Go Unicode

  • Branding
  • Design Direction
  • Product Design

Go Unicode is a digital literacy campaign to strengthen the digital future of Myanmar, developed in partnership with Facebook.

  • Branding
  • Design Direction
  • Product Design

In 2015, Myanmar opened its borders to the outside world. By 2016, the lowered cost of SIM cards fueled an immediate boom in first-time phone users. This “leapfrog” market created widespread issues due to lack of basic digital knowledge.

Almost everyone on the Internet in Myanmar has a Facebook account; it’s used for all the functions typically performed by browsers or apps. This “Facebook Internet” has stirred controversy in global news for permitting misinformation and hate speech to spread, contributing to worst-case scenarios like the violence against minority Rohingya Muslims.

In its isolation, Myanmar developed its own encoding language called Zawgyi, which is incompatible with the global standard, Unicode. The country’s use of Zawgyi hinders hate speech monitoring by Facebook, nationwide digital literacy efforts, and overall economic growth.

Unicode migration is vital to Myanmar’s future. It affects online safety and consequently, real-world safety for millions of people. Our creative challenge: How do we get a nation of digital beginners to individually migrate their phones to Unicode–and during a global pandemic?

Our Solution

We gave the Unicode brand a millennial makeover, a Facebook ad campaign starring a duo of mascots, an Easy Switch Guide to empower users to use and share, and a Facebook hub for everything Unicode.

I led the creative team in creating a new brand system that’s culturally relevant to millennials to introduce our program, “Go Unicode.” Brand values of joy, community, and confidence come to life through our friendly, energetic logo, vibrant color palette, and duo of mascots who guide users as they switch their phones to Unicode.

Brand system

I led the team to create a new brand system that’s culturally relevant to millennials and introduced our program, “Go Unicode.” It’s a friendly, energetic logo, with a bright and joyful color palette. There’s an urgency to the anthropomorphized logo, encouraging users to switch now. 

Working with local illustrators in Myanmar, we developed a duo of culturally appropriate mascots to help tell the story in a compelling way, to help provide guidance and make the switch process feel approachable and fun.

Our Facebook ad series

Our campaign to help users through a technical phone process took place solely through Facebook ads. And we know, it’s not easy to get people to click on ads.

Our cheerful ads are deceptively hard working. The two-character storytelling lets us show Zawgyi vs. Unicode (or as we internally called it, “sad phone” / “happy phone”) in a single frame. Every ad entices you to stop scrolling, shows the benefits of switching, and gives you a pathway to do it now. All creative was vetted locally before going through translation.

We created a series of nine static ads, nine gifs, three slideshows and three carousels using a popular comic book style.

The Go Unicode Easy Switch Guide 

Our Facebook ads send users to the Easy Switch Guide, where they can follow step-by-step instructions we made simple enough for even novices to follow. But creating this “easy” guide was a remarkably complex task. 

The best word to describe the Myanmar phone market is “improvisational.” It’s a byzantine patchwork of operating systems, Chinese vs. global ROM systems, and gray market phones. We chose a popular Xiaomi model for our pilot, but since we couldn’t get the physical device, we too had to improvise. We ran two user tests with prototypes in Myanmar, making sure to account for the phone model rebooting when updated, and working around users not having access to the app store by sideloading an updated keyboard app.

While YouTube was filled with arduous switch videos, no one had cracked the code of simplifying the user experience. We distilled the confusing switch process into a simple, 4-step guide that even digital novices could complete. Our mascot friends, Sang and Sweet come along for the ride, making an intimidating task more joyful. 

The Facebook Hub

Unicode users, advocates and the Unicode Curious needed a place to congregate online, so we created a Facebook page for sharing resources, trading tips for helping others switch, and celebrating successes. We created 30 days worth of posts that speak to cultural moments in Myanmar and engaged a local partners to research and vet appropriate imagery and local customs.