Co-Creating A Visual Identity With Chorlton People – An Interview With Marcela Teran
Last November, we started co-creating a visual identity that would showcase and support the work of Our Streets Chorlton.
We were really pleased to find Marcela Teran, a talented graphic designer with a catalogue of existing work with social and environmental projects to draw from and be inspired by.
Here we get a chance to understand some of the collaborative processes used to help create our ‘look’.
Empowering the community
Marcela designed and ran a series of creative sessions with local people, inviting people to share ideas about what the Our Streets identity should communicate and help shape it. She was determined to ensure the process gave a voice to the local community.
“Instead of me trying to come up with a clever design that would speak to the Chorlton community, I went directly (and virtually) to members of the community the project is trying to serve, so they could be the ones to define what it is that speaks to them.”
The workshops were designed to give space for people to share the different motivations and values that led them to join, their associations with the local area, ideas about what could be better, insights into what would draw people in or put people off from participating in Our Streets, as well as visual references and preferences.
Constraints and flexibility
The approach was effective, as Marcela explains:
“The workshops provided me with a very clear design brief, collectively crafted by the community, that guided the designs. I then produced three design directions based on the insights gathered, and invited participants to give feedback on them. This feedback informed and led the final design.
“I feel really happy with the end result, particularly because it is different from what I think I would have done without the creative workshops and the input from the participants. I hope the playfulness and friendly tone of it will feel inviting and welcoming.”
The process wasn’t without logistical challenges, not least because it was conducted entirely during lockdown.
Marcela believes the constraints the project faced fostered a sense of flexibility.
“Though I was super excited about the co-design process, I must say I was a bit nervous about how creativity would flow in an online setting, with Covid-19 as our bleak backdrop. We were also working within a very tight schedule.
“The community forum really stepped up to this task, they clearly understood and felt the importance of involving the local community in the design process, and did a brilliant job of finding attendees. I was pleased to see people really engaging with the prompts, brainstorms and activities despite the limitations of being online.”
Finally, Marcela detailed the harmony she saw between Our Streets and her own practice.
“The vision, aims and approach of Our Streets really resonated with me. I am passionate about collaboration in design, and projects that have community participation at the heart. I am also interested in initiatives that bridge the artificial gap between environmental and social causes.”
Refining The Logo
One of the outcome slides used by Marcela to explain how we were refining the design options
Two examples I can mention of really valuable perspectives people contributed on the workshops and feedback are: the importance of positive representation of elderly people, such as not always showing them with walking frames; and of carefully attending to tone, language and visuals in air pollution reduction campaigns to ensure that people who rely on cars for mobility do not feel targeted or judged
The sense of flexibility fostered within the project was reflected in the community members who engaged with it.
Marcela was impressed with how resilient and cooperative the workshop attendees were.
“I love it when people across disciplines and interests can rally around a collective vision, even if their entry points, language or motivations may differ. In practical terms it was great to see how they were up for not only supporting the workshops plan we proposed but also helping make it happen. Also, members were willing and able to put their own tastes aside, in order to go with what the community chose as their favourite creative route.”
Despite early reservations, Marcela now sees many advantages to remote community engagement.
“I learnt that it is in fact possible to do community creative workshops online, even when you don’t know who is coming!”
The process also reaffirmed to Marcela the importance and richness of involving a diverse as possible group of people in design processes, as she explains:
“Having a group of people with diverse opinions and experiences helps centre perspectives that otherwise could be sidelined by mainstream views. Two examples I can mention of really valuable perspectives people contributed on the workshops and feedback are: the importance of positive representation of elderly people, such as not always showing them with walking frames; and of carefully attending to tone, language and visuals in air pollution reduction campaigns to ensure that people who rely on cars for mobility do not feel targeted or judged—as well as ensuring that any change being advocated for, actually does lead to more accessibility.”