Asciano Safety Leadership

A touring installation utilising film to create an interactive narrative to change safety culture.

This was a fascinating multi-disciplinary project. Architecture, change management and interaction design were all applied in new ways. The result was a customised shipping container containing an interactive learning experience that would travel around Australia with the purpose of changing leadership safety culture within a large freight logistics company.

The purpose was to change people’s minds within a complex business structure – never an easy task – and it was awesome to be part of a project where our work had the ultimate goal of saving lives and preventing injuries.

“Looking at safety from a decision-making perspective – I found this incredibly powerful. It was powerful to understand that my decision-making process, my desire or lack of to push an issue could play a part in a safety outcome… The time is right to evolve from a reactive/responsive value system to a generative approach.” – Asciano Leader


July 2014
Client: The Interchange

Interaction Design for Learning

We designed and executed the interactive component of a large safety program targeting the top 500 leaders at Asciano. An understanding of the broader scope and context of the program was essential. We attended many meetings with Asciano safety executives and site visits at freight and shipping terminals and gradually developed an understanding of the business and the people. The Interchange had carefully developed a number of key learning outcomes that the experience needed to emphasise and we worked closely with them to understand their strategy and the context of the interactive component.

To communicate persuasively to executives who might be skeptical of being “taught” by outsiders, we needed the experience to be empathetic, believable and challenging. Our treatment appealed to the leader’s power and abilities, acknowledges the difficulty and importance of their role and aims to frame their safety responsibilities in an impressive way. They would feel motivated and inspired by the way the interactive highlights their unique position of influence over safety within such a large, dynamic organisation.

Central to the interactive experience was a visual design that encapsulates the network of interdependent events, behaviours and procedures that comprise the business and its daily operations. We called this the Safety Net. Some paths through this network will lead to disaster, some will lead to success and everything in between. A straightforward visual metaphor for the challenges facing the safety leaders, and how the application of the learning outcomes can cascade throughout a large dynamic organisation. We wanted to communicate that the challenge is to anticipate issues within a complex safety landscape, and furthermore that by enacting The Interchange’s identified learning outcomes, leaders will be modifying the Asciano safety landscape in a way that eliminates pathways to disaster.

The Safety Net visual was used in a variety of ways to communicate the principles in the learning outcomes and frame the thinking of the leader around these issues. It was a memorable image to which participants will attach these principles, thus assisting them in recalling them later. In this way it will serve as a visual idiom which future discussions and thoughts about the overall programme can reference when needed.

Film Integration

Our design centred around a short film that would be shown to leaders when they first entered the container. This film was an evocative narrative around leadership behaviours at various levels within the organisation leading to a safety disaster. After viewing the film, leaders would proceed to an interactive experience that allowed them to identify and change critical moments in the film, creating a new, positive narrative and outcome. Different interactive mechanics highlighted the key leadership behaviours The Interchange wanted to emphasise. We designed these mechanics so that in the act of causing a positive outcome, the leader would actually be practicing the positive leadership behaviour, for instance strategic thinking or assertiveness. Each mechanic could also be “failed” and we were able to increase engagement with the leaders by challenging them with realistic scenarios that had consequences. The extensive research phase paid off with scenarios and interactivity that came from discussions with the target audience.

Complementing the films retrospective narrative, the interactive gives a prospective experience of the same scenario, challenging the leader to evaluate various key points where different behaviours, policies or decisions might open up pathways that lead to a positive outcome rather than disaster. These key points involved a range of leadership levels within the organisation, and the visual design too emphasised the need for leaders to have a holistic understanding of how behaviours, policies and decisions can ripple throughout the organisation from different levels of the hierarchy.

We worked closely with film production company Burning House to develop points in the script that would facilitate the interactive mechanics, as well as the scripts for the alternative positive outcomes. Our design allowed for a rich interactive experience without requiring a lot of extra footage to be shot. We produced storyboards and a shoot guideline to make the interactive shot requirements clear to the director and crew. It was important that certain framing, dialogue and timing conditions were met to allow the interactive experience to be seamless.


Tech & Installation

We arranged a studio space and set it up with a full-scale floor plan and test of the container layout including the immersive film room and the interactive area. This was used to conduct a beta test with the whole Asciano safety executive committee. Our design took advantage of the leaders viewing the film immediately prior to the interactive experience making the two feel connected. We utilised Mac Mini’s to save space, and got 1080p playback performance over the realtime 3D and screen-space effects by using HAP GPU decoding of the movies.