Word Art

Monday, December 13th, 2010

As a designer, there’s always been a nagging need and desire in the back of my head to make everything I do as beautiful and as polished and as perfect as humanly possible.

Then charities came along…

Now, relatively often, things need to look home-made, rough-round-the-edges, grubby. Real.

And ‘real’ is the key here. The nature of the beast that is ‘charity’ is that people – donors, campaigners, supporters – don’t want to see their money going to waste. So, if some flashy, foil-blocked, 400gsm, full-bleed, die-cut, ever-so-beautiful piece of communication drops through your door asking for £15, chances are you aren’t gonna part with your hard-earned cash.

Now, this isn’t rocket science. It’s nothing more than common sense. The things we’re sending into people’s lives need to be believable more than anything else. But at a time when lots of people are more concerned with ‘building their brand’ (read: make the logo bigger), than creating something that actually works, it’s not always the easiest argument to have.

The one thing you can’t argue against though is results. Throughout 2010, we’ve produced ‘inside track’ communications for WWF, World Jewish Relief and Medical Foundation to name but three that have all performed unbelievably well. The most interesting thing about all of this, though, is the fact that these photocopied, straight-from-the-desk-of-the-CEO packs work best for high value donors.

When I first started at Open, I found it absurd that those people who give you the most money end up getting the least beautiful communications. Logic dictates it should be the other way round – surely you get what you pay for? Logic doesn’t necessarily build successful campaigns though, reason does. And when you think about it, a piece of communication that is believable and real and personal can only serve to bring your most valued donors even closer to the charity. Mass-produced will work for some, but the cream of your donor crop need to feel special, wanted and close.

Don’t worry about me though – as we begin to meet a lot of donors online and through their phones, there’s lots of beautiful design still to be done too!


PS if anyone wants to sponsor me for volunteering at Crisis this Christmas, feel free!

The file you can’t print

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010


Here’s an interesting idea. Create a file that cannot be printed. Therefore saving millions of trees-worth of paper. And what would call you this file? The .wwf of course!

Not sure how well it would go down if we started sending our clients pdfs they couldn’t print out, scribble over and send back (you know who you are…)!

Missing the point

Monday, December 6th, 2010

For those of you on Facebook (I’m assuming that’s everyone), you may have noticed several of your friends mysteriously transforming into cartoons over the last week. It appears this trend originally started in Greece as an attempt to remove all human faces from Facebook for a short while. Nothing wrong with that – sounds quite funny.

However, somewhere along the line the message got changed to “Change your FB picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal is not to see a human face on FB until Monday (Dec 6th). Join the fight against child abuse & copy and paste to your status!”

Now, this somehow became associated with the NSPCC, and a quick search of Facebook groups also shows a version for Unicef (I’m sure there are more too). Of course, none of these charities are behind this ‘campaign’, and despite NSPCC tweeting otherwise I’m not convinced it’s much help to any of them.

Not including the inevitable Daily Mail paedophile story (which I won’t even give the credit of a link to) there’s been plenty of other negative press around this latest fad too, and not without good reason.

It’s great to have supporters doing ‘work’ for your charity, and spreading the word and sharing with their friends and all. But when the charity has no control over the message, it all gets a little messy. Of course, if the original message had a less flimsy call to action than “Join the fight against child abuse”, the shit-storm that is now inevitably following would be easier to deal with. “Change your profile picture and make a Christmas gift to the NSPCC“. Now that’s a status update worth sharing.

Not that anywhere near as many people would have done it – but it’d certainly be a better badge of honour, a show of how good a person you are. Sorry, but everyone thinks child abuse is bad. It’s like changing my profile picture to a rainbow to show that Hitler was a baddie.

However, is there something charities can take from this apparent ‘show of support’? It’s certainly a sign that people care on some level. That small, easy actions increase engagement. I’m sure the however-many-hundred-thousand people gathered in the Facebook group could be convinced to join the NSPCC group with some gentle nudging. Those over 12, at least.

But would it work if it had come direct from the charity, or does it HAVE to be peer-to-peer to succeed? If we asked everyone to change their profile picture to a tiger for WWF, would Facebook be covered in stripy cats? Probably not. And therein lies the problem – the unpredictability of using Facebook and other social media sites to build real, long-term, solid support.

I’m sure it can be done, but we might need to come up with our own idea… and wait for the cartoons to disappear, of course.