Speaking up about microagresssions

Developing an engagement campaign that could address behaviors and raise concerns at the BBC.

Campaign, Branding
Project year

About this project

Having previously delivered a campaign encouraging employees to 'Speak Up' as a response to a high-profile public inquiry on workplace abuse - the BBC wanted to shift the tone and develop a second campaign that addressed expected behaviors and encouraged self-reflection.

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Above: Quick thumbnail sketches produced during a brainstorming session.
Above: Mock-up designs for employee activation experience. An immersive wall-to-wall digital cube visitors could interact with and experience the 'Pixel perfect resolution'.

So what's the real issue?

It's pretty difficult for anybody to accept that something they may have said, or done, may offend another, particularly in the workplace. It's even more so when someone is also steadfast in their opinions and willing to go through formal proceedings. Unfortunately, these cases often take a long time before resolution, which has a knock-on effect for others - effectively creating traffic jams of complaints and frustrating everyone.

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Above: User personas derived from employee interviews and onsite observations.
Above: Userflow diagram for Rolls-Royce web app.
Top: The original @work Intranet interface design.
Above: Design charette from user workshop illustrating desired product feature.
Above: Brand creative reconfigured for large-format installation at Sky's Osterley HQ.

Design challenges

Be Inclusive

I'd be developing a campaign for all 20k + employees, accounting for anyone aged 20-60+—anything from a recent graduate to senior citizens.

Make it stand out

Theirs a lot of 'visual-noise' in and about the BBC offices with it being a multidisciplinary public broadcaster. So to capture attention, any idea needed a nonconventional approach that a wide array of audiences could also interpret.


Discrimination isn't an issue contained just to any particular place; it is omnipresent. We all have unconscious biases, and here I'd need to confront my own. I needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and recognize my experiences won't represent others lived experiences.

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Above: Framework diagram for content page templates.
Above: Examples of desktop and mobile wireframes produced during development.
Above: (Top) User flow developed to maintain consistency framework across each game. (Bottom) Our in-house Sky Sports design system
Above: User flow diagram detailing the content requirements for the overall application. Below: Task flow based on an activity requirement for a user persona.
Above: Examples of early creative routes pitched to the client.
Above: Sky HQ entranceway dressed and experiential pop-ups installed, ready for launch day.

Creative role

I was responsible for everything on the creative side - research, ideation, campaign messaging, and campaign assets (print and digital).

Timescales from research to delivery were short, with just a month to have a campaign in place and ready for rollout.

It was clear from the outset that despite the short lead time, I'd need to allocate a large part of my time to research and understand the existing process the BBC employed for handling such issues.

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Above: Prior to launch large crowds gathered in front of our countdown timer (left), teaser graphic on reception tower digital screens (right).
Top: Wireframes using the page framework to test its flexibility for multiple use cases.
Bottom: Comparison between the existing project page template and the new design using our page framework.
Above: (Top) Game screens for Formula 1® interface. (Bottom) Track illustrations for each European Grand Prix.
Above: Early set of creative ideas using messaging discovered during my research.
Above: The services page served as the homepage. Users could browse service options and sort by engine types, before selecting to learn more.

While researching the reported issues, a pattern appeared; many had escalated from microaggressions - comments that may appear to one throw-away, even complimentary yet offensive to the recipient or others. There was something in this; if we could raise awareness of issues early on and encourage people to be more self-aware, then perhaps we could reduce the number of problems further down the line.

Early iterations and mood boards drew on various styles. Still, words were at the forefront of any conflict, and it made sense to take a direct typographic approach to achieve the desired cut-through. For these explorations, I used statements from my research to create binary compositions demonstrating the conflict between intention and interpretation. These encouraged readers to consider how a comment may be interpreted differently, however innocuous its original intent.

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Above: Two employees pose for a photo opportunity inside the 'Pixel Perfect' cube installation (left), employees enter the launch experience through the digital doors (right)
Above: Selection of user interface and game screens for The Hundred.
Above: Draft iterations for a homepage developed in consultation with the client.
Top: Example of how Hi-Vis green text directed messaging inward, and how participation could help reduce workloads.
Bottom: Digital assets for screensavers and billboards across the Met Police estates.
Above: Set of poster designs for the initial campaign launch.

Delivering a solution

Shaping the identity alongside the client, we achieved a simple and straightforward solution that put messaging at its forefront. A monochrome palette consisting of just black and white meant for little distraction, pushing words to the fore and setting it apart from other communications across the BBC estates. We drew attention to particular words we deemed triggering by highlighting and shifting the baseline as if it was out of place in the sentence. In all, its simplicity made it very easy to manage and adapt quickly.

For the messaging we'd launch with, I suggested they be led by statements reflecting current affairs, using the momentum to focus attention inwardly. The topics the BBC chose to address as part of the campaign would indicate to employees' views and actions they deemed inappropriate in the workplace.

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Above: Interface designs taken from the mobile version of the innovation center.
Above: Sky's Intranet digital takeover including home-screen (right) and Infographic (left and top-right).
Above: Character illustration and cut scenes designed for the Lions Tour game.
Top: Final desktop homepage, (below) comparison between old and new site.
Bottom: Onboarding pop-up overlay introducing users to new features available on @work.

Having rolled out the campaign's first phase across the BBC, we wanted to make good on the promise of addressing real employee issues. The answer; crowdsourcing via an online employee amnesty box. Employees would be encouraged to anonymously submit their first-hand experience of microaggressions through their staff portal.

This collection would act as a repository for developing hyper-targeted creative assets to be delivered across BBC estates. Doing so allowed us to react to fundamental issues in near real-time across multi-locations. Moreover, we'd demonstrate BBC's unwavering commitment to addressing discrimination issues early in doing so at speed.

The simple nature of the campaign identity lent itself well to new creative assets being generated quickly by the BBC's internal teams. Moreover, being entirely typographical meant any concerns regarding anonymity or being directly targeted towards a particular group were minimized. This we hoped would empower more people to upload their suggestions without fear of repercussions or finger pointing.

Above: Evolution of the original @work logo to a newer refined version.
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Above: CMS interface for authors, editors, and innovation managers to review and collate data.
Above: (top) Super Squads game interface. (Below) Email signatures with designs inspired by retro uniforms for each WSL club.
Above: Hi-definition wire flow for administration function to monitor and extract user content.
Above: Process flow for generating employee specific content for future campaign messaging.
Above: Giveaway items to promote the relaunch of @work.

Learnings outcomes

The BBC is a ubiquitous and iconic British institution, so the opportunity to work alongside them to tackle such an important issue was one I took great pride in. My decision to spend as much time as required on the research phase was the right one; in doing so, we unearthed a concept that'd seemingly gone unnoticed and touched on issues felt by so many. Further validation came from the Director of Internal Communications at the BBC, offering a 'standing ovation' and "respect to the designer who has done this and taken it all so seriously, creating something that will genuinely get to the heart of the issues."

Approaching such a sensitive job as a designer is sobering. It requires you to forgo trends to present a message with in-ambiguity to reach a broad audience. A healthy reminder that graphic communication is human-centered activity.