With strong graphic design roots that go back to 1984, and digital branches that have extended internationally since 2000, digital innovation studio Switch United has always known how to tell a good story, harnessing the technologies and platforms to deliver in a way that is compelling, memorable and, above all, relevant to each target audience.
From a 110 ft. sensor-driven interactive wall for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, to an augmented reality mobile walking tour exploring the city’s colourful neon history for the Museum of Vancouver; from a multi-media exploration of 100 years of Canadian Grey Cup history for the TSN network,
to a passionate exploration of the life of a Kabul filmmaker for the National Film Board of Canada – wherever words, pictures, motion, and code come together in ground-breaking solutions or interesting collaborations, this independent Vancouver-based studio is front of line to take on the challenge.
Added to its collaborations with leading companies and organizations, Switch United is also committed to creating its own proprietary products and services. Currently the studio has received funding and investment for both mobile apps and designed experiences serving the health & wellness and sports & entertainment sectors.
December 3rd, 2010
Seven minutes. That’s all we had to pitch our Measure of a Man multi-platform entertainment property (in partnership with Ed Brando) to a panel of international digital content broadcasters and buyers at the Whistler Film Fest. We were up against some very strong competition – four other teams shortlisted after the Merging+Media Master Class held in October. Projects were incredibly diverse and creative, from an iPhone app for a Food Network show to a drama that unwound on the Web and TV, and we are absolutely thrilled that Measure of a Man won the NFB’s development prize. Check back for details as we move ahead with this property that crosses platforms and offers exciting opportunities for branding, sponsorship, user-generated content, and international export.
September 29th, 2010
When you think ‘themed attraction’ Disneyland might be the first thing that jumps to mind. For TAA Canada, however, themed attractions extend well beyond amusement parks, encompassing Olympics and World Expositions, trade shows, conventions, museums, science centres, and more. TAA is a non-profit association of Canadian companies that provides a broad array of services for themed attraction projects around the world. As digital storytellers fresh from creating interactive installations at the 2010 Olympics (see our Digital Gateway and the Curious Tree projects), we knew Switch could complement TAA’s already impressive roster of capabilities. We also saw the value in belonging to an organization committed to fostering and promoting home-grown expertise in the planning, design, and execution of themed attractions. We’re excited to get involved at a deeper level as our Director of New Business, Mark Ross, joins TAA’s Board of Directors and takes on the role of Communications Chair.
June 14th, 2010
Vancouver’s Olympics might be a fading memory but the 110-ft.-long interactive installation we created for the 2010 Commerce Centre at the BC Showcase is still getting ‘buzz’ via blogs, video channels, online articles, and more. Whether it’s the green architecture community, motion graphics experts, or themed event companies, our ‘people powered’ installation based on animated illustrations continues to interest people across a variety of industries. Most recently, the Digital Gateway won Applied Arts’ Photography & Illustration Awards in the Motion/Animation category. Get a glimpse of it in the latest print edition of the magazine or read about it in more depth on the Applied Arts Wire.
April 15th, 2010
When it comes to the Banff World Television Awards (the Rockies), it really IS an honour just to be nominated. With over 900 entries from 43 countries, making the shortlist in this prestigious international competition recognizing outstanding creativity and innovation in TV is, in a word, humbling. Omni Film Productions and Switch United created a cross-platform strategy for Ice Pilots, Omni Film/History Television’s real-life series about Yellowknife-based Buffalo Airways, that builds on the themes of the show while incorporating new content and new ways for fans and flying buffs to engage. In particular, the website includes an interactive Storymap that lets visitors contribute their own stories, videos, and photos about aviation North of 60. Supported by a robust social media campaign spearheaded by our partners at FanTrust, our cross-platform initiative helped Ice Pilots Season 1 become History Television’s most watched Canadian series ever. Rockie winners will be announced in June…and while we’re thrilled to be a nominee, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed til then.
April 1st, 2010
The big news: After 27 years under different names and different divisions, our eclectic little band of multi-disciplinary designers, writers, and programmers are coming together under one name. One common goal.
SWITCH UNITED (under partners Catherine Winckler and Blair Pocock) will continue on as a small experimental studio specializing in multi-platform campaigns for entertainment and lifestyle-related clients. We look to our recent work with interactive digital installations at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics (see videos for The Digital Gateway and The Curious Tree) .. our 20 year history with Nintendo of Canada.. our award-wining bicycle branding for MEC . and our ongoing work with TV and film production companies including Omni Film and Brent Butt’s Sparrow Media .. and we know we’ve found our ‘sweet spot.’ We love bringing our love of narrative and our passion for design to multiple platforms. As of April 1st we’ll be doing it under the Switch United name. Stay tuned …
Note: Why April 1st? We figured if it was good enough for Apple Computers who started April 1, 1976 in Cupertino, CA (and we know how that story turned out!), then it marked an auspicious start for us as well.
