Australia’s leading online youth mental health service, ReachOut.com, helps young people under 25 overcome life’s obstacles, from the everyday, to the significant. The non–profit organisation delivers practical online tools and actionable information, making it easily accessible for young people to help themselves and their friends. ReachOut.com now attracts over 1.4 million visitors each year to it’s flagship website, by leveraging technology in innovative ways to attract and engage young people.
The design problem
In early 2011, there were a number of issues that warranted moving ahead with a rebrand.
In the decade since ReachOut.com launched, the upward trend on mental health advocacy had seen rise to a number of organisations, services and even brands, dedicated to seeing an improvement in the health and wellbeing of young people. ReachOut.com amongst this landscape was starting to lose it’s relevance, particularly as a voice relevant to youth culture. The design and user interface of the site was also becoming increasingly outdated.
A review of research and survey data identified that only 30% of young people experiencing mental health disorders were currently seeking help. The findings promoted the need for a redesign of the service, to ensure ReachOut.com connected to and engaged more young people, particularly young men. The culture of ReachOut.com has always been to collaborate with young people to create a service that is relevant to them, so, through extensive research and youth participation workshops, ReachOut.com arrived at a new service proposition and target market. The biggest change to ReachOut.com’s brand position, was a move towards focusing on the benefits of doing something positive for your mental health and wellbeing, not the pain, that comes with experiencing a tough time. The workshops concluded with young people requesting ReachOut.com make them feel accepted, confident, hopeful, relieved, motivated and reassured, by providing them with actionable help and advice, so that they could take control and do something positive themselves, about their mental health and wellbeing.
To increase the relevance, reach and impact of the service, ReachOut.com redirected their target audience to reach the 70% of young people that currently were not seeking help. Predominately this is young men, whom face a high degree of stigma towards mental health disorders, followed by young people who may not be experiencing a mental health problem, but could find the service useful for themselves or a friend, at some point. ReachOut.com concluded that to reach these people, the brand should present itself as the persona of a 25 yr old male friend – the casual expert – someone who gives solid advice, but delivers it in a way that is relatable and easy to understand. He lets you take control while promoting positive action.
Visually communicating the new ReachOut.com was in large, a response to the new service proposition – focusing on taking positive, actionable steps that would make the audience feel accepted, confident, hopeful, relieved, motivated and reassured; engaging a new, slightly male skewed audience – whilst helping to remove the stigma associated with mental health disorders; and regaining more credibility within the context of youth culture and the brand’s online presence.
A positive and approachable visual style was explored and developed to communicate the new proposition. Through a mostly bright, uplifting colour palette, complimented by celebratory, spirited typography / graphic elements and a sense of fluid movement in all of the brand’s assets, the identity shifted, from focusing on the negative aspect of a difficult situation to embracing the positivity of taking control.
To connect and engage with young people not seeking help, ReachOut.com also needed to communicate itself as an informative, yet approachable, casual expert – a slightly older mate who reassures you – he knows what you’re going through. Visually representing this persona was achieved by striking a balance between the above positive, approachable visual style and creating authoritative, male–friendly elements. Typefaces were selected to evoke confidence in the information presented and the masculinity of the persona. A shift from bright hues towards slightly more subdued colour hues was done to signify authenticity. Introducing navy and a warmer black to the palette were to convey empathy and knowledge. Gradients were removed as a way of reducing the softer feminine feel of the previous identity.
It was clear to me in reviewing the old identity and researching current trends in youth culture that ReachOut.com needed to modernise the way it visually expressed itself towards young people. The current generation are connected, creating content and communities with like–minded people across the globe – they respond to collaborative engagement with brands that are a creative, genuine and relevant voice. I responded visually by creating brand assets that were contemporary in style – illustrative, hand–made and tangible. Creativity and imaginative delivery were paramount to the brand look and feel appearing authentic and relevant. I wanted the audience to feel as though the elements were a tangible object they could pick up and rearrange – a collaboration of sorts – with the individual: creating a sense of momentum to act.
