2010 Interactive Design Awards Best of Show: Back to the Moon

How do you celebrate Apollo 11?
By re-creating the historic mission online.

Last summer, The Martin Agency and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum went back to the moon and took the world with them. The pair put together a website that re-created the entire four-day Apollo 11 mission in real time—starting July 10, 2009—40 years to the minute after the original event.

CNN covered the re-enactment live, and more than 1.25 million people logged on to watch, with the most traffic at launch and during the moon landing. These spectators were treated to a 3D animation of the mission along with 102 hours of NASA’s actual audio transmissions.

Visit the Site: www.wechoosethemoon.org

“If you read the actual mission from pre-launch all the way to return, it reads like a fantastic novel,” says Wade Alger, vice president/associate creative director at The Martin Agency. “In 1969, the world didn’t have access to every word that was spoken, but now we do.”

In fact, the entire site gives you a bird’s-eye view of the moon landing that wouldn’t have been possible the first time around. There’s a clock counting down the hours and minutes to launch and landing, and a running report on the spacecraft’s weight, velocity and distance from Earth. Throughout the mission, small blue icons appear in the middle of the screen to give site visitors access to 400 photos and 50 videos related to the original event. But these features are just one part of this rich digital universe.

“If you were watching this live, what are all those things you’d want to know about?” asks Brian Williams, senior art director at The Martin Agency. “You want to be able to see where the capsule is in relationship to the Earth and moon. You want to hear what they’re talking about. You want to know how the fuel consumption was. So we really tried to include absolutely everything. I think that abundance of information is what really helps to make the site feel as immersed and as complete as it does.”

It’s a ton of information, but the site’s thoughtful layout means you never feel overwhelmed. Plus, the whole mission is broken down into 11 manageable stages that site visitors can explore freely now that the live event is over.

Originally, the creative team was thinking about this project as a small print campaign. But once they started digging through the NASA and JFK archives, they quickly came up with the idea for a virtual trip to the moon. The Martin Agency worked with Domani Studios on the ambitious site’s production.

This bold idea and its real-time execution won over the HOW judges. “Timing can create drama; it can invoke an attitude; it can create a story,” says judge Liz Danzico. “This website, through the use primarily of timing, re-creates the story in a meaningful way. It’s not afraid to be bold where necessary; it’s not afraid to be silent where necessary. And viewers are converted to believers as a result.”

Even the load times for the “superb” animation didn’t bother judge Emily Chang, because the streaming real audio makes the wait less noticeable. She also says that all of the audio and visuals, including the video and photo galleries, helped make the site truly immersive.

“It’s an incredibly rich and detailed experience,” agrees judge Sean Donohue. “The historical photographs, audio and video mesh perfectly with the modern execution of the site.”

That’s one small step for web design, another giant leap for mankind.

Title We Choose the Moon (www.wechoosethemoon.org) | Design Firm The Martin Agency, Richmond, VA;
www.martinagency.com and Domani Studios, New York City/Chicago; www.domanistudios.com | creative team Joe Alexander, creative director; Wade Alger, copywriter; Brian Williams, art director; Darbi Fretwell, Norma Kwée, agency producers; Domani Studios, production company; Jon Hills, Ben Tricklebank, directors; Jarrod Bull, Steven Hubert, producers; Saulo Rodrigues, designer; Justin Young, interactive designer; Petter Safwenberg, animator; Mark Llobrera, Chris Wise, technical developers; Oscar Trelles, technical director; Running with Scissors, editing facility; Jim Vaile, Shang Gao, editors; Hum, music | Client John F. Kennedy
Presidential Library and Museum