Launching a first-ever education division to unlock scientific thinking.
Science is the process of using data to make better decisions
—and the world needs it, badly.
The Simons Foundation, one the world’s leading advocates for scientific thinking, focuses on two big challenges: making groundbreaking research possible, and making science a part of everyday culture, to unlock scientific thinking in all people. (Yes, hugely ambitious and the fate of the planet kinda rests on it.)
To solve this second challenge, Simons partners with creative innovators—artists, educators, filmmakers, provocateurs and uncategorizable roustabouts—who bring science to the masses.
The Foundation worked with Article Group to launch its Education & Outreach division and improve its grantmaking process to attract the brightest innovators out there.
Creative science innovators don’t need “funding.”
They need partners ready to jump in the sandbox with them and get dirty.
The division’s goal was to appeal to anyone who fits its description of a creative science innovator. Which meant it needed to attract to a much broader and more diverse audience than a typical grantmaker, including many people who may have never applied for a grant in their lives.
Make something useful, inspiring and worthwhile.
We launched the brand for the Simons’ Education & Outreach division “Science Sandbox”
The brand itself was manifest as a lab notebook—the humble template that’s shaped the advancement of human thought. The lab notebook details core information about the new Simons Foundation brand and projects it has supported, like restoring the Hudson Bay with oysters or using Wikipedia as vehicle for scientific writing in the classroom.
We were able to use the pages of the notebook as a kind of scratch pad for ideas that unlock scientific thinking. These prompts are the key tenets of the brand and tools to improve thinking about science education and communications. It was focused on the essential questions that determine whether The Simons Foundation funds its projects. It created a quasi-dialogue that made the brand something anyone could experience.
And the back of the notebook was blank, giving applicants a reason to iterate on their work and keep and using it—even if a project couldn’t get funding.
More than communicating a brand, the notebook accomplishes a mission.
By first creating a brand that was accessible and authentic, and second, creating a piece of collateral that broke convention, Article Group was able to make one piece of marketing accomplish a lot all at once.
The notebook gave Simons a new voice that was accessible to the broader culture. It gave science projects and the foundation space to shine. It gave audiences focused ways to learn and think about making science more relevant. And, since the notebook could be used like any other notebook—to collect and organize scientific ideas—it was accomplishing the core mission of the foundation as well. It made science part of culture.
Let’s go Tardigrading!
Working with John Pavlus to create a video that captures this inclusive notion of scientific thinking.
Working with Science Sandbox and The Article Group, a creative agency, Pavlus homed in on the tardigrade as the perfect mascot for “natural curiosity” and “fearless exploration,” qualities that drive scientific discovery. Also known as water bears, these particularly resilient microscopic creatures, which live underfoot in the soil and puddles we step over every day, have been known to withstand temperatures as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as –450 degrees Fahrenheit. With little more than “enough brains” and “plenty of guts,” as the video script puts it, tardigrades have thrived as a species for more than 500 million years simply by exploring new places — including the planet’s most extreme environments. Tardigrades have even survived in the vacuum of space.