[okfn-advisory] Open Knowledge brand and website

Laura James laura.james at okfn.org
Fri May 9 07:52:04 UTC 2014

Thanks Peter, I've added your suggestion to the wiki.

As Rufus notes, we had spoken with some of you (and at least one of the
Council, as well as a couple of representatives from local groups and
working groups spoke with the brand agency - a limited representation given
limited budget and time).  Looking back, the challenge of succinctly
representing Open Knowledge in words is one of the toughest areas here (and
we were distracted by debate amongst our team, which mostly focussed on the
logo), and we should have brought in others - like this group - at an
earlier stage.

I think it may be worth setting out why the tagline we got to had the word
"data" as I think it's a useful aspect to understand - even if we all agree
we should not use the tagline once we've found a better one.  I've tried to
explain this below.

Best regards,


The quest with the tagline was to find something compelling and catchy that
would attract and interest folks who knew nothing of open. This is vital
for us - we want to grow the movement and that means we must be able to
catch the interest of new folks who will join us in the cause, be active
community members, and maybe (much lower priority) even donate money. (We
are keen to see our donor income grow, as this is 'neutral' funding, both
in terms of not aligning us with a specific industry or government, and
also in that it is funding we can spend on anything - ie what we feel is
strategic, not what projects funders happen to like.) That means we must be
able to communicate very briefly - just the words and image on a sticker,
say - and get someone interested enough to investigate more.

In the autumn, with the brand agency, we sought to understand how people
explained 'open' to new folks. This was a critical area of the community
survey which was run, and also was discussed in workshops and interviews
with community members.  It turns out that many of us - and I include lots
of the central team, here, who work on Open Knowledge full time - struggle
hugely to explain what we do and why it matters to people who are not in
the open movement today. The best cases use examples - specific examples
where access to information has a transformative power. I have to say that
the majority of those (particularly those reported as successful methods of
persuading a new person, with no specific academic or technical speciality,
that what we do matters) focus on data, not other forms of knowledge.  They
use stories, and mostly they use stories of data related to government in
some way - generally, stories of uncovered corruption. These stories have
power - they talk of a group who suffered, in some way, and for whom open
data enabled (or could enable) a positive change and improvement in life.
 Such stories are often about the overthrow or fall of a powerful group or
individual which is a highly effective story structure.

Other stories, such as stories about access to scholarly research, or the
importance of open transport data, or openGLAM, work for some specialist
audiences, but for your cousin or next door neighbour or your taxi driver,
these have a vastly lower success rate at being interesting or something
where a short conversation might end with "hey, tell me the web address,
i'll look it up". And that's ultimately what we want - more new folks
saying, hey, that sounds important, i'd like to help.

And so the stories we have heard, from the community, as being stories
which convert new people to an interest in Open Knowledge, tend to be about
data. They also tend to be about social justice. It is also fair to say
they often describe a future where things are better, not the present -
people say things like "imagine a world where you could easily find out
where your taxes are spent".  This was a strong theme in the community
survey and interviews and workshops, and so it became a theme which ran
through the brand thinking.

This encouraged us and the brand specialists to focus on this angle in
creating a small set of words to describe why Open Knowledge matters. We
looked at phrases about power and justice and data and change.  The focus
was not on what we do today (which is many, many things, as we all know!)
but the vision of the future we want to achieve, and specifically a bit of
that vision which 'clicks' with people who may have no idea about open, or
why there might be any technical or legal friction to sharing information.
 By focussing on a bit of a vision of the future, we don't need to talk
about global communities or open source or data wrangling or licences or
formats or business models or any of the other things we might talk about
today. So the vision focus was appealing from that point of view too,
because it helps avoid the really difficult questions of explaining who we
are and what we do, when we are so diverse and do so many different things.

