Employing compassion to flourish creativity has been more important than ever when responding to these challenging times. While empathy allows us to care about whoever is suffering, compassion moves you to alleviate it. This has been showcased by communities and individuals nationwide who have taken to arts and crafts to spread witty, imaginative, and heartfelt designs. Painted rainbows with messages of love and support hang in windows for the superhero NHS and key workers, while chalked drawings symbolising hope and unity on pavements encourage a smile from passersby on their daily walk.

“Creativity is the capacity that all of us have, that can be harnessed to any particular end. We can focus our creativity on creating great community or we can focus our creativity on building bombs. You can be a creative sniper or you can be a creative nurse”

Harry Pickens, How Compassion Fuels Creativity, CreativeMornings

With the majority of the nation preferring the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over economic growth, we’ve also witnessed a holistic shift in focus amongst designers. Creative communications have not only become more informative and responsible but also uplifting and compassionate in a bid to ease the stresses of the restricted social climate. The suspension of what we’d once considered a “normal” day has also provided space to turn our minds to fresh opportunities, inventive projects, and accelerate those we’ve put on the back burner.

Compassion lends itself to a mindset of curiosity and openness to discovery when faced with adversity. It channels creative energy toward deeper observation and understanding of the core issues at stake and provides a beacon to not merely align but connect teams to a shared goal. This results in solutions of greater significance with more authentic connections but most importantly harnesses creativity in a way that is sustainable, satisfying, and exciting.

A collaborative poster campaign by the British Red Cross, Kindness Will Keep Us Together, has leveraged the curiosity and creativity of eleven talented creatives including Anthony Burrill, Rose Blake, and Supermundane. Each artist channeled their own experience of the outbreak to create artworks that share the charity’s positive message and raise funds for their UK Coronavirus Response Appeal. Coordinated by VCCP, the posters can be downloaded online in either colour or black and white, with the suggestion that they’re coloured in and displayed locally by children and adults alike.

“Whatever the situation, whatever times we are in, whatever else is up, we all have the ability to show compassion, kindness, and generosity in our own ways. It’s one huge thing people have in common and need to embrace!”

Nina Cosford, Illustrator, Kindness Will Keep Us Together

A push back of positivity has not only been seen in the revival of the poster. As the general public rapidly tires of life under lock down, animators are also alleviating fatigue by embracing and sharing the upsides of staying home. Kathrin Steinbacher and Emily Downe, owners of Studio Desk, have now released the second in a series of three compilation videos titled Flatten The Curve. Animators across the globe contributed over 90 uplifting short stories inspired by their time under lock down. Unsurprisingly the outcome is an eclectic ensemble of colourful takes on the new normal, from spending more time with our pets and televisions to our new-found obsession with house plants. The animations joyfully share the benefits of staying at home while reminding us of the simple daily pleasures we’ll no longer take for granted.

In a similar vein, IKEA Singapore released Making Home Count, an evocative advert shot using home footage by TBWA/Singapore. The video focuses on appreciating the small yet special and often humorous daily occurrences within the family home in lock down. Its modest production also demonstrates how brands can keep communicating despite the current limitations.

This could be considered a bold move as the pandemic has left brands in contention and rightly tentative on how to approach communications sensitively. Sceptics are quick to pounce on any pushy sales tactics and if advertising is deemed uncompassionate, you’re in danger of being seen as taking advantage and profiting from the crisis. Nevertheless, diplomatic and clever approaches are emerging and IKEA is an example of one that translates as more supportive than salesy.

It’s also inspiring to see brands using their visibility to reach out and support vulnerable audiences. With UK broadcasters reaching record audience figures, ITV continued its Britain Get Talking campaign during Mental Health Awareness Week UK this month. Supported by Mind and YoungMinds, ITV Conversations consists of five short yet impactful animated films that ran across the channel to encourage everyone to get talking.

Taking the format of text and group messaging, the series highlights the types of conversations we’re having as the majority of our communication shifts to digital mediums during lock down. From a lighthearted debut of a dodgy DIY haircut to torturous rumination over the wording of a message that risks being misinterpreted without real vocal tone and body language, the campaign message is clear and compassionate – reach out to the ones you normally don’t. It is particularly aimed at younger audiences and arrives as one in four young people don’t have access to mental health support during Covid-19.

Compassion and creativity both take a lot of energy. To remain observant and open in such a busy landscape while harnessing a problem and creating a solution can be draining. Many creatives are fuelled and inspired by challenges but compassion is a ‘fellow feeling’, whether that fellow is a client or yourself. It’s important to turn those skills inward, be kind to yourself, and when cultivated as an agency value, compassion can yield out-sized benefits. 

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