I worked on this experimental prototype BERG produced for the BBC. It’s a simple toy that “takes important places, events and things, and overlays them onto a map of where you are.” You can play with it at www.howbigreally.com.
As Matt Jones writes, BERG were tasked with “looking at new ways in which history could be explored and explained using digital media.” This started as a series of workshops which ended up with the prototype we can see today.
Each ‘Dimension’ is simply a shape, at scale, of something interesting (say, plans of ancient buildings, famous routes or the extent of natural disasters) which can be overlaid on a map anywhere in the world. The idea is that people can get a proper sense of scale and perspective by comparing things with places they know.
The idea designed itself, really, but I did a bit of basic art direction, UI design and print work to help get it into the world, working alongside the rest of the BERG crew and master developer Paul Mison (with a lovely cameo from the ever-brilliant Phil Gyford). The project was set up at the BBC by the awesome Max Gadney.
One of the main success criteria of the prototype was that getting content into it had to be quick and easy – the idea being that fast-moving news graphics teams inside the BBC would be the ones updating it. I spent a lot of time with Paul setting up a super simple workflow, so that non-technical designers could export SVG files from Illustrator, upload them, add metadata, publish updates and so on. In design terms, I probably as much (if not more) time on this bit as I did doing the front end display stuff. Big up Keltie Cochrane who did the first batch of content creation for the launch version.
A real ‘proof of concept’ moment came about during the time of the tragic floods in Pakistan during late August 2010. As the scale of the tragedy emerged, a really relevant, resonant Dimension appeared on the site, and its popularity blew up around the web, with lots of reaction including The Guardian, Wired and around Twitter.
It’s still at a prototype stage, so watch this (or, rather, BERG’s) space for more developments.← Back