play park isn’t always so appealing to me. The next generation of play centres are an excellent ‘healthy option’. Free running, trampolining, climbing walls, scooter parks… my kids love them all and some even serve a decent coffee and offer WiFi so I like them too. Win / Win.

There’s a great privately-run breakdance class in Edinburgh – it’s run by a young, cool, super-fit guy and the kids love him. My son is having great fun there, building his confidence and getting fitter by the week – that’s brilliant.

Let’s get some creative thinking shared between schools, councils and the private sector to make exercise easy, sustainable, exciting, affordable, challenging and most of all fun. It shouldn’t be too difficult… should it?

PS. The picture was taken in my local council sports centre… you couldn’t make it up!

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Andy Gray
StudioLR

#3 Do-Good Friday

At StudioLR we get up in the morning to make a difference in the world.

We love to challenge convention and firmly believe that design is the most powerful tool we can use to effect positive change. Of course! 

So, for Good Friday we’ve been looking at the work we’re doing that will really do some goodAnd we’re pleased to say that most of what we get up to fits the bill.

There’s the signage we’ve designed with the help of Edinburgh and Stirling University to increase independence in dementia care environments; and the health intervention campaign that encourages NHS staff outside to get active during the working day; there’s the transformational change project that encourages a whole workforce to put the customer first; and the hospital wayfinding project where we’ve removed all medical ‘ology’ words from signs for clear, simple, stress-free visitor journeys.

We’ll share each of these projects with you as they launch over the coming months. In the meantime here’s something that might inspire you – we’ll offer a nice prize to the best do-gooder.

Doing something good for somebody else is good for you too. Psychologists call it the ‘helper’s high’ and it can help you live a longer, healthier and infinitely happier life.

Wishing you all a very Good Friday.

Lucy  

#2 Bad Language

Bad language is everywhere. Confusing jargon and strange phrases have come to be expected in board rooms and council offices across the country. A few years ago the Local Government Association had to ban 200 words and phrases to stop themselves from having ‘coterminous stakeholder engagement’ rather than just talking to people. 

It’s not just the council that struggle to find the right words. Last year the Plain English Campaign slated Apple for their nonsense after Jonathan Ive claimed the new iWatch’s “simple leather classic buckle references traditional watch vocabulary”. 

This might seem funny but there actually is a problem here. The more jargon we use, the fewer people can understand us.

At StudioLR we’ve been doing a lot of work in hospitals over the last couple of years and the language used has often bothered us. We’ve seen Outpatients or Day Cases commonly referred to as Ambulatory Care – a term that was completely meaningless to me (except perhaps a mistaken connection to ambulances). And we’re not being over-sensitive – an NHS wayfinding audit found that 30% of people didn’t understand words as common as physiotherapy. Some of the words we don’t understand and some of them are just too similar…

Radiotherapy or Radiology
Paediatrics or Podiatry
Physiology or Physiotherapy
Orthopaedics or Orthodontics
Orthodontics or GUM clinic?!

Obviously health professionals use the long words (and understand them) but do we really need to see them written on signs when we’re already stressed out? They become even less relevant in children’s hospitals. Why can’t we be signposted to “Broken Bones” or “Sore Tummies”? Being in hospital is never easy so we shouldn’t make it even more difficult by communicating in another language.

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Dave King
StudioLR

The Next Big Thing

The issue of obesity is big and it’s only getting bigger. 

Some things that alarm me: 

• M&S offers ‘Plus Fit’ clothing in their primary school uniform range. 

• School dinners provided by our local council offer a menu of choices that includes just one ‘healthy option’ for our kids (how many 6-year-olds will choose the vegebake over the pizza with chips?). 

• Bariatric care environments (just Google the images!) and bariatric furniture are a real consideration in the design of new healthcare, leisure and workplace environments. 

• Jamie Oliver warns us that ours will be the first generation to outlive the next because of the soaring diabetes rates and health problems children are faced with.

This is all wrong.

Let’s face it, we need to sit less and stand, and walk, more. We spend a lot of time working and most of that time sitting at a desk. So, at StudioLR we have taken some tiny steps to shift our culture towards a healthier workplace. 

At the start of last year we offered our employees one hour out of their working week to spend doing something healthy. By summer we had two obsessed ‘Tough Mudders’ (the 10-12 mile obstacle race designed to test mental grit and physical strength), one endurance cyclist clocking up 50 mile rides, a 100 x pull-up and press-up challenge, and we noticed the shift from crisps and biscuity snacks to oatcakes and unsalted almonds. And the occasional square of dark chocolate. 

We encourage a step-away-from-your-desk and walk-over-to-talk-to-each-other culture and a we-won’t-laugh-at-you-for-stretching policy. Only two sick days taken last year across the whole team seems remarkable – all in all a happier and healthier workforce. 

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Lucy Richards
StudioLR

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