Briefly summarize your nominated project for someone who is unfamiliar with your work. Think of this as your elevator pitch.
Return To Hope is a web-documentary, created by Boondoggle and NATO, that reports the events in Afghanistan and the role NATO played to the general public. It weaves together the story of Afghanistan as told by extraordinary people – soldiers and civilians, Afghans and internationals – who returned there to help make it a better country. The website is rich in strikingly beautiful images, immersive sound-scapes and high-definition video. It features personal testimony of varying perspectives, explores the history, charts the challenges and achievements and recognizes the sacrifice of thousands of men and women from Afghanistan and around the world. Return To Hope takes the complex and often difficult story of the international community’s engagement in Afghanistan since 2001 and makes it personal, accessible and, in the end, utterly compelling.
What inspired you most to follow your dreams/vision while working on this project?
After the project really got off the ground moving, staff were constantly motivated by the fact that we were doing something extraordinary. The subject of our web-doc – the international community’s intervention in Afghanistan – is a huge and complex subject, one that is both sensitive and controversial, and one where only a few, often simplistic, narratives ever make it out via mainstream media to a general public already fatigued with the topic. It was always going to be an uphill battle, but we knew from relatively early on that this would not be another standard institutional product, that it represented an opportunity to get out of our own box and make a difference to real people. The great interaction between Boondoggle and NATO helped maintain laser-focus on the needs of the audience, and thus make internally difficult decisions about content and approach in the right framework. We were also inspired by the knowledge that our product would, if done right, help mass audiences better understand one of the largest and most difficult reconstruction efforts in human history, as well as the motivations, efforts, obstacles, achievements, failures and sacrifices made by many thousands of people from around the world.
When did you first know that this work was going to be something special?
The realization that Return To Hope would be something truly special came gradually. Among the NATO staff team which had for years produced fairly dry institutional products about Afghanistan, it took some time to understand that the idea of an unusual, people-focused approach (which would be crucial to the success of Return To Hope) would survive internal approval processes. The realization finally came when we secured permission to include the third, extraordinary witness – a young lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division whose leg was blown off by an IED in Kandahar, and who (against all odds, and with a prosthetic limb) returned to lead his unit in Afghanistan 14 months later. Combined with the fascinating accounts of an octogenarian New Yorker who had worked in Kabul as a national archivist since 1962 (and who had sat down to tea with Osama Bin Laden), and a young Afghan woman who had opened the country’s first tech company, we knew we had the basis for something both viable and truly unique.
Only visual design judged. Sites that set an industry standard of excellence by through visual design that is intended to be beautiful, emotional, and appeal to the senses.