Adventist Review Ministries [ARMies] strives to create varied media content that deeply resonates with the needs of our readers, listeners, and viewers. Our approach relies on a teamwide, data-driven mindset where what we create, including what we develop in our media innovation studio, is user-tested from its earliest ideation stage, to ensure an engaging end-user experience when it is released.
We call the process User Experience Design, and it begins with understanding the end users’ needs; understanding their thinking patterns and desires, and designing meaningful, engaging, and visually exciting media products, as well as highly usable platforms to serve up that content—all based on those core end-user needs.
Leading the team’s research, experience, and creative design functions means driving the behavioral research to understand the types of media products and platforms that will create the most engagement. That done, we creatively work to design and produce the products we now know will resonate with you, our audience!
For instance, we recently launched a brand-new ARMies website. Its design focuses on ensuring that end users can easily find and search for con- tent and be able to take key actions such as shar- ing or subscribing. Before we began designing the website, behavioral research helped us establish the key goals and thinking patterns of the end users. Next, we tested and retested the design with real users. Only after that research did we develop and release the site.
A well-designed, thoughtful interaction experi- ence is key to ensuring that people engage with the spiritually nourishing media we aim to create, and subsequently share it with others. This is what motivates me. Coming from a deep corporate back- ground, having built and led Experience Design and Innovation organizations for multiple industry verticals, I have long desired and looked for ave- nues to contribute to the work of our church.
It is with joy that I have reviewed the team’s activities over the past four years. Even with challenges, we have always strived to apply the core principles of Experience Design and Innovation methodology to our content and product development. It’s because, ultimately, we want to enable end users to stop, read, view, listen, and share. A person’s decision to go or stay, to pause and view, to listen, to read, or to leave a piece of content online can be measured in seconds.* We aim to create and design interaction expe- riences that will help people pause long enough to engage with our content.
The field of Experience Design is hugely important to our evangelism efforts as a church. We work hard as a team to ensure that believers and nonbelievers alike can be attracted and fall in love with the Bible story and the beauty of our unique Adventist mes- sage. Whether it’s a video from our on-de- mand video platform that drives someone to an article on end-time events, or, perhaps, something health-related, our goal is to tell and help people experience the beauty of Bible truth through a multimedia ecosystem; a story that we ultimately want you, the end user, to own and experience for yourself. That is true engagement.
Daniel Bruneau, the ministry’s creative director, helps us negotiate a world where both people and machines live, learn and try to change for the better.
Growing up, Ashley Bloom, a London-based illustrator, saw some great examples of illustrated children’s Bibles, but often felt frustrated that the depictions didn’t do the actual stories justice. “When drawings were too childish and didn’t communicate reality, or where prophecy illustrations looked very amateurish, I felt it took away from the sense of realism and believability,” he says. That drove me to study illustration and graphic design at university, and ever since, I have always tried to use visual communication as a way of bringing the Bible to life.”
Taking on Bible-based projects has allowed Bloom to strengthen his relationship to Scripture. “In illustrating the story of David, I tried to interpret it as a graphic novel. In my effort to illustrate the story as accurately as possible, I began analyzing small parts of the text that I had previously overlooked.” As a youth leader in his local congregation, using art to convey biblical truth is an important educational method. “Whenever I teach young people, even if they’re not artistic themselves, I still make them illustrate things like prophecies based on the text, because it causes them to question details they might otherwise gloss over, and it increases their understanding,” he says.
Bloom has a unique way of looking at the notion of placing Christ at the center of his art. “There are two elements to it,” he says. “One part is that it’s actually as important what I don’t draw as what I do draw. There are some things that I’ve committed to not try to depict. One of them is the face of Christ Himself. That’s just my understanding of how it relates to the commandment of not making graven images and realizing the reasoning behind that is to keep us from doing a disservice to something that we could never accurately portray. So there are certain scenes that I’ve committed to not actually draw, and it’s because I think, as an artist, your level of reverence for your subject matter has to come across.”
In the creative and emotive world of the arts, inspiration is often taken from the culture, the times, and the way in which the world moves. But for the artist who places Christ at the center of his or her work, how does one juxtapose Christ with culture? “I try to make sure my culture doesn’t influence my work too much,” says Bloom. “I recently worked on a T-shirt design for a Christian client who wanted to make a line of shirts that appeal to young people outside the church. So I drew a few superhero characters looking like they are about to take on an enemy, but with Jesus’ hand just visible, raised in front of them saying, ‘It’s all right, guys. I’ve got this.’” That kind of relevance, reaching out to people and meeting them where they are, if done well, can be effective.”
Daniel Bruneau is creative director for Adventist Review Ministries.