With an eye for detail, a way with words and a mean red pen, Jo has worked on creative campaigns for our key clients for almost 20 years.

A meeting of minds

Sep 21st, 2016

We all know at least one person who’s been affected by mental health issues. Scratch that—it’s rare to know only one.

According to the BBC, it’s estimated that one in three people in Scotland are affected by a mental health problem each year. It could be panic attacks, or daily social anxiety. It could be crippling depression, bipolar disorder, or a thousand other conditions. It could happen to a friend, or a sibling; a parent or a partner. It could happen to you, or me.

I used to live with a long-term partner who suffered from clinical depression, and I’ve had my own issues to deal with too. I have a friend who is one of the strongest people I know, yet often struggles with mental ill health. One of our MDs, Jackie, has friends who’ve experienced their own challenges. It’s a topic that’s close to our hearts.

Everyone’s experience is different, but the one common element is how hard it can be to talk about. Mental ill health is too often the best kept secret—people still feel ashamed, like it’s their fault and somehow it indicates weakness.

Which is why the work carried out by the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival is so wonderful. Now in their tenth year, they’ve made profound inroads into raising awareness and tackling stigma about mental health issues in Scotland. With annual attendances of over 25,000, this year sees more than 300 events running across the country, including film, performing and visual arts, literature and music.

And that, in turn, is why we were so delighted and honoured when Gail Aldam, Festival Manager, approached us to design their programme and collateral this year. Jackie originally met Gail when we named SMHAFF our beneficiary charity for funds raised through our 25th birthday celebrations last year.

I had the pleasure of taking creative lead on the project, and after a lot of hard work along with the other designers in the team, and one of our account directors, Claire, we’re really proud of the results.

The theme for the festival’s tenth year is – rather fittingly – ‘time’, and Gail’s brief was very clear—this should be a celebration, and presented as modern and fresh.

So I got to thinking about neuroimaging, and how parts of the brain light up with different emotions. And I thought about how ink flows, and the colours merge, and that it can look almost biological. We also wanted to create visual layers, so we introduced an abstract scaleable clock face, and a running angled timeline breaking out of its own bounds in places.

And then for the part in which I take particular geeky designer delight: the typography. We knew that with a programme chock full of content, the typesetting would need to be really tight. Style sheets to the max; nested styles, GREP* styles; the lot. It’s almost like coding for print. It took a lot of painstaking working out, but I was in my InDesign heaven. Yup, that’s my bag.

The programme is obviously the main component of the campaign, but it’s also been really satisfying to see the creative rolled out to supporting materials as well—Andrew developed a very cool festival trailer, and we’ve also produced flyers, posters, pull-up banners, and more. I love it when a plan comes together.

The Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival 2016 runs 10–31 October.

 *Global (search) Regular Expression Print. No I know; it doesn’t make sense to me either. It’s all beautifully technical.

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