Instead we just give people a hint of an appealing future, and hope they
want to get involved in making it happen. The ideal would be that they then
come to our website (or whatever) and can see there's a range of things to
do, which are easy and where at least one might appeal. It may be just
clicking a button to donate funds, or it might be to come along to a local
meetup in your city, or to sign a petition to ask for some information to
be released. Once people are over that threshold, they will, or some of
them will, see that they could be more involved. Perhaps they run meetups
or get data skills training or champion open knowledge in their workplace.
Some of them will set up local groups, or get involved or set up projects
or working groups or new communities around new kinds of open knowledge
we've not thought of today. This is the future we want - a growing, active

But the first step is helping someone new realise there's an important and
interesting thing.  We heard through the autumn in the community survey and
more that stories of future social justice powered by open data were a
great way to do this, and that has lead us to "see how data  can change the
world" with the other words on okfn.org support that ("a world where
knowledge creates power for the many, not the few. A world where
information and insights are accessible - and apparent - to everyone" --
these phrases capture the essence of that social justice message, in a way
which hopefully is understandable and appealing to new folks).

So far, the 'new folks' we've tried these words on have responded well, but
of course there's always more market testing that can be done. But a lot of
the communities we work with aren't happy with the tagline, and that's
super important for us, so we need to think more about the tagline.

