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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

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

 

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

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.

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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