The Tough Job of Scaring Teenagers

What am I going to do next? is a really interesting, albeit very uncomfortable Air Force-sponsored site that is intended to appeal to high schoolers, thanks to the absurd humor and the notebook-scrible design. The overall message, in a very pointed way, is that, when it comes down to it, their users have little choice else but to sign up for four years with the Force. Granted, it’s not like you’re going to find a site made by Kraft that tells you, “Other cheese products probably taste about the same as ours,” so we get the point, but it’s also not like a company is usually saying, “It’s either us or your future is nothing!” So that in mind, this new article from the creators of the site on the Design Interact site, about how they came up with the idea, is really fascinating. We don’t envy their gig, but it’s interesting to read how they worked with it. Or, rather, listen to their pitch about it. Here’s some:

The site opens with a single question (What am I gonna do with my life?) scrawled across the browser window, a series of animated doodles and a tongue-in-cheek approach. Instead of a typically slick presentation the developers opted for a light-handed approach with a cocktail-napkin-doodle art and animation style. Content purposely avoids a hard sell and manages to draw-in the audience with how much it doesn’t say. It contrasts Air Force and alternative “career” options (that for the most part, humorously don’t pan-out) for high school seniors. Animation, used whenever an easy or unrealistic career path is chosen, is offset by embedded video and action photography that convey that a career in the Air Force is a realistic and vital option.

Despite the fact that the navigation has been structured around simple rollover graphics and content that launches from the main window, there’s a skillful dodge of a traditional framework. This anti-navigation (as the developers like to call it) is loose, informal and playful but nevertheless uses clear iconography to link to Air Force careers. The approach continues throughout the site, charming the audience as it also leads them easily (albeit through a non-linear and exploratory hierarchy) to content and a request form for more information.