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Site of the week: Return to Hope

NATO’s journey into Afghanistan is chronicled in slick style but succeeds most in communicating optimism in the face of adversity

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URL: returntohope.com | DESIGNER: boondoggle.eu

Whether or not NATO’s Return to Hope represents the modern face of war propaganda depends on your perspective, but its focus on telling diverse personal stories doesn’t feel overtly steered or political.

On the contrary, this is a site that leverages cutting-edge web technologies to weave a provoking, interactive journey. With news coverage often so transitory and passive, viewing these one-on-one video stories succeeds in giving the Afghanistan conflict a local, human face. The structure too facilitates a less linear approach to navigation, provoking an equally diverse pathway through the wealth of assets. Belgian/Dutch designers Boondoggle were keen to convey the project’s weighty responsibility in its look and feel.

“Because of the nature of the project we immediately realised that the traditional waterfall method just wouldn’t cut it,” explains Maarten Cox, UX designer at Boondoggle, “so we opted for an agile, lean UX-based approach. The entire team did a series of workshops and design studios with NATO so we could learn who our audience was, how we wanted to reach them and how the website should look and behave to accomplish this. Because of this process, we had the immediate buy-in from everyone involved and a shared ownership that ultimately led to a result we are all immensely proud of.”

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• Marking the end of NATO’s involvement, the site augments personal perspectives with captivating photography

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• Focusing on the stories of six very different people, each narrative strand seamlessly incorporates video

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