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Step 4: Experiment… iterate… implement

This stage was the time for trying out ideas, adapting them in response to feedback, implementing any that needed to happen first for practical reasons, and prioritising other ideas for subsequent implementation.

Reality check

Because the Wellbeing Trail project is centred around an event, there are a number of practical and logistical requirements. One of the main issues is timing. Custom manufactured items such as promotional vinyl banners, event signage and T-shirts usually take 2-3 weeks to produce, so they needed to be done first. Print or web advertisements also had to be created very early on, to raise awareness of the event and encourage people to save the date in their diary.

Another issue is resources – financial and human. The budget is limited, so has to be spent carefully. Ideas were assessed to analyse value of outcome versus cost of implementation. As a community project, the limited availability of volunteers is an important consideration, and any ideas had to be achievable within the timescales because the end deadline (20th October, the event day) couldn’t move.

The ideas were grouped into two categories:

  1. Must-haves: ideas that were deemed necessary for the event to be a success, feasible to implement, and likely to engage or delight various stakeholders. These included practical items such as web banners, signage, adverts, T-shirts and trail guide, plus quirkier ideas like passport-style stamps, humorous ‘teaser’ posters and ‘selfie’ photo frames.
  2. Nice-to-haves: ideas that would really enhance the Wellbeing Trail experience and could be implemented if resources could be found. My Samford Commons client asked other stakeholders – contacts within the participating trail organisations – whether they may be able to help out, and some of the ideas were taken forward in this way. These ideas included the pledge board, chocolate wheel spinner, roving trail guides and others. In some cases the ideas evolved into something slightly different as a result of who was implementing it, which is a natural part of the process on community projects.

Prototyping concepts

Because of the need to produce items with a long lead time first, the design work did not necessarily happen in an ideal order. The branding and concepts evolved organically, rather than being strategised, prototyped, defined in detail, and implemented.

There was very little time to test ideas with users to measure effectiveness. For community projects, due to the many stakeholders involved it is not possible (or advisable) to involve everyone in decisions about everything. Nothing would ever get done that way, and individuals can feel disenfranchised if their specific feedback isn’t acted on. My client was well in tune with stakeholder needs and expectations, so he was able to communicate their feedback and make prompt decisions.

The project evolved by building on feedback or learning points from the first items produced, which effectively became prototypes for the next piece of work, and so on.

Meanwhile the Wellbeing Trail itself was evolving. New sponsors and participants were added while I was working the project, which meant revising items to include extra sponsor logos, adding points on the trail map, or producing new posters or advertisements in response to stakeholder requests and feedback.

Getting consensus on colour

One design aspect we decided very early on in consultation with trail business providers was the core colour of the Wellbeing Trail branding. Lime green was suggested as the only colour that is not strongly associated with any local team or association, therefore could be seen as relatively neutral for a community project. It didn’t hurt that green is the colour the Council uses for signage, which means the Wellbeing Trail signage would benefit from looking more official (the Council is one of the project sponsors).

Attracting peoples’ interest

For this project the first item produced was a ‘teaser’ advertisement for the local Village Pump newspaper. This was a very simple idea designed to get attention, promote the date, provide basic info and suggest the type of activities on offer in the Wellbeing Trail. Showing the logos of the sponsors reinforced credibility as well as providing PR value to the sponsors, which is an expected part of the arrangement with them. This and subsequent adverts went through a couple of iterations as more sponsors were signed up, so their logos needed to be included.

advertisement image
First ‘teaser’ ad in the Village Pump a few weeks before the event

More promotions

After the first advert was designed, a sponsor requested a set of web banners of varying sizes to promote the event, plus text and images to go on a Wellbeing Trail event page in a regional community website, as well as on the Samford Commons website. The design of the web banners built on the visual imagery used in the first Village Pump advertisement, but the brand evolved to include more colour and a few bigger, more recognisable images. I researched images in Adobe Stock and created a pool of images that could be used for Wellbeing Trail promotions. Some banners focused more on the picnic, others on the trail.

Logo and branding

A number of items had now been produced without any formal ‘branding’ process. The Wellbeing Trail needed to be branded in a way that would aid recognition and provide positive connotations with organisations linked to it, as well as appealing to trail users.

Because Samford Commons was the ‘parent’ brand, I decided to use the dots from the Samford Commons logo to create a sense of connection, but use them in a way that suggested a walking trail (on maps, trails are often indicated by dotted lines). I had already used this visual device in some of the ads and banners. For the wordmark, I chose a rounded rectangle with horizontal text to echo the shape of a sign (as at a train station).

To get stakeholder feedback on the branding I created two versions: one with a circle (vaguely reminiscent of the London tube signs) and one with an arrow (shaped a little like a letter S for Samford). I presented these options on a T-shirt, as a prototype for the brand. Both were well received and the version with the arrow was chosen as the preferred option.

Tshirt mock-ups
Branding variations shown to stakeholders. The arrow version on the left was chosen.

Signage designs

Once the branding approach was agreed, I produced some signage. The original dotted line concept evolved into a dotted trail with arrows, sometimes keeping the ‘S’ for Samford, other times winding around to suggest a longer trail or add a sense of movement.

Testing the trail guide brochure format

Mock-up brochure
Mock-up brochure for wellbeing trail

I created a couple of quick paper prototypes to test the best size and folding method for the trail guide. This involved considering practical issues like production cost, as well as thinking about how people participating in the trail would use the guide. Together with key stakeholders we decided the original prototype trail guide that was produced to get stakeholder buy-in should not be the final format for the guide. I wrote a brief for myself, to help decide the best format.

The guide needs to be:

  • suitable for people to carry around on the trail, preferably pocket size
  • easy to unfold/re-fold
  • big enough to hold a clearly legible map and 1-2 paragraphs about each stop on the trail
  • include space for passport-style stamps (each stop on the trail can be stamped when people visit it)
  • display branding of the Wellbeing trail and include sponsor logos
  • cheap to print, with minimal post-production (eg binding or laminating)

Designing the trail guide

After determining the best format by trying this with a few people (just friends and family who represented target trail users) I was able to start designing the trail guide. Another aspect to weave into the design was one of the ideas that came out of the brainstorm – the concept of a passport that could be stamped at points along the trail. So the guide could be roughly the size of a passport and include space for stamps.

Here is the final layout for the trail guide (map, guidance and passport):

trail guide map
Above: the Wellbeing Trail map, including a key to trail stops and transport icons
trail guide layout
The information side of the trail guide with passport. The front cover is upside down, to be right way up when folded

Prototyping the guide again

I printed it out to check how it looked when folded before showing to others, and luckily I did, because I discovered one of the panels (the passport) was upside-down:

trail guide mockup photo
Printed mock-ups. The first one (on the right) had the passport panel upside down

I fixed the panel, and made another quick video to show others how it folds. This is important because the guide is probably going to be printed and folded by volunteers rather than by a professional printer. Unfortunately my own prints look stripy due to an issue with my inkjet printer, so i won’t be printing the final version!

Next > Step 5: Integrate, Communicate, Evolve

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Step 3: Ideate to innovate
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