The goal of the assignment was to provide a comprehensive digital design concept that would address a controversial subject plaguing a foreign nation. We were given a very depressing list of the world's social afflictions and selected "Censorship in the People's Republic of China" as our topic.
After our research and creative development, the project would culminate with a 20 minute presentation in which we would be graded on our ability to educate the audience on our social topic, the thoroughness and success of our design process, and how well we could articulate and justify the concept we were proposing.
"Develop a fully explored and researched design concept that would evoke change if implemented."
— Project Brief
Sidestepping the Firewall
Creating an awareness campaign about ongoing censorship posed a unique catch-22 of a challenge. Because of the Chinese government's strict internet regulation and the subversive nature of our subject matter, we would need an unorthodox strategy to facilitate interactions with China's digital denizens.
As an outsider looking in on a subject and country I knew nothing about, I tried to be particularly conscious of ethnocentrism and the differing cultural sensibilities of the western and eastern world. I also did my best to remain objective in my research and only form an opinion once I'd acquired and vetted a substantial amount of well-sourced information from multiple scholarly viewpoints.
Empathy & Action
While the goal of the campaign was to prompt social change in China, the need for awareness was globally reaching. One of the first questions we asked ourselves was, "How do we get people outside of China to care about this?" It would be crucial for our campaign to invoke genuine feelings of pathos, empathy, and to subsequently provide an intuitive and compelling route to meaningful action.
"Across the Great Wall, we can reach every corner in the world.”
This sentence was in the header of the first email message ever delivered in the history of China, its authors likely unaware of how technologically prescient their message was as our analog world unwittingly awaited the oncoming digital avalanche. The year was 1987.
Over 30 years later, the same Chinese researchers might be disheartened to learn that the incredible communicative tool they helped to pioneer has been commandeered and manipulated to oppose, oppress, and silence proponents of truth and free speech. The perpetrators? Their own government, of course (among many others, but that's for another project).
As we delved further into China's history of media censorship, more specifically in regards to the World Wide Web, it became abundantly clear that the topic presented a fundamental breach of civil liberties that would be worthwhile to speak about.
proof of issues of censorship in china
What can we do about it?
Once I had a solid foundation on the topic, began to think social media marketing and campaign strategy. Conducted a thorough competitive analysis of two previously viral campaigns.
Key takeaway from competitive analysis.
Then, began structuring the campaign and working on the creative.
THE CONSTRUCTION pt1
Creating a brand to authentically capture the look and feel of a foreign culture posed a unique challenge. Before putting any ink in my sketchbook, I delved deep into visual research and began gathering design inspiration in order to familiarize myself with the aesthetics of the eastern world. I also began gathering stock photography that aligned well with the context and mood of the campaign.
Soon after this, my partner Hayley suggested "Beyond the Wall" as our campaign name (far superior to anything I could have come up with). I then began sketching and workshopping the logo and visual brand.