This week we chat to Colin Wood, Programme Manager for 5G RuralDorset, an innovative community-based project run by Dorset Council, which aims to show how 5G can make the county a better place to live, work and visit.
It was a brilliant project to work on, made even better last night, when we were awarded Gold for the 5G RuralDorset visual identity at the Transform Awards. Read on to find out more about what we did.
Tell us in a nutshell what 5G RuralDorset is all about.
5G RuralDorset is a ground-breaking project aimed at understanding how next generation connectivity can help people live better, safer and more prosperous lives in rural communities, even in environments as sensitive as Dorset’s UNESCO-designated world heritage coastline. We aim to show how 5G can make rural places like Dorset better places to live, work and visit.
It’s a government and industry-funded research and development project, and will help the UK and beyond understand how 5G can be used to address some specific challenges – in our case, public safety, economic growth, food production and environmental. And for a local authority like us, it’s important that it’s furthering our reputation and ambitions as a digital place, and creating new opportunities for local people, plus high-tech and highly skilled jobs in Dorset.
The project covers five areas of research – Future of Food (the largest 5G agri trials ever undertaken), Rural Community Accelerator, Connected Coast, Innovation Accelerator and Coastal Cliff Monitoring.
The brief to Greenwich Design was to create a brand identity for use in communications, to engage the community around the benefits of 5G connectivity.
How successful has the communication been to date, and how is the visual identity contributing to that success?
Greenwich Design worked with us and our partners (who come from public and private sector, government, academia and elsewhere) to develop a very strong, usable and flexible brand for us, which has been easy to work into all our communications online and offline. It’s played a key part in building recognition for the project locally and nationally, and will continue to do so as the project begins its trials and becomes more visible.
It’s also very recognisable amongst the other government-funded 5G projects. We’ve been told that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport often holds up the project as an example of good comms and branding, so that’s really satisfying – and a testament to the work that Greenwich did with us.
How will you measure the overall success of the project?
Success could come in many forms. It might be a piece of innovation or a way of deploying networks which is scalable to other parts of the UK. If the 5G networks we’ve built can help keep people safe along the coast, for example, that could be replicated elsewhere in the UK. If it saves lives and reduces costs for the emergency services in Dorset, there’s no reason why that couldn’t be done in other places around the country on the coastline.
However, as this is an R&D project, there’s recognition that a cutting-edge approach that doesn’t work the way you’d hoped also has value. The lessons learned throughout the project are being recorded and shared with government and the wider 5G ecosystem, and that could save a lot of time and money for others who learn from our successes and failures.
For Dorset Council, the project has already been a success. It’s helping bring in skilled jobs and has enhanced our reputation as a modern, digital council. We have learned a huge amount from our partners and are already bringing new thinking to the ways we deliver better and more cost-effective services. And our communities are starting to see the reality of why we’re building the networks and what it means on the ground to real people . . . that’s really important to us too.
"Greenwich didn’t just design a logo for us, they made us think about all aspects of the brand."
Has the pandemic helped the case for 5G, with people having to work from home and many businesses faced with enforced digital transformation during 2020?
It’s certainly helped show the importance of good digital connectivity and 5G has a massive part to play in that. The lockdown has forced everyone to work and learn from home where possible, and this has highlighted a strain, where connectivity perhaps isn’t fit for purpose.
Rural areas like ours face significant connectivity issues. Could 5G provide home broadband or business broadband to people who perhaps aren’t on the fibre network or close enough to the green cabinets you see at the side of the road? Could 5G play a part in bringing decent connectivity to people who live in very remote, rural locations? Can it improve poor connectivity for essential services like the emergency services and first responders? Full fibre is what we’re all working to, but there are areas where this is very expensive and difficult. We are investigating whether 5G can provide part of the answer.
The wider Digital Dorset programme, which incorporates 5G RuralDorset, is exploring other options for rural connectivity as well, such as mobile, fibre, satellite and the Shared Rural Network (SRN) as hybrid solutions to this problem. We believe the pandemic has helped to highlight digital and rural connectivity problems generally and bring them to the fore.
How do you communicate to such a broad target audience, with everyone from students to octogenarians potentially interested in the outcome of the project?
Working with Greenwich Design, we had to create a brand that speaks to multiple audiences – not just people in Dorset, but to a national audience because it’s a national project funded by government. Having a multi-channel comms approach is really important. We are aware of the wide differences in the demographic of our audience and regularly create multiple versions of communications that target technical press, national and local media and across different communications channels including blogs and social media. We are also actively engaged with students and young people who are working with us on the ‘use cases’, which gives us direct access to an engaged younger audience.
It’s no secret that some people have a certain perception of 5G; our goal is to use the brand to communicate that this is an exciting, innovative community-based project that delivers things that the local community value. Our hope is that through the brand, they recognise when we do something good.
“The incorporation of the 24-degree angles, derived from angles found in the Jurassic coastline, was a stroke of genius.”
You took part in a brand workshop. What was the biggest take out from that experience?
Greenwich Design came to Dorset at the beginning of the project and ran the brand workshop to get under the skin of all the partners and find out what they wanted for the project. We did an exercise where everybody had to name one of their favourite brands and describe what made us feel passionate or excited about that particular brand.
We’ve tried to build that same excitement and passion into what we’ve created. Ultimately you want your brand to reflect not just what you’re doing as a project but how you feel about it. When people see our ‘use cases’ and what we’re doing on the Jurassic Coast, I want them to feel excited and passionate about it, and hopefully our brand plays a role in encouraging that.
How important was it to have a creative look and feel inspired by the Dorset colour palette and coastline?
The creative direction that Greenwich Design took was a surprise, but a very clever one. The colour palette blends well with the Dorset imagery making content design a breeze. And the incorporation of the 24-degree angles, derived from angles found in the Jurassic coastline, was a stroke of genius, and frames project collateral beautifully. This helps the whole brand feel like a real part of Dorset.
It’s worth pointing out that Greenwich Design didn’t just design a logo for us, they made us think about all aspects of the brand. From the tone of our written communications to deciding the kind of images we use and don’t use, avoiding hackneyed images like a tractor to represent agriculture, for example. It made us look at things from a different angle, perhaps in a quirky way, or a more human way, sometimes even a comical way. When you look at our website, the tone of voice is friendly, very informal and the imagery is often surprising. We’ve really taken on board the brand guidelines that Greenwich Design created for us, and we implement them into everything we do.
Can you give us a testimonial that sums up what you enjoyed most about working with Greenwich Design?
We found Greenwich Design to be very responsive to our requests and creatively engaged with what we were seeking to achieve. More than anything, they were fun to work with and have become more like partners than a typical client-supplier relationship. They engaged with us on a very human level, and I liked that. It always felt fun! And there was a lot of humour on the calls, which personally I appreciated.
Finally, what’s your favourite thing about Dorset?
I’m a big outdoors person, so for me, I love the fact that it’s a fantastic place to spend time outdoors. I’m into mountain biking and road cycling. I love the fact that I can finish work, and within 15 minutes, I can be in the sea. That for me is just a joy. Everyone should move to Dorset, it’s a beautiful place!
Thank you, Colin. We loved our visit to Dorset – what a great place for creative inspiration! We’ve really enjoyed working on this project and we’re looking forward to hearing the outcome of all the trials.