community centred innovations
in disaster prone contexts

The Start Network
Branding, Editorial Design, Infographic Design


We designed a series of learning papers for the Start Network documenting a two year program, The DEPP Innovation Labs. The DEPP Labs supported local-level innovation to strengthen disaster preparedness in crisis affected communities.

The project documentation we designed consisted of a briefing paper, three field studies, an invitation for a demo day with innovators and funders in London, and twelve posters featuring the different innovations.

It was a challenging editorial project, in which we had to render dense content in a very visual and engaging way; however we were thrilled to work with an organization that, through local teams, supports the very same people who experience the problem in designing its solution.


Who, better than those who experience a problem first hand, is more qualified to address, test, and prototype innovative solutions?

The Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) Innovation Labs is a two-year programme that aims to foster, and eventually scale up, innovations that address key problems faced by disaster-prone communities.

The programme has established ‘lab’ spaces in disaster-prone communities in Bangladesh, Jordan, Kenya and the Philippines.

Many of the innovators are from the community themselves, with limited experience and knowledge of developing and scaling innovations, but with knowledge of local issues and priorities. Lab staff have developed unique and comprehensive packages of support to help build capacity and to guide these innovators through the process.

Who, better than those who experience a problem first hand, is more qualified to address, test, and prototype innovative solutions?


Tools for other possible innovators, as well as research documentation.


We were to design a series of engaging materials with its own voice, yet aligned with the Start Network branding.

  • Audience:
    Policymakers, people from the UK and abroad working in the field.
  • Keywords provided to describe the project:
    Visual, engaging, accessible.
  • Aim:
    The papers serve both as a tool for other possible innovators interested in building up on the findings, as well as research papers.


We were inspired by the atmosphere of co-creation and human-centred design. Co-creation usually happens in an informal environment; uncomplicated tools like brightly coloured post-it notes, rough sketches, and sheets of papers are often used to instantly visualize, further explore, and even test ideas.

We translated this approach into straightforward graphical shapes to determine the character of the cover, pictograms, text boxes, and overall design.

“A project that creates something beautiful without any community engagement is less valuable than a project with a lot of community engagement, regardless of outcome.”

Color palette

We decided on a flashy colour palette that would both reflect the grassroot identity and dynamism of the project while complementing the more austere Start Network branding colors.

We wanted to make each one of the papers immediately identifiable as part of a series, while at the same time stand out as a unit; each paper was then assigned an ID color to be used discreetly outside and inside throughout.

Start Network provided colour palette
book series colour palette


Covers are wrapped with a duotone photo from each one of the four labs, respectively the Philippines, Kenya, Jordan, and Bangladesh. The photo is always edited as a duotone using the Start Network teal brand colour.

Infographics and Icons

We created a visual subsystem of icons, graphs and typographic elements to emphasize and simplify key concepts and processes throughout the books.

we created a visual system, common across all papers, to present crucial data as infographics

We designed a few sets of icons for different functions; the sets, while staying coherent between each other, allow for various degrees of visual complexity according to the content.


A new chapter always has a bleeding bar with a crop of the front cover photo on the left, stating the title of the product and the chapter name. This bar helps signalling the beginning of a new chapter at a glance.

We used 1 or 2 column asymmetrical layouts to adapt to the content and provide visual diversity.

Lab pages

Here we present each lab individually while making it easy to compare them; we use a series of recurring icons and we focus on making the content very legible, presenting it in small chunks. Adequate white space and generous margins make parsing dense information more accessible.

The big field of color signals to a busy reader that this is an important spread.

Lab color coding

Each lab is assigned its own colour. We use this colour coding throughout the document when we present information specific to each lab.

A mix of spreads from the different papers.
“ matter your experience in a similar setting, the local staff do understand more about the socio-cultural and political dynamics. However, we always forget about them in the comfort of our field or HQ offices...”

Supporting material

Invitation, folder and posters

Innovators from each lab were invited to London to seek financial support for their start-ups. We designed some supporting material for the event.  


The posters were to be featured at the event itself and they functioned as information pieces to capture the investors' interest.

Each one of the 12 posters, color coded in relation to their incubation lab, featured a picture and a key quote from the innovator/innovating team, as well as a description of their innovation.


An e-invitation was designed to announce the Global Innovation Day event. A lot of information had to fit in a very small space so we created a clear visual hierarchy to bring forth the most important elements.


A complementary folder was going to be distributed at the event to gather the day’s material.

“Indigenous peoples, through their experience and traditional knowledge, provide an important contribution to the development and implementation of plans and mechanisms, including for early warning.”

The series

A brief overview of each paper's main subject

The Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme Innovation Labs

The Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) Innovation Labs is a two-year programme that aims to foster, and eventually scale up, innovations that address key problems faced by disaster-prone communities.

These Labs have created the space for experimentation, community participation and new forms of interaction with external partners that may not be possible in traditional top-down programmes.

Business models for innovators working in crisis response and resilience building

This paper focuses on the processes for selecting a business model and achieving financial sustainability. It is designed for organisations and initiatives working with social impact innovators.

Human-centred design and humanitarian innovation

This research paper aims to understand how DEPP Labs implemented a HCD methodology and how effectively this has translated into humanitarian contexts. It outlines key principles, explores whether HCD increased the level and quality of participation, and discusses key questions that may be relevant to participation more broadly.

Support models for local humanitarian innovation

This research paper aims to explore what has been learned in recent years about support for local innovation at DEPP Labs and other humanitarian sector initiatives.

The paper explores the models of support that work best for local innovations, and why.

Next project

Serious Games in Yemen

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