2014 marked the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. In the 12 months prior to this, a not-for-profit called D-Day Revisited contacted us with a view to creating a modern website, in order to raise the profile of the charity and increase online donations.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to work on such a rewarding brief. The charity uses donations to fund pilgrimages to the Normandy Landings sites, giving veterans the chance to pay tribute to their fallen comrades.
“The new website presents a difficult subject matter in a meaningful and engaging way.”
Upon commencement of the project we immediately realised the main challenge we would face: making the subject feel ‘real’ for the visitor.
Much of the targeted user-base would struggle to understand the magnitude of the sacrifices made by the war veterans. Many younger visitors will not personally know a surviving WWII veteran, while war-based movies and video games have led to a desensitisation of the horrors of military combat.
Although the subject matter was distant from the target-audience, the medium was not. Our goal would be to use a contemporary visual approach, and enhance it by making the most of current web technologies and techniques to make the subject as engaging as possible.
In terms of creating a visual language that was both true to its time-frame, but also resonant today, we undertook a lot of in-depth design research. It would become apparent that the real authenticity would come through the finer details, so we could base the website’s appearance around genuine printed artefacts from the period.
We paid particularly close attention to the typography, which would need to be evocative of the mid-1940s, but also available as complete modern typefaces for licensing purposes.
This also gave us extra affordance when dealing with many of the media assets, some of which were created at low quality, or some of which had deteriorated over the years; particularly when now being viewed on extra-crisp high resolution digital displays. It resulted in a unique visual experience for the web, one which was entirely appropriate for its subject matter and actually enhanced the user-experience.
The heavily-stylised visual nature of the site allowed us to work with long-form content, so often an absolute no-go on the web, and bring it to life with animation and interactivity.
We always work closely with our clients, however this was a project where the subject was so sensitive that we had to work especially close with the charity to ensure everything was portrayed appropriately.
We also conferred with experts at the Imperial War Museum North, based here in Manchester, to double-check the accuracy of content. This partnership opened up a catalogue of rare imagery and assets, many of which we were given the rights to reproduce on the website.
Through these close working-relationships, we were able to create an experience that serves as a lasting reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought on the beaches of Normandy, and those who fought in the second World War.