D-Day 75

Providing a platform for digital storytelling on the 75th commemoration of D-Day

Imperial War Museum

www.iwm.org.uk/history/dday/

Providing a platform for digital storytelling on the 75th commemoration of D-Day 

Planning

This year (2019) marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Having previously collaborated with the Imperial War Museum to create a web platform for the warship HMS Belfast, we were again asked to design and develop a digital timeline experience.

On this occasion the framework would give an in-depth account of the events leading up to this historic event, illustrating preparations and developments of the most pivotal day of modern history and giving context to audiences of all ages.

Tone

It was important for us that the tone of this project found a balance between commemorating those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today, whilst also providing an accurate account of the Normandy invasion and celebrating the peacetime that would follow the greatest military campaign ever undertaken.

75 years on from the landings, it’s important for the site to not only be a source of factual knowledge but also a home to the human stories - the ones which are not in the history books - the ones that make us question how we would react in the same situation, contextualising history in a powerful way and honouring the veterans who gave so much.

Hecto Duff
HMS Belfast
Duxford
Winston Churchill

Unifying The IWM Sites

An important aspect of our brief was to balance content between all the Imperial War Museum’s sites. The Duxford airfield from which the aerial campaign was based, the tactical nerve-centre of The Churchill War Rooms and flagship battlecruiser: The Belfast all played significant roles and had to be reflected accordingly.

As well as underlining the sites’ involvement across D-Day manoeuvres, we had to link to the current commemoration events and displays.

Archives

The IWM has an unparalleled archive of historical resources. Boasting both physical artefacts and a rich repository of oral accounts, it was a primary consideration to weave these into the fabric of our narrative from the concept stage.

The museum had recorded a new collection of veteran interviews which would provide a very human perspective to the infamous events, framing them in a tangible and relatable sense – something we were keen to reflect throughout the experience.

Pilots of 78th Fighter Group. © IWM (FRE 2770)

Adding Depth

We appreciated the site would attract different user types. Some may come for an overview of the time period whilst others may wish to ‘dive-deeper’ and gain a more rounded understanding of those who influenced the narrative of events (from the main players of Eisenhower and Churchill to frontline soldiers and those involved in the domestic war effort). To cater for this we implemented expandable content sections. These ‘factoids’ are digital Easter eggs of additional content to be explored and cover everything from military statistics to stories of espionage and the wider political landscape.

D Day UI

Exploratory Style

We embraced a single, continuous, scrolling page as this was fitting for the long-term narrative. Simply by vertically navigating, users are guided throughout the timeline and through history. The chronological aspect of the content hinted towards this movement but to add intrigue we also implemented breakpoints at which the vertical journey would morph into horizontal ‘offshoots’ punctuating the timeline with more detailed explorations of the human side of historical events. We decided upon an editorial layout that would be a familiar format and respectful to the nature of the content. With such a longform story, digestible information would be key to a user’s enjoyment and levels of engagement.

Connecting Analogue And Digital Worlds

Part of our challenge was to present the wealth of resources at our disposal in a fresh and immersive fashion. The IWM’s catalogue of assets (spanning service uniforms, documents and stunning reconnaissance photography) were cemented in a pre-digital age but leant itself to a minimal web design pairing beautifully.

Allowing these visuals to breathe and showcasing hi-res images were central to the flow of the journey, never forgetting that a picture really is worth a thousand words. We did this whilst aligning all aesthetics with the museum’s brand guidelines and following the graphic sensibilities that span the ‘D-Day 75’ campaign.