_Helping you communicate your value to your customers
What we do together
brand, business strategy, critical thinking, culture, customer experience, customer experience management, CX, design strategy, design thinking, discussion, education, entrepreneurship, functionality, product design, public good, positive impact, service design, students, thought leadership, user experience design, UX, workshops
Experience + Engagement Strategy
Challenge How might we enhance the value of an existing asset for a Town Council and community?
Two years into the life of the Leighton-Linslade Children's Trail, it was in need of review. For a number of reasons - old information, irregular communications, messages of limited appeal - the enthusiasm of the original launch audience was at risk of not being replicated in the towns growing population. The Leighton-Linslade Town Council responded to a message of missed opportunity and commissioned a pilot phase of activity based on a proposal to increase inclusivity, awareness and engagement with The Children's Trail.
Solution The Trail was given a Guardian, and through regular social media communications The Trail was re-introduced to the community. Messaging was moved from niche 'a literary trail' to more universal 'a free family activity.'
Based on the success of a small-scale pilot a larger set of works began based on a customer focused strategy to
_broaden the experience,
_join it up,
_give it more value for the core audience (families),
_make all the elements more useful and less throw-away,
_give more people, more reason to do it. And do it again.
The Trail was reframed as 'A free public trail of 22 artworks celebrating children's stories, for little people, with big imaginations, to explore.'
Hand in hand with relevance to children and families, everything was designed with a view to providing self-generating content and endorsement of the Trail for the Town Council.
Outcomes The 'reimagining' project is now 3 years in. The Trail at 5 years old is not only popular but publicly endorsed. People - adults and children - who would not normally have visited the Town Council have come into reception to collect their rewards. A long standing relationship between the Town Council and the Library has been strengthened and new relationships created. Effectiveness and budget is reviewed bi-annually. Through a small but managed strategy and resource the Town Council is able to use The Trail in its work with other segments of the community, and across diverse economic and social needs: schools and groups, grandparents / carers, tourism, active-lifestyle and mental health.
"Guardians are special people, they look after things and people and for the last few years Sandra Dartnell of ThinkingCX, has been The Children’s Trail Guardian. Sandra approached the Council as a local parent and said I think we can make the Trail even better. Having received such positive recognition from the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) for the promotion of the Trail, we wish to highlight the transformative influence that Sandra bought to the Trail and to the officers she worked with. Although Sandra has moved to pastures new, we say our thanks as today the Trail is known by so many people and every year local schools are encouraged to introduce this brilliant local asset to their new students. The Trail is our never ending story…" Vivien Cannon, Head of Cultural and Economic Services, Leighton-Linslade Town Council (2018)
A new, clear, challenge-based activity map was designed to provide 'Beginning to Read' aged children with a fun numeracy and literacy challenge.
Street-painted 'blue paws' joined up the Trail, giving the set of artworks a recognisable identity regardless of their location around the town.
Rewards were designed to encourage creativity and an understanding of the universal themes of the Trail, and to bring the public into the Town Council offices.
The Trail was reframed as 'A free public trail of 22 artworks celebrating children's stories, for little people, with big imaginations, to explore.'
Communication were place where families are...outside the family toilets, in the park.
The Trail was given a Guardian to look after it, and to use Facebook to reach more of the community
The Guardian directed more people to the Library to pick up maps, rewards and to share their own art card creations with a dedicated Trail wall.
More inclusive messages
More useful and imaginative rewards
Videos made with the Trail's greatest fans to celebrate its first 5 years.
A one day video shoot briefed and managed by ThinkingCX achieved a 3 minute promotional video, 5 voxpop testimonials and 9 30 second mini promos. Working with Storm Videos and with 'the Trails greatest fans' as volunteers a very small budget was taken a long way.
Vivien Cannon, Head of Economic and Cultural Development and Sandra Dartnell, ThinkingCX attended the Society of Local Council Clerks national practitioners conference to give a talk on 'The Value of Reimagining an Existing Asset' sharing good practice with peer councils and celebrating the approach taken to the Children's Trail as an example of making the most of a valued community asset and visitor attraction. Take a look at the presentation
Sandra was asked to follow up the conference presentation with a case study for the July edition of The Clerk Magazine, the official publication of the SLCC. It covered common problems with existing assets and common solutions for them.
_Created for a niche market, future potential or expansion of the audience isn’t considered.
_They’re not use-evaluated by people outside of the project.
_Created, and maintained until cost exceeds value.
Common Solutions for Existing Assets
_Reimagine it. Can you give more people more reason to use and love it?
