Sometimes a simple word sticks. And simple words stick not just because they’re pretty but also because they’re as simple as they can get when you write them on a piece of paper: just a bunch of letters put together, right? But at the same time, their meaning can be powerful enough to go beyond your expectations and open up a whole new world that has always existed but somehow seemed beyond your grasp for no apparent reason.

Due to the nature of my work at LiveSketching.com I’m lucky to attend a few events and meetings, both public and private in nature, but covering a wide array of topics. As you can guess, one of the biggest perks that I have is that I get exposed to a lot of free knowledge that otherwise I wouldn’t.

This article is about one of those simple words that I picked up at the UX Lx conference from this totally cool dude from Australia that goes by the name Steve Baty (@docbaty). That word is: Reframing

There can be many definitions to reframing, depending on the field you work or where your interests lie but my intention is not to define the word per se but to show you a few examples of what I consider great solutions around reframing an issue.

So, about (Re)Framing…

I love ideas. I love to have them and elaborate on them, either alone or with friends, coworkers or at times even with total strangers. The funny thing about ideas is that they usually have a purpose and they usually try to solve something. Let’s call it a problem.

One of the hardest things to do — in all problems you tackle throughout your life — is to be able to change the scope of your problem in order to see different solutions. You’re naturally bound by what you already know and it’s really, really hard to break free from that.

For me reframing is all about that: changing the scope of a problem in such a way that when you get the solution you’ll look at it and think “this is so fucking obvious it hurts”. (Also, when it first comes up, people around you might dismiss it as too crazy to ever work and throw all the usual problems at it. Fight it. Prove them wrong.)

A few good examples of
(Re)Framing exercises

The Canned Fish Factory

Algarve, Portugal

There’s this story I saw in the news way way back (like 10 years ago) and this is always the first example that pops into my head in connection with the word reframing. It was a news piece about a canned fish factory that was closing down in the Algarve but somehow managed to survive and turn the business around. It’s the “how did they do it?” that’s interesting.

The issue: How do we save a company that makes and sells canned fish?
The reframing: Sausages are a well know product but Muslims don’t eat pork.
The solution:
We’ll make fish sausages instead and export them to Muslim countries.

If you take a step back and think about it, this comes out as pretty obvious after you read it. People eat sausages all the time, all over the world, yada yada. The thing is, there’s this whole community that doesn’t as they don’t eat pork but they do eat fish. So not only have they saved the company but they also made it profitable. Can you imagine the thought process and then the leap of faith? It took guts and courage to turn a whole company around but in the end it was reframing the problem from what they were used to: “selling canned fish” to “there’s a whole market out there that does not eat pork but eats fish and we can we reach them”. (If you’re familiar with the Blue Ocean Strategy, how big of an “blue ocean” of uncontested market space was that?)

The Human Walking Program

Melbourne, Australia

This is another perfect example of reframing an issue and take it to the other side entirely.

Most pet adoption campaigns make us feel pity for the animals but in this one it was the dogs that did the rescuing. The Human Walking Program took dogs that were up for adoption and let them take office workers for a lunchtime walk.

The issue: How do we get people to adopt shelter dogs?
The reframing: What if it was humans that needed rescue?
The solution: Let’s put dogs rescuing humans during their lunch break.

Easy right? 5000 humans rescued and every single dog adopted.

Learn more: http://dogshome.com/humanwalkingprogram/

How it looks with a pet on it


Another take on the same issue above.

The issue: How do we get people to adopt shelter dogs?
The reframing: What if people could see them in their homes instead of having to come to the shelters?
The solution: Let’s make a cardbox printout to show people how a pet would look in their future home.

That’s what Save Our Street Dogs and Animal Lovers League did in Singapore. They partnered up with IKEA and created Home for Hope.

Home For Hope is a collective project with IKEA and other leading home furnishing stores to provide much-needed exposure for homeless pets.
Shoppers turned potential adopters by simply scanning the unique QR coded tags on each pet where further details about each homeless animal, the benefits of adoption and the responsibilities it entails were found.

So instead of having people coming to the shelters, they found a way for the dogs to be right in front of them. The run test was done with six dogs. All were adopted.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/ikea-pet-adoption-2014-7

Animals and Recycling

Istanbul, Turkey

What if you could solve two issues at a time? There’s a growing number of abandoned pets in many parts of the world. As an example, in my own neighbourhood there are a few (beautiful) cats and some really nice cat owners, not having the chance to adopt more, help to feed them at their own expense. But what if there was another, easier, way?

The issue: How do we feed stray animals on the street?
The reframing: What if we used this as an opportunity to create awareness of recycling?
The solution: A vending machine: recycle a plastic bottle, share a ration of dog food.

In many cities around the world stray dogs are part of city life. One such city is Istanbul, where 150 thousand stray dogs and cats share the streets with 14 million human inhabitants. A clever device by the Turkish company Pugedon aims to increase recycling while providing food and water to stray dogs and waking up our kindness and humanity.

Learn more: http://bigthink.com/design-for-good/recylce-bin-turns-bottles-into-food-for-stray-animals-and-provokes-our-humanity

Farmville for city folks


Eating better is a growing global trend. But there’s this gap: how do you get fresh products from a producer right into your home? Some of us plant a few things at home or at our small city gardens but it seems to not be enough. (I for one have a few peppers, tomatoes and strawberries but it’s very difficult to maintain them on a flat and have enough of them to go around). On the other side of the coin there are a lot of small farmers with no marketing or sales skills but they do own land and they do know how to grow their stuff. They just lack the skills to do the final part.

The issue: How do we get small (organic) farmers to sell their products?
The reframing: What if instead of buying the products, clients could rent the farmer?
The solution: A platform that allows you to rent a farmer and a parcel of land while choosing what you want him to grow for you.


That’s what MyFarm is doing. By taking away the burden of marketing and sales from the farmers, it allows them to focus on what’s important: the crops.

Learn more: http://www.myfarm.com.pt/

Strip Commerce

São Paulo, Brazil

Men don’t usually enter a lingerie shop to buy it for their girlfriends. As the video explains, gifts men most frequently give to their girlfriends are: Flowers (51%), Clothes (22%), Chocolate (17%), Jewellery (8%) and Lingerie (2%). How do you change this reality and create a habit?

The issue: How can we sell more lingerie to male clients?
The reframing: As men don’t usually enter a store to buy lingerie, what if they could buy it elsewhere?
The solution: Let’s allow men to buy lingerie directly when they see it in a model in an ad.

AlmapBBDO created interactive ads for Playboy magazine (Android version) and VIP magazine (iPad version) that featured gorgeous models wearing nothing but Marisa lingerie. Men could browse through different models and purchase the lingerie they’d like their girlfriends to wear, after which, it would disappear from the model’s body leaving her in the buff.

The result? Well … men got a striptease, women got a gift, and Marisa Lingerie got 8000 new male customers.

Learn more: http://digitalsynopsis.com/advertising/marisa-lingerie-strip-commerce/

Why don’t you try it?

As you could see with the examples above, there’s always a “what if?”. And that’s something that doesn’t come by easily unless you open your mind to it. Somehow you’ll have to change perspective and reposition the focus of what you’re trying to solve. Remember: the dogs don’t need rescuing, it’s us that need it. Do you have any particular challenge that you seem to be stuck with? Why don’t you try reframing it? Let me know how it went.

(A special hat tip to Miss Kate Samuel for revising the text.)