With twelve stunning destinations and thousands of years of history to cover, the scope for England's Historic Cities project couldn't have been much bigger. The overall aim was to reposition heritage and attract younger American tourists to twelve iconic heritage locations.
The brief required a world-class digital product that would harness augmented reality technology to enhance visitors’ experience on site, in real-time.
A consortium of 12 historic cities around England, working together as part of Visit England's £40m 'Discover England' fund, provided the backbone for what would become one of our most extensive and innovative projects to date.
We believed a standalone augmented reality app wouldn’t work hard enough to hit the brief so we proposed a microsite hub and a suite of videos to contextualise the app. This would also mean the destinations themselves remained at the heart of the project, rather than the technology.
Using dedicated US focus groups, we developed a bank of qualitative research that helped us gain a deep understanding of our target market. It was clear that the human stories behind our heritage attractions were more important to our audience than anything else, particularly any tech that came across as gimmicky.
We visited the 12 locations and – following extensive meetings with all stakeholders – teased out the tales that we felt would most engage potential visitors.
From the archives of York Minster, Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum, Salisbury Cathedral, and many more, we unearthed stories of adventure, murder, mysticism, and discovery. Fanning the flames of intrigue, the England's Historic Cities ‘Stories’ products would tell of the Italian giant who could lift ten men, unveil the link between Shakespeare and one of the most productive oil fields in America, and unravel the real-life murder-mystery of the Count of Salisbury. All these fascinating stories and more became the basis for our explorative augmented-reality experience.
To give the products their own identity and make the offering consistent across all touch-points, we engaged illustrator Jonathan Chapman to develop a visual style for ‘Stories’. Jonathan would expertly craft twelve hero characters that would act as guides at our destinations. Furthermore, using illustration as a medium meant we had the flexibility to create historical content when actual assets weren’t available.
The final product allowed visitors to interact with our twelve locations in a completely new way. Augmented-reality display boards tell our unique stories through the eyes of history's most colourful characters. Special 360-degree photos give visitors instant access to hidden areas. And our 60+ hand-crafted illustrations give the app a unique look and feel throughout.
Ultimately, we saw these products as a pivotal advancement towards truly personalised, thematic engagement with heritage destinations.
"Within an incredibly tight timeframe Hex have delivered an innovative and engaging product that will really help achieve our objective of re-positioning our cities to new audiences. They brought a fantastic blend of creative and technical skill to the project, managing dialogue with a huge number of stakeholders. I am looking forward to future projects"