Idea & Notion – Grow

Every month in the journal we’ll tell the story of the thinking, inspiration and ideas behind some of our projects. This month we look at the site we developed for Unicef and Made by ManyGrow.

Made by Many asked if we’d like to be part of a project/experiment they’d developed with Good for Nothing. The project is called 50/50 and the idea was to ask 50 creative/design/digital makers to develop an idea that would help raise funds for Unicef’s famine relief in East Africa. We were asked later than many agencies so had the advantage of seeing what other folks had done and the challenge of having to get something done in a short timescale. The overall ambition for the project is to raise as much money as possible for UNICEF, but also very much as an experiment (or 50 experiments) in the idea of digital fund-raising.

We started by trying to work out what exactly the remit of the project was. We’d talked to the guys at Made by Many about conceiving and building a digital (or real) product that would raise money for charity. We had a look at the other projects on the site and in production. There was a wide range of different approaches from digital sponsorship to our favourite – the twitter swearbox. After sleeping on it we worked out that the core of the project was really to conceive of an interesting and innovative mechanism for encouraging people to donate to the charity. Once we’d worked this out the objective was much clearer. We also outlined a couple of important points, whatever our idea it needed to be easy to explain and understand. The second was that we wanted to focus on a particular audience and build from there.

We brainstormed various ideas and approaches but in the end Grow seemed to work best on the platform we’d outlined. The idea started with us wondering if we could take the parasitic pyramid scheme model [1] and turn it upside down so the money flows towards a good cause. It occurred to us that an upside down pyramid scheme was a lot like a tree and this really chrystalised the idea.

So what grows on trees? Apples, and in this case money too. The idea to use apples as the item that we asked creatives to draw was immediate but also the most debated aspect within the team. We liked that it visualised a growing food source but there was questions over whether the apple was too simple and whether we’d get interesting interpretations. It was inspiration from other sources that really gave us the confidence to go with the simple apple. The book exercises in style [2] by french author raymond queneau contains the exact same simple passage told in 99 different styles. It’s a great illustration of how many ways something can be done and the effect of style on content. This along with visual projects such as Bruno Munari’s faces [3] and Saul Steinberg’s people [4] showed that a lot of mileage can be derived from simple consistent subject matter. It also seemed to us that everybody had drawn an apple at some stage. It seemed like a simple but iconic subject matter [5].

The initial plan was to build the site as a real time illustration of the upside down pyramid scheme, showing the seed apple growing into two and each other subsequent apple splitting into two. The timeline and the fact it was being developed by Bluntworks as a favour meant that as great as this would have been, we shelved the idea for something that we could deliver. Once the plan and direction was agreed, the initial site design came together in an afternoon. We made sure that all relevant information as regards the amount we were raising, and who the contributors were was given prominent space. We also managed to implement a much simpler illustration of the relationship between the apples, so at least part of the initial ambition was salvaged. While designing the site we thought it would be a good idea to add a sort of facebook ‘like’ button so that non contributors could still donate by ‘watering’ their favourite apples with a 5eu donation.

As the website was being developed (fantastic and stress free job as always by bluntworks) we sneakily organised the first 8 contributors so that we’d have at least some apples in the orchard soon after we launched. Since then we’ve been happy to watch as apples from all over start to appear. The project is still open for donations and can be visited here (hint…).

[1] Image of capitalist pyramid scheme

[2] Exercises De Style by Raymond Queneau

[3] Faces series by Bruno Munari

[5] Apple image by Philip Tseng

[5] Apple image by Raymond Biesinger

[5] Yale graphic by Paul Rand