The rebrand was applied across both online and offline platforms – including an award–nominated website redesigned and developed with the new brand guidelines, by DTDigital.
Since the rebrand, ReachOut.com has seen an increase in unique visitors and engaged users of 27% from the previous year, and their social media channels continue to grow steadily in followers. Almost 50% of the young people that ReachOut.com interact with on social media channels are now young men. 75% of young people who used ReachOut.com reported that it helped them to better understand mental health issues. Nearly half said it helped them to seek professional help.
Case Study — Showreal Films’ latest documentary, My Thai Bride was selected for screening at IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam in November 2011.
Director David Tucker approached me with the need to capture a poster and postcard to attract an audience during IDFA and to hopefully be selected for other high profile festivals into the future.
I was given the trailer and below film synopsis along with David’s brief to help with understanding the film’s tone and themes:
Ted, a 46-year old salesman from Wales, visits Thailand on business. After revelling in the carnal pleasures of Bangkok, he falls in love with Tip, a bar girl. They marry and start a new life in her poor, rural home. Ted soon finds he isn’t alone. In northeast Thailand marriage to foreign men has become an industry. Things soon sour for Ted. His money has disappeared much faster than he expected. No one seems to want him around the farm anymore.
When Ted asks Tip if she loves him, she replies: “I can’t eat or drink your love.” Ted returns home destitute, having learned what his Thai wife already knew: without money you lose everything
A1 Film Poster
My Thai Bride is a documentary film that exposes the human condition. It explores the complexities of human relationships and the consequences when people and relationships are reduced to a commodity.
The observational style follows the story of two people with very legitimate but individual needs, that end up exploiting one another in the process.
On deciding the poster’s imagery, I chose to utilise the symbol of a heart as the motif of the poster – “love” being the backdrop to the film’s story. In my mind the symbolic heart is almost a mockery of the complex, expanding nature of love; suggestive in that the marriage in the film isn’t entirely made of mutual adoration and respect.
In order to reveal the complexities of the film I wanted to show a montage within the heart that accentuated the various sides of their stories. The various imagery reflects on the complications at play.
The torn heart framing the poster is alluding to what we’re all suspecting the story leads to. The teared up pieces, a bittersweet proposal that love was downplayed in a much more complex layering of needs displayed in the various images they hold. It is as if Ted himself is sitting alone in his hotel room, playing, arranging with these pieces, trying to figure out what had changed.
Top of the heart motif – An exchange sign
The finer details…
The exchange sign at the top of the heart is almost like the starting point; exchange of a different life for Ted in Thailand, exchanging money for love and sex, and feelings of youthful abundance. The image of Tip and her daughter mixed in with imagery of Soi Cowboy is a powerful juxtaposition to what’s at stake for her.
The paper effect of the poster looks and feels like it can be picked up and thrown away at any moment. It’s fragility adds to the film’s observation on their relationship.
Thailand – Warm Light
The colour toning I selected sets the scene for Thailand; I think I was influenced here by the film Traffic, where Mexico is always bathed in a warm, tropical light. It reminded me of being bathed in yellow light in Thailand – sunshine on the islands, polluted air in the cities.
Typical Wedding Invitation Typefaces
Finally the typefaces I’ve chosen are intended as a mockery of traditional wedding invitations; they’re full of prestige, hope, reassurance, finality; yet this tale tells something different. It’s real–life messiness and characters facing uncomfortable truths – an intended contrast to the approach of the heart motif.
The poster & postcard were well received by IDFA and I’ve now implemented a website for Showreal Films dedicated to the film that you can view here.
My Thai Bride has since been selected for several high profile documentary film festivals including Australia’s F4 Festival, where it was a finalist in the 2012 F4 Award, and Canada’s Hot Docs – one of the most prestigious documentary festivals in the world, where it won Best Mid–Length Documentary for 2012.
My Thai Bride – Postcard