This site redesign was for the Royal Flying Doctor Service—one of the largest aeromedical organisations in the known world. They have cool planes.
RFDS came to Digital Eskimo to completely overhaul their information architecture and freshen up the visual design. Originally, each section (each state within Australia) had its own site. What we did, was consolidate them all into one big old site to match the size of the organisation and cater to the personas that we got out of the initial workshops.
In order for the user to access the information applicable to their location, we went with a tab approach throughout the entire site. We saw this as the best solution for people to be able to find events, campaigns and news that is most relevant to them.
Anyway, before I get ahead of myself. I basically did the initial art direction and visual design for the site, with oversight from my Lord and Master, Ben Hoh—DE’s Creative Director. So let’s get into it.
Despite the sheer size of the site, in terms of its contents, I only ended up doing three full page designs—Home, In Your State and Story. As that’s all that time permitted. However, from those three screens, we pretty much got all the content types we would need to build the rest of the page templates.
After those three designs were all good, I dumped all of the content types in one great big PSD—including the responsive states too.
It worked in that it saved a lot of time. But when the build started to come together and we saw certain elements sitting next to one another, I had revisit a lot of the content types so they’d look okay when combined with other content types. Was a right pain in the arse, but worth it in the end.
So in that, quite a lot of the design was done in build. I would just sit down with our developer and tweak stuff on the fly. I actually prefer this way of working most of the time—you work out a lot of issues that way.
Modern organisation, embedded in heritage
The current branding for the RFDS is modern and unified. However, the Flying Doctors as an organisation is rooted in history and heritage. We wanted to touch on that through the visual language.
We did this by using texturing and an illustration style, inspired by the Australian twenty dollar note. Which of course features the RFDS founder, John Flynn.
People and their stories
One of the most important design principles for this site was to tell emotionally resonant stories. As such, the story content types that are used throughout the site are super-duper important.
To help show this, we took the quote mark that is used throughout other RFDS collateral and used it as a framing device for people’s portraits. This helps give the content type a unique look and lets the user know visually, that this is a story.
There are several quote layouts that can be used throughout the site. A full-width image like the above to help feature the quote or one that can be inserted into story pages amongst the text, without it looking jarring.
Epic, balanced with the intimate
We also wanted to show that this organisation and its reach is massive. But also the intimate side of things—the people.
In the old site, the idea of people’s relation to the landscape were combined into a singular image in the headers. The concept is good, but the execution wasn’t that crash hot. What we have done is give them their own place to exist within the site.
The epic landscape imagery is scattered throughout the site. In full-width hero images and as small motifs. Such, as the horizon in the footer, showing an iconic Australian outback landscape.
The intimate shots of people exist within the story content types, tightly cropped.
We avoided over-using the two main brand colours. Being too literal with these colours can really impact the readability, freshness and modernity of the site’s design. We instead used them sparingly as accent colours throughout the site.
Instead, we looked to the RFDS’ rich palette of secondary colours. The orange, blue and lovely wheat colour. In combination with the clean and extensive white space, all of these colours gel very nicely together.
It also helped in tieing into the mass of the organisation. In that, the Flying Doctors is an extensive organisation, so why not represent that, by using the organisation’s wider colour palette. These colours are there in the brand guidelines, but they’ve never been used extensively.
The two primary brand colours are still present throughout the site by way of the imagery anyway. Represented by the iconic Australian outback scorched red earth and rich blue sky—as well as the planes themselves.
Breadth of the organisation
To help compliment the user experience, what we did with this visual design was create ways to showcase the breadth of the Flying Doctors.
One way in which this was done was the tab structure used for the sections. By making these increasingly prominent—such as on the homepage—the user can get a quick snapshot of this expansive service.
Nothing is hidden or small. Everything is enlarged and brought to the fore. Showing that all of these sections and their people are part of something bigger.
That’s what we tried to keep in the back of our heads throughout the project. The people that the site is for and I think we got a pretty nice site of it in the end.
Role Visual Designer
Studio Digital Eskimo
Credits Creative Director – Ben Hoh
Experience Architect – Michelle Pickrell
Developer – Alex Leon