Here’s what Pride looked like at N26 during Covid-19
Our Senior Art Director Ruben brings you through the process of our 2020 Don't hide your pride campaign for Pride Month.
8 min read
The first few months at a new company can be overwhelming. You need to learn the rituals, the processes, and the programs–never mind the acronyms! So when I first joined N26 and was asked to be part of an “ERG,” it was bound to be another learning curve but I was intrigued.
For those like me who aren’t yet familiar, ERG stands for “Employee Resource Group”. These groups are formed by people who are passionate about a certain topic and join together to take action, driving initiatives within the company to increase visibility of their chosen topic and working together to bring about positive change. Currently at N26, there are ERGs for Ecology, Parenting, Mental Health, Womxn and LGBTQ+. As a politically active gay person, I decided to chat with the LGBTQ+ ERG to learn about their mission.
I was invited to a digital meeting where a diverse group of people from various N26 offices gathered to organise an internal workshop. Called “Beyond pronouns: Transgender Awareness Training,” our host was none other than Otter Lieffe, the author of two trans-feminist novels, “Margins and Murmurations” and “Conserve and Control.” The workshop facilitated a discussion on the inclusion of trans or non-binary people within a company–not just as colleagues, but also championing for inclusion in all that we do, from our products to our communication channels.
This initiative wasn’t led by our marketing team but by ERG members themselves who felt that they could make a difference. It was a true eye-opener. The dynamic workshop helped me to understand someone else’s point of view, realise that discrimination can be hidden everywhere–even though we may not notice it–and to understand my own privilege. The only way to create change is to listen to how a minority group may feel, and never think with our own preconceived ideas.
The workshop left me brimming with excitement as I slowly realised that inspiring big corporations to champion for the rights of LGBTQ+ communities was well within reach, especially if I was to be surrounded by such passionate and driven colleagues like mine. I decided to join the LGBTQ+ ERG.
N26 project manager, David Zander, in one of our “Don’t hide your pride” t-shirts.
What does the LGBTQ+ ERG do?
My first task as an official member of the LGBTQ+ ERG was to help organise the Christopher Street Day (CSD) Pride celebration in Berlin. With Covid-19 impacting both the CSD parade and our office setup, we had to think outside of the box to brainstorm how we could help employees celebrate Pride in a new way.
In weekly meetings, we brainstormed ideas, activities and the best approach that we could take. Our main concern was that anything that we chose to do would be coming from N26–and as part of the LGBTQ+ community ourselves, we needed to make sure that our campaign would not be perceived as insensitive or opportunistic. Being part of the ERG meant that we were responsible for absolutely everything with no stakeholders involved, leaving us with less feedback and stakeholder management, but far more responsibility. As the saying goes, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Slowly but surely, our goal began to take shape: to make a real impact for our fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues with N26 as the engine, but not the protagonist.
To meet this goal, we set ourselves three pillars, ensuring that everything we did was for the purpose of:
To be aligned with the CSD, we took its official slogan “Don’t hide your pride” and discussed how showing pride might be difficult for many people, especially at the office. With every initiative, we were cautious to highlight that the relationship with gender and sexuality is different for each person.
Why is it important to promote Pride?
The more people that see a message of inclusion, the stronger that message becomes. We wanted to highlight the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion in every part of society. Although Covid-19 posed unique limitations, the power of creativity is that sometimes, limits push you further and makes it challenging, exciting, and more likely to find unique solutions.
Drawing from the dozens of interesting ideas that came from our brainstorming sessions, we narrowed it down to a realistic one-week program. In the days running up to CSD, there would be digital-led events:
Day 1: on the first day, we hosted a virtual cinema night showing “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”, a breathtaking documentary about the trans activist Marsha P. Johnson who was a pioneer of the Stonewall uprising movement that led to the establishment of LGBTQ+ rights. It’s an essential movie to understand LGBTQ+ history and the lives of those who were in the front row, leading our fight for our rights.
Day 2: the big act of the week–Drag Syndrome. A fierce troop of drag kings and queens with down syndrome gave us a virtual show, followed by an interview and Q&As with another great drag queen, Son of a Tutu. It was an inspiring, exciting and sweet way to understand how being empowered can be defined in so many ways.
Horror Shebang’s still from the Drag Syndrome performance.
Day 3: pub quiz time! This was a fun, educational and engaging digital activity, centered around questions about queer culture and LGBTQ+ history.
Day 4: d-day 1 before Pride. To get our spirits ready and hyped up for the event, we broadcasted a live digital warm-up party hosted by two DJs and fellow colleagues, Jay Skelly and Joel Dolman.
Day 5: we celebrated CSD by launching a Pride video internally and on our social media channels. People from N26 explained why it’s important to not hide your pride, and their personal experiences about it. It was an important message not only for the people that work at N26, but also for others who could be inspired to understand that being themselves is their biggest gift to all.
Even though these events were centered around the Berlin Pride week, we invited everyone from all N26 offices to participate, from New York to Vienna and Barcelona. As a thank you for their participation in some of the activities, they were gifted illustrated prints made by queer artists Nicola Napoli and Hayley Wall.
Designing for Pride
According to a recent Human Rights Campaign study, around 50% of the people in the US are still closeted at work. This is a big percentage, so we had to address that and focus a big part of our actions to talk about why it is important to not hide your pride–not just in general, but also at the office.
The art direction of all initiatives was based on the idea that if you show your pride, you show all of your colours–and if not, you are hiding part of your true potential. To symbolise this, the message would be partially hidden before becoming fully visible. We went for a brutalist style inspired by graphic posters from the 70s, using very big font sizes because the message is a statement to say that we are proud out loud.
We chose GT America Expanded Black because it feels friendly and human–just like there are real people behind these messages. The black background was intended to make it more empowering by bringing all the colours into the light, rather than keeping them hidden in the darkness of the closet. To show the full spectrum of the rainbow, we chose a flag that included black and brown stripes to draw attention to issues of LGBTQ+ people of colour (POC), then added white, blue, and pink to also highlight the importance of transgender rights and acknowledgement within our LGBTQ+ community.
Camouflaged posters placed at the Berlin office.
To create a friendly and inclusive space for everybody in the office, we shared goodies such as t-shirts, stickers and badges with the “Don’t hide your pride” graphic, and filled our offices with posters. The posters carried on the original idea of remaining partially hidden until an easy twist made the whole poster visible to the viewer. They were wrapped around corners of walls and pillars, so that the complete word “Pride” wouldn’t be visible until people turned to the other side to take a closer look. We also camouflaged special posters around the office, creating small pockets of mystery that were the same color as the wall or surface and with only a small peek of the rainbow sticking out from the bottom. Encouraged by an arrow, curious people around the office would pull the poster down to discover the full rainbow flag and our message.
The more inclusive that a working environment is, the happier the co-workers will be. A company is not only its official messages or its product–it is a living relationship of the brand and its journey, starting with the employees in the office. We want to empower people to live and bank their way–and in order to inspire others, we need to empower our people first. As Diana Ross said, it’s a chain reaction.
Christopher Poots & Rubén Martín Hernández (Brand Senior Art Directors)
Guil Maueler, Paula Álvarez di Mauro, Chieh Lee (Brand Motion Designers)
Antonia Sares & Emilie Rauschütz (Project Managers)
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