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Can you stay true to your heritage and attract a wider audience at the same time?

With a site personality bursting with colour and rich stories, the Playful Garden at Brodie Castle welcomes visitors of all ages.

[3 minute read]

The newly-opened Playful Garden at Brodie Castle is a place to have fun. A short hop from the castle’s front door, the garden puts a lively twist on Brodie’s long and colourful history. Digging for an idea that could bring centuries of stories to life, we unearthed a secret weapon…

Daffodils!

Ian Brodie developed and registered over 400 varieties of daffodil at the Castle – and he named each and every one. The weird and wonderful names were a springboard for stories that sprout up all around the site – from the origami boat tickets (Sailor #160) to merchandise, decor, interpretation and signage.

Staying true to your heritage doesn’t mean doing things the way they’ve always been done. We can help unearth what makes you different – and bring it to life creatively in campaigns and experiences that spark something in people.

The project is currently nominated at the Scottish Design Awards, along with five of our other projects.


Bring on the trumpets!

The tickets are fun for kids and big kids alike… the daffodil “Fortune’s Arrow” becomes a paper aeroplane, while “Sailor” becomes an origami boat.The daffodil names lent themselves to a huge range of merchandise. “Fortune’s Gift” was a gift for the swing tags. And the most tourist-friendly daffodil names made a great set of magnets and keyrings.

The café space was brought to life with hanging flags, painted tables and custom
packaging – each again highlighting a daffodil name – from “Lemonade” to the
soup bowl’s “Copper Bowl”.

Playful signs around the garden remind people to have a good time. Giant plant-marking lollipop sticks stick out in the garden – each one housing an interpretive panel, using the daffodils to tell a unique story.

 


Contact us at StudioLR to find out how brave design-thinking can help you reach more people.

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.

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

 

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.

Feasbility study available for download here: Inclusive Symbols Report Final


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