We made it! This year we were one of the five teams chosen from 50 pitches for the second annual Digital Development Lab sponsored by CBC, BC Film, and New Media BC. Designed to support the creation of new internet activities and original interactive entertainment, the three-day lab will give Switch the opportunity to further develop our game meets storytelling world of ‘Vomby the Zompire,’ a young vegetarian misfit with a Vampire mother, Zombie father, and human brain best friend, brought to life through animation and 3D glasses accessibility. If the three-day lab with top mentors and fellow producers wasn’t enough, they actually pick a winner and a $10,000 development prize.
Successful TV doesn’t just start and end on the first screen. Instead, it engages with fans across platforms and screens — from mobile and web, to social media and fan fiction. Over five seasons with History’s Ice Pilots NWT, or the launch of Space’s Primeval: New World; from the grit of the North and the fans’ own search for Yukon Gold, to the comic book extensions of Arctic Air or the War of 1812, Switch believes in extending stories wherever the fans are, engaging with them and encouraging them to respond back.
There have been a number of ambitious multi-media projects over the years, but none that tapped as many of Switch’s talents and interests as TSN’s Engraved on a Nation, the multi-platform execution around the celebration of the 100th Grey Cup football game in Canada. Eight award-winning documentary filmmakers set the stage with network broadcasts of hour-long human interest stories over the weeks preceding the game. Switch United told the story of 92 further stories online, involving hundreds of hours of research and writing, archival sports footage, custom illustrations, video content, and a responsive HTML5 design built for desktop, mobile, and tablet. The result is an unprecedented compilation of facts and trivia about these 100 games of national sport.
From decades of work with Nintendo, to today’s Unity 3D game for YTV’s Mr. Young, Switch has always found a way to play games with our world. Holidays were an excuse to bring game to the ice; moving meant launching our likenesses over the bridge. We even got serious with collection games for fans of Ice Pilots, and had fun with fortune-telling for APTN. But nothing beats the game for our own Mr. Mike — Guinness World Record-holder for longest milk squirted out of his eye!
Capturing the moments that matter… BigShot™ (patent pending and now in beta) is an image capture and technology platform that takes a close-up-and-personal HD image of each fan’s unique reaction to a just scored goal, basket, or other exciting event in-venue. It then delivers it within seconds to their mobile device to save, share, or forward straight to the stadium screen or broadcast channel. BigShot™ interfaces with existing team apps or can stand alone, delivers real-time user analytics to team or venue, and is shareable on social platforms.
Switch United’s soon-to-be-released mobile app and content offering, StoryTrigger™, is dedicated to bringing the emerging world of interactive packaging directly to the consumer healthcare product (CHP) sector. Through object recognition technologies that allow the smartphone to ‘unlock’ information straight off the package (videos, text, coupons, games, or even just enlarging the pharmaceutical ‘fine print’), StoryTrigger™ promises that the relationship between the static package and information-seeking healthcare consumer will never be the same again. Learn more about StoryTrigger™ here.
Once internationally known for its 19,000 neon signs, Vancouver lost many of them to public sentiment that deemed them a ‘blights on the urban landscape’. As interest in the neon art form rekindled, in recent years the Museum of Vancouver set out to explore the past. In an extraordinary collaboration with museum, researchers, academic institutions, and cross-disciplinary artists, Switch United created an augmented reality mobile walking tour app that combines archival photos, audio interviews, bilingual text, music, and user-generated content in a virtual exhibit, complemented by a comprehensive online legacy site. The app is the first-of-its-kind for museums in Canada and is available in iOS and Android.
The lines between ‘digital’ and ‘reality’ are blurring. Our lives are digital – and so too are our environments. In several experimental, award-winning projects, Switch United has turned barren spaces into beautiful, interactive oases. From showcasing provincial economic success vignettes and creating The Curious Tree touchscreen exhibit at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, to transforming sales centres into dynamic marking environments or building make-believe worlds, Switch United is at our best when presented the opportunity to merge immersive storytelling with interesting new technologies.
When it comes to branding, we’ve done it all… international firm or local charity, B2B or B2C, brand creation or transformation. When all eyes were on Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, we helped position the City of Richmond’s celebration site as a world-class facility through a comprehensive design & branding initiative. When asked by the City of Vancouver to develop a campaign to get people thinking about environmental initiatives for the future, we came up with ‘Talk Green to Us’ and extended it from print ads to a robust online opinion hub. And when a peace-building coalition bridging the West and Middle East wanted a youthful rebrand, Peace it Together was set in motion.
For over 25 years, Nintendo of Canada trusted Switch United with its national POP, packaging, software launches, and product introduction campaigns including those for the Wii, DS, and Gameboy. Microsoft USA’s Media Edition encouraged us to Start Something… crazy and viral, while the University of British Columbia asked us to establish a Place of Mind. In the end, Ritz-Carleton got the nod for best place to film and last place we wanted to leave.