This is apiece about working on the ‘&PROUD’ identity recently launched by Dentsu Aegis Network. But it is also a little bit about what it meant personally to work on it.
&PROUD is a LGBT employee network for all 3,500 Dentsu Aegis Network employees. It forms part of their corporate commitment to diversity, encourages staff to be their ‘honest selves at work, and will also have a client facing commercial angle. I was asked to assist with naming (what can be more inclusive or flexible than an &?) and create the identity.
Here’s the mark (designed with artist Supermundane)
Here is one of the patterns it can make:
Here’s some of the media on launch day…
So far, so straightforward…when you boil it down the point of identity and brand design is to catch the inner spirit of a thing, and express this in tangible ways to the outside world. It helps when one puts a bit of oneself into a project. When you ‘feel’ the brand and let it under your skin you are helping express the output is better. Typically this is a temporary thing – do the job and move on. In this case however the project probably had as much affect on my own identity as I did on the project, which is a pretty unique experience.
In meetings I regularly trot out my hobby horse of the importance of ‘being yourself’. How it should be done for effective communication, and as a point of principle. And here were a team whose reason for existing was to promote and enable honest, healthy self-expression for everybody in their network. I felt the importance of this, but I wasn’t fully explaining why to them. And it started bugging me.
You see I’ve been trans all my life. I draw energy and strength from this feminine part of myself, and I have always celebrated it. And although not on the payroll ‘Victoria’ is the part of me doing all the creative heavy lifting off-stage. Many of the really important people in my life had known and been supportive for some time. But I’d never taken the leap and fully disclosed who I am on the inside to the wider outside world -concerns over friendships, business relationships, all the usual worries had held me back. Ironically this was one identity I was failing to express, and it felt like I was doing the project in hand a disservice.
Meantime the world we live in seems to be polarising and freedoms we take for granted can so easily slip away if we don’t stand up and be counted to help preserve them. In part, my involvement in &PROUD acted as a final nudge that finally convinced me I had to walk the walk as well as the talk about the importance of diversity.
As one friend noted, when I shared Victoria on LinkedIn I set aside forty nine years of careful reticence and took ‘the nuclear option’. There’s never going to be an easy way is there? Having pressed ‘post’ I went to bed, wondering what the consequences would be, only sure that good or bad they would be significant for me personally. A lifetime of reputation building might be gone in a single moment, I feared.
A few weeks on (as I write this) I‘ve been humbled by the volume of goodwill and support I’ve received from friends, clients and strangers. This kindness and open-mindedness reflects well on our wider industry. One amusing reaction was from a supportive friend who missed my call after my post as he was tied up repairing a wardrobe door – ‘paging Doctor Freud’.
So what next? As an industry the more diverse we are the more creative and effective we will be. But the more we work as a team the stronger we will be also. I hope others pick up the D-A-N initiative. We presume a certain tolerance in our industry bubble, but we are not as far along as we might be, just yet.
I’m not planning any further Tootsie moments. I might get out a bit more in the clothes that really express who I am and that means the world to me. I feel lighter, and I think it will make my work better. So, thanks to a project it was a privilege to be involved in anyway, I’m happy to be able to be able to make the little statement below…