Following on from Max Miechowski’s dive into his wandering process, Josie Tucker and Richard Ashton of Adapt were next at August’s Nicer Tuesdays. Josie introduced herself as the duo’s creative director and Richard as the director and producer before he explained exactly what Adapt is: “A climate club that uses design art and humour to tackle climate change issues, create community engagement and then provide solutions.” While both are technically freelance designers by trade, they run Adapt as a full-time job.
Adapt came into fruition two years ago because, at that time, there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation going on about the climate crisis and if there was it included headlines that looked like this: “The world’s ending right now! And it’s all your fault!” “It was scary and fear-mongering and didn’t really encourage anyone to act,” Josie explained. “We thought that with our skills, we could maybe do it a bit better.”
The bulk of the duo’s talk then proceeded to dive into some of their projects to date, starting with their first-ever campaign “Don’t be a fossil fool”. Richard recalled: “It was basically trying to make a fun and sexy way to switch to renewable energy.” The campaign comprised both print and digital elements but, most importantly, an interactive website to help you switch, as well as beer mats dotted around London so that “when your date has gone to the toilet you can sit there and learn about renewable energy, which is super cool.”
Adapt also hosts plenty of real-life events, as well as digital campaigns, and last year saw them throw Planet Party with Brainchild Festival. “It was a place where everyone could come together, dance, have a good time and subtly learn about climate change,” Richard continued. With large-scale planets hanging from the ceiling and video installations within the space, Planet Party was all about promoting various actions people could take. A highlight, Josie said, was a Shell piñata which allowed people to “beat the hell out of Shell”, although a mistaken use of bungee chords instead of rope meant the piñata ricocheted around the space causing a few “minor casualties” – an apt metaphor some might say. “It turned out to be the most memorable and talked about part of the evening, so clearly it worked,” Josie continued.
The pair’s most recent – and biggest – project, took place this summer at Copeland Gallery in Peckham. An exhibition titled Sadness is a No-go Zone, it saw them setting several artists and designers a brief to create work around climate change. “Initially it was meant to be a small project, getting a community together to create some artwork but it completely snowballed and we ended up with 50 amazing pieces, so we thought we’ve got to put on a massive exhibition,” Josie told us. They sent out different phrases to each artist from their back-catalogue of work including “Cool Your Jets” and “You Can Frack Right Off” and waited to see what responses they got. The work was created around each phrase and then formed the space for each room of the exhibition. The first of which focussed all around wilding “because planting trees and looking after the trees that already exist is one of the best solutions to tackling climate change,” Richard reminded us.
An important aspect for the duo was that they wanted the exhibition to feature more than just posters, so there were trees donated by Trees for Cities dotted around the space and habitat boxes designed by artist Lauren Davies – these were flat pack and could be transported out of the exhibition and into the city to create a space for life and insects to live. These opportunities to make tangible change prove the success of Sadness is a No-go Zone. Josie explained: “One of the things we wanted the exhibition to have was a point of action alongside every topic, so people could act within the space without having the text themselves to remember it when they get home.” As well the habitat boxes, they partnered with Ecosia (a search engine that plants trees) to create a “plant 5000 trees” challenge. Within the space was a search engine which people could use and contribute to this.
Richard concluded: “We find it quite hard to sum-up what we do because we have to be quite responsive to what’s going on and it’s super complicated,” so the pair provided a handy diagram to help us all understand. What is showed was a somewhat vicious, somewhat motivational cycle. They spend their days reading terrifying news about the climate and “freaking out is a daily occurrence”, so the only way to deal with it is to laugh and make a joke out of it. As designers, the only way to make a career out of this is to make the joke look nice, before releasing it into the world and hoping it has an impact on someone else or it makes some kind of a difference.