Creative thinking is vital when developing solutions to real-world challenges, and being able to design in ways that are both practical and inspiring is key to driving long-term change.
With a focus on how creativity can help brands to shift behaviour and shape a better world, international agency Hard Edge understands the importance of exploring innovative perspectives to tackle important issues. Each year, their Re:act initiative challenges students across Australia and the UK to raise awareness of road safety issues among 16-25 year olds.
The London brief for 2021 explored shared responsibility on the roads, asking participants to think of striking poster ideas that could encourage both drivers and vulnerable road users (VRUs) to keep each other safe.
With less crash protection than motor vehicle occupants, VRUs – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists – have a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed in a crash. As their numbers continue to increase in urban traffic areas, the brief asked students to create concepts that could encourage a greater sense of empathy and understanding between different types of road user, generating mutual concern around other people's wellbeing.
After conducting research, developing ideas and presenting proposals to the Re:act team, BA (Hons) Graphic Branding and Identity student at London College of Communication (LCC), Agota Rencsenyi, was named this year's winner for her concept, We are all fragile under our shells.
Using the visual metaphor of marine life as a way of encouraging audiences to consider each other’s vulnerabilities on the road, the campaign was launched across a range of digital billboards across London during the August Summer Bank Holiday thanks to project partner, Ocean Outdoor.
Re:act founder Andrew Hardwick explained that Agota’s concept offered the perfect fit for his organisation's vision for 2021.
“We aimed to build understanding and empathy among all user groups to highlight our shared responsibility for safety on and around our roads,” he said.
“Agota’s Shells campaign is a brilliant execution of that idea, building a sense of community by highlighting that we are all fragile and we all play a part in keeping each other safe.”
Helen Fallon, Principal City Planner at Transport for London, agreed that striking the right tone with audiences was intrinsic to Agota’s success.
“While there were many strong campaigns, the Shells idea really made me smile,” she said.
“I think the illustrations will promote empathy among different road users in a fun way, with a tagline that supports the message of shared responsibility - making it a really engaging campaign.”
We caught up with Agota to chat about the inspiration behind her concept, and why studying BA (Hons) Graphic Branding and Identity has offered a perfect platform to grow her skills as a designer.
Tell us a little about your creative practice – what sparks your ideas?
My creative process normally involves visiting galleries and museums, looking at books, and spending as much time as possible in the relevant research places with my camera to gather inspiring materials.
The pandemic has really challenged this process, and taught me how to analyse and pay attention to small details.
Why did you decide to apply to BA (Hons) Graphic Branding and Identity at LCC?
I went to many Open Days before I applied to LCC, and this course truly felt like the perfect fit for me.
All of the previous projects that GBI students had worked on made me very excited to be a part of the community, and I also really loved the course atmosphere – it’s friendly and inspiring with a very strong focus on getting us ready to work in the industry as soon as we leave University.
How did you find out about the Re:act opportunity, and why did you decide to get involved?
For our major projects, we were given the opportunity to work on real briefs such as this road safety campaign by Re:act. I decided to take part because I’ve always been fascinated by how design can be used as a tool to change people’s behaviour.
Tell us about your creative process - what inspired your idea, and how did you develop it?
When I first started to think about the visual aims of this project, I began by putting myself into the shoes of the person who would be looking at the posters.
Through my research, I was more and more drawn to the work of collage artists because this technique enables them to bring 2 worlds together. It’s perfect for catching people's attention, but also for not distracting them too much while they are travelling.
What were your highlights of participating in the Re:act challenge?
It was really great to work with Re:act and I am very grateful for their guidance and clear feedback throughout the whole project. They not only made me realise how important it is to talk about road safety, but also challenged me to think about my own biases and the part I have to play myself both a designer and road user.
It’s extremely rewarding to know that I can prompt change through my work.
What tips would you give to other students who may be interested in exploring the field of graphic branding and identity?
I would say that if you feel excited by looking at the briefs that GBI students have previously worked on, then you'll definitely find your place at LCC.
Graphic branding and identity is such an amazing field with lots of opportunities to learn and grow as a designer.