What A Mess: A Book About Messy Adults and the Earth

Earth looks neat and tidy from here, but take a closer look…

In late 2020 we rebranded to better align with our purpose and the urgency of the challenges ahead. We wanted a memorable way to raise the issues that matter most to us and help tell the story of our rebrand. Our brief became: ‘How might we get people to explore and remember the themes in our rebrand, without it feeling heavy?’

Liberty Ewan’s illustrations added a dose of quirkiness and fun.

Sharing our world view

Our purpose is to ‘grow big ideas for the people and brands our planet needs,’ which is great in a work and business context but can be challenging on a personal level. Looking at the world today – and our coming decade – questions come up: Am I responsible? Did I contribute? What can I do? For us, finding a way to communicate this in a way that wasn’t confronting or accusative was crucial.

Taking it down a notch

We decided quickly that a kids book was the perfect vehicle for our message: engaging and unexpected. It would give us the opportunity to talk about complex issues in an uncomplicated way, and skirt any finger-pointing.

It shows people looking to make change that it is possible to be playful with serious topics. And perhaps most importantly: it’s also a chance for readers to discuss tricky themes in an abstract way with a forgiving audience first: kids!

A range of issues from the book.

“Could you also send a copy to [the Prime Minister’ office]? Might be in terms he can understand.”

— J., ‘What A Mess’ reader

‘Are you here to clean this mess?’ David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg made an appearance in the book.

Substance and style

We worked with illustrator Liberty Ewan, whose oddball style and dry humour shaped the book to be bright, boldly coloured and interesting to both adults and kids alike.

Starting with a view from space of a clean-looking Earth, the book goes in closer to show a range of issues in a kid-friendly way. Over-consumption and a lack of recycling is depicted through islands of stinky rubbish, trapped CO2 gases and the warming of the planet through cow burps and farts causing trouble, deforestation through a koala looking for its home (“I swear it used to be here!”). There are spreads about lack of access to clean water, equality and even air quality, ending with a challenge to look around and make a difference.

“Have really enjoyed reading your book with Lachie at night! Brings up lots of opportunity to discuss important things happening on Earth and hear it from the perspective of a 5 year old.

The first thing he asked me when he woke up his morning was ‘who made this world?’ Big question for 6:30am!”

— Jessica, ‘What A Mess’ reader

Equality—what’s taking so long?

Getting the word out

Sharing content through Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn quickly generated a good amount of chatter, with requests for the book flooding in.

Agency owner Warren Davies also spoke about the book on 3RRR morning radio show ‘Breakfasters’ and shared the airwaves with Comms Declare 4 Climate CEO Belinda Noble on 3CR to discuss the climate emergency and ways forward for the creative and comms industries and polluting clients.

We’re now looking into how we can get the book into primary schools and more parents’ hands.

“I’m writing to enquire about getting my lil’ mitts on your climate emergency book for young people. I’m about to graduate with a Master of Teaching—Primary & Secondary and I would love to incorporate it into my lessons for student learning.”

— Charlotte, prospective teacher

School Strike 4 Climate protests inspired this illustration.

Skills, people and details

Luke Falkland-Brown
Senior Copywriter

Amber Goedegebuure
Design Director

Warren Davies
Project Manager, Senior Strategist

Liberty Ewan

Clean Water and Sanitation (#6), Reduced Inequalities (#10), Responsible Consumption and Production (#12), Climate Action (#13), Life Below Water (#14) Life On Land (#15).

Want to help us get the book out there, or interested in getting a copy?