Recreational drug use is common practice worldwide. With various ‘illicit’ drugs becoming easier to access and, in some cases, decriminalised, their usage is continuing to rise. With this comes rising cases of drug overdose, potential poisoning and long term harm to users’ health. Incidents of such harm resulting from recreational use or heavy usage can be mitigated, and even avoided entirely, if information is readily available on drugs’ safety.
This is the founding mission of NCCRED’s Prompt Response Network and their newly crafted online platform ‘The Know’.
Designed to provide free, up-to-date and judgement-free advice or alerts about the harm factor or legitimacy of current drug strains in the community, The Know will inform users of toxic chemicals and cases of lacing or the illegitimacy of emerging illicit drugs.
Through their Prompt Response Network (PRN), NCCRED runs several programs related to emerging drugs. Their programs deliver harm reduction services, helping to develop nuanced understandings around emerging drugs (and drugs in general) used among our communities, and empowering the people affected, and the general public, with relevant information through alerts.
Worldwide, incidents of drug abuse and drug-related accidents are increasing as people experiment with emerging drugs and the strengths increase of ‘old-school’ drugs. Such harms can be prevented and reduced by the timely sharing of accurate, relevant information.
TOAST was approached by NCCRED’s PRN platform to assess this situation, looking at how information can be made accessible and clearly understood whilst remaining accurate for all Australian communities. In this vein, our team was engaged to strategise, design and launch a public-facing brand which will act as a trusted and highly reliable source of information to help reduce harm across the drug landscape in Australia.
From the outset of this project, we recognised that reduction of drug use was not PRN’s core goal. Their goal was to provide accurate and up-to-date information to reduce the negative consequences that arise from drug misinformation and the consumption of compromised strains. The brand’s core purpose was to shift the narrative on drugs; supportive and open-minded values needed to be at the heart of the messaging. TOAST needed to create an altruistic brand which can be trusted. Our challenge was around building an influential platform which would be successful in engaging diverse audience groups on such a critical matter.
PRN exists to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians who partake in recreational or heavy drug use, aiming to prevent and minimise drug-related harm. Developed by a network of mixed contributors, including people who use drugs, bystanders, government bodies, and medical organisations, their new service provides access to a unique, accurate and timely source of information on emerging drugs and safe drug use.
To create a brand platform that is relevant, recognisable and ownable by PRN, TOAST delved deep into their space, interviewing a vast array of community groups, from recreational drug users, sober ex-users and festival attendees, to policy makers, GPs and coroners. It was paramount that our branding resonated across multiple targets, peak bodies and locations. Having myriad audiences, our team needed to formulate a broad yet targeted brand approach, one that is flexible and provides user-centric information.
PRN’s overall focus on harm reduction respects that you can use drugs and reduce potential harm, without abstinence. They are there to support and assist, not punish. A ‘people first attitude’ is core to their DNA and needed to be central to their new service’s brand footprint. Building on this, we crafted their brand and communications suite to be judgement-free - focusing solely on awareness, education, and respect. TOAST crafted a brand platform that is for people who actively use drugs, for the general public, and for professionals. Allowing drug safety information to be accessible by users, relatives and the general public, whilst also delivering a platform for the police, coroners and GPs which consolidates information to aid in policy making, trials or clinical studies.
The visual identity was strongly based on insights from our qualitative user testing and interview process, wherein preferences arose for a design that did not induce shame or embarrassment and used clean layouts to allow for information to be easily understood. Logotype preferences were for a word that was simple and memorable, connoting “information sharing” or “harm reduction,” paired with a realistic, trustworthy image.
Common Cause Australia’s ‘Drug Stigma Message Guide’ declared that “messages based around altruistic and community-oriented values including honesty, helpfulness and equality, were significantly more effective at activating supportive attitudes in persuadable audiences than purely fact-based messages.” Insights which led to our big idea ‘Keeping you in the know,’ which was subsequently moulded for the platform’s name ‘The Know.’
‘Keeping (users) in the know’ is about keeping them informed and mindful, providing knowledge on dangerous drug strains and more broadly on the side effects of recreational or recurrent drug usage. Users are kept in the know through having access to accurate, comprehensive and timely information which can save lives.
Beyond their pill imagery, the connected circles within The Know’s logotype are founded on a conceptual framework underpinned by community connection, collaboration and support, and the colour-blocked design highlighting ‘now’ in a contrasting orange reflects the urgency, accuracy and immediacy of their services. The primary colour palette of Purple, Orange and Green is deliberately dissimilar to the typical blue of medical and law enforcement industries to create a safe space that is not connected with punishment or pain - building on the ‘judgement-free’ aspect of their brand narrative - with purple, orange and green chosen specifically for their symbolism of wisdom, change and growth, respectively. TOAST developed this brand identity across The Know’s corporate presence, creating a cohesive brand suite and initial social media Look & Feel.
Working in such a sensitive, and dangerous, environment, we focused deeply on the human-to-human dynamic of our brand design. Paying close attention to our use of language and imagery to not induce shame or create further stigma through our discourse.
The Know connects individuals with the information to make safer choices, providing inspiration, knowledge and an action plan for improving individual and societal health outcomes, and saving lives.