BFFP – Gloves and Masks

BFFP - Gloves and Masks - Glove Head

BreakFreeFromPlastic – Masks and Gloves

I’ve seen them on the streets around where I live. Discarded surgical masks that no-one will touch. Encouraging others to see the impact this has on our environment is no easy task. 

As always with the Visual Thinkery process, we met as a group to have a facilitated conversation about the issues at large.


BFFP - Gloves and Masks - Surgical Gloves


I (Bryan) try to catch as many visual ideas as possible. At the outset it’s hard to know what will resonate with the process participants or the audience. Going wide, and creating at least 10 ideas allows us to test and measure what resonates, in order to then improve or combine ideas further.

I want a better future

What is the motivation behind the making/buying of a reusable mask. Self preservation probably for most, but what about a sense of hope for the people we share community with?

BFFP - Gloves and Masks - I want a better future

Sit back and prepare for takeoff…

A strong idea to emerge from the conversation was the aesthetic of Airline Safety Instructions. As a metaphor, it’s very recognisable: “Place over nose + mouth and breathe normally” with lots of opportunity for adding a degree of humour…

BFFP - Gloves and Masks - Safety Instructions

Often there is a requirement for multiple translations of the same visual ideas. Also, splitting into engaging chunks for social media campaign engagement.

BFFP - Gloves and Masks - Safety Instructions

Look mom, no words…

If there’s a way to talk in pictures without using any words, it’s also worth pursuing.   

BFFP - Gloves and Masks - Happy Planet

And Finally

The idea of a “wave” of plastic came directly from the conversation, so by creating a custom brush, we did just that. Find out more about BreakFreeFromPlastic’s Mask and Glove campaign.


BFFP - Gloves and Masks - Wave of Masks

Open University – Open Degree Programme

OU Degree Programme

Open University Degree Programme

I have to confess, I didn’t know much about the Open Degree Programme from the Open University, until Martin Weller asked if we could help capture the visual essence of it to help get others up to speed. 

At its inception, 50 years ago, the Open University in the UK only offered an open programme. Think of the broadest collection of modules that could be put together to form a degree course. Think of each person, charting their own course. Of course, this appeals to me (Bryan) greatly – following the path of greatest interests, rather than my own academic journey which seemed much more like the path of least resistance…


OU Open Degree - Path of greatest interest


As usual, we had an open facilitated conversation lasting about 90mins with the team, which was recorded so as to go back through the conversation to hunt for visual clues, chiefly metaphors and humour.


Undertaking a degree programme requires bravery, but being able to follow your interests requires even more.


OU Open Degree - Brave Learners

Paths of Greatest Interest

During our conversation, one of the team mentioned the “tree of possibilities” when considering all of the possible paths through an Open degree course.

OU Open Degree - Path of greatest interest - tree

The Rebel Degree

Another phrase that was used in our conversation to describe the people who favoured a more flexible degree structure was the “Rebel”…   

OU Open Degree - Rebel Degree

And Finally

It’s always helpful to listen out for an off-the-cuff comment that resonates with the others on the video call…

OU Open Degree - The clue is in the title



I love a wide brief. Getting people together, and using dialogue to see what we can be unearthed. GO-GN is a postgraduate research programme, connecting and furthering those involved in researching Open Education. They asked if I could help with a brand refresh, and create a set of visual assets along the way.

In order to capture all the voices, we took the approach of facilitating two conversations: one for participants and a second for the GO-GN team.

GO-GN Thinkery Conversation
We had two really rich conversations. I live draw while the conversation is taking place, by using a document camera, but also record the conversations so I can go back through them later and harvest and clues I can tune into. 


A rich conversation also leads to many ideas. My aim is always to capture as many of them as quick sketches.

GO-GN suitcase sketch

Creating a Visual Language

The trouble is, creating a fresh brand for an organisation is tricky. In some ways it’s like buying a bold new coat. Liking it isn’t enough. You’ve actually got to wear it. What are you as an organisation trying to say? To whom are you trying to say it? If you find an aesthetic that fits well enough, it can be used as a visual language, to communicate a feel which is sub-consciously absorbed. 

One of the prompts in our discussion used a poster-making technique to unearth ideas from the participants on the call. An idea emerged relating to “the golden age of travel”, which led to us nailing down a bold visual language. It’s quirky yet intentional. It has momentum built in.

A quick shout out to the Fabulous Remixer Machine – for providing the necessary inverted earth projections too!  

Listening with your eyes open

Video conversations underpin the Visual Thinkery 10 ideas process. By seeing someone as they talk, it’s possible to hear a richer voice. One of the participants in the call, Caroline Kuhn, used this gesture while speaking of the care and respect that exists in the GO-GN network. And it had to be drawn…

DRS Manifesto

CMALT Core Principles

DRS Manifesto

The team from Zero Waste Europe got in touch about developing a visual aesthetic for a manifesto they had created. Manifesto you say? Yum. But what is a DRS? I’m glad you asked. As I soon learned, DRS stands for Deposit Return Scheme. It involves a product manufacturer charging slightly extra (the deposit) when using a container and then refunding this extra cost on the container’s return. This way, plastic containers can be collected by the manufacturer and reused or at least recycled.

In terms of visual ideas it was obvious that this manifesto would need to educate the reader. So that meant getting visually underneath the explanation of the DRS. I started thinking about what a DRS brand might look like, and by playing around with the letters, I noticed that the R and S could interact in a way that might suggest actions of deposit and return. 

The EU flag is circular in appearance, and therefore lends itself well to saying something about a circular economy. 

I also noticed quite by accident when putting all the partner logos together that they could form the shape of something: a container – a great metaphor for the manifesto itself. We’re all in this together.

After the first draft, the team suggested adding more of a human element to the aesthetic. This is where the idea for the many hands lifting up the containers came from. Suddenly there was a different feel to the manifesto – it somehow became active! The power of the human body to subconsciously communicate.

Overall, the team felt that we’d struck a good balance between professional and punchy, and it’s true – the hand-drawn elements feel friendly and genuine, whilst the typeset narrative feels authoritative. Most importantly, it carries a simple design, and it’s this playful simplicity that disarms the intended audience and allows them to engage with the manifesto and it’s message. 

You can read more about the DRS Manifesto here.


Creative Commons Certificates

UNEA4 – #BreakFreeFromPlastic

There’s something about working with activists. They speak from the heart. I find them very easy to listen to – to tune in to. They’re often great storytellers too – and stories describe pictures…

The brief was to create visual assets for United Nations Environment Agency summit in Nairobi, Kenya. 


Our virtual session spanned the globe.  Jane was already in Nairobi at the pre-summit, and Jed was organising from the Philippines, and sketched and scribbled in London.

The number of ideas betrays the richness of the conversation – and we had no trouble creating collaborative ideas to that we felt people could align to.


Humour disarms, even if it’s sometimes pretty dark. I often listen out for those bits of insight that sit behind the humour as they’re often pictorial. Here’s some of the final artwork we created:

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