A Self-Reflexive Journey into Interactive Publishing: Designing a Website for Our Vampire Overlords
To mark the release of The Night Eternal, the final novel in Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's best-selling vampire horror trilogy, The Strain, HarperCollins enlisted my team to design, develop, and produce a new kind of online marketing experience in 3 weeks.
My team invented a “Department of Human Management” (DHM) website to supplement, and exist within, the vampire-ruled world of the novel. The site, which borrows inspiration from such public, bureaucratic services as redcross.org and dmv.ca.gov, is filled with articles, videos, questionnaires, and instructional guides—all of it self-serving vampire propaganda and subterfuge—to help the human slave population better understand their role within the new world order, to ease their consciences, and to make them more efficiently offer themselves up to their new terrifying blood-sucking masters – the "Strigoi," as these unique vampires are called in the novels.
Under the pretense of offering healthcare services, the user soon realizes that the DHM—not just the website, but the institution itself—is, in reality, created and managed by the vampires' human collaborators. As a “human” visitor, the site educates you, for example, on the benefits of informing on people with Type B Positive blood (the blood type that is most desirable, by far, to the Strigoi). You are also encouraged to “give with all your heart” during your frequent—not to mention compulsory—blood donations.
An essential component of my approach to the site was to weave crucial elements of the fiction into the online experience, while avoiding spoilers for those who have not yet begun the trilogy. The unique interactive experience and authentic site navigation serve as an alluring and gruesomely sardonic window into the fictional world of The Strain Trilogy, it allows visitors effortless access to the novels themselves—to purchase them—as part of the actual Strigoi propaganda dissemination itself.
Drawing on key subtexts from the trilogy, the site highlights the bureaucratization of the subjugation of humanity – treating even the most horrifying implications with cheerful banality. However, the shadow of the Strigoi looms over everything. And underneath it all, you are left with only a vague reassurance that if you obey the Strigoi’s rules, you may—just maybe—be able to buy yourself another day, in a world where humanity has no future...