Representing employees of the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Public Libraries, The Telus World of Science, EPCOR and Capital Power, CSU 52 recently issued a request for proposals for design and development of a new website. Our response to that RFP diverged from the scope of work that it outlined.
Rather than diving into sitemapping, our response to the RFP laid out a process of consultation with their members designed to begin the kind of dialogue that is necessary if they are to meaningfully evolve to better serve their membership.
We started with a member engagement process, designed to begin the meaningful dialogue with their members. We drew on our experience in stakeholder consultation and brand communication to design a process that would set the stage for this organization to evolve.
We believe that they hired us because we pushed hard on “why”. We worked with them to understand what was lacking and what they could do to get where they wanted to get to. We didn’t simply design a website - we needed to help them learn about, build and strengthen the relationships they had with their audiences.
We conducted a series of workshops focus groups and member consultations with and for them, and we developed a new identity system. We completed a web strategy and web design, and developed their new online presence.
Steeped in the skateboard and punk scene of 80’s and 90’s, Aaron’s career started with a revelation: that he was better at capturing the moment than creating it. Realizing early that he’d never land an inverted heelflip, he started exploring photography by documenting his community.
His curiosity and the opportunity to uncover truths about his clients and subjects drive his photography and film. He has shot people like Romeo Dallaire, Henry Rollins, Elvis Costello and Cadence Weapon, and his work has appeared in publications like The Guardian, British Vogue and Observer Music Monthly.
We work with Aaron a lot, and when he came to us to talk about re-exploring his brand, he wanted to focus more on opportunities that allow for creative collaboration with the client, or to make the project more his own through strong artistic direction. He wants to be known for the way his work brings out the character and personality of the subject.
We designed a new identity and system that creates a collaboration between the foreground and the background, between the photographer and his subject. Our identity system is modular, and allows Aaron to use the elements of the identity to highlight truths in the work - just like he does every day for his clients and collaborators. His job isn’t to create the truth, but to bring it forward, and the identity we developed for him does the same.
Research showed that our audience seeks a sense of community, and that they do lots of research. So, ads needed to create a more emotional connection - not list details. And, as warm memories of home are developed early we invited people to rediscover the joy of youth in some of our most “neighborly” communities.
In the first month that these hit the street, direct traffic to the Brookfield site more than doubled. And - as this is an annual campaign, we decided to check ourselves against previous years. The year-on-year ROI increased by 25% - and the only change was that Berlin developed the creative.
Our client was enthusiastic about the work - here’s a quote that she provided for us afterwards:
“Simply said, Michael and the team at Berlin are creative geniuses and it all starts with the time they take to get to know your business, the consumer and the market. Their remarkable level of service and unique creative solutions can only be described as ‘elite’ within the industry. If you’re looking for smart, compelling communication that engages your consumers, you should be talking to Berlin.”
Establishing the model for a Canadian pub, Hudsons burst onto the bar scene in western Canada a decade ago. Since then, many copycats have waded into the new “canadian pub” market.
In late 2013, Hudsons hired Berlin to be its agency, developing the brand strategies for its 10 locations. Our first campaign was built to distinguish Hudsons from all the other “cheap drinks!” campaigns favored by other bars and pubs. Our creative defined the Canadian pub culture through the proprietors of more stereotypical pub cultures. Though it's sometimes hard to articulate, there is a model for the Canadian pub - and it's embodied in the party you find at any Hudsons. Sometimes it’s hard to see how unique we are, and as Canadians, we are particularly reticent to draw a hard line, or to vocally assert our uniqueness - so, we let others speak for us.
Believe it or not, dorms help disease spread. One of the challenges facing The University of Alberta’s Wellness Services group was managing and preventing the kind of outbreaks that tend to happen when students live in very close quarters. Shared “facilities” and other aspects of residence spread illness more quickly and broadly than in other communities - whether it’s the weird cold your roommate brought back from their trip or just the annual assault of the flu.
And - you’ll also probably not be surprised that self-reporting of illness - the lynchpin of efforts to control the spread of illness - is uncomfortable for many people.
Our job was to create a concept and materials that hurdled those challenges - a concept that would speak to the students in their visual language, and take the stigma out of self-reporting. Our “protect the herd” call to action has become a rally cry.
River Valley Health was one of our first clients. We’ve had the pleasure of working with them for years.
