Monday, 31 December 2012

A completely different audience to anything I was used to

A completely different audience to anything I was used to

It was a fascinating project but the task was daunting, as my job was to convert a 43 page legal document in to a form that would work for a wide ranging audience who for whatever reason find it hard to process the written word. In truth how many of us actually understand the legal small print anyway?

I came to this as a complete novice in the area of learning disability so started with a blank canvas, well not quite as I am pretty dyslexic so was able to draw on that for this project.  There are many 4 or 5 letter words in this blog I have needed to spell check.

In order to make a visual language and vocabulary that worked I could not have done it on my own. I had the opportunity to team up with a great group of people living in a "supported living" setting to help me develop and test ideas as we went along. That in itself was an education and was a big part of my personal journey.

My other goal for this project was to create a "re-usable tool" complete with an archive of images, including a 3D family, all of which could be very cost effectively modified/re branded/personalised so that anyone working with people with learning disabilities could take advantage of it without the front end cost.

I try to do this with all my projects such as the recruitment quiz on the Skills for Care website which could be used for a myriad of other applications. Have a go, it's online and interactive and see if you have what it takes to be a carer

By utilising the visual language archive and format my hope is that the inherent quality of thinking and execution means however it's used, to say what you need to say, it has the "professional feel" and effectiveness that is beyond the reach of so many smaller organisations due to cost and time as well as well as just the "big players" as is so often the case.

I designed it to work on every media platform including print and the web and for a wider audience too; perhaps English is not your audiences' first language or they have literacy problems. In truth everyone one who has viewed it so far finds it a much more memorable and engaging way of understanding the legal jargon of 43 pages of clauses and sub clauses.

This year I am looking to collaborate and work in partnership, not only with housing associations but anyone connected with supporting people with learning disability who has a communication need that I can solve for them. 

Following what has been a great endorsement from many professionals involved the area of the learning disability sector I know this works and has their stamp of approval.

What I am now sugesting is that producing a "generic" version could save the housing sector a lot of money if they got together to agree what they wanted, it also helps them meet equality and diversity goals. Many are revising their teanacy agreements this year as well in the light of the changes re funding etc.

If you register you interest via email or twitter, nothing more at this stage we can get a conversation going. It's just as effective for terms of employment, Health and Safety it can be reworked for any message, be honest how many of us really understand legal jargon? How can someone comply with a legal requirement if they don't first understand it. 

All the costly and labour intensive work creating the format and the hundreds of cut out images is done and paid for, so having made a piano, what song do you want to play?

With many associations needing to update their Tenancy Agreements this year because of changes in funding, getting housing associations to collaborate and  use of a "generic " version could save the sector a lot of money, improve tenants "understanding" of their agreement and help meet equality and diversity goals as well.  

Please email me at  or tweet me @ChiCustard for a chat if this has the potential to help you. If you would like a DVD to explore do get in touch and I can send you one to explore.  

A Closer Look

This is the main DVD menu giving instant access to key areas, designed so that re branding is simple; we just modify the master backgrounds. It’s also available online in Flash format.

Re Copyright, all this is original work I have created so I own the rights to all the images in this blog, so if you want to use or test a few out just email me as I would prefer to give you much higher resolution images than see my work looking pants:) The video is all created to full HD spec and the art work at a much higher resolution.

NOTE If people do "borrow" my images and didn't ask first, I say yes far more often that I say no, I will ask for significant public donation to a Learning Disability charity of my choice and will have some Twitter fun, and I do check the search engines every week.  Often all I require is a credit or link in exchange for usage.  

The Landlord and Tenants sections are in two different colours but retain the same format and layout, so it's simple and intuitive to find what you want, and renaming chapters is also easy.

It may be that you just want to access one very specific part of the agreement to provide clarity about a specific clause in the tenancy agreement, or for other situations such as inducting new tenants for example, you can use the "play all" option to view it as a single movie.

Everything has a strong visual theme, it’s bright, colourful and varied, letting the pictures tell the story. Visual variety is as I discovered a significant key to effective engagement and also retention.

A lot of research and testing went into creating 3D characters that are truly "generic", dealing with ethnicity is always a creative challenge in itself, our family must also appear non threatening and not scary. As they are virtual I can put them in any pose for any purpose now we have them modelled.

Just determining the correct "skin tone" was the product of several weeks debate and testing. Nothing was taken for granted, I couldn't go on assumption and from a directors perspective understanding how heads, hearts and minds worked for this audience presented a significant creative and practical challenge.

