Last year, we embarked on a new journey. One that tied together conversations we’d had with clients, products and services our team had developed, and am ambitious aim. That journey was our Insight as Art project. Over the course of three months, we worked with 30+ consumer brands to translate consumer attitudes, opinions and beliefs into unique works of art. We created dreamy watercolours paintings, ominous graphite sketches, quirky character mascots, experimental physical media and more.
This year, we’re opening up the project again – but on an even grander scale. So, let me tell you a bit about how (and why) we got there.
It started from a realisation. A common discussion we would have with in-house insight teams was about how to improve stakeholder and decision-maker engagement. In a time where research professionals are increasingly under pressure to do more with less – we heard a common frustration. Why is there still an insights-to-action gap?
It’s certainly not a new phenomenon. In 2012, Gartner reported that over 50% of firms did not believe they were effective at translating insight or data into actions. It seems that nearly a decade on, little has changed. We decided it was time to change that. What we eventually developed was an idea to push the boundaries of research reporting, drawing on the techniques used by marketers and the creative professions.
|In 2012, Gartner reported that over 50% of firms did not believe they were effective at translating insight or data into actions. It seems that nearly a decade on, little has changed.|
We would embed insight the memories of our audiences by creating novel and abstract visual representations of it. Not only is novelty a fantastic memory aid itself, but the cognitive effort exerted to understand the connections between the art and the insight that influenced it further engrain the piece into an audience’s memory. And that’s all before the social, collaborative deconstruction - which forms the real hooks of engagement - kicks in.
And with that, the project was born.
Engaging London and New York
It’s safe to say that those that took part in the 2019 project considered it a huge success – provoking conversations and stimulating business interest in insight. But when considering how to bring the project back for 2020, we also wanted to demonstrate just how engaging these creative ideas can be.
So, as examples of insight-led artworks – we chose to research the cities of London and New York. We'll be placing physical installations of these pieces in commuter hubs later this year to spark real-time conversations and engage new audiences. The London artwork will be located in Euston Station, while the New York piece will be installed at Wall Street subway station.
By placing these artworks in prominent locations, we hope to create new discussions about their meaning, and get audiences to engage with the complex subject of their city’s identity. Let’s take a look at these two examples now, and the insight that inspired them.
London: as described by qualitative research
|What do Londoners think of London? It's a place of multi-culturalism and history. Life is fast paced and exciting - but takes energy and financial resources to maintain.|
There’s no other place in the world quite like London. The design of the fantastical bird that forms the subject of the piece draws inspiration from the positive associations citizens have with the city’s multi-culturalism.
A vibrant creature, captured mid-flight, this subject is a symbolic metaphor for the adrenaline fuelled, enthusiastic race that is life in the UK capital. But a dynamic lifestyle that chases opportunities takes energy and financial resources to sustain - represented by the motion implied just to keep afloat.
The background of the piece, created by blending a Renaissance sky with modern techniques, highlights the sense of pride associated with the city’s past. But it is one that clashes with modern progress, causing very real tensions that can make life in London more challenging and even more expensive.
Above all, what this artwork captures is the delicate, dream like beauty of life for residents who are striving ardently to rise above the hidden perils and challenges the capital presents.
New York: as described by qualitative research
|What do New Yorkers make of New York? It's a Disneyland for adults; full of entertainment, opportunity and performance - but this joyous, breakneck lifestyle can also district from the societal challenges the city faces.|
New York is Disneyland for adults. Bold, bright and crammed full of entertainment - the city is described by residents as being a world of its own, represented in this piece by a series of isolated islands.
Life is described as electric and always on, highlighted by the vibrant colour palette and galactic setting. Much of the city is seen as performative, leading to a fun lifestyle that distracts from the challenges New Yorkers face. The floating islands reference a lack of space, and each activity comes at a financial cost. It’s easy to be swept up in the joy and speed of this utopian piece, but it is the lack of physical room and lack of those that cannot afford a place that reflects the hidden nature of the city’s challenges.
Ultimately, it is the visual novel and hyper-reality inspired style of this piece that captures the genuine excitement that New Yorkers expressed about their city, the opportunities it offers and its larger-than-life presence.