The Creative Reality Check of The Work Project

Landing on a visual identity is never an easy task. Design can be very personal and subjective. When we started The Work Project, there was excitement and optimism that the research and visual identity would be something we’d be proud of. Seven months on; I’m exactly that. It was also challenging. The journey to the visual identity wasn’t straightforward. It was eye-opening, testing, and personally a pretty tough learning experience.

So, where did it start?

Rewind to January, as a team we were briefed to create a visual identity for a people-focused survey and report, led by Home. The research would dive into people’s experiences at work, targeting anyone who’s employed, no matter their industry or global location.

Since the report focused on people and their experiences, a great place to start was by representing them. I love to illustrate, and I was itching to create characters that would be full of quirks, joy, and personality, reflective of people in the real world. So, we created exactly that: a brightly coloured, bold, and expressive visual world full of illustrations and energy. We launched the survey and we felt hugely proud as we shared it across the globe.

The results

Fast forward to April when the results came in, they weren’t as positive as we were hoping. We knew it wouldn’t all be positive, but we didn’t factor in just how many people were experiencing unhealthy work cultures.

Our employee-led global research found that:

1 in 4 people felt discriminated against at work and 83% of them were looking for a new job.

54% of people living with a disability have felt discriminated against at work.

2 out of 10 people feel physically and mentally worse for being at work.

70% of people wouldn’t recommend where they work.

These statistics were tough to swallow, but they were the stark reality of how people experience work today. We couldn’t ignore the fact that our bright and joyful visual identity didn’t represent the results in the way they deserved.

So, it was time for a rethink.

Stop and reflect

It was tough and disheartening, but we knew we had to be led creatively by the data.  After many more weeks of development, we altered the illustration style to a more sympathetic balance of neutral but still joyful. We stripped back how often we used illustrations, and ensured we were always sensitive to the information on the page. We reworked the colour palette, using just a highlight colour to reflect the tone of the results.

A lesson learned

On reflection, we shouldn’t have assumed the positive results would outweigh the negative. And finding the right creative solution took time, with plenty of back and forth over what the right approach should be. But ultimately, I’m proud of the work we’ve created. The data’s powerful and engaging. It will help organisations look inwards and create environments where people feel safe, supported, and accepted. Because that should be everybody’s experience at work. And we clearly still have work to do….