In production our digital archive of ready to use elements are managed in flexible layers. These are typically used as the virtual "foreground" like our man and his tenancy agreement, with backgrounds of a particular room, building, estate or common area, so it is easy and cost effective to replace. Above, our man, the Tenancy Agreement and the buildings each have their own layer.

We created an entire family of characters, so our "virtual cast" of extras can be used quickly and cost effectively for any communication objective, on any topic. They are print ready, web friendly, high definition 3D performers waiting in the wings for any assignment of any scale.

We know from research and 30 years in communications that taking yourself too seriously is not always the best way of getting the message across, and retaining the audience's engagement.
Very few people will fail to understand the above message quickly and easily, however go to the same section "building modifications" in a written tenancy agreement and its a long list of don’ts in legal speak. I use a broader brush to convey concepts which get the key point across, this can act as a bridge in communication terms to more specific issues you wish to raise.
It’s a lot safer doing things in the virtual world! We did this to help explain that there are things you really must not do in respect of the terms and conditions of the insurance cover on your property. This did take me a while to find the right way to make the point
Balconies are frequently a source of problems and conflicts, but care needs to be taken not to illustrate the dangers too graphically, especially for the more vulnerable tenants where a softer touch is far more suitable.
A major part of the creative work has been to establish a "visual language" that has been thought through and tested which can convey those things which have always been very tricky to do using more conventional techniques. I can make up any scene you can imagine for any task, its quick, professional, effective….and affordable.
We all know the hurt and disruption anti social behaviour, bullying and harassment can cause tenants and the huge challenges it creates for landlords and the police trying to preserve the quality of life for neighbours.

Simple images like the ones below make it very easy to communicate to anyone that there is a right and a wrong way of going about things. The kitchen sink is a carefully considered "generic " metaphor for maintaining a reasonable standard of tidiness and hygiene....spotted Mr Rat yet?

This was fun to do, virtual vandalism! and is rather more polite than some of the graffiti i've have seen. Again I chose to take the middle way, having avoided tagging or things that might have messages in that we were unaware of. This got a big laugh from the supported living tenant test group, it also got the message across and they all remember the smiley face house.
Not much I need to say about this next one except I now have loads of satellite dishes modelled in 3D, complete with shadows, ready to stick on a building of your choice, the images in this blog are much smaller than the originals, so all the images will print perfectly at 300 dpi. This extends the reach of the concept as it works across all media.

Another area that we know is problematic for landlords is "the use of premises" for non residential purposes. We also know some landlords have problems around motor vehicle maintenance being a lot more than just topping up the screen washers or a quick wash and wax.
Noise is also a recurring issue and there is a DIY power tool for everything now so we used the image below in conjunction with other "night time" images to remind tenants that DIY at 02:56 am is a problem even if you do work shifts.

This get a laugh every time, I think it's the farmyard sound effects! By keeping the visuals rich and varied with a degree of sophistication and good execution it really does engage audiences, and after a few moments a red "X" appears so the message is very clear....Sorry but No Pets.  

Accidents happen, in all cases the Landlord needs to be informed. Just as important is the need for clarity over who pays for the work to be done. So all parties need to be clear on who is responsible for what, not just the landlord which is frequently the case.

 Be it through vandalism or just a genuine mishap, broken things need to be repaired and someone has to pay to have it put right. You also want to encourage tenants to work with you if they see damage that needs repairing.

With the current economic climate there are now additional financial strains on both landlord and tenant. Money is always high on the agenda when it comes to disputes, misunderstandings or problems with rent, service charges, repairs, cleaning and disposal.
We recently completed another project around Financial Inclusion funded by one of the banks. The fully interactive DVD explored the benefits of Credit Unions, having a bank account, the perils of door stop lenders, where to get information and help and how even saving £1 a week changes how you think about money.

Concepts like saving to reduce the impact of having to pay for a repair, a cleaning service or bill not included in your agreement can still be made accessible and so we created a happy piggy bank and sad piggy bank to help you communicate issues around the topic of "money" and managing it.

 There are many rules around vacating a property and keeping people informed if it’s just a holiday or a longer period of absence. This image might also apply to scenarios around refurbishments or relocation to a new property and of course what you need to do if your tenancy is at an end.

Returning to the theme of anti social behaviour, we compiled a short visual sequence with dull thumping soundtrack...again all the backgrounds are easily interchangeable to tailor it for clients.

