The story behind Havas’ new app for people with tremors

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Michael Schoepf, creative director at Havas Germany, had no personal connection to Parkinson’s disease when he decided to do something to help. He was inspired after reading an article about a man with Parkinson’s disease who said he missed reading after his tremors got too intense.

“It meant so much to him, his whole life. And I don’t know why, but that phrase struck me because, on the one hand, I’m a writer and creative director,” Schoepf told us. “Writing is basically my job…I love to read and I just tried to imagine it would take me away. [would] be really unfortunate.

At first, Schoepf thought of making printed typography that could be read with tremors – similar to those created for people with dyslexia. When he realized that a digital product could reach more people and potentially help them do more than read books, he and his design partner, Walter Ziegler, focused on designing an app that would “compensate real-time tremors,” according to the description. of the app, to keep everything online on a web browser.

The free iPad app, now called Staybl, was launched earlier this month for anyone with tremors – a category that now includes Schoepf’s mother, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year and a half ago , about seven months after the beginning of the development of the application.

“It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Schoepf said. “But I don’t like to think that way.”

Make it happen

After pitching his idea to Havas Germany and getting their approval, Schoepf and his team worked with the German Parkinson’s Association (GPA) to make sure the app worked for their patients.

The agency also worked with the New York branch of Havas to develop the technological side of the application. Schoepf emphasized that the process from start to finish was a team effort, with many people working late into the night and in their spare time to create Staybl. “It was a great experience working with the guys from New York because we’ve never had the chance to do it in another instance,” Schoepf said.

Josh Loebner, executive director of inclusion and accessibility at Designsensory and a disability advocate, said Havas’ investment in this technology is part of a growing trend towards disability inclusion among brands and the agencies. Examples include MasterCard, which recently released card design for blind customers, and Wunderman Thompson, which has an agency practice specifically designed for inclusive design.

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“Havas is doing a great job of saying, ‘Hey, we want to get more people. We believe in inclusive design as a methodology to ensure that as many people as possible can engage with a product or service,” he said.

Go pro (bono)

Dan Lucey, creative director at Havas New York, told us that Havas was inspired to support Staybl, his first pro-bono app, not only because of the agency’s B-corp status, but also because the world is “facing many different situations”. social and environmental challenges, and we all feel a responsibility to not just advertise, but to do a little more.

Lucey said he was particularly struck when he saw how the app enabled people, some in their 40s, to manage essential tasks, such as online banking. To get the word out to potential users, he said they are focusing on earned media and award submissions. “We have been [in] light negotiations with different Parkinson’s foundations, trying to get them on board, and they’re really interested in that,” he said. “Maybe they’ll defend him, but that’s just the start.”

Lucey anticipates the agency will continue to develop apps and tools in the future, calling Staybl a “great way to learn new skills” for the agency. Although there are no plans to monetize the app at this time, Lucey hopes to see it implemented directly in browsers by tech companies, so that it becomes “more of a setting and less [of] a separate app.

Over time, Loebner said he hopes to see agencies and brands consider inclusive design beyond pro-bono campaigns. “I’m not saying that doing this work pro bono was a bad thing, but the agencies and brands moving forward absolutely need to recognize that disability should in no way be seen as a charity case,” he said. he said, adding that “including the design could generate revenue, attract more loyal customers and deserves a fair evaluation with other initiatives.”

Back in Germany, Schoepf said he hopes to have another “meaningful idea” as Staybl in the next few years. In the meantime, he wants to expand the app’s download capabilities beyond iPads so people like his mother can use it. But you may have to convince.

“He’s an Android person,” he said.

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