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How We Designed It.

  |  Branding & Design Strategy  |  Doug Sovonick

Deskey has been working hard on the branding work for Hamilton County’s major infant mortality initiative, Cradle Cincinnati. Although our part is just a small one, we thought it would be interesting to give people a glimpse of how we put this campaign together. This is part of a series of four articles that discusses how we named it, how we discovered our strategy, how we designed it, and how we got started in the first place.

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One day, I was the only guy in a room crowded with pregnant women, and I said to myself, “There’s just no way.”

Here’s what I mean. Cradle Cincinnati is a countywide effort to help reduce infant mortality in Cincinnati, and it’s one of the most important health initiatives they’ve ever attempted. Infant mortality is a big problem here, far more than most of the rest of the country, and any attempt to help keep more babies more healthy is a good thing.

But back to me, because I was the only guy in a room full of pregnant women. My name is Doug Sovonick, and I am the chief creative officer at Deskey. We were doing some in-depth learning for Cradle Cincinnati, trying to see what spoke to them. In talking to these women about their backgrounds and histories, their challenges and their successes, I realized something that made me think.

There is no one reason for this problem. In fact, there are probably as many reasons as there are babies affected by it.

I’m a designer. I like nothing more than designing something that’s easy to understand, that forms a personal connection, and that says something real. That’s one of the marks of good design: universality. If you don’t understand it, the design isn’t doing its work. But how do you make a universal design for a problem that literally has a thousand different causes?

I’ve worked on baby brands and mom brands, and I know how to cut through the clutter, but most of the time I’m working with a defined strategy with clear goals and a tight target. Here, we needed to communicate to everyone, from expectant mothers to caregivers to city managers to corporate leaders – and everyone in between.

So my first thought: “There’s just no way.”

And my second: “Time to get to work.”

We tried a lot of directions. Many pixels died to bring you this logo. In the end, we decided to try a logo as simple and literal as we could craft, while leaving room for all of the possible reasons you might turn to this initiative in the first place.

The final result is our name being softly cradled in the universal sign for “comfort” — with a star perched above it. The star is what my eye keeps coming back to. It symbolizes something to reach for. The aspiration and hope that comes with every new life coming into the world. The opportunity to dream a little, no matter who you are and where you come from.

So I was wrong. There was a way, it turns out. It’s simple, it’s personal, and it’s true.

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How We Named It.

  |  Branding & Design Strategy  |  Craig Motlong

Deskey has been working hard on the branding work for Hamilton County’s major infant mortality initiative, Cradle Cincinnati. Although our part is just a small one, we thought it would be interesting to give people a glimpse of how we put this campaign together. This is part of a series of four articles that discusses how we named it, how we discovered our strategy, how we designed it, and how we got started in the first place.

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Cradle Cincinnati,” a countywide movement to support expectant mothers, recently announced their strategic plan. After launching the program last fall, this is a watershed moment in the battle to keep babies and their mothers safe and healthy, involving all of our healthcare institutions, government, and people like you and me. You’re going to read a lot about how this is going to change Cincinnati for the better, giving our growing families the tools they need to thrive.

But I’m not going to talk about that, because there are others more eloquent and informed. No, I’m going to talk about the one thing I am qualified to talk about: how we gave it a name.

First of all, let me introduce myself. I’m Craig Motlong, director of copy and strategy at Deskey. We had nothing to do with the inception of this idea, which originated in Commissioner Todd Portune’s office with Ryan Adcock helping steer. They, along with Dr. Jim Greenberg (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital) and Dr. Elizabeth Kelly (University Hospital), worked hard to bring together the brightest and most passionate minds in Cincinnati to help tackle this huge problem.

Deskey came in when our vice president of client services, Chris Rowland, recognized that a movement this big needed something to hold onto. This is not the first time Cincinnati has tried to tackle its infant mortality scandal. It’s estimated that almost $100 million has been spent over the last 10 years to reduce infant deaths, with no effect. Cincinnati’s infant mortality rate for the last five years is still double that of the US average. Other services like this around the country have names like Jasper County Program to Identify and Support Expectant Mothers or something like that, which I mean try saying JCPISEM. That’s hard to remember, put your arms around, or even understand.

We’ve been around long enough that we know how to give something, even something as monumental and revolutionary as a new way to save babies, an identity. In fact, we recognized that this was the best way we could help this program succeed. So with our strategic partners, we dug in and uncovered ways to approach it.

My job was the easiest. I got some amazing information from our strategy consultant, some incredible insights from Todd Portune’s office, and the daunting task of finding new words to say “infant mortality” that were hopeful, supportive, and inclusive.

Spoiler alert: we did, I think. But it wasn’t easy. I spent a long time exploring language that was functional, but not inspiring: Families United. Embrace Our Future. Stuff that was kind of okay, but vague: The Healthy Baby Cooperative. Fresh Beginnings. Stuff that was frankly embarrassing, and oh my gosh I’m so glad I looked at it again: NowBorns. None of it was really the kind of thing we wanted.

We have a thing here at Deskey that sometimes sounds like a cliche, but it works. It’s our belief that what we say to the world should be simple, personal, and true. So when it was around midnight some night before we were supposed to go back and present this, I reached into my personal life a little, and found something true.

A couple of years ago, my twin sons were born prematurely. Scariest time of my life. One of my clearest memories was wanting to hold them, and protect them, and do the things that dads were supposed to do. But they were like two pounds, and encased in an isolating plastic chamber that was the only thing keeping them alive. I couldn’t touch them for six weeks. All I wanted to do was hold them. Hug them. Cradle them.

Cradle them.

Huh.

So we found it, I think. Like I said, it wasn’t easy. But it’s what we all want Cincinnati to do. Somewhere out there, there’s a mom who’s about to have a baby. We would like her to be able to do what we all take for granted, which is hold that baby for the rest of her life.

Not all of our brands rely on something so personal. But no matter whether we’re talking about world peace or coffee filters, when you find something that rings a bell in your life, it’s going to resonate with others. When you find it, if it makes you laugh or cry or smile or nod, you make it your own, and see if others follow.