On 1 November, Beautiful Lives turned 18. On 9 November, we celebrate Beautiful Lives’ move to the Social Impact Factory in Utrecht. This seems the perfect moment to look back and ahead with managing partner and founder Gaby Siera. We asked her four questions.
How did Beautiful Lives come about?
Gaby: “The start of Beautiful Lives lies in the Lives Project. That project ran for about five years. In those five years, hundreds of people captured their daily lives through the photo assignments we gave them. I always say ‘these are the photos that would never end up in photo albums, or nowadays on the socials’. These were pictures of everyday moments. For example, people photographed their breakfast or their wardrobe. We also asked people to take photos on more social topics, such as ‘getting older’ or ‘your family’.
Gaby: “In the Lives Project, we had people photograph
their daily lives. Actually, it was
today’s online community.”
This created a database of around 100,000 photos that gave a nice insight into people’s daily lives. This, in turn, formed the input for our clients’ research and innovation issues. You could say that the Lives Project was the forerunner of our current online community BL*Campfire.”
How has BL changed over the years?
“Over the years, I see more balance between qualitative research and innovation. Design Thinking – user-centric driven innovation – is now widely embraced. About half of our projects involve innovation or more consultancy-driven issues. In the other half it’s about qualitative insights. Partly, we still look for answers via the classic methods of (online) interviews, but we also make extensive use of our online community BL*Campfire. And we deploy BL*Semiotics.
I also really like the fact that we do a lot of international projects too. Within Europe, but also beyond. At the moment, for instance, colleagues are visiting India and England for projects. Of course, that is also analytically very nice!
Furthermore, we are happy to see that a lot of organisations are now working on the topic of sustainability. They want to know how they can make sustainability more relevant for their customers. How can they break down barriers that prevent people from making sustainable choices? How can they better facilitate and also communicate sustainable choices? Those are great issues to contribute to!”
What new research or client can they always wake you up for?
“Actually, I really like the variety between very concrete innovation issues and the more overarching – often social – topics. For example, we recently looked at the meaning of parenthood in seven countries (in China, Australia, America and some European markets). That is, of course, super interesting.
“It is precisely the alternation between very concrete
innovation issues and more overarching – often
societal – issues that makes it so interesting and fun.”
And please wake me up for the questions around sustainability that I already mentioned. How do we get users to join us in making more sustainable choices. That is often not so easy at all. For those kinds of questions, anyone can call us, e-mail us, send us an app, Team us…”
How do you see BL’s future?
“First of all, we are happy with the flow that BL is in. Like any agency, there are times when everything works and you are flooded with great topics and also times when you wonder where those great topics have gone. But the fact that we have been an established name when it comes to ‘insights & innovation’ issues for 18 years is of course not for nothing. We have been working with some of our clients for almost our entire BL life. That really is quite special!
As for the future. Of course, we have just moved to the Social Impact Factory in Utrecht. That also says something about where our ambitions lie in terms of topics. It is also an ideal place for workshops and training courses. From there, we work with a compact and diverse team and with a larger network of (international) colleagues. This makes us flexible and agile. We can switch directly and quickly, something clients really appreciate.”