Finalist 2023

Australian Birth Stories

Australian Birth Stories / Public Journal / Murdoch Books / Jodi Wilson / Hilary Walker

Nurturing a progressive shift in the mainstream narrative of birth practice in Australia.

Australian Birth Stories is designed to foster an open dialogue around diverse birth practices, through a thoughtfully curated and ever-growing library of Australian based stories and knowledge.

The diversity of human responses to birth practice have found a welcome place in this ground-breaking brand; carefully revealing the natural, real, bloody, beautiful, painful, resilient and sometimes devastating aspects of birth and motherhood through the lens of a diverse cross section of people and peoples across Australia.

Design Brief:

With a Master’s in Public Health and a passion for Women’s Health, founder and host Sophie Walker identified a need for narratives that could empower, educate and support women to navigate their own personal journey into motherhood.

Navigating inherent bias and social stigma in the health space has long been the ugly flip side of progressive birth choices and inclusive health practice in Australia. Australian Birth Stories aimed to break down these very real barriers through story sharing; empowering women with accessible knowledge and diverse perspectives.

Public Journal worked with Sophie to define a brief to design a brand narrative and communication design strategy that articulated the spectrum of experiences offered in the Podcast — from soft, tender and nurturing to raw, emotional and challenging — the intentional contrast in tone supporting new understandings and knowledges to support diverse birth experiences.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Working with a team of creative professionals, who are also mothers, the brand narrative and content strategy of Australian Birth Stories developed through an iterative co-design process; underpinned by an online community of 154,000 mothers, mothers-to-be, midwives and health professionals who actively participate in the brand ecosystem.

Through careful engagement with the brand community and creative team, Australian Birth Stories worked with Public Journal and photographer Hilary Walker to develop a brand asset library that could be translated across several touch-points. This library was built through an iterative process, starting with a core suite of elements, and growing through carefully staged product articulations.

As the founder, Sophie Walker was passionate about improving access to birth education through the Australian Birth Stories ecosystem and worked with perinatal specialists and the design team at Public Journal to co-design the learning experience for the brand’s suite of online birth classes. User journeys were developed to help build modular learning materials with multiple entry points — offering audio, text based and illustrative content through a series of digital outputs, suitable for new and returning parents.

The demand for resources became apparent in response to the release of these specialised, evidence based, classes and led to the design and publication of ‘The Complete Australian Guide to Pregnancy and Birth’ published by Murdoch Books. This book was written by Sophie Walker and Jodie Wilson to combine the wisdom of women’s stories alongside expert advice from obstetricians, midwives, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers and nutritionists. The co-authors’ aim was to create an educational, encouraging and informative guide with careful attention towards the designed experience of the publication.

Design Excellence

Within a saturated podcast media landscape, Australian Birth Stories have established their brand presence as the resonant voice in the Kids & Family category, currently listed as number one in the Top Shows rating on Apple Podcasts. The value the brand has placed on human centred design has ensured influential reach and forged a new benchmark for quality in the maternity and healthcare sector.

Australian Birth Stories has utilised co-design methodologies to ensure accessibility; working with professionals and organisations who shed light on the lived experience of refugees, women who may not speak English and queer families; all of whom may not have equity in access or support when navigating the healthcare system.

The brand has also understood their responsibility when designing narratives on the unceded lands of Australia. This is demonstrated through their work with Public Journal to script a carefully considered Acknowledgement of Country intro for every podcast episode and through the design of materials with First Nations organisations— improving access for Indigenous professionals to speak directly to Indigenous women and share stories of birth on Country.

Design Innovation

In a crucial time for the maternal health sector, Australian Birth Stories has created a virtual village to empower and support life changing journeys into motherhood. With over 5000 applications from women who want to share their stories on the podcast, Australian Birth Stories has demonstrated the need for improved postpartum process knowledge and care in Australia. The brand ecosystem has become a powerful way for care providers to learn the nuance of birth experiences, and in turn, this qualitative resource has started to inform and shape policy and procedures within the maternal health care space.

As an accredited resource with the Australian College of Midwives and through a diverse range of co-design content building activities with health professionals; the communication design approach has supported innovative practice in medical, allied health and therapeutic care settings.

The communication design strategy of this influential brand ecosystem demonstrates how an innovative design approach to human stories can translate into a reflexive, qualitative resource for the improvement of women’s health across Australia.

Design Impact

Woman-centred care in the maternity system is crucial to women’s health and Australian Birth Stories has identified this need and made a significant impact. As a result of the communication design strategy of the Australian Birth Stories brand ecosystem, women’s health has changed for patients, health providers and communities.

Designed as an open access library, these diverse birth stories have demonstrated their ability to empower women with knowledge and confidence. Stigma has been disarmed, with a space for real and sometimes traumatic experiences to be shared, through carefully designed support.

It is often remarked that access to continuity of care in Australia is ‘postcode and knowledge lottery’; you need to live near a hospital that offers a women centred healthcare programme and you need health literacy to understand how important it is to advocate for your preferences early on.

Australian Birth Stories has demonstrated the potential of women working in communication design, who are also mothers, to employ innovative participatory design tactics to make lasting impact on matters that effect their community.

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