What do peanut butter, gas masks, and the Wonderbra all have in common? I know that might sound like the setup to a bad joke but I promise it’s not. Each of those products, as we know them today, were born in the minds of Canadian men and women.
This year, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, our partner, HISTORY, commissioned Alibi Entertainment Inc. to create 52 short videos that mark some of Canada’s contributions to the world like the ones mentioned above. The title of the project is Thank You, Canada.
“The videos will be stylish, sometimes serious and sometimes cheeky, visual hits that highlight Canadian contributions – from the whimsical to the practical to the serious. Inventions and innovations, from medical advances to fun foods, as well as game-changing people and events that have had an impact here and abroad. From maple syrup, the snowmobile and the goalie mask to insulin, IMAX and Anne of Green Gables. They can be funny or heart-warming or thought-provoking, or a combination of all three – but always surprising and engaging.”
To house these videos, HISTORY asked REDspace to create a responsive website that was easy for everyone to use, putting content first, while still being an engaging, creative experience. A website that would connect with existing HISTORY fans, while also reaching out to all Canadians. Something that we could all be proud of.
At REDspace, we knew from the beginning that we wanted the website for Thank You, Canada to be something special. Even though the website’s main goal was to be a simple gallery, we felt we needed to do more than the standard wall of thumbnails to browse the videos. It felt like that approach wouldn’t do the content justice. Each video needed to matter as much as the next.
An early animated prototype for Thank You, Canada.
Early on, we knew that the website should be as clean and clutter-free as possible. To do this, we made the decision that each video should have its own screen. This would help to not overwhelm users with too many videos while also leaving it very clear on how to do things like share and “Love” the videos. This direction would also allow us to give each video its own custom background, essentially giving each page the potential to feel completely different than the next.
To test the best ways to then navigate between these pages, we used a few different tools; wireframes, Invision, and animated prototypes. In this case, I used Apple Keynote to animate the prototypes. It’s a very easy program to use and you can animate wireframes in minutes.
It was these animated prototypes that helped us to make the decision to slide the screens between each other. This would make it possible to use the entire website without ever having to use a menu at all. It wasn’t a new idea – photo galleries online have been using this same mechanic for 20 years, but sometimes taking a tried and tested idea and applying it in a new way, to a new type of content, can be all it takes to find the right answer. That same concept can be seen repeated many times in the short videos on Thank You, Canada.
Original search concept that was scrapped early on. The idea of having one “super menu” that would handle quick browsing and search at the same time was kept though.
Myself and the team that created this site are all very proud of the resulting product. We had a successful launch and people from all over Canada are enjoying the site and its short videos. Hopefully they’re all learning some things as well.
I know that personally, throughout this project, I’ve learned more about Canada than I thought I would. While it’s always interesting to learn about the amazing things that were invented in our country, it’s the people behind these stories that highlight what makes our country so great.
This hit me most when designing the page for Terry Fox. As a Canadian child growing up in the 80’s, it was impossible to avoid his story. Even though I was born after his death, he was always present, a representation of what it meant to be a true Canadian. He was a real hero. In our industry, we always talk about being creatively brave and cutting edge, but it’s pretty rare we come across true bravery like his.
In the end, our contribution to Thank You, Canada was a nice website that helped deliver incredible content. Not particularly brave or inspiring in a “change the world” type of way, but I like to think that we’ve been able to at least touch a tiny piece of Canadian history. We haven’t created anything as important as insulin or peacekeeping, but we have helped keep the inspiring stories of these great Canadian heroes alive. If we can’t stand shoulder to shoulder with them, at least we can say we stood on the side of the road and cheered them on.
And remember, the list of Canadians doing outstanding things is not stuck in the past. We continue to all move forward together, paving the way to a brighter future. Who knows? Maybe you or your kids will be featured in the next version of Thank You, Canada?
Bonne Fete du Canada! Happy Canada Day!