WINDHOEK. Yesterday I brought up a new side project I’ve started: to try and promote Namibia’s stalled Child Care and Protection Bill. It’s going to be a balancing act. On the one hand, it needs to make key leaders see this law in a new light - as actually worth throwing their weight behind, urgently. On the other, our partners also need it to fit in with the other 25 advocacy papers they’ve produced during the last four years - which means I’ll use the fact sheet above left as my model, even though my intuition is telling me this may not be the best exact design for this exact purpose. Most of all I’m wondering whether, with the particular leaders we’re targeting, we maybe need to Man Up the presentation in a few specific, cynical ways.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare had a real rebel running it until this May. She took on projects to help the country’s kids, then saw them through. When she was working on orphanage standards with my organization, she got so involved, she’d tell her staff: “I don’t sleep, I don’t know if you guys are sleeping.” The new bill came together on her watch - and it came with quite a lovely, sensitive logo, to use in outreach with the country’s moms and childcare workers and so forth:
Now in May, the Prime Minister rewarded this manager by bumping her up to a different ministry with a budget over twice as big, and he sent the man who’d been in charge of that ministry down to her old desk. We’re left to try convince this new guy about his predecessor’s priorities - and who knows how receptive he’ll be, given that the Prime Minister already tried terminating him once (which NEVER happens in Namibia). I hope I’m not underestimating him when I suggest that this supremely sensitive, conventionally feminine logo may not be the most obvious way to convert a former guerrilla commander - who landed in the Ministry of Defense post-independence, then got probed for bad behaviour in later posts - over to full-throated support of a traditionally undervalued “women’s issues” bill. In our current design at top left, this logo is the visual focus of the whole page. In my suggested design up at top right, I keep all the same header elements but boost the size of the title and other visuals, so these can target the manager’s specific sensibilities more directly. We’ll see if our partners go for it, or if it’ll be too big of a shock.
Our other big audience for this brief is the Ministry of Finance, which holds the purse strings on the final law. I assumed Finance would be pretty male-dominated too - but figured I should check. Turns out there’s an organigram of their management online: 15 of the 40 managers there were women, including the minister and top manager (at 38%, that happens to be pretty much the same as women’s 36% overall share of Namibia’s legislative, senior official and managerial positions, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011 - which is a travesty in objective terms but impressive compared to most of the world; it’s the same proportion as in Canada). What this says about how responsive the Ministry of Finance would be to a self-consciously feminine presentation of a women’s issue bill, I can’t say. I have heard they’ve been leaving this law at the bottom of the pile anyway.
The other two design tweaks I want to suggest have to do with the general friendliness and openness - which would have been a plus for earlier public outreach, but would make our appeal look unnecessarily toothless with weathermakers in government. I agonized over what to do with the swirly bullet that pops up all over the current design (below left): It’s clearly a deliberate choice to be fun and of-the-people, and it’s a motif that ties every existing advocacy document together. I just couldn’t see using it in urgent advocacy with the Ministry of Finance, though. I’m crossing my fingers they’ll agreed to the ultra-simplified loop on the right instead.
Finally, I put in boxes and boxes and boxes - no more airy, borderless white space. This both a) makes it easier to skip down through all the important information at a glance - I’m aiming this at people who need an immediate reason to care, not ones already prepared to meditate on long, unbroken prose - and b) gives the sense that the text didn’t just happen this way: that our appeal is undeniably organized, logical, squared away. Something as simple as the black bar bracing the top of the page makes the whole thing look more authoritative - at the expense of looking open and friendly, of course. Does it look like I’ve hit a decent balance between our message and the current design?
Next: starting on the text…