The importance of symbiotic learning

Research is integral to any project. It’s the foundations of everything. It takes on different forms and evolves throughout the process, but what is essential before moving anywhere is a solid grounding of what you’re talking about, and the best way to get this is from the client.

Their insight is invaluable to everything else that follows and some of the best outcomes will be from clients who understand the benefits of co-creation.

We work in partnership with clients to understand why they do what they do, how they do it and what that looks like. We’re keen for the client (and ourselves) to be as honest and upfront as possible, this transparency and trust helps us make the right decisions and create the best work collaboratively from the start.

Our recent project branding and naming OneTech demonstrates how co-creation is key.

“We want to create a movement to increase diversity in Tech and Digital start-ups by making start up support accessible to promising local founders.” was the task posed to us by an inspiring group of very motivated women in the tech industry. This sounded like a rather ambiguous statement so to get to the bottom of what they meant we’d have to do some digging.

So far we knew they had a name ‘All in Tech’ and they wanted an identity. We questioned why ‘All in Tech’? It didn’t feel as though the name was particularly the best interpretation of what they represent so they agreed for us to extend the brief and explore possibilities.

It all begins with what we term an Information Amnesty – where no one is persecuted for asking awkward questions. It’d be impossible to attempt to build brands behind closed doors and fly off on our own arrogantly assuming we’ve got all the answers – so we co-create. Ultimately, they know their business the best and we’re there to help gather their thoughts and understandings to be best reflected in the outcome.

This is where there’s no cards held back, no judgement involved, where we expect and encourage those awkward and tricky questions to help paint the picture and figure out the best approach.

One thing that really stood out from our first conversation was ‘91% of all UK tech investment in 2017 went to white males.’. This stuck with us as clear indication of what they were hoping to change and would become a pivotal remark to refer to throughout the rest of the branding process.

So we had now established their target market was female, BAME tech founders, and definitely not white males. One question we had to have answered was ‘do you wish to positively discriminate’. Their answer was yes. This gave us the green light to move forward with female and BAME tech founders at the forefront of our research. It’s these kind of questions that bring such valuable insights to the table, making sure the right questions are asked at the right time is crucial.

We organised a series of workshops to bring our ideas together for a session of co-creation with the team to start assembling the visual and verbal identity together.

We began by defining the ‘root’ words that could be used then looked at all the prefixes and suffixes of words, what they could mean and separating everyone into groups. What takes priority? Is it tech or the start-ups that takes precedence? We literally laid everything on the table, with pens, post-it notes and scissors. We encouraged them to write all over the papers, add more, put things together whilst we simultaneously captured the conversations that were happening. That involvement was key to us making the right moves and ending up with a harmonious name and brandline that took everything into consideration. From all of this we ended up shortlisting 6 names, running thorough due diligence on all of them – and it went down to a vote.

OneTech was the winner, with the initial idea drawn from the Bob Marley song to unite and bring people together. Initially some people from the team thought it could be cheesy, but once placed in the tech industry context, it transcends from its initial context.

The Information Amnesty approach was rewarding for both parties – we would openly share our concerns, make time to listen, question and respect what each brought to the table. Without this honesty and respect throughout the process, the identity wouldn’t have developed so naturally and the success of OneTech wouldn’t be what it is today.

Considering our current social climate, maybe we could all benefit from a little more symbiotic learning.

By Olivia Beckett, Creative Designer