_Test the experience and marketing on ‘novice’ audiences.
_Make sure it remains understood. Is the offering joined up to new people?
_Ask for ongoing feedback. Act on it.
Process Images show a record of how the ideas to improve the customer experience and reposition the Trail, based on different core values, were explored, developed and tested as part of the reimaginging of the Trail.
The prototype design was tested on age appropriate kids and their parents.
Key note from Evie. Explain “what you do, not what it is”
Community strategy + leadership
For two years Creative Bedfordshire was lead (planned, organised and hosted) by Sandra Dartnell of ThinkingCX, for Bedford Creative Arts, with the support of Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedford Borough Council. Whilst incharge Sandra developed strategies, frameworks, communications, culture and responses affecting the customer experience, and documented them for ongoing use. The role was handed over to a new producer when Sandra Dartnell relocated to Wirral in 2017. Images show creative networking events and the Grow Your Creative Business Conference 2016.
Cat Lane Photography and WinterRose Photography for Bedford Creative Arts.
"Sandra's key strengths are her experience of establishing and sustaining a creative business and her ability to collaborate and make connections and partnerships. These skills enabled her to really develop the Creative Bedfordshire network. I believe her experience of working with clients gave her an informed understanding of both the needs of the very diverse membership and an ability to work well with stakeholders." Dawn Giles, Former CEO, Bedford Creative Arts (2017)
"I was very impressed with Sandra's ability to listen, understand and advise in a strategic way. I witnessed her attention to detail and meticulous planning. Sandra brought a personable professionalism to the role. She was naturally able to facilitate collaborations for network members and the project. It was particularly useful that she had experience of running her own creative business." Alan Dodd, CEO, Bedford Creative Arts (2017)
“Creative Bedfordshire is a network and brings together a diversity of creative people and businesses from across the arts and creative industries. By bring them together, in person and online, and supporting them with professional development events, the Creative Bedfordshire network helps combat the isolation of independent business, fosters ideas and actions and creates new collaborative relationships. The network is needed and well used. It acts as a positive force in so many ways - for individual people and businesses involved, for the benefit of economic prosperity in Bedfordshire, for the benefit of cultural identity across the area. That’s why I am involved.” Sandra Dartnell (2016)
In more detail
_Strategy, programming and production for over 20 participatory activity and up-skilling events 2015-17
_Annual participants 300+ from a broad network of self-employed creatives, and creative micro businesses
_ Conference Producer /host. Drew paid attendance of 80+ for a morning of speakers and an afternoon Q&A panel at the University of Bedfordshire.
Event production included pop-up networking in Libraries, Theatres and Music venues; professional writing workshops with the Royal Literary Fund; Grants for the Arts surgeries with Arts Council England; community hall take-over and co-working sessions.
Themes across the professional networking speaker programme of debates and discussions included Taking Your Vision Forward, Ideas into Action, Starting out and Moving Forward, Exploring Trade Shows, Rural Business, Making Events Work, Planning to Succeed, Finding Your Voice, Price, Cost & Value, Connecting with Your Audience, Creating Relationships, Sales & Marketing, Going Solo, Business Adventures, Teaching Your Art, Art in Public, Creating with the Community.
Relationship building with key sector networks: county / town councils, LEP, growth hub, HEI and FE, cultural education partnerships (Culture Challenge, Royal Opera House Bridge), business organisations (Chamber of Commerce, FSB), community groups and other creative networks across tech, illustration, preforming and visual arts, spoken word, makers, local arts publications and venues.
Reporting, evaluation, documentation (written, photographic, audio), marketing and role recruitment, attendance of LEP Creative & Cultural Sector Group as a voice for Bedford Creative Arts, freelance, micro and rural business.
“We brought ThinkingCX in to help advise on a complicated web application project. The platform was to be used across two quite different sets of users and we needed to establish some commonality so that we could standardise the development and work from a single code base. On top of that, we needed to establish a more detailed persona around the user groups to help with the visual identity and language of the platform. Sandra Dartnell’s work was vital in understanding these target audiences, their requirements, their expectations and how we could build a single platform that would service both sides of the business. Sandra’s approach is intelligent, organised, insightful and has great attention to detail. She’s fun to work with and is a benefit to any project.”
— Lewis North, Director, Method & Class Ltd (2017)
Challenge How might we begin to move a business from an award winning product range to being a talked about brand at the heart of the ‘Global Foodie’ market?
