NeLo approach to designing for mass participation

Watch the 2min case film below.

Whole brand segments

This case study looks at both the communication and design + branding segments of a whole brand. You can learn more about the whole brand model here.

Communications Segment

Communications Segment

Design + Branding Segment

Design + Branding Segment


United Nations World Humanitarian Day.
A case study of the World Needs More Campaign.


Executive Summary_

The insight for World Humanitarian Day was that the world needs more of a lot of things. All those things require funding and we wanted to ignite an idea that multinational brands should play a role in that, as much as nations do.

We invited brands to sponsor words that aligned with their brand values. With brands sponsoring words like: Gucci #Strength, Western Union #Education, Barclays Bank #Inclusion, Intel #empowerment. We then asked people on World Humanitarian Day a simple question: What do you think the world needs more of? When they shared a #word over social media, brands helped make it a reality.

While we have designed for many UGC (User Generated Content) campaigns, this particular project for the United Nations was one of the trickiest. Not only did it need to cross all global languages, we also had to consider the wide technology gap between each country’s population. For example, when designing for younger, metro populations found in developed nations, you can safely assume there is a high rate of mobile uptake and the context of your campaign is relatively predictable. But when you need to consider all ages and global demographics, you must remember that your message will take many forms.

You can skip ahead to the breakdown to see how we approached each element of this project but for all you time poor people, here are the top five takeaways.


NeLo 5 tips: Designing for mass participation_


1_ Keep your message simple and robust.

What do we mean by ‘robust’? In large part, we are referring to the way your content will look in different contexts. Often, when working with UGC you will not be the creator of all the content, so intricate designs or complex messages are never good. We would consider ‘complex communication’  an oxymoron. Something cannot be communicated effectively in its complex form. That is not to say that complex ideas cannot be communicated, but that they need to be understood, so being able to present them in simple form is key.

We can’t overstate the importance of simplicity, especially when considering how a population will embrace and understand your message. To see an idea spread you must embrace ‘word of mouth’. A very human phenomenon that can spread like wildfire but just as easily get out of control and lose its meaning. So, don’t just consider how you would design or express your idea but consider how someone will express it to someone else, who will again express it to another and so on and so forth.

2_ Consider your PR at the beginning not the end

If every newspaper in the world ran your campaign on its front page, what would it be? Whether you are designing for a global event or an internal campaign, consider what you need to capture in order to tell your story best. What will make it news for people? Consider this very important storytelling asset at the start rather than scrabbling at the end. We have found that our best communications actually end up having more than one asset, often playing to different audiences and contexts.

3_ Let go control

When you design for mass participation, either within an organisation or the wider community, you have to accept that people will play with your original design. Rather than trying to police it with a style guide, offer inspiration and ideas for how to use your assets and encourage people  to take it further. In most cases, we have found that people took our campaigns to bigger and better places than we had considered or had the budget for.

4_ Make rich assets freely available

If you are trying to encourage mass participation then you want to allow people free access to all your campaign assets. These could be inspiration pdfs, ‘how to’ guides, logos and campaign assets or anything that will help others spread the message. If people believe in your message and want to share it, don’t make it difficult for them. Host all your assets on external links in any format people might require.

5_ Ideas need deep content to take root

We talk a lot about making things more simple, in large part because of the human attention span and the growing number of channels that push disposable messages. Deep-meaning and deep-content are essential if you want your idea to take root in a population or target audience. Symbols and powerful statements are important to spread an idea but mass participation requires a smaller, passionate population who will read deeper and watch longer. These influencers are the secret to big ideas taking root beyond social media likes.

Breaking down the campaign_


Designing the symbol

Our message was about turning words into a reality so logic followed that we developed our campaign iconography from the universal symbol of communication - the speech bubble. When designing for nations, colour takes on political meaning so we remained true to the palette of the UN which brings with it a deep history and meaning that we would be foolish not to leverage. These are obvious choices but sometimes it’s what you don’t do that makes something successful. Designers can sometimes follow trends rather than meaning.


The development of a global toolkit

We made assets free and available for download which led to localisation of the campaign assets and local initiatives for World Humanitarian Day.

The official film that shared the idea

We created an official film for the global campaign (Featuring music by Woodkid) that used supers and voiceovers that could be changed and adapted by individual nations. This is a modular piece of film that can be easily edited and adapted.

Giving the power to people_

When your message is clear and you make rich assets free and available, people do extraordinary things beyond your budget or expectation.


Youtuber Kid President

As part of the campaign, we gave this young and passionate YouTuber exclusive access to the UN and he interviewed some big influencers along the way, including Beyoncé ; Paulo Coelho; Amitabh Bachchan; Ban Ki-moon; Valerie Amos & important aid workers.

UN_Kid Prez_Ban ki Moon.jpg
UN_Kid Prez_Paulo Coelho de Souza.jpg
UN_Kid Prez_Beyonce.jpg

Abode’s online creative community

One of the most powerful global groups are the artists, the creators, the makers. So we looked to inspire them through the Adobe community. Animators put their spin on our distinctive brand assets and shared our message all over the world through online creative communities.

Creating the PR face of the campaign

With generous donations coming from David Guetta we aligned with his music label to launch a new song ‘One Voice’. The song aligned with the message of uniting and turning your voice into a reality. The launch was held at UN Headquarters in New York. Celebrities and country officials came together to create a global PR event. We used the UN building to project our message of ‘The World Needs More’.



  • 2.5 million words shared

  • Raised over $700,000 directly to UN humanitarian aid

  • Over 1 billion media impressions through traditional and online media

  • #TheWorldNeedsMore trended worldwide on twitter

  • 223 different countries visited site

  • First use of the UN building as a media space

  • Recognised as a new model of philanthropy by United Nations