Animated videos from Pivot help amplify reach of valuable health resources

Case Study by Ian Chalmers RGD and Iffat Jokhio RGD, Pivot Design Group  


The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF) provides expert advice and compassionate support to the millions of Canadians who suffer from digestive disorders. The organization wanted to launch a video series to educate Canadians about the human microbiome — an exciting new area of research in the field of digestive health and medicine. The video series would be shared by the CDHF in their webinars and on YouTube.



Pivot has a long-standing relationship with the CDHF, having worked with them before on the organization's rebrand and visual identity design as well as on the Gi BodyGuard patient-physician personal tracking app. 



Throughout the timespan of about 9 months, we worked with the CDHF to understand their goals and their audience's needs. We also used this time to research the content, formulate the script, define the visual style, create illustrations, source and direct the voiceover talent and roll out the motion work for 4 videos in the series:

  1. Introducing the Microbiome
  2. Understanding Pre and Probiotics
  3. Your Microbiome and its Impact on Your Overall Health
  4. The Game of Microbes


The goal of this project was to design an engaging, educational production that would be a credible source and provide a basic understanding of the human gut microbiome. We needed to make something that might seem “icky” become interesting and engaging and drive traffic to the CDHF website/ build views on YouTube. Finally, this project also aimed to establish the CDHF as a leader in the field.


The final deliverable would be viewed by the public (mainly 30+ moms and family decision-makers), healthcare professionals, media and government.  




Our process is collaborative, so our client was brought into the process early on to ensure they would be on board with the concept right from the start. The CDHF’s executive director, with a deep knowledge of the subject matter (digestive health), provided input on content and direction at every stage of the way in our collaborative process to ensure that we were meeting the project's goals. She was also our key liaison with the SME (a leading gastroenterologist in the field with knowledge of the latest microbiome research).


To begin our Informed Design process, we conducted a Pivot Compass Session (project kick-off) to orient the project to our user-centred design methodology: Organization, Marketplace, Audience, Context. This allows us to bring all stakeholders to the same playing field to better facilitate the overall project understanding.


A landscape review of existing educational videos provided us with a look at the different visual styles used to convey this type of health-related information to our audiences. Through collaborative content research and stakeholder interviews, we spoke with experts in the field who provided the necessary information for us to create compelling scripts and storyboards for the videos. We created a unique method of storytelling for the complex information — using techniques from the world of creative writing, we structured the script and storyboards in a way that would engage viewers with quirky characters. 



Strategic storytelling paired with a Moodboard and Styleframe design put us well on our way to designing a compelling system of communication with colour, framing, visual metaphors, sound effects and transitions as the driving force to guide the viewers along. Moodboards are an opportunity to explore and decide on a tone, look and feel (colour palette, textures, typefaces, etc.), while a Styleframe allows us to take the abstract elements from a Moodboard and put them into the context of a single frame of video. Then we used colour, framing, visual metaphors, sound effects, and transitions as the driving force to guide the viewers along. We also worked to develop an illustration style and colour palette unique to the CDHF to bring our quirky characters to life. 


Accessibility was a consideration in terms of legibility of type on screen (size, contrast, etc) and accessibility of content at smaller device sizes. These are important factors for the design because we knew that the audiences would likely be watching the videos from a variety of sources and devices. For example, a mother interested in probiotics might be using her laptop or iPad at home to search for videos on YouTube, while a physician might come across the link in an email from a colleague on his or her smartphone device. Understanding the audience and their context of use ensures better success with your design decisions.



Managing such a broad topic and distilling the research and content down into just 4 videos was a major challenge. Keeping the scripts nice and tight and eliminating redundancies in the storytelling is something that we had to educate the client about along the way. As the client’s first foray into video design, they pushed back initially on the length of the videos (they wanted longer videos to capture more information), while we were constantly trying to reel them in (pun intended) and make the scripts more concise to suit a wider audience. 




The CDHF Human Gut Microbiota Video Series has been viewed by over 15,000 via with numbers continuing to climb. We know that the earliest video represents 45% of these views and assume that as time passes, views of the rest of the series will increase as well.  Facebook enables us to extend our reach even further through shares that we cannot track.  Universities with academic programs related to the microbiota use our videos as teaching tools, and the international Human Gut Microbiota for Health organization promotes the videos regularly to its more than 10,000 members who are comprised of the general public and scientific communities.


“When Pivot creates a resource for us, they ensure from the very beginning of the design process that they understand not only the core purpose and messages of the project but the potential future applications and audiences. This allows us to reap the most benefit out of every piece they touch. Creation of these types of multifunction assets are essential for our charitable organization so that we can contain costs while meeting our mandate. In creating the Human Gut Microbiota 4-part animated video series, Pivot equipped the Foundation with resources for on-site public education posters at health conferences with a total in excess of 30,000 attendees, slides for on-line seminars that were recorded live and are replayed on-demand through our website, social media posts and print materials that reach our core public audience as well as the healthcare professionals who care for them.


Being able to translate complex, scientific concepts into easy-to-digest words and images that can be understood and impart meaningful impact, such as behavioural change, is difficult.  Pivot, however, does this with ease. They are able to develop simple phrases and likable characters, evocative content and stimulating graphics, and cleverly and strategically package them in a way that helps us delivers messages that change lives.” 

–  Catherine Mulvale, Executive Director, CDHF


Designer Takeaways

  1. Outline key goals, success metrics and opportunities for the project from the get go — This will create opportunities to build your client relationship and help to get stakeholders excited for what’s to come.
  2. Have a process and always come back to it —process is how you walk the walk and, if nothing else, it will be how you keep project stakeholders on track toward the end goal(s).
  3. Less is more, but have fun with it — the more engaged you are with the success of the storytelling, the more apparent it will be to your client. With an audience like this one, we had to act as their voice and advocate for their needs and attention span. When the organization wanted to add more, we had to push back and find balance.


Client Takeaways

  1. Learn from experts — it helps to build a project using perspectives from experts in the subject to ensure content is accurate. Too many perspectives can be a bad thing, so it’s important to work with your design partner to find the right balance. When in doubt, refer to the original project goals.
  2. Trust your design partner — it helps to have a trusting relationship with your design team to ensure that the storytelling is articulated properly and reaches audiences in the right way.
  3. Don’t lose sight of the users/ audiences/ viewers and the context of their needs — It’s easy to talk about the users at the onset then forget about them in the midst of content and colour palette discussions. Your design partner should help liaise and keep these key people in sight throughout the process. 



Iffat Jokhio RGD: Art Direction, Design Project Lead, Research, Script, Storyboards, Illustrations, Visual Design

Lauren Levy: Storyboards, Illustrations, Visual Design

Julian Brown RGD, On the Chase: Motion Graphics, Sound Design

Bonnie Tang: Medical Illustrator


Video 1: Introducing the Microbiome


Video 2: Understanding Pre and Probiotics


Video 3: Your Microbiome and its Impact on Your Overall Health


Video 4: The Game of Microbes


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