Designing For The People: Pastilla's Decision To Enter The Public Sector

+ Designing For The People: Pastilla’s Decision To Enter The Public Sector


Writer: Rudy Manning

Editor: Viri Serrano

Designers: Gabriel Cespedes & Mark Yoder

In less than a year, our creative digital agency, Pastilla, will turn 20, which has me reflecting a lot on where we’re going, how we got here, and contemplating what impact we’ve made and where that can lead us to.

Since 2004, we’ve helped elevate brands and institutions with our ability to take our proven experience and creative instinct. We have aimed to create brand experiences focused on story and identity, forging meaningful connections between brands and their audiences.

Although our focus was mainly on the private sector, we have recently made a conscious decision to work with clients in the public sector. This expansion was a natural extension of our mission to improve the lives of people and communities. In this article, I’ll explain why we made this decision and how it impacts our agency’s future and our team’s focus.

Shifting To The Civic Public Sector

In 2013, we launched a successful campaign to introduce the Microsoft Surface tablet, winning worldwide recognition. While we enjoyed working on private-sector projects back then, we wanted to replicate our success with Microsoft on diverse projects that would elicit positive change and bring communities together.

With over a decade of experience at that point, we couldn’t help but notice a discrepancy between creative work produced for public organizations versus the private sector. While there were some notable campaigns in the public sphere, they were not the standard. We wondered why such a gap existed and how we could incorporate the inspiration from the private sector into work for the public good.

I’ve always had a deep appreciation for community service, largely thanks to growing up with a mother who was always actively involved in social work. After the Microsoft Surface campaign, as I reflected on my mother’s dedication to helping others, I began to see the potential for Pastilla to make a difference beyond the private sector. This prompted me to shift Pastilla’s focus from designing exclusively for the private sector to designing for communities.

I have found that designing for people is a highly emotional and empowering process. For example, when we developed the City of Pasadena’s anti-tobacco campaign, I realized how much our work impacted the community. Kids were looking at the ads we created and had conversations about them with their parents. Thanks to our work, many parents have discussed these important issues with their children. That is very powerful. And we wanted more of that.

Working Across The Different Levels Of The Public Sector

As our focus shifted from the private sector to the civic, we found opportunities in the public sector to make a difference. This offered us the chance to collaborate with a wide range of public sector entities, which include agencies, institutions, and organizations that offer essential public services like healthcare, education, defense, law enforcement, and transportation.

Over the years, we have worked with organizations such as the City of LA, the City of Pasadena, the Orange County Transportation Authority, and the City of Corona in various areas served by the public sector. Taking on civic work enabled us to develop campaigns that didn’t just sell products but also positively affected the lives of the people in the communities and local businesses. Today, 50 percent of our work is in the public and civic sectors.

While there are some differences between designing for public and private sectors, we’ve learned that the key to both is to listen and to forge connections. This is something that transcends sectors and applies to all of our design projects.

Forging Connections Is What “Fueled By The Everyday” Comes Down to

When designing for the public sector, it’s essential to understand the opinions, needs, thoughts, and feelings of the people you’re designing for. Pastilla’s motto, “Fueled by the everyday,” reflects this. Our approach to creating more impactful campaigns that resonate deeply with target audiences is to learn the everyday thoughts and values of the communities we design for. 

My goal at Pastilla was always to have the design be led by communication: where communication, questions, and answers with the audience come first, and ideas follow. As a result, every project we design is unique and tailored to the client’s needs and message, so our solutions don’t follow any specific design style. This allows us to take risks, stay curious about new ideas, and develop creative solutions that fit our client’s needs.

At Pastilla, we take great pride in the level of focus we give being empathetic on every project. We are delighted to discover that it seamlessly translates to the public sector as well.

Designing A Brand For Corona – A Demonstration Of Pastilla’s Greatest Strengths

If there is one type of project that would be a culmination of Pastilla’s values that let us work in the public sector, it’s branding a city.

Creating a brand for a whole city could easily be considered the crème de la crème of public sector marketing. So when an opportunity presented itself to do just that for the city of Corona, we couldn’t pass it up. 

Corona wanted to establish itself as a city offering better housing, family life, and more comfort than LA while only an hour away. As an agency without a presence in Corona, we knew we had much to prove when we won the project to create a brand for the entire city. The city council was initially skeptical of our ability to understand the needs of the community and create an authentic brand. 

To understand how the community felt about the city and what would attract more people, we had to talk to its residents. We asked them about their homes, lives, and the values they hold dear in their communities. We had to learn everything we could about the city to be able to communicate an objective perspective.

Pastilla spent six months getting to know the Corona community, learning their stories, and getting to know them. This approach was familiar to us, as we’ve used it on many private sector projects to understand our target audience.

By drawing on our private sector experience, we were able to identify what connected the community to the brand we wanted to create, and our hard work paid off. We were able to capture the essence of Corona in a brand that reflected the needs and values of the community. 

It didn’t matter that we weren’t local. We knew what information we needed from the people living in the area, so we went outside, got our hands dirty, and created a brand that resonated with the community. We are proud of our work, and we’re happy to say we have more exciting projects for Corona coming up.

Empowering Communities Through Innovative Design: Pastilla’s Vision

Seeing our work make a real difference in people’s lives is incredibly rewarding. And at Pastilla, we want more of that, so we’re always seeking out more projects in the public sector and looking forward to designing original and innovative solutions to improve people’s lives and help them feel closer to the spaces and places they belong to.

Whether it’s communicating the latest policies to the public or developing a branding campaign for a public health initiative, we are proud of our work’s positive impact on society. With our work, we have the ability to make a real difference in the public sector, and we are committed to bringing about positive changes.