A visual language for Shared Assets

Show, don’t tell

Shared Assets is a think and do tank that’s spent seven successful years working on common good land use, through research, advocacy and developing new ways of doing things.

Our first design briefing session was a brainstorm over a plate of Tunnock’s tea cakes. This set the tone for a conversational approach to starting projects that’s served us well in coming up with unusual solutions to communication problems.

The first project I designed for Shared Assets, an insert in a Locality conference delegate pack, was to be a postcard. But putting together the aspects of Shared Assets’ work that we wanted to communicate with many people’s reticence about starting conversations at conferences led us to a set of trading cards instead, with a prize for the first person to tweet a full set.

Next up was a set of resources for decision-making about land projects’ scalability, extending use of the first project’s graphic language as cues for topics and actions.

For its fifth birthday party giveaway, the brief was “Show, don’t tell”. Our preliminary chat about getting across what Shared Assets means when it talks about common good land use led us from a booklet to mapping what it does. The map has turned out to be useful for display, to communicate Shared Assets’ theory of change and business model and for recruitment information.

But it’s not all pictures: there has been an information-dense and necessarily dry set of print and PDF booklets to tackle. Here, the jobs that design needed to do were to set the theme that common good land use adds up and to help readers to navigate through the information. I responded with chunky mathematical symbol landscapes, a clear layout system and differentiation by colour.

It’s been a pleasure to work with such interesting design problems from this lively, articulate organisation. The result has been an adaptable design framework that has been usable in-house as well as for commissioned design.