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Greenpeace Green My Apple project wins Webby Award

posted by Veerle Pieters
25 September 2007

It doesn't happen that often that we receive an unusual project request. You know, *that* project that makes your eyebrows raise and where you need some time to think about it before agreeing to it. That's exactly what happened to us a few months ago...

A head scratcher

I'm talking about the design for the "Green My Apple" campaign website. I've always been a passionate Mac user since the beginning of my design carreer. So the morning that I received this particular request, it raised my eyebrows a bit and had me stunned for a moment. Not only is it about one of my favorite brands, but also a tool that I use every day. So I had to let it all sink in a bit and read what the campaign was about. In the end I had the feeling the whole thing made some sense but that wasn't the only issue that bothered me.

Playing copy-cat

For me personally, the toughest part was that my job consisted of copying Apple's website design. This is against everything I stand for. OK I browse around, look in books etc. and I see a lot of inspiration and elements of designs that I think are useful and they give me new ideas. In a certain way you copy things that other designers already designed, but you always add your own twist. You mould it to your own interpretation. A great article on that subject is written by my friend Cameron Moll back in 2003: "Good Designers Copy, Great Designers Steal".

Greenpeace 'Green My Apple' .mAct front page design
Can I get into trouble?

What Greenpeace asked me to do was to literally copy Apple's website design and add a green touch to it. I needed some time to think about this. First of all I wondered about the consequences of doing this, but Greenpeace assured me (in writing) that they would take the full responsibility in case some legal action would be taken from Apple. Then I thought about the campaign itself if I stood behind the idea. I thought Apple was doing not too bad, but I thought if the whole idea is just to send out a positive message I'm OK with it. And so my answer was yes.

The design process

The briefing

I also wondered if the job would be creative enough since a big piece consisted of copying, so a lot of things were already defined. From the briefing it was clear to me that most pages needed a lot of Photoshop and illustration work, especially the .mAct pages which should reflect .Mac. Greenpeace delivered me the basic structure and wireframes of the site with the text for the content. I also received a description for some of the visuals and the headers and a set of photos for me to start with.

Creation of the visuals

However the set of photos I received to work with was rather limited. We also didn't have the luxury of high quality product shots. I used those that Greenpeace delivered me, not taken by a real professional photographer, but usable. I even used a photo I took myself of my laptop for the iPush page. Since this one required perfect 90° corners I had to do some Photoshop transform work to get that right. However the biggest challenge for me was to work with these images of dumps with Asian people. Absolutely unattractive photo material in comparison to the shiny professional looking promotional shots Apple uses.

Still, I've managed to give the pages a real Apple look and feel by using them in a creative way. Because of the way we implemented these, things ended up attractive. Especially on the .mAct front page I played around with them on the globe and I added the film and music elements so the similarity is rather striking. I mixed the images with a royalty free stock image of 2 hands holding a green Apple and I decided to use that image as central visual throughout the site.

The navigation, illustrations and icons

For the tabbed navigation I thought of using a slightly different glassy effect where I didn't add that much shadow, but Greenpeace really wanted me to create the exact effect. So even if I tried to make it a slightly bit different my client didn't want that. I can't stretch it enough how difficult it was to do this.

Greenpeace 'Green my Apple' navigation

This site needed the same slickness of its orignal. That's why the icons and illustrations were so important. They needed the same style, the same level of quality. Drawing these and creating them in Illustrator was one of the most fun parts of the project.

Greenpeace 'Green my Apple' icons and illustrations

Webby Award

The site launched last year and caused a lot of reactions. I'm glad it was a success. The site received a few awards, even a Webby award of which we are pretty proud of :) It's now in 'inactive' mode and Greenpeace added a banner at the top with a message.

What we did

Information architecture, graphic design, user interface design, and CSS/(X)HTML template development.

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