The IBM Watson platform holds a formative place in the history of technology. Its Jeopardy! victory in 2011 marked a watershed moment in the evolution of artificial intelligence. But in less than a decade, Watson and AI have already advanced rapidly. The technology has raced ahead of public understanding. To bridge this gap—this leap, really—IBM enlisted Godfrey Dadich to design a narrative strategy, manifesto, video, and revamped web presence to foster clarity, awareness, and excitement about the powerful, diverse ways businesses can put IBM’s AI to use.
AI has seeped into many parts of everyday life. Yet the technology itself remains remote and inaccessible. Even leading researchers struggle to explain how it works. But Watson isn’t a technology that exists in some purely theoretical realm. It’s a tool with practical applications right here and now, as we set out to show.
This reality meant we had to be practical as well in our approach to designing for the Watson brand. How could we make Watson approachable? How could we persuade an audience hungry to apply AI in the real world that Watson was a tool they could use now to create genuine value?
We started with strategy. Through workshops and interviews with Watson stakeholders, we developed the key idea for the Watson brand—“Turning AI into new ways of doing business.” That idea became the starting point for developing a brand manifesto and narrative arc that guided the design of an array of creative assets.
Foremost among these was the keynote video presented onstage at IBM’s THINK conference, its annual showcase for new products, innovations, and thought leadership. Directed by documentary filmmaker Brian Oakes, the video reintroduced Watson by integrating live action with motion graphics that distilled the idea of a world infused with data that AI can transform into business advantage. Our design relied on simple abstract shapes to represent AI on a human scale, combined with dynamic, playful deployments of IBM’s iconic eight-bar logo to represent Watson at work in the world.
The visual and narrative thinking that informed that video became the guiding set of principles for how we approached redesigning the Watson homepage. We developed content to vividly illustrate Watson’s advantages and IBM’s point of view on AI, from original graphics to interactive storytelling to a honed user experience. Our design foregrounded IBM’s deep roster of AI experts and extensive collection of client success stories while quickly driving a range of targeted audiences to the right products and services. At the same time, we sought to provide the simplest, most direct definition of Watson to stake its claim to the future: Watson is AI from IBM.