Issues to be solved Recognition problems with the existing name and identity; no clear understanding of what the brand stands for, lack of planned brand and communications strategy to meet growth goals of next 3-5 years.
Solution Better understand the consumers, and match their needs to product characteristics and benefits. Create a bold and beautiful name and identity, to enable simple recognition and express the joy of taking your taste-buds on a journey. Under-pin it with an action plan to take the brand forward specifically in the wholesale marketplace, with a new customer-focused approach.
Outcomes The rebrand launched via a trade stand at Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2016 generated a response that confirmed that the same product was now more recognisable, more memorable, and that the brand was now positioned to generate a higher RRP for a new product to market Black Garlic. This was followed up with the launch of Whole Black Garlic at Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2017
ThinkingCX has the role of strategic consultant, working with Strong & Together, for Joli.
In more detail What the business most needed was a means to fulfil some scalable ambitions: to increase wholesale market share and be sought after as a store-cupboard staple by 'Global Foodies’ when they visit their local Deli.
These ambitions required a workshop to generate better consumer and product understanding, a creative brief to lead the brand project, and a new name and brand identity capable of better expressing the new intentions, with immediacy and through narrative.
The name Joli is derived from the word Joy in Baba Malay, a Malaysian spoken-only dialect. Joli captures the essence of the business - the intense but layered product characteristics, a wanderlust of life experiences captured within maverick recipes, the pleasure of a social verbal mealtime experience - and starts to position Joli within the lifestyle of the ‘Global Foodie’ target market.
In terms applications packaging was the initial focus. The current work focus is trade show marketing - brand copy, product photography and samples - to meet the sales strategy of increasing orders from independent Delis.
Challenge How might we define the visual and verbal keys to future premium business growth?
Solution Consult with Mozzo on the evolution of their brand strategy, with the view to enabling business growth and new revenue streams. The outcome was both strategic and practical including a rework of the brand identity, C2C Fund identity design, packaging across the coffee range, and design for retail and marketing channels.
In more detail The evolved look, feel and messaging is great coffee focused. The brand's energetic, creative spirit is suggested by the flowing logotype and a simple scribble applied across packaging, retail environment and marketing channels. The scribble is a simplification of previous creative artwork collaborations.
The unusual business origin is reflected in the tuk tuk graphic. Both strapline and tuk tuk were used previously but are now combined and consistently applied to all product and marketing.
A simplified approach to packaging is taken. The focus is on stand-out in the direct and in-direct coffee retail marketplace. The design choices emphasise the product quality and the brand’s ambition to simplifying decision making choices for the buyer.
Packaging hints at the bigger picture. Website and other marketing channels are used to tell the real world story of the ‘Think Outside The Cup' approach - the coffee source, the coffee grower relationships, all the vigorous and engaging detail of the Mozzo adventure so far - as well as showcasing the coffee range.
ThinkingCX has the role of strategic consultant, working with Strong & Together, for Full Descent.
The audience will be looking for a physically and mentally exciting cycling trip that can be arranged rapidly and with confidence for a group or individual. They will want to feel certain that the options encompass their primary desire - be it an epic view from the ride, or a challenging tour to hone their competitive edge. Booking with Full Descent will ensure they simply have their ultimate worldwide cycling adventure.
2013-2015 About Make Design Happen
In 2013 Sandra Dartnell set up business consultancy Make Design Happen to provide project direction consultancy to the managing directors of design and development agencies.
The consultancy saw her take on a strategic role, in particular looking at focus and how the key point of value could be communicated.
She created relationships with local government, and developed business support content for education and arts and culture organisations.
ThinkingCX was established in 2015 to take Sandra's vision and network of associates to the wider SME business community, at MD level, as a strategic consultancy package focused on problem solving in situations of brand and product development.
"The clue is in the name. Sandra really does make things happen. She has a deep knowledge of digital, and is very well networked. Plus, she will say if she can't help you (usually followed by an email with top quality recommendations that give you exactly what you need.) Highly recommended!" Gilmar Wendt, Founder GW+Co (2014)
Comic Sans for Cancer
Challenge Celebrate or commiserate the 20th anniversary of the font we all love to hate Comic Sans to raise money for Cancer Research UK
Solution With over 500 entries from 38 countries ThinkingCX (formerly known as Make Design Happen) was proud to have a poster titled Without selected for the final book and accompanying exhibition. Other submissions were titled Thick Skinned and School-Boy Error. The ideas came from consideration of the feelings of the much-maligned font, words used to define font and ubiquitous use of Comic Sans in school communications. Words Sandra Dartnell. Interpretation S&T Design.