What does a design brief from the Mayor of London in a pandemic look like?

Studio La Plage was tasked with the illustrative messaging for the Mayor of London’s Stay Home, Stay Lives campaign. The studio’s Jack Bedford discusses the process.

30 April 2020

All design briefs feature some element of pressure. Sometimes the client needs a consistent check-in or changes their route last minute. In the case of Studio La Plage’s latest project, it’s the sheer weight of the subject that lies heavy on a creative’s shoulders.

Recently approached by the Mayor of London’s internal design team, Studio La Plage was tasked with forming a series of visuals around its ‘Stay Home, Stay Lives’ campaign, in light of the UK government’s current response to Covid-19. The task at hand was a unique job and one that had to be completed quickly. The design needed to mirror “the severity of the subject” with a serious tone, but also feel “relatable and engaging”, explains Jack Bedford, who led the project from Studio La Plage’s side.

Illustration, it turns out, was the ideal medium to find this tricky balance, with Jack pointing out that “an illustrative approach allowed it to stand tall in a sea of typographic and photography-based Covid-19 comms”. Working closely with Haneef Khan, campaign lead at the Mayor of London’s office, Jack and Studio La Plage also had one of its tightest turnarounds yet, considering the immediacy of the work needing to be delivered. “Unlike many animations that I’ve worked on in the past, we had a really small window of time to develop a look and feel, along with storyboards. It was very much a process of collaboration, with my team of animators and the creatives at Mayor of London,” he says.

The tight timeline was compounded by the fact that everyone is obviously working from home too, meaning that several “Zoom calls and brainstorms that allowed us to ping ideas back and forth” proved vital in defining the project, allowing the design to be sturdy enough “to carry the weight of the subject matter and really hit home the ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ message.”

GalleryStudio La Plage: Mayor of London

What developed was a range of visuals, which steered away from the Mayor of London’s usual master brand palette, with a focus on “colour choices towards the subject matter,” says Jack. “We were able to build on the simple black and green palette that has been already established for Coronavirus messaging, adding warmer tones with shading and texture to give a more tactile feel.”

A point of visual difference from the Mayor’s usual comms was also vital in this piece of messaging, again harking back to the emotion and tone that needed to feel right. For instance, Jack explains that one particular “watch out” was to keep the palette neutral, “not using too much blue or red, or any colour that could be directly related back to a political party,” he tells us. This consideration again cemented the illustrative approach, with Jack explaining how it “was also important that the characters and buildings I drew represented the diversity of Londoners, from age, race and housing situation,” he says. “We wanted the campaign to feel that it was for everyone, and having relatable environments that didn’t ostracise certain communities was a key part.”

Aside from these more visual details, when working on a project such as this – which needs to capture the attention of a capital city and urgently – the key messaging is always most important. “Because this project was being publicly released from a government office, it was key that we established upfront the needs and wants for the client, and understood the tone and emotion they wanted to convey through the campaign,” says Jack. “I felt a lot of pressure to get the tone absolutely right,” he says pointing out how, aside from being honest and sincere, it’s a campaign that also needs to “inspire people to follow the steps which could result in people’s lives being saved”. With this in mind, Studio La Plage had very different aims to usual animation-led projects where detail prevails. In this case, if the animation work went unnoticed and the message was the takeaway, they had successfully achieved the brief.

Looking forward, Jack adds that, due to the current climate and the need for social distancing, animation and illustration are likely to play “a more prominent role in the way we communicate, especially when there is a need for fast-turnaround communications that can pack a lot emotion in a single post.” It’s also worth noting that this is an approach the Mayor of London’s office sees the benefit in too, with Jack adding: “It’s great to see such a big public figure trusting that such a sensitive subject could be approached in this way. Hopefully more government teams and public figures will adopt this way of working and celebrating that the medium of illustration and animation can be used as a tool to inform and spread a positive public message.”

GalleryStudio La Plage: Mayor of London

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019, was made deputy editor and in November 2021, she became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.


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