There comes a point in the existence of every makerspace when communicating the impact of your space on the community is critical. Maybe you’re making the case to administration for more support. Maybe your development people want to tell alumni about cool new stuff happening on campus. Whatever it is, you want an immediate and compelling way to telegraph what your space and its programs are all about. This article is an attempt to identify a few of the critical elements of effective storytelling/marketing and provide some examples of how we’ve used those elements in our work at Olin.
Capture, capture, capture.
First and foremost, make sure you’re capturing exciting events taking place in your space. If nice still and video cameras aren’t already standard equipment in your space, run (don’t walk!) to purchase them. They will pay for themselves almost immediately. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a tight, 2 minute video is worth ten thousand. Find that student who loves to shoot photos and videos and turn her loose with your equipment.
At Olin, in the summer of 2015, the library director and I ran a design/build intensive experience for a group of 7 students to reimagine Olin’s library and chart it’s future. We called it Olin Workshop on the Library, and we knew documenting the experience and the results would be critical to building community buy-in. At the time, I gave our library director, Jeff Goldenson, a hard time for purchasing: an actively stabilized 3-axis camera gimbal from DJI (pictured on right).
But, once I saw the quality of video we were able to produce as a result, I was sold. The camera and gimbal have also been used as part of a larger initiative on campus to encourage high-quality project documentation in general. The video below was assembled from footage shot using the gimbal over the entire summer and has been critical to telling the story of the project. (If you can’t stomach dropping so much coin on the DJI gimbal, there are smaller versions made by various manufacturers that make smartphone video look amazing.)
Individual stories have power
This is Logan…..
Logan was a rising sophomore who joined the OWL team with no fabrication experience whatsoever (like maybe using a cordless drill once) and finished the summer a master of the college’s Shopbot CNC router, having fabricated a set of nine beautiful planters for the library.
As she documented in her project writeup, she started from an idea she was passionate about (greenery in the library) and learned to use the traditional tools of engineering to make something to have a positive impact on her and other students’ environment. Hers is a wonderful story of empowerment, autonomy, mastery, and how a student can turn the tools of traditional engineering back on a learning environment to have a positive impact.
Identify your Logans. Foster their learning. And, make sure you get them to document their experiences along the way.
Events unrelated to making
One of the most powerful ways we’ve found of telling the story of the library project has been through events that have nothing to do with making. Every Wednesday, the library hosts a pop-up coffee shop run entirely by student baristas. Faculty, staff, and students alike are invited to come enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation. It provides an opportunity for community members to experience the space and hear about new programming or even just explore and learn what resources are available to them. The coffee-making method of choice is pour-over which creates long lines and significant wait times, forcing people to slow down, socialize and take in their environment.
So, to recap:
Capture everything. Take photos. Take videos. Force yourselves to get them into a presentable form by publishing them.
Tell personal stories. These can be about personal, individual transformations, products with personal impact, or enabling success that wouldn’t otherwise have happened without your space/community. These stories will look different depending on your space/community
Hold making-neutral events to welcome everyone to learn what you’re about. Coffee is a powerful draw. Free food isn’t bad either.