Pigs that fly, steers that sell themselves, a course for horses – all made from cards.

Sometimes good design can act as a trigger that unleashes a flood of creativity. This is what happened when Enbridge Inc. came to Sasges Inc. as the national sponsor of 4-H Canada’s 100th anniversary celebrations last year. They asked us to develop a commemorative gift that would be distributed to all of 4-H members, and to create an online campaign to promote engagement across the country.

Since Canada’s longest-running youth club promotes growth and exploration through practical projects – “learn to do by doing” is its motto – we knew the solution had to be something hands-on, promoting group solutions at the various 4-H chapters.

One of the main challenges was the range of kids we had to target. At 4-H they go from eight to 21,” says Morgan Curley our lead designer on the project team. “So we had to get into their headspace and come up something meaningful for the whole group. We knew it had to be lo-fi, that people could come together and build. That’s what 4-H is all about.”

A great solution was in the cards. We decided to create a deck of 50 playing cards, which would provide a hundred different surfaces to tell 4-H’s story. The cards, produced in two languages, would also be notched so 4-H members could fit them together to build their own visions of where the organization would go in its next 100 years.

To get sharp bites of information for the cards, writer Jacquie Moore, searched through 4-H’s archives and watched a number of its old VHS tapes. While she discovered some good content but we were still short of facts for the cards. So we designed a web landing page that allowed past and present 4-H members and leaders to share their favourite stories about the organization. A flood of heartfelt responses came.

Members gave us heartwarming stories about how 4-H improved their lives,” says Morgan. “We could have never dug these up from the archives. But it was easy to ask their opinion. They are really strong, involved kids and adults who wanted to share.”

“Sasges Inc. really stepped up to the plate,” adds Enbridge’s Coordinator, Public Affairs Teisha Kaiser. “They provided this really great idea and created the cards for us. Working with 4-H, they did all of the fact gathering and design. It was a huge project but they did a fantastic job of pulling it all together.”

Our team marshalled the facts, worked with a photographer and illustrator to create images for 40 of the surfaces and then created the rest of the designs ourselves using a combination of found objects and typography. Then we oversaw the complex production job at Blanchette Press, who used four-colour process and combined it with metallic and fluorescent inks overprinting. It was all finished with custom die-cutting using a die manufactured specially for the millwork notches.

After creating packages for the cards – as well as the commemorative booklet and a pin provided 4-H to accompany them – we mailed them out to all 35,000 4-H Canada members. We also worked with audiovisual production house DDG to create a video inviting the youth to build their own tributes to 4-H’s future with the cards, documenting the results in pictures and videos that would be uploaded to the organization’s Facebook page.

 

I really felt that the Sasges team went above and beyond the call of duty in supporting me through the contest and execution,” says Kaiser. “I was using a back-end application for the Facebook contest that I wasn’t familiar with, Sasges helped us out, ironing out the technical details so everything ran smoothly.”

“The project moved very comfortably between print and web and video and social media,” says Rita Sasges. “We believe that the medium doesn’t matter. It’s the message that counts. A great idea will dictate its channels of execution.”
The many responses on Facebook demonstrated a remarkable range of creativity, with kids sometimes going beyond just notching the cards together and ripping them apart and using the deconstructed parts – with glue guns and ingenuity – to create their 4-H homages.
They ran the whole gamut,” recalls Kaiser, “from imaginary ladders to hot-air balloons. A common theme was the merger of city life ad rural life, and how 4-H can create a better more sustainable planet.”

Both the Sasges team and the Enbridge and 4H judges evaluating the submissions really enjoyed the entrants’ sometimes off-the-wall ingenuity. The Cercle des Jeunes Ruraux de Compton-Waterville chapter in Quebec, for example, won second prize and $2,500, for its “impossible,” flying pig that demonstrates that anything is possible in the future with the right 4-H commitment and ingenuity.

First place, and $5,000, went to Ontario’s South Bruce 4-H Beef Club, who created a life-sized steer from cards. Their “Bruce Takes Toronto” video documents how they displayed Bruce at the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair, where he was admired by thousands of visitors. The members demonstrated typical 4-H pluck and commitment to good causes by auctioning off their Grade A beef steer for $550 and donating the proceeds to charity.

We can’t help but agree with the video’s closing lines: “The future of 4-H is in us, the members. And we think it is in pretty good hands.”

Of course, the 4-H commemorative event itself was in good hands. Enbridge’s sponsorship and support enabled everything to happen in fine style. And a lot of other hands were involved in making the project a success, including: writer Jacquie Moore, illustrator Lauren Tamaki, photographer Howard Bjornson, printer Blanchette Press, video producers Deluxe Design Group (DDG) and web developers Sajak & Farki. Thank you all for your own 4-Hs: hard work, heroic effort, handy professionalism and helpful dispositions.