Responses by Jason Dietrick, creative director; Simone Sept, senior producer, Upperquad.
Background: Jigsaw, a unit within Google that works to forecast and confront emerging digital threats, launched The Current to help educate the general public on these complex, nuanced issues. The online publication provides a deeper look at the problems the Internet faces, with each edition dedicated to an in-depth study on each one. The first issue focused on disinformation, which Jigsaw describes as coordinated targeted efforts to shape public opinion and influence social, economic, military or political events. It’s a term that’s being thrown around a lot, so the issue needed to clarify what it meant and more importantly how it affected the general public.
Working with Jigsaw, we included articles that cover the problem in detail and countermeasures that span technological interventions as well as creative and artistic explanations. The Current also has a spotlight on Assembler, a new product that Jigsaw created, and a Disinformation Data Visualizer that helps organize and present data from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.
Design core: To create a distinct, yet connected experience for The Current within the Jigsaw website, we reversed our color and type choices and broadened our toolkit of illustration, motion, color and interactive elements. We built The Current’s landing page in white to exude optimism and created a more editorial feel by pairing the serif font, GT Sectra, with our custom typeface, Jigsaw Sans. Keeping in mind that Jigsaw is tackling issues that are diverse and ever-evolving, we didn’t limit ourselves when it came to design and development techniques. Instead, we explored a wide variety of styles and interactive features, creating a dynamic, layered narrative experience for the reader.
Favorite details: We love the animations that we created for the hero sections of the “Makings of a Myth” and “Countermeasures” pieces. While they might seem like they’re just playful elements, they also beautifully capture a more intentional concept. In “Makings of a Myth,” a set of circles reacts to the user’s mouse. While the circles seem somewhat controllable at first, they’re ultimately unpredictable—much like the spread of disinformation.
In “Countermeasures,” a larger circle helps collect the dots; however, the challenge to collect them all brings back the reality that while countermeasures are effective, the fight against disinformation is hard work. These threats are ongoing, and changing direction, adapting to solutions so that the work is never really done.
New lessons: The subject matter of this project was really illuminating for our team. We’ve all heard about these issues in the news, but in order to create Jigsaw’s brand and website, we had to familiarize ourselves with them in a much deeper and more deliberate way. We did quite a bit of research and worked with the team at Jigsaw to understand the facets of these incredibly meaty subjects. Even the content within The Current itself was eye-opening for us: it was a very cyclical process where we were learning more each day, applying those learnings in our designs and then repeating that process.
Navigation structure: The audiences for the Jigsaw website as a whole ranged from the general public to policymakers and journalists working on the front lines of these issues. With such a diverse set of needs, we built The Current’s navigation and site structure in an intentionally nested and layered way. This enables users to dig deeper into the weeds while retaining a clear, understandable and high-level narrative.
We used a subnav on The Current’s landing page to maintain a connection to the main Jigsaw website, while still differentiating the experience within Jigsaw’s ecosystem. We also incorporated navigation elements at the bottom of the article pages with up and down arrows that help guide users through the content piece-by-piece, should they prefer that route to free scrolling.