Better Things

Portfolio: genuine innovation in the public sector

The problem

The guys at Nottingham City Council are a bright bunch. One day whilst visiting London they noticed that Hackney Borough Council was running an interesting public health campaign. Rather than make a note and then get someone in their creative team to copy it, they thought how cool it would be if they could buy the creative from Hackney and adapt it slightly (their logo, perhaps their fonts) to run in the streets of Nottingham. Hackney would recoup some of the expense they incurred in producing the campaign – whether internal costs or external agency costs – and Nottingham would save money by not having to originate expensive campaign creative.

Being no slouches, (and being somewhat proud of the campaign creative that their team produce) they also realised that for bigger local authorities like them, there was a real opportunity to sell campaigns and make some money back – enabling them to do more with their budget in the face of public spending cuts. And of course for smaller authorities, the option of being able to buy artwork at a fraction of the cost of originating it would mean budgetary savings and/or increased ability to have an impact on their local area.

They decided that they wanted to create a marketplace where local authorities could trade their campaign artwork.

They also recognised that many local creative agencies may be worried about the development of such a marketplace, seeing it as competing with them for creative budgets. But they envisaged agencies re-selling campaign artwork where they held the copyright to do so, recycling failed pitch creative, or indeed using any ‘down time’ to create generic campaigns to sell to multiple councils via the marketplace.

Of course, as a public sector project, the budget was restrictive, even if the idea was good.

The solution

Nottingham City Council approached Better Things with a loose sketch of the idea in their heads and a bucketload of enthusiasm. We all knew that the obvious place for this marketplace was the web – and that we would need to build a bespoke site to make it work. We loved the idea, but recognising the serious limitations of the budget, knew that the technology, as the most expensive part of the job, would dictate what we could propose as a creative solution.

We spent a day workshopping the site with the client – looking at the potential audiences for the site, exploring what the brand should feel like and brainstorming key functionality.

Establishing the bare functionality bones of the site – the ability for users to create and manage accounts, to both buy (make payments) and sell (receive payments), to upload and download high resolution, large sized files, to be able to add information, tags, thumbnail ‘preview’ images for each of the campaigns they wanted to buy, and of course to indicate what level of IP they owned, or what image or font licenses were held – allowed us to workwith our development partner to determine the best CMS solution and e-shop for the budget (we used ExpressionEngine and Cartthrob). We added a few nice extras – like the ability for users to ask questions and comment on other user’s creative in real time. And then we set about mapping out the Information Architecture, creating a sitemap and a series of detailed wireframes.

Into the design phase, we developed an identity for Portfolio, and then designed the site templates, before beginning the build.

The site went live on May 25th, launching on the first day of the annual LG communications conference to general acclaim, and has been well received on Twitter with at least one user hailing ‘genuine government innovation at last’. The site is currently in Beta. We will continue to refine the site over the next six months as more and more users get involved and we find out what the stress points are, and where improvements can be made.

You can check the site out at, although the full site is only accessible to members. You can also follow the site on Twitter @Portfoliotweet or like them on Facebook:
Portfolio screengrab homepage