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Understanding rainbow experiences

In 2020, the University of Auckland, Rainbow Youth, InsideOut and the University of Waikato came to us with a large-scale research project. The collective had formed over a concern that no official information was being gathered on the education, health, or social care experiences of rainbow young people in Aotearoa. Together they had designed a nationwide survey which sought to address the gaps in the data.

Critical to the success of the survey was community recruitment and participation. Curative worked to establish brand identity, social media strategy, microsite and editable social media templates to enable effective, targeted communications to encourage people to take the survey, and make it easy for them to spread the word about the survey within their own circles.


Sensitive and private

We recognised early that the name and brand needed to speak to rainbow communities and their allies without requiring them to publicly identify as queer, enabling young people on the road to discovering their identity to engage with the survey without feeling like they were labeling or ‘outing’ themselves. The brand also needed to be flexible enough to speak more specifically to sub-groups that exist within the rainbow communities.

Breaking out of the box

Traditionally, survey forms are prescriptive, with limited scope provided to fully capture the complexity of human identity. Boxes, lines, ticks, crosses, and predetermined options limit our ability to express ourselves beyond the categories that are deemed as important by the surveyor. Yet, humanity is so often expressed in how we write, draw, and make marks. Our gestures have the power to create meaning, or change the meaning of the things that already exist.


We worked to combine these two conflicting areas at play within the study to form the brand system. The aim was to emulate the experience of filling out a form in a way that breaks out of the traditional survey approach, subverting the norms of forms and embracing the complexity of humanity.

Furthermore, naming the survey ‘Identify’ allowed us to play with language familiar to rainbow communities. It speaks to the process of making sense of our gender and sexual identities, and finding others who are like us. But it also captures the project’s intent: to gather data which might identify ways to make the world a better place for rainbow young people.


A new approach

The Identify survey is for all young people gathered under the rainbow umbrella – a hugely diverse bunch. So we designed a brand system with the flexibility to target a range of rainbow subcultures. The palette draws on the colours of the trans, non-binary, intersex, and pansexual flags, and the imagery subverts the hard-edged boxes of traditional surveys with hand drawn flourishes – representing young people’s right to self-determine their identity beyond what society prescribes.



We developed a microsite, social media strategy, and editable social media templates and launched Identify at the 2021 Big Gay Out. Small cards and a collectible set of rainbow identity stickers were distributed at a series of Auckland Pride Festival events – calling on rainbow young people to make their voices heard. The launch brought in a wave of participants, and our approach to social media helped the Identify team attract additional interest by pushing out early data trends, the anonymised stories of respondents, and messages of support from rainbow personalities.


The Identify survey ran for six months. During this time 4000+ rainbow young people and 350+ allies participated in the project. The Identify team are processing the research, and gradually releasing insights through the brand’s social media channels. The project’s findings have also been presented to select committees for the inquiry on school attendance and the ban on conversion practices – contributing to real change for rainbow young people in Aotearoa.