ME & EU – An impactful side project

Interviews

We bumped into Nathan and Sam at a Design Museum event we took part in a while back, and were inspired by their project: ME & EU, which they both created on the side whilst working at GBH London.


ME & EU is a collection of postcards written and designed by UK-based creatives that were sent across Europe as a means to reconnect the United Kingdom with the EU in the wake of Brexit. The aim for the project is to reach out and build on a sense of unity. We felt that outside of political debates & definitions, many of us wish to remain in touch. At a time of introspection, ME & EU aspired to look outwards, to reach beyond island shores and reconnect. And, as the British government formally triggered Article 50, 116 postcards were mailed out across all 27 EU countries. The book is the latest development of the project. As well as it documenting this creative, collective view of Brexit through the comprehensive set of postcards, it was a way of enabling, through its perforated format, the use of each postcard in order to continue this dialogue with our EU neighbours.

How did the project come about?

We started the project in the weeks following the result of the EU referendum. Brexit affected us in a way that a political decision hadn’t affected us previously. We felt so strongly about it that we knew we wanted to do something, however small that may be. For us, it was about trying to look outward when Britain was seen as looking inward, to attempt to unite people at a time of such division and to do something positive in an otherwise negative climate.

There were multiple different avenues we could have taken the project (campaign posters, pins, flags, pickets) but we knew this wasn’t the time anymore. We were very aware that we didn’t want this to become about trying to reverse Brexit and change political discourse. The reality was the vote had happened and that the UK was (sadly) exiting the EU. Our issue was that the event had fuelled a state of introspection and negativity as both ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ camps attempted to imagine the possibilities of a post-EU Britain. The projection being exerted through mass media outside of the UK didn’t add up with what many people felt inside of the UK. This left a lot of people we knew with an embarrassed, misunderstood feeling. It was this that made us realise we needed to do something that aspired to look outward, reach beyond our island shores and reconnect. Outside of all the political division and definitions, we all wish to remain in touch and keep talking, right? And so how better to connect and get people’s voices heard than to share a personal note on a postcard? It felt like a perfect medium.

What’s the most important thing you learned through the process?

There was an awful lot we learnt through the process of this project. But, if we had to pick the most important, it’d probably be the power of collaboration.

The nature of this project meant that it was built on a web of many different people. Without this variety of strengths and mindsets, the project would not only cease to exist but it wouldn’t have been pushed into the areas it has. Looking back, it is amazing what people can do when they stand on the shoulders of one another, especially when based on a topic they strongly believe in.

What made you keep going right until the end once you’d had the idea to do it?

In this case, how passionate we were about the topic had to be the main drive. The motivation to keep going definitely got easier as more people got involved but it was slower at the beginning and took a lot of ground work to keep it rolling. Getting it out in the real world and being vocal about it was definitely a good way to keep us buckled in. It made it concrete. It’s much easier to talk yourself out of a thought you’ve been cooking up in your head for a while but the speed we had to react based on the subject meant we were less precious and put it out there as soon as possible. The other benefit of doing this and getting it in the real world earlier is that others could feedback on it and make suggestions along the way. This comes back to what we said earlier about collaboration.

How did you juggle the project with your day job?

With less sleep, anything is possible. We’re kidding, we did put a lot of time in from our evenings and weekends but this is something we actually forgot about as we progressed through the project. Because we were working on something we believed in and had complete creative freedom it was, dare we say it, fun. The reasons for doing the project has made it the most rewarding thing we’ve worked on. If there is a bigger reason why you’re doing something other than putting money in your pocket, then juggling becomes much easier.

Any advise for the students hoping to enter The Creative Conscience Awards?

This is definitely cliché and we’ve all heard it before — ‘It’s all well and good having an idea but you’ve got to actually do it’. But as much as we’d heard it time and time again, this project proved it for us. The time between thinking of the idea and actually doing it was shortened because of the topic and crucial timing. It wasn’t an instant success but a case of making many, sometimes repeated, steps and starting really small. Don’t be afraid to just go for it, some things work out, some things don’t and some things take a while. Take the risk regardless, because you will learn from either experience.