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Tackling big issues: needs to learn

[4 minute read]

As designers we’re ambitious to tackle society’s big challenges – that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. So when we were asked to design an accessible website aimed at 12-15 year old children with additional support needs, we jumped at the chance to work on a project that will really make a difference.

Living with additional support needs means that school can be a real struggle for children without the proper support. These children and their parents or carers may be feeling worried, frustrated or confused about getting the right education to suit their needs. They’re looking for help, and there’s a chance that they have felt let down before and have come to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal as a last resort.

Our aim was to develop a communication channel that would instill a sense of empowerment for its audience and feel like a helping hand. Something that is welcoming, informally informative, and is easily understood. And something that helps in getting all children the education they are entitled to.


The design of the site was led by the people that would be using the site. The colours, fonts and layout were all chosen based on research and knowledge of accessibility for web, for people with support needs, and in particular children with Autism. The site was then user tested and assessed for ease of use and general understanding.”

– Kimberly Carpenter, Senior Digital Designer


We started off by considering a new, original name for the service to replace Additional Support Needs as part of the Health and Education Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland – which we didn’t feel was accessible!

So, we developed the name needs to learn to capture both ASN [needs] and education [to learn].

The name works well when we talk about putting children at the heart of the judiciary service: All children in Scotland should benefit from a school education. When this isn’t happening we look at each child’s individual circumstances and their unique needs to learn.

 And also when we talk about the child:

We look at Jamie’s unique and individual needs to learn to make sure that he benefits from school education.

To build on the power of needs to learn, we developed a new visual language to help with signposting the user to navigate through the information provided. We created a carefully considered colour palette, soft shapes, an engaging illustration style that would appeal to the age group, accessible language and a font that was highly legible on screen. The content was edited down to short blocks of text and bullets points so that information could be easily read and digested by the viewer. There’s also a section on the site titled ‘word meanings’ to explain the meanings of tricky words, especially legal terms that are hard for all of us to make sense of.

As we developed the website design we wanted to ensure the navigation was simple and clear, and it provided plenty of reassurance. The landing page asks:

Are you in the right place?

If you’re 12 to 15, have additional support needs and want to make a change to your school education, then yes you are.

We created a prototype, using Invision, and conducted user testing with a group of 12-15 year olds with additional support needs. We observed their interaction with the site, including ease of use, and asked them what they generally thought of the site. Their feedback played an important role in the final development stages of the website.

Since the site launched, feedback from users is very positive. All children are entitled to, and deserve an education, and if needs to learn helps their education needs to be met then we’re proud to have played a small part to achieve that.


Unsurprisingly children with additional support needs need additional support. That includes the way we communicate with them, not just visually but also understanding that their cognitive functions work differently. The design thinking and execution had to take all this into account when creating something of real value to them.” 

– Mark Wheeler, Design Director


 

The brand experience at Terex Trucks gets the Big Nod (the grand prix)

“Creativity for an audience in a place where you wouldn’t normally expect to find creativity” – Mt RAINEY, chair

Last week, we were over the moon to be standing on the stage at the Nods Awards in Glasgow to be picking up two awards for the Terex Trucks brand experience.

Including:

  • Best Brand Experience
  • The Big Nod (grand prix)

Here’s Nic and Dave picking up the Big Nod (sponsored by Jura) from Muriel Gray:

About the winning work:

Inverewe: great experiences get great results

[7 minute read]

We’ve got some great news! We’ve been shortlisted for a WON a Gold Marketing Society Star Award in the Design category [UPDATED].

The Star Awards focus on projects which deliver measurable results to clients. Our shortlisted Inverewe project for the National Trust for Scotland is a wonderful success story that we’re delighted to share with you.

Here are a few snippets from our submission:

Inverewe Garden in Wester Ross is an award-winning, world class garden. But a world class garden no longer guarantees an audience.

The National Trust for Scotland took the decision to open Inverewe House to the public – for the first time in its history.

We worked with them to unlock the vibrant eccentricity of the garden’s founder Osgood Mackenzie – developing an identity and visitor experience to attract a new generation of visitors.

Launched in 2016, the work was evaluated throughout 2017.

Ambition:

Create an experience of marvel for all ages. A day of inspiration and wonder that leaves visitors with a sense of admiration for the place and its creator. Departing without doubt that they’ve been immersed in something special. Something worth sharing.

Key Objectives:

  • Increase visitor numbers and spend
  • Attract a much wider demographic – families, younger couples, non-enthusiasts
  • Maximise visitor experience, enjoyment, interaction and learning
  • Promote community engagement and involvement
  • Tell the story of the garden’s creator Osgood, his daughter Mairi Sawyer, and the house and garden
  • Conserve and respect the integrity of the place
  • Bring key stakeholders on the journey, involving them in the process

We created a vibrant identity with colours inspired by the garden’s plants, eccentric typography inspired by Victorian Circus posters, and playful language that draws poetry from botany.

We then brought the identity to life across the site and throughout the house. Packed full of multi-sensory and interactive elements, there’s a surprise in every nook-and-cranny. From sculptures made of gardening utensils to a recipe printed on the kitchen ceiling; from the giant tea pot outside the café to the tiny drawings on the dining room plates; from the gun-room ring toss to the phone that rings when you walk past (go on pick it up)… There’s something for everyone to discover for themselves, and we guarantee you won’t spot it all in one visit!

The re-invigorated Inverewe has gone from strength to strength.

We have evaluated impact across:

  • social media posts (Twitter, Instagram & Facebook)
  • online reviews (TripAdvisor, Google & Facebook)
  • media coverage & political response
  • visitor book feedback
  • staff feedback
  • visitor numbers

A few examples:

Press:

Online/social:

Many glowing reviews with an overall rating of 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor & Google, 4.7 stars on Facebook.

Get in touch to find out how you can

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

Lucy appointed to the Education Design Council’s Expert Panel

In January 2018 Lucy was appointed by SBID (The Society of British and International Design) to the Education Design Council expert panel.

The Society of British and International Design is the UK-based standard bearer organisation for the accreditation of professional interior designers, product suppliers and educational institutions. 

The Education Design Council seeks to put effective design at the core of the learning process and show how evidence-based design decisions can transform the learning experience for everyone. The council consists of experts across the sector of the industry.

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.

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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