By Ben Gale, Junior Designer at Coley Porter Bell and winning team member

WPP Adobe Designathon is a competition held within the WPP network, in partnership with Adobe, that aims to develop the skills of the creatives within the network, while simultaneously providing a platform for Adobe to gain vital feedback and understanding about its suite of design programmes. At Coley Porter Bell, we have been developing a close relationship with Adobe for many months to try and get ahead of the curve when it comes to the creative possibilities that we can offer our clients, and the Designathon offered a unique opportunity to develop skills with a relatively new piece of Adobe software; Adobe XD.

Adobe XD, bridges the gap between static design created in Adobe Illustrator, and polished animation created in Adobe After Effects. So, what does this mean? Essentially, Adobe XD is a platform for prototyping websites, applications, or just about anything; to get a basic understanding of how things can move and interact. Are website transitions fast and snappy enough to get the consumer to where they need to be, or are they slow and methodical, to create a sense of care and craft? These simple questions and the consequent answers help to build a brands story and personality.

Our understanding of Adobe XD began in September with Adobe Creative Jam, a workshop to create a prototype in Adobe XD for Ford. More specifically building an application that went across the full scope of Ford’s brand world, encompassing Ford Club, vehicle diagnostics and VR experience. Going in with no experience, we came out of the Creative Jam with an understanding of how powerful this new piece of software can be, excited by the possibilities it opens, from both a design and client perspective.

Naturally, when we were invited to take part in the WPP Adobe Designathon, we saw this as a great opportunity to further develop our relationship with Adobe and build a greater level of understanding about Adobe XD. Three of Coley Porter Bell’s designers, Khristina Farrands (Senior Designer), Ben Gale (Junior Designer) and Josh Payne (Junior Designer), went to Adobe’s offices in Hoxton, London for the Designathon launch event where they received the following brief:

Develop an app in line to Unilever’s strategic theme – Sustainable Living, by choosing to develop an app for Knorr, Magnum, Dove, or Sunlight.

The Designathon was to be an exercise to showcase the technical possibilities of the Adobe suite, yet the nature of the brief allowed for an underlying idea to drive the design process, through the means of Adobe XD. At least, this was our ambition. The reality was that with a brief so open, formulating an idea that could help to create positive change was a real challenge, and something that we struggled with early in the design process, especially when you keep in mind that the timeline of the competition was only two weeks, and the work had to be executed around our day jobs. Ultimately, we felt that Unilever couldn’t truly combat the issue of sustainability through just one brand, but should utilize its network to touch upon as many sustainability issues as possible:

Magnum – sustainability and food

Knorr – sustainability and consumption

Dove – sustainability and community & conservation

Sunlight – sustainability and waste reduction

Between these brands, we felt that we could cover every touchpoint relating to sustainability under what we named the ‘Unilever Sustainability Hub.’ This hub would reward Unilever consumers on reaching specific sustainability targets. We focused on Magnum for this prototype as we saw a clear relationship between the melting ice caps and melting ice cream. The idea was to highlight the emotions you get from your ice cream melting to evoke the more serious emotions you feel about ice caps melting, thus creating a way for the consumers to try and start to understand the connection between being more sustainable at home, and the impact globally.

The Sustainability Hub aims to change your everyday choices to live a more sustainable life. Upon opening the application, you are asked to make simple choices: do you eat organic or artificial; fresh or processed; eat in or take away? From these choices, you get a score, and when your score reaches certain targets you unlock rewards relating to the brand, highlighting the positive relationship between a sustainable life and a healthy life. Beyond this, the sustainability hub helps you to achieve the next reward level by providing recommendations of simple changes you can make in your everyday life, keeping you up to date on the latest in sustainability news, ranking local restaurants based on how sustainable they are, and where to buy locally produced foods. The sustainability hub is ambitiously extensive, but to have any chance on changing human behaviour for the better, we felt it had to be. The sustainability hub puts Unilever at the forefront of sustainable living.

Technically, we were relative novices to the software, but Adobe have created a simple and approachable platform that was easy to pick up and learn, especially once you had familiarised yourself with its nuances. Its minimal interface is of stark contrast to Adobe After Effects which can be quite daunting even to the most experienced of designers. Adobe XD also has third party support through Plug-Ins allowing the Adobe community to build upon the existing software to their own specific needs. It will be interesting to see what the community creates and what lies beyond the horizon.

The overall experience of the WPP Adobe Designathon was mixed. A lot of late nights, lost lunch breaks and sleepless nights went into what we produced; but ultimately, we were happy with what we produced given our limited knowledge of the programme at the beginning of the competition. Although not perfect, we had created an application that went into depth on the issue of sustainability that conveys the implications of our daily actions. And for that we were proud of what we achieved; whether we won or lost seemed irrelevant for we had gained knowledge in a new programme that would be beneficial for ourselves and our clients.