The Joy of Living.

How to influence behaviour with creatively optimistic design strategies.

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  • Branding

Dr. Dean Ornish, Professor of Medicine at the University of California and founder of the Preventative Medicine Institute in the U.S., in a 1993 study took 33 patients with severely clogged arteries, helped them quit smoking and adopt a strict low-calorie, vegetarian diet.

The patients attended twice-weekly group support sessions led by a psychologist, and took instruction in meditation, relaxation, yoga and aerobic exercise. The program lasted only a year, but after three years researchers of the study revisited the participants and found that 77% of the patients had stuck with their changes. Why did the Ornish program succeed where the conventional scaremongering health approach had failed? Instead of trying to motivate people with the ‘fear of dying’, Ornish reframed the issue into ‘the joy of living’, inspiring people to see that they can actually feel better—not just live longer.

Ornish’s program teaches us that the things we do, and the way we do them, are learned through a mixture of positive and negative stimulations. Behavioural psychologists praise the power of positive reinforcement when driving changes in behaviour, but those behaviours are adopted and sustained faster when they are communicated with creativity.

The social implications of designing behaviour are significant, and we, at Frost*collective, have had a powerful hand in driving behavioural change across many sectors including health, education, government and the environment.

The opportunity to contribute to positive social change was at the forefront of our minds in the work for University of Wollongong’s Early Start program. This $44 million initiative follows the finding that access to education in the years under 10 (especially in the form of play) can help reverse social disadvantage and build positive neurological patterns that contribute to children’s success as adults. The initiative includes a new Early Start facility on the Wollongong campus where research and play come together in a purpose-built ‘Discovery Space’. Here, researchers can observe and interact with children as they engage with interactive, hands-on educational experiences. The facility also serves as a hub for a network of 41 early childhood education centres from disadvantaged areas, so that the University can provide remote access to its research and facilities.

Our challenge was to help this important initiative break the barriers that often prevent these children from getting exposure they need to learning—particularly considering that their parents often come from backgrounds where they haven’t finished school, let alone attended university. For these parents, even the thought of visiting a campus was intimidating. At the same time, we needed to ensure the brand could position Early Start at the forefront of international research and practice, attracting academics, researchers, students, partner organisations and potential benefactors.

Michelle Kellaway
Chief Operating Officer
Early Start
The branding has not just reflected our identity, but has effectively shaped who we are and where we plan to go.”

Solutions were grounded in significant consultation with the target audiences, running workshops so that they could work with us to identify what the brand should stand for and how it could appeal to them. Our brand idea of ‘exciting opportunities’ was drawn from the insight that the brand itself needed to be playful and engaging to give it universal appeal and make it approachable for the kids themselves and their parents.

Whenever we work on a project we’re always keen to transcend the category clichés—which in this case included rainbows, building blocks and handprints. Our big idea came in the form of the word ‘Imaginaction’ representing the combination of creativity and impact that sits at the very heart of Early Start. It manifested itself in a series of creative elements including the logo where one side is a cloud representing imagination and the other, a starburst, representing action. Combinations of objects and words create a new visual and written vocabulary. In place of using clichéd primary colours—the norm when it comes to brands for kids—we instead incorporated research that children relate more effectively to tactile surfaces and textures, forming the basis for the secondary colour palette.

One of the most exciting challenges of this project was embedding the brand into the physical space, including the Discovery Centre and teaching and research facilities. As kids are a key audience for the wayfinding and environmental graphics solution, we assembled an under ten focus group to see how they understood signage and tested some early ideas. This allowed us to create something fun and effective. We created a set of characters that help to deliver information and add to the experience in the space. These characters have also been brought to life as mascots and merchandise.

The sheer optimism and creative delivery around the brand has been infectious, provoking real connections and meaningful relationships with the program and its facilities for all who engage with it. “The branding has not just reflected our identity,” says Early Start’s Chief Operating Officer, Michelle Kellaway, “but has effectively shaped who we are and where we plan to go. It is everything we were looking for. It’s dynamic, appealing to children, adults and the broader community—all with a sense of fun.”

Action Matters is another example of how we think outside the square to enable organisations to reach people more effectively and drive positive choices.

Action Matters resulted from a complex brand architecture project where numerous programs and departments from the NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) were creating a plethora of initiatives that would come and go according to funding availability. Not only was this diluting the message to consumers and businesses, it also meant they were missing out on opportunities to protect the environment (and save money) by not being aware of the full spectrum of programs. Siloed thinking within the organisation and a failure to see meaningful connections had the potential to reduce effectiveness. After conducting workshops and interviews with the teams we discovered that they shared a common purpose—to empower people to take action. Many brands focused on environmental messaging often take a negative stance, hence our strategy concentrated on showing the positive benefits of taking action and how this could lead to better lifestyles and business performance. We named the new brand ‘Action Matters’ which cleverly stressed the importance of taking action as well as becoming a broad umbrella that could span the diversity of programs and create a sense of continuity.

Our creative solution brings the brand to life by using ‘am’—an acronym of ‘Action Matters’—but as a verb is used in the context of individuals and groups actively making a difference. The identity is also accompanied by a distinct tone of voice in the first person and is used to explain how to take action and why it matters.

Our team at Nest then partnered with OEH to map out a digital strategy that could expand their approach to communications from brochures and flyers to social media, web and content, thereby reaching a much wider audience.

The end result for OEH is that they now have an enduring brand and one that can take their important message further on the same funding. Driving behavioural change starts with a negative situation which needs to be acknowledged and understood in order to turn it around.

With cyclists on our roads doubling over the past three years, the City of Sydney (COS) needed to encourage cyclists to ride safely and mindfully on its new network of cycleways. Conversations about cycling are often full of animosity, and the team at Frost* wanted to create something positive—more ‘art with a message’ and less traditional scare tactics. Tapping into the zeitgeist of an aesthetic generation, we created a bespoke typeface based on bike parts, hand-drawing every element. The level of craft in the cycle-centric font creates the desire to think, slow down and take care.

Installed at 89 outdoor sites in Sydney, the posters aligned perfectly with the COS’s larger ‘Art of Gracious Cycling’ campaign, encouraging riders to be more aware of their behaviour and to help achieve harmony on Sydney’s roads.

On the success of this and other campaigns with the COS, we continue to work together on a number of projects including ‘360’, a campaign promoting universal access to Sydney’s fitness centres, as well as an awareness campaign around minimising food waste.

Conversations about cycling are full of animosity and we wanted to create something positive.”
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