Case study by Sheila
In 2015-2016, we worked with a brilliant team of LGBTQ youth at Sherbourne Health Centre’s Supporting Our Youth (SOY) program to co-creatively design the rebrand of SOY. Over the course of nine months, I facilitated a series of co-creation workshops that guided the team through the design process while building their capacity to critically and collaboratively express their creativity and wisdom as LGBTQ youth.
Workshop 1 was dedicated to establishing safer spaces and having participants get to know one another. SOY and The Public are both committed to creating safer spaces, so this felt like the most natural way to get things started. SOY has an existing respect agreement, so we used our time together to make sure we all share an understanding of what that respect agreement means to each of us, and to making collective decisions around what else to add.
In the second workshop, we decided on a name for our group. One thing I thought about a lot was the idea of ownership in this process. As designers, we generally separate moral rights and usage rights. We retain the moral rights to the work—and our client holds onto the usage.
In this case, we wanted the process to be sincere and meaningful to the youth involved. And a way of doing that was to share the moral rights of the work produced with them. Rather than the work being credited to me, Sheila, or to The Public, with support from a group of unnamed youth, we decided to join together to form a new group. The youth came up with a bunch of names and eventually decided on SOY BEAN CO.
We also started to do a bit of briefing. We started as a warm up, but over the course of the workshop, we covered an explanation of what a creative brief is, how it works, what t entails. In small groups, youth developed their own creative brief, and together, we synthesized them to create one cohesive document.
Between this session and the next, I took that brief to the staff at SOY and engaged in a similar process with them, but with the youth brief as a backgrounder. This was an opportunity for staff to add anything that youth might have missed.
What was interesting about the process was that youth saw things in the organization that staff didn’t. That being said, staff had a lot to offer in terms of longer-term visioning of the space, and things like a commitment to incorporating a decolonial analysis into their work—things that happen behind the scenes that youth wouldn’t have known about.
I edited and added to the brief, (there were no conflicts), and brought it back to youth for further work.
That same week, I also set up a Tumblr account for the youth—this would be an opportunity for them to write about the process from their own point of view. This was a way of making things transparent to the community and to making sure that youth had ownership not only over the product and the process, but also the narrative that surrounds it.
The next week, we were back, and we moved into the research phase of the project. We parsed through the survey results and we also started to do a visual scan—finding logos and websites of other organizations with similar objectives and audiences as our own brief. Through the process of picking organizations and reverse-engineering the brief, groups gave presentations around what they thought worked and didn’t work with what’s already out there.
Between this workshop and the next, The Public created a research document with their findings and added our own research to inform the process moving forward.
Informed by the brief and the research, we then re-grouped and did a series of really short exercises to get warmed-up for ideation. We mind-mapped collaboratively, with each person working on each of the mind-maps we built. From there, we started synthesizing these ideas into logo concepts.
Over the course of the week, we took them back to the studio and cleaned them up and digitized them for further development next week.
When we met again, we had digitized versions of their drawings ready for discussion, we pared down some of the ideas, refined them further and started writing rationales for each of the selected ideas. I broke down the three components of a rationale and youth broke into groups and wrote them for each of the three selected ideas.
The next week, I returned with the outline of a community presentation. This presentation was an open meeting to all staff, and community members, and an opportunity for us to present our process to-date. We put up a print-out of the presentation on the wall, and collaboratively edited it and divided up the speaking parts.
The SOY admin coordinator planned an open community event for the week after. They had advertised it across the SOY mailing lists, in each of the youth groups, and in listservs of service providers and community organizations across the city. We had no idea how many people would attend, and we were nervous!
The next week brought the community launch with over 70 people in attendance. The youth presented their process, week-by-week, and three ideas for logo concepts, each with a rationale accompanying it. We opened the floor to general discussion and feedback, and then handed out ballots to let people vote on one side, and provide us with feedback on the other. We counted ballots… and eventually decided on a winning concept!
By the next session I had typed up all of the feedback from the back of the ballots and brought it to the group for next steps. We went back to the rationale for the selected idea, and worked at both modifying the visual representation we had already presented (by tracing over and altering the original), and coming up with new visual representations that spoke to the same rationale.
Over the next few sessions, those sketches were synthesized and brought back to the youth for revisions or approval. We moved forward on collectively writing taglines and designing the website, and planning the launch event to present the work back to the community.
And finally, it was time for the launch event. The event included a community fair where other organizations can set up tables. There was also a taco bar, and a wall set up where people could add their answer to the question we all started with in this process, “What do you think of when you think of SOY?” We revealed the logo, did a walk through of the website...
... and of course, enjoyed some cake!