Plus - Developing a brand to help the European migrant crisis
Plus Brand is developed by Lijia Yang, Tahnee Pantig and me. Plus is a pendant that empowers anyone in the world to have a positive impact on the migrant crisis in Europe. Inspired by citizen’s hospitality to refugees in Europe despite the lack of action on the part of local governments, Plus aims to empower others to be hosts regardless of geographic location. Plus provides a product that is a symbol of one's commitment to the plight of refugees and migrants. More than 293,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe as of August 2015, fleeing from war, conflict or persecution, making the Mediterranean crisis primarily a refugee crisis, a UNHCR report states. Citizens of the host countries started to take this matter into their own hands by offering food, clothes and opening their doors to host refugees that otherwise would be sleeping in the streets. We were inspired by the citizens of Europe who helped refugees and migrants despite inhumane reactions by organized groups and local governments. In the same way that wearing a Livestrong bracelet or having a (red) product showed something about the person wearing it, we wanted Plus to have that same effect. Plus allows anyone and everyone to be a host.
With special thanks to Johan Liden & Rinat Aruh.
The designers recognized the importance of designing something that addressed the European migrant crisis shortly after the photo of Alan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian boy washed up on a beach in Turkey, made global headlines. "After seeing the photo and the impact that it made on people so far removed from that situation, we knew that we had to find a way to effectively use the outpouring of support for migrants," says designer, Roya Ramezani. After initially attempting to create a product for refugees and their hosts, the designers decided to move towards working with organizations who were matching up refugees and hosts. Through speaking with these organizations, the team found that a lot of time and energy was spent publicizing the organization's mission. Ultimately, the designers believe that Plus could strategically partner with organizations such as Refugee Welcome, UNHCR and the Red Cross to effectively communicate their organizations' missions' to the general public.
The Plus pendant has a unique shape that was informed by the idea of being able to take a small unit and put multiples together to create a larger unit. This acts as a metaphor for the impact that can be created by large numbers of users committing to being hosts. The visibility of the pendant is important and one way this is approached is by being strategic about where the user can wear the pendant, either around the neck, as a bracelet or attached to a set of keys or a cellphone. The brand uses colors that have an active characteristic and are vibrant, to communicate a sense of agency and urgency, prompting users to act immediately.
Despite a low price point, the Plus pendant is an object that can be kept long term. The designers chose to create the pendants using metals as a way to address this. "Something made out of metal and has a shiny finish has a higher perceived value than another material, for example, plastic," says designer Lijia Yang. "We wanted users to feel like they could hold on to this pendant for a long time so we used metal for our design."
Accessibility to the product is critical to the success of Plus. The Plus pendant would be sold by vending machines strategically located in busy hubs of transport. By locating Plus in places of movement, the brand hopes to be associated with the concept of travel and migration. The pendant would be sold at an affordable price point and would be sold in singles or in doubles. By selling in doubles, Plus hopes to follow the "buy one give one" model, in this case, prompting the user to share their commitment to the cause.
An online component would allow users to track the funds they spent on the pendant by entering a unique code online and choosing where they would like to allocate their funds. One of the challenges of just giving to a charity is that there isn't full ownership and a payback for giving funds. With Plus, we wanted people to see the direct impacts they could have on the movement and this is where the website plays a role. The website also includes other ways that donors can get involved. If they are in one of the major cities in Europe, they have the option to work with a local partner to host people in their homes. There are also options for people all around the world to donate funds or items such as toys, clothes and food.
Moving forward, Plus would like to explore other partnership opportunities including the creation of limited edition pendants for each one of the partner organizations. Plus believes that the migrant crisis calls for a new type of hospitality and partnering with an organization like AirBnb for a video series would help to spread this message. The designers would also like to explore possibilities for a social media campaign as well as a guerrilla campaign that expands on the possibilities for unique accessible retail experiences.