Small Change, large design

December 15, 2008

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A great design dropped through my door: Actionaid’s campaign to help South African food producers earn a living wage. Apparently, if Tesco paid just 5 pence more per kilo to suppliers of Granny Smith they would earn a living wag of 1,500 rand (just under £500).

So how are they getting that 5p? By sending out postcards with an adhesive, 5p shaped hole with a picture of 5p in which to insert… well, you can probably guess (just in case, the text inside reads “Stick your 5p here. Thank you”). This is a truly excellent design because:

  1. The affordance is flawless: even before you turn it over to read the explanation (pictured below), it’s obvious that you have to put 5p – not only that, it’s impossible to put anything else.
  2. It’s aligned with the user’s self interest (a.k.a. lazy-proof): The steps are 1) rummage through pockets, 2) stick coin to envelope 2b) if you want, sign name and address, 3) insert into provided envelop and 4) mail. The process is beautifully streamlined but also makes…
  3. It uses progressive involvement (the information is prioritised for you): An initial scan gets the general idea across in all of four words (small change, big difference) and the obvious identity of the UK’s largest supermarket chain  (“Giving, Tesco, I see”). If you want to know more you turn it over and scan the bold text (“Oh, it’s about Tesco underpaying suppliers”). Still curious, read it with more detail (“Ah, it’s about the unfairness of supermarket pricing in general!”). At any step, you can break off but still have a pretty good idea.
  4. It piggybacks on something bigger: Using the Tesco identity is very smart. It enhances the legitimacy of the leaflet and brings up connotations which Tesco has spent billions marketing (“Every little helps”). Just as importantly, it plants the core message (supermarkets) in your head without having to say so.
  5. Good copywriting to make a big topic concrete: Telling the story of the Granny Smith apples, the 5p the suppliers need and then putting a picture of that amount on the front makes the point easier to relate to. Also, it’s not hard to imagine how difficult life would be if you had to spend 80% of your income on food.

More info on the campaign here.

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