As an integrated injury recovery and performance centre, RVH has helped Edmonton athletes find their potential for years. One of the most highly regarded group of experts in Western Canada, they work with olympic athletes, internationally-ranked boxers and fighters and professional soccer, football and hockey players.
In all those years, they have developed an integrated system that helps those athletes win. It is a system that works. Our role on this project was to articulate, communicate and create a brand around this unique system.
This sub-brand proved the broader RVH Brand promise: we are all athletes. Our job was to help the world understand it.
The name, identity and other materials were designed to communicate the unique, methodical system, and get people excited about it. The design of the Red Pyramid in Egypt inspired the “43 22” name. Built at a rise of 43 22, it was the first smooth sided pyramid to stand - others, built at other angles, didn’t survive. It was the perfect balance of foundation and elevation that made this one strong. And, that’s what makes the RVH system different.
“No more crap!”
It has been a few years since former mayor Stephen Mandel famously cried out for beautifully-designed buildings in downtown Edmonton. Since then, Edmonton’s downtown skyline has indeed improved and has drawn investment from out-of-city developers. Brad Lamb, Toronto’s Condo King, announced his entry into the Edmonton market in 2014 to build on his international success.
We were hired to help access the Edmonton market with the exciting news of Jasper House, Lamb’s first foray in Edmonton. The first press release over the summer led to coverage on the front page of the Edmonton Journal, on Global Edmonton TV, on 630Ched, in Metro Edmonton, and in the Edmonton Sun.
In the fall, we organized a party to introduce Brad to Edmonton. With over 200 guests on a night that it was pouring rain, local influencers, dignitaries like the current Mayor of Edmonton, and supporters of gorgeous architecture came out for a memorable evening.
While Lamb was in town, we set up a series of back-to-back interviews during his brief stay in Edmonton. These led to coverage again in the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Sun and 630Ched, but also on CTV news. Not only that, but he interviewed for future features in widely-read publications, like Avenue Magazine.
The party was strategically scheduled to occur a week before the sales centre was set to open. There was so much buzz in town that Jasper House condo units were more than one-third sold out in the first five days of the sales centre opening - already enough to secure the financing for the 36-storey condo tower. Lamb Development Corp quickly confirmed plans for Brad’s next development in Edmonton: North.
As an agency, we’re used to creating campaigns for other people. Often our work exists for a short window of time, intended to make an impact and then fade into the background to make room for the next campaign. A creative project born out of a desire to experiment with our knowledge of consumers and clients, the Berlin Desk was designed in partnership with industrial design graduate Jaymes Barone and produced in partnership with Oliver Apt. Its design balances aesthetic simplicity with the hard-working functionality of an agency desk.
About 16 months ago, Berlin’s Creative Director wondered: what if an ad agency could apply its understanding of the consumer to more than advertising? What if that agency was able to direct product development too? The Berlin desk is an experiment, conceived while reading Bruce Mau, refined in an Industrial Design context and now entering the traditional purview of the ad agency.
Months of research into the use of desk space in agencies, more months experimenting with solutions, and days debating how creatives might share needs with account folks have resulted in a desk that is simple, compact and uniquely useful.
With features that bridge a historical account-creative divide, and that are useful both for small, boutique shops and the giants that need to find a way to fit 100 desks in a room, this is, aesthetically and functionally, the best desk on the market for creative professionals.
Independent, Confident and Innovative. This is a region where businesses are focused on getting stuff done. This is not a group of soft or tentative people. This region has a history of risk taking, innovation and industry. There is a sense that anything is possible here, and that “getting ‘er done” is more important than ironing your suit. Here, you’re judged by your actions, not your tie.
Berlin was hired to create a new look, feel and platform for this unique brand.
Massive cuts & a quietly passionate audience. Our job was to help individual Albertans make some noise & apply pressure in the right places.
In Alberta, 98% of parents hope their kids will complete post-secondary. Our concept grew from a simple and clear idea: that Alberta universities support everything. We built a simple and clean public facing campaign, launched the program at a news conference (that included a 11 foot tall Jenga tower) and built animated online ads and tools that helped Albertans easily and clearly communicate with MLAs. We structured this initiative to ensure that pressure on the minister [who seemed immune to public pressure alone] would come from his fellow MLAs. The Premier, the Minister and other MLAs received hundreds of letters from their constituents – all delivered through our campaign site.
And – weeks after our campaign, the Government announced that they would begin to repair the damage, starting with a $50 million re-investment. Gentle, firm and clearly expressed, this campaign is one we’re all proud of.
