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Monday, September 3, 2007

Light to Unite 2006 = Best of Web 2007 / Step Inside Design

Light To Unite 2006 / Step Inside Design - Best of Web - Article Spread (3/3) / 2007 / SML Awards

Step Inside Design article (

September + October 2007 Print Edition
Step 2007 Best of Web
Winning Sites: (

IconNicholson / LBi International

“Light is the metaphor for hope and knowledge,” says Gregg Fisher, vice president of Health and Life Science Practice at IconNicholson.

So it only seems appropriate that the firm developed an interactive candle-lighting experience for the 2006 Light to Unite website. This annual campaign from Bristol-Myers Squibb raises awareness as well as funds for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in the U.S.

“When people start to think about AIDS, they often think about Africa,” says See-ming Lee, art director and senior interface engineer. “It’s still a very serious disease in the United States.”

This fact was reinforced as soon as visitors logged onto the site. During the roughly seven-week campaign, which started on World AIDS Day, users found themselves facing an unlit candle against a dark background, with only a lit match to help them navigate the screen. As they moved the flame around, they illuminated startling statistics about HIV’s spread in the U.S., and these facts all became visible once users lit their candles. For every person who completed this simple act, Bristol-Myers Squibb donated $1 (up to $100,000) to the National AIDS Fund. Site visitors could also give additional funds.

Fisher says the project is a great example of what happens when you give power over to community and let it take control. The majority of the site’s traffic came from people who found out about the effort through word-of-mouth online—not paid media. this becomes all the more impressive when you realize that more than 1.8 million candles where lit during this relatively brief effort. And through the first week of January 2007, more than 8000 people signed up for the site’s newsletter—and there were more than 200,000 requests to send the site to a friend. “It's taken on a life of its own,” Fisher says. “Light to Unite is spreading life, spreading awareness, spreading knowledge.”

After lighting a candle, visitors could learn more about the personal impact of HIV/AIDS through the site’s user-generated stories. These short, emotional snippets were submitted through last year’s Light to Unite site, an they’re each represented by a burning candle. “We spent two weeks trying to animate a candle to make it look real,” Lee says. “Every single flame is animated differently.” This attention to detail heightens the experience as you navigate through individual stories or explore them by broad themes ranging from courage and fear to family—and the stories are still accessible now that the campaign as concluded.

IconNicholson | Life Sciences Strategist: Scott Friedberg | Senior Producer: Mark Hopkins | Associate Producer: Jennifer Crowe | Art Director: See-ming Lee | Flash Production: Steve Baker | Technical Director: Jabe Bloom |

Michelle Taute (LinkedIn) / Step Inside Design September + October 2007 Print Edition: Step 2007 Best of Web: Winning Sites: pp.108-109

Copyright 2007 Step Inside Design. All rights reserved.

IconNicholson Team (

SML Notes + SML Tech Talk

  • The inspiration for associating candles with the story came from Hillary Savage (LinkedIn), who suggested that behind every candles is a story worth telling during our brainstorming session.

  • The inspiration behind the using highlighted words (aka tags) to get to different collection of stories came from my avid tagging behavior on I felt that users ought to be able to tag the stories themselves, as different people will interpret the stories differently. However, due to legal contraints—it is pharma afterall—we compromised to pre-tag the content.

  • The candle flash animation are individually generated using Flash 8's BitmapData.perlinNoise method to alter a 5k PNG. Writing this class was the most satisfying accomplishment thus far—most of my friends thought that they are videos.

SML Awards

SML Thank You

  • I would like to thank my friends from the gay community who provided much inspiration and support while I worked on this project in 2006.

  • I would like to thank Stephen Baker of Red Antenna for collaborating with me on this project. Besides being the best ActionScript 2.0 - compliant Flash developer I have been able to find in New York City, his expertise in visual and interaction design have brought tremendous value to the project.

  • I would like to thank Jennifer Crowe who spent days and nights being our tagging engine.

  • I would like to thank Hillary Savage who provided me with a lot of courage and support during my stressful times working on this baby.

  • I would like to thank Celeste Bryant (LinkedIn) for submitting the project for awards consideration.


  • I am looking for ActionScript 2.0 - compliant Flash developers to collaborate with on future projects—because Stephen is very busy these days. If you think that you are more than capable, please send me an email with your portfolio + resume + sample code snippets.

SML Copyright Notice

Copyright 2007 See-ming Lee. All rights reserved.

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