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561 ways to say ‘thank you’

When a client takes time out of their busy day to say ‘thank you’, well, what a morale booster that is. It really does mean so much to us.

In the last week we’ve had four of these lovely notes, adding to a running total of 561.

I started keeping them in 2006. The first, from the John Muir Trust to thank us for creating a successful fund-raising campaign, and the most recent (today) from a long-time client at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution for going above and beyond the expected. Added to that some delicious home baking wrapped in a tartan ribbon… we’re being spoiled.

They say you get the clients you deserve and we’re very lucky to have clients that entrust us to deliver important projects for them. And when we do a good job they say ‘thank you’… it’s very humbling.

(Note to self: Do remember to say ‘thank you’. It makes such a big difference.)

‘Thank you’ for reading.


Andrew Gray
Managing Director

Hero to Zero/Zero to Hero

It’s February and the Festive season is just a distant memory. The exception being the occasional bald Christmas tree, tumbling down a wind swept street. The once loved icon of Christmas now stripped of baubles, needles and fresh pine aroma. Once the Hero. Now Zero.

At StudioLR, we got talking about our throwaway culture. We wondered if we could find a Zero and turn it into a Hero? Maybe we could breathe life back into a misplaced object. Give it status in the world again. After all, as designers that’s what we do best. We ‘Make the Difference’ through our strategic thinking and creativity.

Shuffling into the limelight, a humble pair of old leather shoes. You know the ones. Once seen as a wardrobe investment and worn with pride. They helped put your best foot forward, made you stand taller and helped you walk the corridors of power. And yet they are now scuffed, dry and lacking lustre, in the back of the cupboard.

But our resident hipster and shoe shine expert, Dave King assures us that with time and care your old shoes can be revived, to as good as new. An old style skill, it requires the correct kit, a clear process and above all patience. Achieving a Saville Row quality shine, can take 2 or 3 days (yes days). Check out this artful online tutorial. You’ll be amazed and inspired. We are.


A warming reminder that by applying similar principles, we can add new shine to our business and our precious assets.

We bring you Zero to Hero.

Have a good month.


Lorna Reid
Business Development Director, 

Do you want their eyeballs or emotions?

An exciting opportunity for brand design.

Once upon a time, and not really so long ago, marketing communication worked by interruption. It might have been of the tv programme people were watching; or of their journey to work; or of their fairly limited choice of provided media. But now there’s been a paradigm shift in how we interact with communication – because today the audience ‘owns’ the media marketing channels. It’s a sobering thought that the ten years or so added to our lifespan since the 1950s are spent looking at a screen.

The watchword today is engagement not impact, and I think that the sad effect of that has been to value quantity at minimal costs over crafted quality and genuinely persuasive creativity. This is not to argue that banner advertising and judiciously-placed Facebook posts have no effect but often it feels like it’s our eyeballs rather than our emotions that are being sought. Where are the new major brands being created in a world of swamping communications?

I would suggest that this is where the power of design is becoming of greater importance to brands. It may be the one relatively permanent element of a brand’s communication…

That’s both a heavy responsibility and an exciting opportunity for designers.


Scott Sherrard
Brand Strategy Consultant, 

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.


Lucy Richards

What are the chances?

In our early lives most of us are lucky enough to be given chances. Chances to learn, to grow, and to develop. How we take these chances and what we do with them shapes our lives.

Later on in life, if you’re really lucky, you get to give other people chances, to help them learn, grow and develop. These people might be your children. They might be other people’s children. They might be work colleagues, friends or family.

Seeing how people use the chances you give them is incredibly rewarding and in my professional life became one of the most satisfying aspects of my career.

When I took early retirement in 2012, looking back over a career in the energy industry spanning 40 years reminded me of the many people I’d met along the way. I’ll always be grateful to those who trusted me and gave me chances – Harry, Dave, Chris, Steve, Ian and Alan. And their names remain important to me in this new phase of my life, a phase which involves helping children who deserve to be given a chance.

So whatever else you do today, make the best of the chances you’re given. And be generous with the chances you give to others.


Julian Reeves
Retired Director of Corporate Relations at SSE,
Trustee of a children’s charity,
and Friend of StudioLR.

Getting Kids Active


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!


Andy Gray

Written Off

My handwriting has gone to pot. My writing style isn’t even consistent these days – so much so that I hardly recognise it myself. And if handwriting is an expression of personality then maybe I should face up to the decline of that too! 

We spend much more time these days typing than using a pen so will future generations ever really need to put a pen to paper? It’s a sad fact that cursive handwriting has been slowly disappearing from classrooms around the world in recent years.  

Nice, flowing handwriting oozes personality in a way that a typeset letter never can (even if it’s set in Comic Sans) so pick up your favourite pen and get some practise in with good old-fashioned letter writing. Everybody loves receiving a handwritten letter in a handwritten envelope – it means much more than a text message or hideous chat acronyms and text shorthand.

Of course us designers will always keep a pen close by – nothing tops the thrill of sharing an idea scribbled on a scrap of paper.

Photo: The beautiful handwriting of our client and friend Charles Maclean


Lucy Richards

#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.


The Psychology of Biscuits

On the way into work last week I picked up a pack of caramel wafers to put on the table at a meeting. I ended up in three meetings that week and nobody touched a single biscuit. If you put a plate of bourbons or shortbread out then everyone helps themselves, and so I got thinking… 

Are people more likely to take food if it’s open and thus perishable? Do we see the open biscuits and figure they’re going to waste if we don’t eat them so we’d better just have one? If so, maybe we could use the same psychology to help our colleagues and clients to eat more fruit or drink more water.

We could prepare and plate up some perishable-looking food (diced melon, sliced apple, pineapple chunks, celery sticks, almonds) and our clients would be too kind to let it go to waste and unconsciously munch their way to their five a day. Another good example is table water – in a restaurant the jug of water at the table is almost always emptied as we know if we don’t drink it then it’s only going to end up poured down the drain. Whereas if there was a sealed bottle of water for everyone at the table I’d bet half of them wouldn’t even get opened.

Of course it might just be that nobody else likes caramel wafers (but that would be madness).


Dave King

#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.


Dave King

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