Tell us about the early design brief
The brief was to capture the excitement of the Olympic Games and spread it well beyond the gates of the Olympic Park.
What inspired your design concept?
For both our Olympic Pulse & #SupportYourTeam projects we wanted to display the dramatic ‘live’ nature of support, on social channels as it ebbed and flowed through the games.
To bring this to life for #SupportYourTeam we took inspiration from an unusual source: which was the end of the pier/fairground racing game.
It being light-hearted and fun, but also compelling and engaging – the game metaphor and whole notion of watching and influencing Twitter ‘races’ was key to the design concept.
For Olympic Pulse we took our inspiration from the Olympic Park itself – we created a dynamic, virtual Olympic Park that reconfigured to show where the most ‘buzz’ was, venue by venue.
How did it feel to be involved in such a large and important British project?
It was a unique and hugely rewarding experience. It was truly an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s just a shame we can’t get involved every four years!
Did you know…
- What was absolutely fascinating was the changing nature of support over the Games. We saw, as expected, first the USA and then Brazil (a very vocal ‘social’ nation) take the lead in our #SupportYourTeam league table. But perhaps the most unusual thing was our eventual winner: Mongolia. We checked the data to see if it had become corrupted. It hadn’t. The reason they came first was that, quite simply, their Prime Minister had actively encouraged people to get involved!
What challenges did you face along the way?
We knew there would be a lot of noise and conversation happening during the Games. Our challenge was to pull these conversations into one place and visually represent them in a simple and meaningful way.
At the same time, typical data visualisations, although fascinating and beautiful, do tend to be very passive in nature. We wanted our experience to be more involving – something you would return to time and again. So for #SupportYourTeam we built on the patriotic nature of the Games and created a brand new Olympic event: Competitive Tweeting.
#SupportYourTeam was a country vs. country race for Olympic Twitter support supremacy run throughout the London Olympic and Paralympic games. We aggregated all Tweets containing #SupportYourTeam, #nation and #sport hash tags over the course of the Games and then displayed these on the London 2012 site as animated info graphic ‘races’ – gamifying the whole notion of Twitter support and visualising data in an engaging and unexpected way.
Twitter ‘races’ started and ended in sync with their real counterparts. And as events finished, the winning nations were awarded gold, silver or bronze and added to our overall league table. During the course of the Games, we aggregated and visualized over 1 million tweets from all of the 204 Olympic nations.
For Olympic Pulse we wanted to show people where the buzz was in an engaging way – not just a tag cloud. We hit on the idea of linking and aggregating tweets to venues, this way people could instantly see the changing nature of support, by the relative size and scale of individual venues. We also encouraged in-venue tweeting to allow those who couldn’t be at the Games to get a bird’s eye view on the action. In effect we created a second-screen social experience for the Olympics.
What about specific design challenges?
Our major design challenge was to show off the vast amount of social data generated by the Games, in a simple and easily understandable way that could be simply ‘consumed’ by the widest number of people.
Overcoming this challenge meant looking at the whole notion of data visualisations in a different way. Rather than a purely aesthetic, info graphic route, we wanted to show off the data in a way people could understand and relate to. Achieving this meant using real world metaphors such as the Olympic Park and fairground ‘races’ to ground our designs in something more substantive.