Exploring the impact of smiles around the world
So I Asked Them to Smile (SIATS) is a powerfully simple art project. It documents the striking change a smile makes to the faces of the strangers that photographer and founder, Jay Weinstein, meets. Without any prescriptive message, it zeros in on this universal and unifying expression while highlighting how inaccurate our assumptions are. The project has gathered over 380k followers and has been featured on National Geographic Poland, BuzzFeed and TEDx.
Issues in focus
Civic Discourse, Arts & Culture, Reshaping Perceptions
Photographer and founder, Jay Weinstein, launched his ambitious SIATS project a couple of years ago. While Jay was able to reach significant traction online, he knew the project needed to be self-sustaining for it to continue. A creative at heart, Jay approached the DrawHistory team to untangle the many intricacies involved in this project, including how SIATS should activate physically to strategies on how it could be purposefully commercialised without sacrificing the inclusive spirit of the project.
Through workshops, research and community interviews, DrawHistory positioned SIATS as conversation-driven and unapologetically reflective, with a new strategy document, updated exhibition proposal and new community Facebook group to continue those deep conversations. While the strategy document is designed as a living document, continuously being updated, it clearly communicates the ideas and solutions that were uncovered from our strategy sessions, with an emphasis on building a community and educating the market in the next 12 months.
Gathering the insights
Kicking off the process, we facilitated multiple strategy workshops with the SIATS team to identify their existing challenges and what had prevented them from scaling as a project. We also interviewed gallery curators, creatives and travellers on their experiences of engaging with people or projects that have inspired them to reflect on their own assumptions.
After synthesising insights and sharing them at a workshop, we generated ideas with the SIATS community and distilled them into three key themes: self-reflection is needed for paradigm shifts to occur, people have a desire to understand the origin, background or context of something, and they want to crystallise those learnings by sharing with others.
The big ideas
We then addressed all of these themes in one document: a Strategy Playbook that outlined practical and implementable ideas to take SIATS forward. Our research led us to include a range of initiatives that people could potentially budget for, such as interactive public exhibitions, conversation cards and SIATS-based diversity training program for organisations. This also included building a Facebook group of dedicated SIATS followers who Jay could rely on to share and broadcast the images, incentivised by early previews of his new collections.
These ideas were compiled onto a Google Slides document so that they could be continuously refined and updated by Jay and his team.
Designing a key proposal
One key tool that culminated from the strategy document was an exhibition proposal that would clearly articulate the SIATS philosophy, but also provide strong calls to action for galleries or centres who wanted to take next steps.
This proposal allows potential partners to familiarise themselves with the SIATS concept, designing it in a walk-in gallery format, while also envisioning the many ways they could take on the project for the season.
Jay is now in the process of engaging with numerous galleries, photography centres and community organisations to activate these ideas.
Since these recommendations were put forward, Jay has also actively built his inner SIATS community on Facebook – a working group that now houses over 100 supporters that continue to help inform and guide how SIATS can permeate as a project.
* Photography and videography in this case study were produced by Jay Weinstein
I brought you a complex puzzle with this project. This was not your typical project and yet you were up for the challenge with a smile and creativity that did not diminish throughout. You were on my team throughout. I am clearer on how the pieces fit together, I have new ideas to explore and a gallery proposal that I am sure will move my projects forward.