Co-Designing the pilot of the Youth Boat Race

In conversation with Creative Director Helena Trail

3 minute read
Words Row360
Published 24.03.24

Ahead of the inaugural Youth Boat Race on Tuesday 26th March Row360 caught up with Helena Traill, the Founder and Creative Director at nooh Studio. nooh Studio helped create the striking and fresh branding for this exciting new event: the Youth Boat Race.

nooh Studio is a creative co-design agency based in West London. Their multidisciplinary team of designers and creatives build brands and tell stories that reach more people.

Here’s what Helena had to say about the co-design process:

Do you have any connections to rowing?

My father was actually the cox for his rowing team at school, so we used to watch the boat race every year as a family.

We were amazed at how engaged the young rowers were with the design process, can you tell us a bit more about the co-design process and why it achieves a better end product?

Co-design is a human-centred approach to storytelling which brings together diverse perspectives, expertise and experiences. The young rowers were engaged because they were invited to become collaborators – and that’s what co-design is all about.

It’s essentially designing something for an audience with that audience. Helping to drive the change we want to see in the world by building brands and stories that truly resonate with people.

This meant we designed the brand for the Youth Boat Race with the young people involved in the competition, which was great fun. It all started with a brand questionnaire that I took round to the boat club early one morning (luckily I live nearby!). Thanks to the typical London weather, nobody was rowing that day. So instead the young people came up with designs for the event’s logo and branding. It was amazing to feel the energy in the room and get an insight into their love for rowing, with many of them saying how uplifting and motivating they find it. But also very tiring due to the early mornings!

Engaging in this co-design process with the young people not only led to more creative ideas, but means when the brand goes out ‘in the wild’ there’ll be increased engagement. They can’t wait to get their hands on the merch, t-shirts and medals in April. And I can’t wait to see them with it.

Photo Co-designing with the nooh Studio team
Credit nooh Studio
What design inputs from the young rowers were you drawn to?

As usual, we were amazed by all the really creative concepts that came to light. The ideas around taking an elite sport and making it feel more grassroots, youthful and accessible were particularly inspiring.

Which aspects of the Youth Boat Race logo did you enjoy building into the design?

We brought the brand to life with a big, bold font, loud colours, and of course a boat – which goes across the logo, distorted by water. I really enjoyed the second phase of our design process, which is when we proposed three brand ideas and the young people voted digitally. I always have an inkling of which option might ‘win’ or get the best feedback and for this project 95% of participants all chose the same idea, so we were all on the same page.

What is your advice for any young designers out there?

Just trust the process and try to make nooh ideas! Don’t be afraid of getting started – things don’t have to be perfect. Observe the world around you for inspiration. Keep practising your drawing. And use free digital tools, like Capcut for video or Adobe Express for graphics, to tell stories (as digital natives you’re better at that than the rest of us).

Anything else you would like to add?

I would just like to add a huge thank you to the Fulham Reach Boat Club for involving us in this project, we can’t wait to see the engagement we get from the young people taking part in this pilot boat race. Co-design really does amazing things in the youth sector – including young people in conversations about them, bringing people together and increasing engagement. Let’s hope the buzz continues to grow and the Youth Boat Race continues for many years to come!