Creating a storytelling portal exploring the future of work
Workplaces around the world faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic lockdown. It forced so many of us to completely reimagine how we communicate and collaborate. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put it, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” as the company raced to help its customers “stay open for business in a world of remote everything.”
Luckily, Microsoft employs some of the smartest researchers on the planet, and their rigorous investigations of how people work helped prepare the company for this moment. The team working on 365, its cloud-based productivity and collaboration software suite, had been particularly focused on how to help people adjust to new ways of working. The company wanted to share its insights with customers, business leaders, and anyone who’s interested in the future of work. They enlisted GDP to help.
The WorkLab site was designed to be visually arresting and easy to explore regardless of the platform you view it on.
We began with a thorough audit of Microsoft’s content and the competitive space, interviewing key team members and researchers. We developed an editorial strategy, and used it to help the company define how best to share its insights. What emerged was the idea of a digital publication, eventually named WorkLab, which would be dedicated to telling compelling stories about how we can all connect more, create more, and unlock ingenuity.
We quickly realized that the most valuable insights the company could deliver were about productivity, but not as it’s traditionally been defined. “Microsoft understood that ‘productivity’ had become synonymous with efficiency in many people’s minds,” says GDP Head of Editorial Marcus Wohlsen. “But the pandemic has revealed in stark terms that a single-minded focus on efficiency doesn’t always lead to ‘productive’ outcomes. We needed to expand the definition of productivity to drive a new understanding.”
The portal quickly went from concept to launch. Our team pitched, reported, and published longform features, service journalism, data visualizations, and interviews. Our creative team commissioned artists to craft a distinctively bright and optimistic look for illustrations and animated images as well as rich infographic features to accompany the stories.
Our design team worked with skilled editorial artists and illustrators to craft infographics that delivered insights and data beautifully and efficiently.
Our web experience team worked with Microsoft to build a digital publication that would have its own distinctive presence while fitting well within the company’s current design system. “For this project, we looked for opportunities to uplift the Microsoft messaging by adjusting typography and adding editorial elements like bylines, drop caps, and share buttons,” says Shawn Sprockett, GDP design director of emergent experiences. “We designed an entire digital design system from scratch: from atomic-level design tokens such as text styles and button colors to complex web components such as newsletter sign-up forms and dynamic article headings, complete with variants for sizes and use cases.”
WorkLab launched on January 21, 2021, with seven stories, along with contributor bios that highlight the talented Microsoft executives and researchers who add their voices and expertise to the stories. Since then, the site has grown into a full-fledged publication. “GDP helped elevate our storytelling about the future of work,” says Colette Stallbaumer, General Manager of Microsoft 365 and the Future of Work. “We partnered with them to create a platform that combines Microsoft research and data with compelling editorial and powerful visuals to lead the conversation on how work is changing.”
Each story was paired with an animated illustration that illuminates the personalities and sometimes-abstruse concepts within. GDP worked with a wide variety of artists to give each story a distinct visual identity.
Adweek wrote a glowing story about WorkLab, and why Godfrey Dadich Partners was the perfect partner to help craft the visual style and storytelling approach of the portal. “Microsoft naturally turned to GDP, a company led by former Ogilvy and Condé Nast executives, to help develop a content marketing strategy….GDP positions its approach as a direct communication tool connecting a brand to employees, consumers, and community.”
Our collaboration with Microsoft on WorkLab is ongoing, but we’re very proud to have had the opportunity to help share such timely and vital insights. “We stood up a complete editorial platform from scratch that represents the fullest realization yet of our vision of The New Editorial,” Wohlsen says. “On top of that, I’m finding the stories themselves helpful as a reader. They have insights that we’re putting to use ourselves as a business.”
The platform continues to drive the conversation on the future of work. One story delving into a Microsoft researcher’s findings on the rise of the “triple peak” day sparked follow-up coverage from The Atlantic, The New York Times, Inc., Protocol,Bloomberg, Fast Company,The Morning Brew, and the NPR show Here and Now. Microsoft did not put out a press release about “triple peak” or reach out to reporters. The attention has been organic, driven by a compelling insight situated in a well-crafted story delivered via an engagingly designed experience. And the upshot is results for our client: Microsoft and its team of researchers have been established as go-to authorities in the global conversation about the future of work.