Skip to main content

Creating a rich picture and animation to illustrate Smarter Working

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Animation, Creative, Illustration

A still image from the animation framework showing the ‘bare bones’ of the character rigging used to animate the action of movement in areas such as arms, legs and walking so our characters could go about their smarter working day. The rigging is comprised of different coloured sticks connected by dots that represent limbs and joints the limbs and joints of three humanoid shapes, two sitting and one standing. The sticks and dots can be manipulated to portray movement when illustrative graphics are overlaid

The brief

We were asked by the Government Property Agency (GPA) to create an engaging visual illustration, or ‘rich picture’, of smarter working scenarios and principles within the Civil Service, to be used online and in print.

Additionally, we would create a short animated film, featuring the illustrated 'rich picture' scene, to expand on the detail, guided by a voiceover.

Understanding the audience and aims

Our audience was public sector senior leaders, management and employees, with the overall aim to create a talking point for our audience to understand and discuss what they have seen.

Crucially, the design would need to encompass a variety of locations where staff could be conducting work, such as an office block, local hubs, homes, commutes or coffee shops. This would demonstrate the healthy work/life balances, appropriate mobile technology and suitable locations.

Photo of a sheet of lined notepad paper covered with pencil drawings and sketches detailing the initial brainstorming options of how the rich picture could take shape
Initial brainstorming and sketches of how the rich picture could take shape

The rich picture

After several rounds of design development, we created the final product: a multi-layered environment of workspace layouts, collaboration, technology and capability. It uses a diverse range of characters to represent modern day civil servants working to their best potential.

Image of the completed and fully designed rich picture illustration. The complete image is titled Smarter Working – Culture & People, Leadership, Workspaces & Technology and the image comprises illustrations of a blue sky over several tall buildings, some houses, a coffee shop and a train on a railway line passing behind the properties. The image depicts a column on the left featuring a list of smarter working benefits, each with a decorative icon beside it to illustrate that benefit on the list. The list comprises: smarter collaboration, increased productivity, improved communication, varied workspaces, leading by outcome, space allocated to activities, mobile technology, reduced costs, employee choice, better for the environment, trust and empowerment, happier healthier people. The centre of the rich picture shows a view inside one of the tall office buildings and the many people inside working together, collaborating, working independently, or relaxing; using a variety of different methods to work and communicate including desk computers, laptops, white boards, flipcharts, video calls, phone calls, face to face conversation; and in several environments including offices, meeting rooms, kitchens, and breakout spaces. Beside the office is a coffee shop with several people shown to be having conversations face to face, collaborating, working on laptops, or making phone calls. Other depictions include people in houses working on computers, people walking on the street or sitting on benches outside and using phones, and people sitting and using laptops and phones while commuting on public transport. The overall image shows many types of people in various property types and outside spaces, working with a range of technological and manual assets to collaborate and communicate.
The completed rich picture illustration

With the upcoming animation in mind, characters and objects in the scene are 2D, embracing a consistent, contemporary and flat graphic style. Colours were developed from the Smarter Working campaign palette.

The main principles of Smarter Working are illustrated with icons to help the audience understand what the benefits are. Additionally, an overlaid network of icons and dashed lines show collaboration and communication linking everything together through technology.

Creating a narrative

Our next task was to begin work on the accompanying two-minute animated film. At this stage, the designers, animator and copyeditor all worked closely to develop a concise and engaging voiceover script.

This, together with ongoing feedback from GPA, developed into a storyboard where appropriate scenes and zoomed sections from the rich picture would be used to visually accompany the storyboard. This was an essential process in order to understand how best to animate the rich picture and edit together the film.

Abstract photo of the printed storyboard showing some of the ideas in illustrated format and several hand drawn notes to emphasise which areas to develop and how
The storyboard takes shape

Animating the rich picture

Developing the animation soon proved to be extremely technically advanced and quite a challenge!

First, we had to bring the rich picture to life by adding subtle movements to the scene so it didn’t look static. This included stopping and starting elements like the bus and train, and lightly blowing the trees and clouds in the wind. In all there were over 1,000 individual objects and layers… and that was the easy part!

We then set about animating all the characters in the scene – over 40 of them in total. We even gave our characters names to keep track of them! This was important because throughout the animation we would zoom into individual areas and focus on certain actions from particular characters.

The technical process involved using DUIK Bassel, a free plugin for Adobe After Effects that allows for character rigging. It meant we could animate arms, legs, and actions such as walking, so we could allow our characters to go about their smarter working day.

The final film also included sections outside of the rich picture scene, to give context and to support the voiceover narrative.

How did we do?

The project was an excellent collaboration within Design102, combining project managers, client feedback, copyeditors, designers and animators. This allowed us to push creative boundaries and create products that not only look great, but also do the job effectively.

The rich picture is now used across the Civil Service and wider government to spread key messages and create the engagement needed to make the Civil Service a great place to work. It’s also having a widespread positive impact, having been distributed to 43 government departments who are directly responsible for implementing smarter working and achieving the 2018 Government Estate Strategy.

If this creative process has piqued your interest, or you’ve got a project we can help with, just drop us a line at

For regular Design102 updates ...

Visit us at Design102

Follow Design102 on Twitter

Follow Design102 on Instagram

Subscribe for Design102 blog updates


Sharing and comments

Share this page