On 8 May 2014 23:18, Peter Murray-Rust <pm286 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> I have already expressed my views that the tag line gives a misleading
> idea of what the OKF already is and does. I'd prefer a line something like:
> "A community to make knowledge open and useful"
> I am not keen on "data" - we are only very peripherally a data
> organisation - our *community* is much more important, approaches to GLAM,
> the practice of open science, bottom-up democracy, advocacy, etc.
> And I also commented that it would have been appropriate to consult the
> advisory council *before* rebranding - as it is we look like an unnecessary
> appendage - there's a new logo , and new name, a new tagline - and we have
> little role other than to legitimise them - it doesn't seem we can do
> anything else.
> P.
> On Thu, May 8, 2014 at 6:52 PM, Laura James <laura.james at okfn.org> wrote:
>> All,
>> As some of you will know, we've had lots of discussion around the new
>> brand in the last few weeks, especially the tagline, which some folks feel
>> is too data-centric, or not enough about people, or not specific enough to
>> our work.
>> In response we've opened this up for more community input, and so far there’s
>> not been a clear consensus on a good alternative tagline yet, so we’re
>> going to continue to use
>> *"Open Knowledge: see how data can change the world" *for now.
>> We’d like to continue seeking a better alternative though! There’s some
>> notes on what a tagline needs to do, and a list of alternative ideas on the
>> wiki:
>> http://wiki.okfn.org/About_the_Open_Knowledge_brand/tagline_discussion It
>> would be great to see some further exploration of the options there, and to
>> gather other new ideas for the tagline too. In a few weeks, when everyone’s
>> had a bit more time to reflect, we’ll come back to the list on the wiki and
>> work out a shortlist.
>> It would be great to get ideas from Advisory Council members on this.
>> It's difficult to capture all the variety and diversity of Open Knowledge
>> in just a few words, which make sense and are interesting and compelling to
>> people encountering us for the first time, and your thoughts would be
>> really valuable.
>> Best regards,
>> Laura
>> On 11 April 2014 15:25, Laura James <laura.james at okfn.org> wrote:
>>> *All,  As many of you know, we're refreshing our brand, and as part of
>>> this we will be launching a new Open Knowledge website with our new brand
>>> next week.  *
>>>    - We’re improving things to help Open Knowledge reach more people -
>>>    particularly communities who aren't involved in the open movement today
>>>    - Name change: from ‘Open Knowledge Foundation’ to ‘Open Knowledge’
>>>    - New logo and better support for network use of the logo
>>>    - Words change: we have a new way of talking about ourselves, to
>>>    make sure new people to Open can understand what we’re doing and why
>>> *Our network has been involved in the brand development process
>>> especially in the early stages as we explored what open knowledge meant to
>>> us all, and over the last weeks we've been sharing the results with them
>>> through local group and working group coordinators.  We've also got a wiki
>>> page with all the
>>> information: http://wiki.okfn.org/About_the_Open_Knowledge_brand
>>> <http://wiki.okfn.org/About_the_Open_Knowledge_brand> which we'll update as
>>> more materials etc become available. Of course news of the rebrand is
>>> already getting out...  Although as expected there are some negative
>>> responses (no brand narrative or visuals will please all of our diverse
>>> network!), we've also had some really strong buy in from community leaders,
>>> such as: "I really like it!  :)   While my own approach to Open Knowledge
>>> is less data-centric than most, this logo leaves itself open (as it
>>> were) to enough interpretation to remain a great exemplar of Open Knowledge
>>> in all its forms. And I am very pleased, even relieved, to see the round O
>>> form so boldly embraced.  I'm sure the process was challenging, but I know
>>> I'll be proud to use it."  -- from our Ambassador in the US. The main
>>> okfn.org <http://okfn.org> website will update next week (this has been a
>>> priority because this site hasn't done a great job of explaining open
>>> knowledge for some time and gets a lot of criticism), and we'll gradually
>>> update other things (email sigs, business cards, letterhead etc) in the
>>> coming weeks. We are also very aware of community use of the brand,
>>> and will of course allow community use of the logo just as we have done
>>> with the old logo, but we hope that by providing stronger templates and
>>> tools we can all benefit from greater consistency in our brand than in the
>>> past.  We will be creating templates and assets and sharing these with the
>>> network as soon as we can, so we can benefit from a shared strong brand
>>> that says who we are and what we do, and helps us create more impact
>>> through open knowledge. Do let us know if you have any questions or
>>> concerns. Our new Communications Officer, Susanne Kendler, has a plan for
>>> how we'll handle feedback about the brand, and our Network Director, Naomi
>>> Lillie, is supporting with communications with our local groups and working
>>> groups. They are both CCd here.  Best regards,Laura--  Dr Laura James CEO
>>> skype: laura.james  |  @LaurieJ <http://twitter.com/LaurieJ> Open Knowledge
>>> <http://okfn.org/>    -    See how data can change the world
>>> http://okfn.org/ <http://okfn.org/>  |  @okfn <http://twitter.com/OKFN>  |
>>>  Facebook <https://www.facebook.com/OKFNetwork>  |  Blog
>>> <http://blog.okfn.org/>   <http://okfn.org/about/newsletter> The Open
>>> Knowledge Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation.  It is incorporated
>>> in England & Wales as a company limited by guarantee, with company number
>>> 05133759.  VAT Registration № GB 984404989. Registered office address: Open
>>> Knowledge Foundation, St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge,
>>> CB4 0WS, UK.   *
>> --
>> * Dr Laura James CEO   *
>> *skype: laura.james  |  *@LaurieJ <http://twitter.com/LaurieJ>
>> * Open Knowledge <http://okfn.org/>    -    See how data can change the
>> world http://okfn.org/ <http://okfn.org/>  |  @okfn
>> <http://twitter.com/OKFN>  |  Facebook
>> <https://www.facebook.com/OKFNetwork>  |  Blog <http://blog.okfn.org/>
>> <http://okfn.org/about/newsletter> The Open Knowledge Foundation is a
>> not-for-profit organisation.  It is incorporated in England & Wales as a
>> company limited by guarantee, with company number 05133759.  VAT
>> Registration № GB 984404989. Registered office address: Open Knowledge
>> Foundation, St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 0WS,
>> UK.   *
>> _______________________________________________
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> --
> Peter Murray-Rust
> Reader in Molecular Informatics
> Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
> University of Cambridge
> CB2 1EW, UK
> +44-1223-763069


*Dr Laura JamesCEO  *

*skype: laura.james  |  *@LaurieJ <http://twitter.com/LaurieJ>

*Open Knowledge <http://okfn.org/>    -    See how data can change the
worldhttp://okfn.org/ <http://okfn.org/>  |  @okfn
<http://twitter.com/OKFN>  |  Facebook
<https://www.facebook.com/OKFNetwork>  |  Blog <http://blog.okfn.org/>
<http://okfn.org/about/newsletter>The Open Knowledge Foundation is a
not-for-profit organisation.  It is incorporated in England & Wales as a
company limited by guarantee, with company number 05133759.  VAT
Registration № GB 984404989. Registered office address: Open Knowledge
Foundation, St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 0WS,
UK.  *
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