When NASA and Carl Sagan launched the Voyager spacecraft into interstellar space in 1977, they set out communicate life on Earth. Onboard was The Golden Record to do that—etched with sounds and images etched of diverse, human life.
40 years later, our tech and culture have evolved greatly, but ever present is the urge to communicate what it means to be human.
WeTransfer, a design-driven file sharing platform from The Netherlands created A Message from Earth, an intricate, interactive web experience of art, sound design, music, photographs, and literature to celebrate The Golden Record, where we’ve been, creatively, and how far we can go.
Last year it nabbed a Webby for Best Branded Editorial Experience. We spoke with Stephen Canfield, the VP of Marketing at WeTransfer about the project, their win, and more.
Read our Q&A below with WeTransfer’s VP of Marketing, Stephen Canfield and see this year’s categories, including Branded Content, and more.
“A Message from Earth” was created to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Golden Record. What inspired you to pay homage to this voyage?
We spend a lot of time with creatives just as a function of what we do, and the Golden Record was coming up in every conversation. I think that’s because it’s so refreshing—it was a selfless gesture that shows the best of what we can be when our arts, our science, and our cultures come together as a global voice. It felt like something that needed to be celebrated again. It’s as least as relevant now as it was back then.
It’s an incredible interactive experience of art, music, literature, animation, and more from around the world. How did you select which artists to collaborate with?
Where the Voyager Golden Record was curated as more of a time capsule than a ‘best of’ compilation, we took a similar approach. We tried to curate a wide range of voices that all had a passion for the original, giving them an opportunity to make something inspired by it vs trying to recreate it. It was humbling how everyone had been affected by the original in different ways.
The project is a part of your WeMadeThis series, which lives on the WePresent platform. What does your overall editorial strategy look like? How does A Message from Earth fit into that?
We launched WePresent as a platform to highlight a diverse range of creatives from Tehran to Auckland and everywhere in between, to give a close look into the creative process — not just among the standard-bearers in Berlin, London, and NY. We’ve grown to over 2 million monthly readers in just a year, and maybe selfishly, we love being able to take a deep look into the minds of artists from Bjork to Ryan McGinley, to photographers in Nigeria and painters in Brazil. They’re the types of stories we like to read, and if we can inspire any new ideas in the broader audience that reads them, it’s worth it.
Obviously, editorial work being produced for the web—across journalism and marketing—is rapidly changing. What does it take to stand out and craft compelling stories, today?
At the core it’s still about the person, and trying to get a unique take on what they do and why they do it. In our case, we think diverse voices and deep, personal looks into process will be more interesting for people than stories at surface level. For that reason, A Message from Earth was a great jumping off point.
You won for Best Branded Editorial Experience. What was that like?
Humbling. This was a team effort from our group but also among the 40 creatives outside our business we built this with. We all made it together, and it’s amazing to see that it affected people the way it affected us as we were putting it together. We can’t thank you enough!