Our 3D characters are quick and easy to articulate into any pose, so they offer you a degree of communication flexibility impossible to achieve in any other way, and they don’t need scripts, rehearsals and an entourage of hair and make up artists to perform.
For some situations, where a tenant cannot for whatever reason write they may still be perfectly able to view any of these printed images and "make their mark" to confirm they have understood that loud music late at night is not fair on those around them.
Although the moving image as in live action is used for much of our work we also know that distilling the message into key frames that are on screen for a while is a purer form of communication for some applications, as live action can sometimes bring an unwanted distraction to the message.

In the one above the speakers throb as the disco lights pulsate….in time with the thumping sound track, so although it's still images, we may feel some scenes are stronger with a touch of simple animation.

We often use visual icons like a blue flashing light, less scary than images of lots of uniformed police or paramedics, but just as effective and the blue light covers fire, police and ambulance services.

Being too literal has drawbacks so again rather than show real people in a real court room which in itself throws up all sorts of complexities, this makes the point with a slightly lighter touch but just as emphatically.

One of our guiding principles is to help landlords and tenants to avoid getting to a place where the courts are involved, after all how do you enforce an agreement that the tenant can’t understand as is often the case with a 40 page document written detailed legal language?

Health and safety around disposing of medical waste is very important especially when it comes to common areas. Visually this can be quite a challenge to illustrate in a "palatable" way.

You will see we use a huge amount of "cut out" images, its a very time consuming job, but you only have to do it once, after that its in our digital archive to use with for any purpose. The scene below reminds tenants of the landlords rights and what may happen if they ended the tenancy owing the landlord money. The "for sale" signs become "SOLD" signs which is surprisingly powerful.

Putting shots like these together in the real world is actually pretty hard work, as you need a real cooker, 4 tyres, a bike, microwave and a washing machine.....and a van….or with our solution…just email us a quick still of your location and job done! ….this is also the greenest way to work.

Why settle for a dingy when you can have a powerboat straddling the footpath? I like my job:) and humour seems to be universal provided you keep it simple and understand the rules, being too literal can be a problem.

The boat went down very well with the test group of tenants with learning disabilities, it raised a big laugh and got the message across in a way that was both fun and memorable. At the end of a screening I was often asked to go back to some sequences on the DVD that made them all laugh. 

They were happy for me to film them during our screening sessions so I also have a very useful reference point for gauging reactions to the images i have created. As a corporate video director for 30 years, old habits die hard regards testing and "knowing" your audience and taking nothing for granted.

After the screening I also learnt a lot about retention, what sticks and why and also the immense value in it being their houses, their estate or landing, not some stock shot.

I still smile now when I think about my testers, it was a very rewarding process and they taught me a lot about some of my misconceptions. 

OK we could have used pushbikes…but when you can have these monsters blocking access to fire exits why not? The point is they all get the message across, and we know that the constant visual surprises keep the audience engaged. Cutting the spokes of the blue bike out took ages!
Here is a reminder for when you should return the keys by if you are moving out....

And this is how you explain to the next tenant what they pay for and what is not included in their rent, the concept of stylising "bills and documents" makes life much simpler, I used minimal wording and a strong relevant image and then keep using that once its meaning is established. 

But before you leave please ensure the property is as you found it. (Don’t panic all the damage is virtual and no kitchens were harmed in the making of this project, thanks again Photoshop;)

A lot of the images show the right and the wrong way, back to back, in print form. This allows people to make a real choice and "make a mark" by the approriate image to confirm their understanding, it can also be left as a reminder, or held on file if appropriate.

That Didn't Hurt Did it?
It may not have felt like it but you have just understood a significant part of a complex legally worded tenancy agreement used by a large UK housing association in a way that was fun engaging and memorable.

My hope is that it can play a valuable role in many key communication areas including compliance, accessibility, inclusion and equality and diversity.

Rather like a brand identity manual I have invested a lot of creative time developing visual icons and metaphors and an overriding style, which in combination with my digital archive and 3D characters can produce high quality, professional communications in any format on any platform… even fridge magnets as reminders at a fraction of the cost of starting from scratch

This is my blog about my Vision for the Visual Language in both housing and other areas I am convinced it can make a real difference.

Please contact me as I am always happy to look at small one off projects. It may be you have a presentation or just need a specific image for a website or publication, just tell me "what you want to say and who you want to say it to"
All images in this blog belong to Jon Bryant so please contact me for permission to use them. Please email me at or tweet me @ChiCustard for a chat. If you would like a DVD to explore do get in touch. 
Copyright Jon Bryant 2018


No comments:

Post a Comment