The YMCA: From Fact and Figures to Digital Story
When the YMCA first approached us with an idea to create a digital annual report, we knew we were in for a challenge. For non-profits, budgets aren't always readily available. And with only a month from conception to completion—including a week of margin for board approval before their AGM—the concept had to be both straightforward and meaningful.
Our idea was to bring a traditional print piece to the web in a way that highlights the YMCA's story. In the midst of facts and figures of the annual report, we wanted to bring a real YMCA story to life. Moving to the web made this once-a-year piece more widely accessible (and eliminated print waste), and using a narrative helped make it meaningful.
One of our challenges was to come up with a single, unifying idea that demonstrates the extensive work of the organization. To do this, we took our clients through a story discovery process.
Story discovery looks for a unifying purpose—or heart—by sifting through the organization's priorities. With only a short window, we sat down face to face and discussed the YMCA's strategic goals. We dug into why they do what they do, what their top priorities are, and how they see the world being shaped by their work.
What emerged was a clear focus on children and youth, and “the village” that surrounds them. This became the emotional core of the site. The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” was a recurring theme as we considered problems like child obesity, loneliness and fractured social networks.
Something distinctive that emerged is that the YMCA community stretches across cultures, ages and demographics—creating a unique environment to foster healthy kids. With this core truth as a guide, we created a site “script”. We pared the traditional wordy annual report copy down to its fresh and pithy essence.
As we moved into design, a couple of priorities stood out:
- Information hierarchy - in just a quick peruse, readers should have a clear sense of the central message.
- Animation and interaction - with a super short timeline and tight budget we needed a simple approach to interactive content.
- A rally cry - we wanted to incite existing YMCA members. By focusing on typography and sticking to the central theme of kids needing a healthy, multi-generational environment, we created a clear call-to-action.
- Branding - all of this had to stay within the limitations of the YMCA's brand guidelines.
Photography has always been central to the YMCA's storytelling, so we included the distinctive element of “motion photography”—rather than static images, these moving pictures give the story life and personality. They also can be repurposed in the YMCA's stock image library. To do this we used a pretty revolutionary technology—the Red “Epic” camera. The Epic is a cinema camera that records in up to 5K resolution (about 14 megapixels). It's a win-win solution—creating both high-quality still frames and an excellent video image.
Domain7 brought all of our resources to bear on this project, pulling together the motion photography shoot, design, review and development in just 3 weeks.
The finished site was revealed at the YMCA's annual general meeting on May 22. It's received strong accolades from within the YMCA community for pushing the boundaries of storytelling, away from the traditional and into a more shareable, accessible medium. More importantly for us, it connects YMCA membership to the core story of children and youth—creating a healthy community where they can thrive.
Check it out: imagineourymca.ca