One Small Act is a Microsoft new media journalism project created to highlight inspirational stories of their employees of color. The stories take the user on a journey back to the employees' hometowns to meet the people in their past responsible for that 'one small act' that gave them the push, courage, inspiration or representation they needed to achieve more in their life.
I was brought on as art director early in the conception of this project. We decided these stories would best be told in an immersive, mixed media format, utilizing the employees' own voices to tell their own stories, and intimate, documentary-style video integrated into the written story. This was all done to complement a new, more story-driven, less corporate writing style and methodology that was being developed by our talented head writer.
I designed and directed a team of developers in building several new features for Microsoft.com in order to better tell these stories. This included a custom-built HTML5 video player and a brand new web experience for both the landing page and each article.
Previous work on this team was blog-style Microsoft culture stories with custom photography woven in. This was not only the first cohesive, campaign-oriented conceptual body of work for the Microsoft Life team, but also the first project that expanded the storytelling methods of the team with custom web features and prominent documentary-style video shorts.
Overall, this project became the most successful work the team had released to this point, setting records and reaching significantly more users than any other content published. The microsite launched in honor of Black History Month, and Microsoft was given many kudos on news outlets and social platforms for storytelling and representation with depth and integrity.
The Landing Page
I designed the new landing page experience to have a stronger structure and hierarchy of information so we could better convey the message of collective action these stories illustrate.
The decision to start the page with a 'video trailer' explaining the heart of the campaign was a new and unconventional approach, and served us well to draw users into a seed of each individual's story.
The post roll gave our content manager custom control over the presentation of the stories – the order, thumbnails, descriptions were previously auto-filled from the article and sorted by date. Additional sections were built in swappable, drag-and-drop fragments for a fluid experience that could feature a dynamic mixture of content types. From this point on, we could lead the landing page experience with intention and purpose.
A carousel of selected social media posts submitted from employees and fans around the world was placed below the main stories, encouraging visitors to consider the message of the campaign, reflect on the personal heroes in their own lives, and submit stories championing that person to be featured on the home page.
Lastly, we included a section highlighting ways Microsoft engages in various communities, and links to opportunities to get involved yourself.
Each of the four main stories featured one Microsoft employee, the most influential person in their past, and their hometown. In order to bring these stories to life, I selected and directed local photographers and videographers in each community to document the visit: New Orleans, Chicago, Jacksonville, Alexandria. I then edited all photography, videography and audio myself to form a cohesive experience.
The stark black background to each story not only set us apart from all other content on Microsoft.com, but also set a reading and viewing experience that would allow the rich visuals to speak for themselves.
I developed the new video player to span the full width of the page, so users would pause and spend some time with each video short. Branding and UI is minimal and unobtrusive to give the subject a transparent platform to tell their story. The player is dynamically triggered to play when the user scrolls into the video, and the video pauses itself as you scroll on to continue reading the article.
We took two approaches to the social content. The first was editing and posting 'b-roll' and 'deleted scenes' of the employees' stories. This gave users a reason to follow us on social accounts and engage with us; the content was different, more supplemental, and wasn't merely a duplicate of the visuals within the stories.
The second approach was a custom three-slide Instagram Story experience I designed, following the lead of the head writer's experimental storytelling. These slides would tease an interesting scene in the story, with minimal context, to entice users to click through for the full experience. This new method showed significantly more engagement from our users than ever before.
The project was so well-received that it was promoted on the front page of Microsoft.com, driving the most traffic to our content to date by far.
Thanks to our wonderful Head of Employee Engagement, other Microsoft employees and fans contributed to the #OneSmallAct hashtag with their own stories of inspirational heroes in their life. The whole project ended up turning into a global conversation on inspiration, representation, responsibility and inclusivity, and set the bar for us to create innovative and engaging content going forward.