The Edmonton Literacy Coalition wanted to see more government support for adult literacy programming, and were looking for a way to make the need relevant. In our research we uncovered a shocking statistic: 40% of adult Albertans don’t read at a “working” level.
We developed an ad campaign that aimed at showing the other 60% (the adult Albertans who read well) what daily life is like for the other 40%. Our campaign integrated targeted public relations, a media event and public-facing advertising. Collectively, the work was designed to create constituency for the issue and bring it closer to the top of the list for policy-makers.
Our campaign ran in different print mediums in the Edmonton market, and won us two ACE Awards from the Advertising Club of Edmonton, as well as recognition on international advertising resource - Ads Of The World.
More importantly though, once the campaign was in market our client was invited to meet with the Mayor of Edmonton to talk about how to move the needle on this issue at the municipal and provincial levels of government.
Residence Services (Res Services) cares for and manages all resident living at the University of Alberta, including student placement, support services and anything else that a visitor may require during their time at a U of A residence. They came to us for two things - to design an experience for people entering the Lister residence towers (their largest residences) and to create a new approach to the materials that they use to communicate with their many audiences.
So, we were responsible for presenting a vision for the residence experience, and then shaping their first experience with the experience.
We rebuilt the tools that they send all over the world, the tools that paint a picture of life in U of A residences. We separated information and images to evoke the feelings and sensations. Though it was a print piece, we designed it to allow feelers to feel or thinkers to think - we crafted it in a manner that allowed the viewer to experience it in the particular balance of information and visuals perfect for them.
We also transformed tunnels that were, at best, institutional into something that draws residents into their new home. Every day, students pass through these tunnels when they travel from their room to eat, to class or to meet friends, and the tunnels had become outdated - at times very inappropriate - and you can imagine the impression that a sexualized Batman or a mural extolling the fun of over-drinking left with parents dropping their kids off at their first living space outside the family home... Our solution: a combination of vinyl and painted anamorphic paintings gives each student a unique experience as they pass into the towers. And the tunnels are now a bright, positive University environment. Creative enough to feel fitting in the innovative University of Alberta.
The University of Alberta works hard to recruit students in over a hundred places around the world every year. The University’s quality has earned it a place in the rankings of universities worldwide, but more than that is needed to bring students here. When considering universities, these international students, parents and families collect viewbooks from a variety of schools and make a considered decision.
The viewbook is the centrepiece of recruitment efforts around the world, and this year, Berlin was hired to redesign it - from the ground up.
Our strategy rested in the fact that, rankings aside, the U of A still needs to convince students to travel half way around the world to a city where winters are (for them) unimaginably cold and unfamiliar. They need to find a way for those students to reframe that experience. Rather than a frightening obstacle, we reframed that experience as a adventure - as an experience that will help them find “excellence through exploration”. The U of A offers all the elements anyone would need for life-changing exploration: outdoor adventures, exceptional research supports and opportunities and a diversity of compatriots to learn from.
The client and their internal clients were excited to share the piece with students around the world, and we love imagining it on family tables around the world.
How could one little card require 6 plates?
It’s great to be able to use one’s own self-promotion material to play with the craft. In this case, Rian’s design was broken into layers, and each was hand printed for us by our friends at Fort Heavy.
The back of the card is printed blind (no ink) then white, then black then gold - in four distinct processes. The front of the card (actually a different sheet) is printed once with gold ink and once in black. The two sheets are then glued together and cut - and THEN the edges are painted (2 or 3 coats) with gold paint.
The result is an elegant, strong, intricately creative and easy to understand card. Perfectly balanced, like our approach.
The visual identity system for the Make Something Edmonton initiative had to be accessible, flexible, and above all “not the typical saccharine city branding you see all over the place. So, we set out to create a system that others could repurpose. We decided that our design needed to ask people to imagine what they are or could be making. The design needed to be something that they could could use to celebrate that.
The primary identity is a reference to the High Level Bridge, one of Edmonton’s most shared and recognizable built structures. The “YEG Head” secondary identity visually references the primary identity. And – in all this, we invited Edmontonians to ask “what tool would my YEG Head be holding”.
We created 3 dimensional YEG Heads on a 3D printer, and introduced them to the world at the same event that the whole Make Something concept was officially launched. Whether 8 inches or 3 feet tall, the YEG Heads ended up in more pictures that night than the evening’s hosts.