Case Study: U.S. Open 2013

Client
IBM
Project Title
U.S. Open 2013
Duration
July 2013–September 2013
Description

Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2014 “Justified” competition, for which an esteemed jury identified 19 submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. To learn more about the jury’s perspective on this selection, see the juror comments below.

IBM has been tracking the data of the world’s top 100 tennis players for more than eight years. For the second time, we brought this data to life at the 2013 U.S. Open. Our goal was speed—more energy, more movement and more gestures—to capitalize on the action on the court. Our user experience has multiple levels of interaction, each masterfully crafted to consider audience, context and take-away. The target audience was anyone visiting the U.S. Open exposition—players, fans, press, young and old, the tennis savvy and newcomers to the sport.

We engaged tennis “cartographers” in an effort to get to the core of the sport. Their insights helped us design the nuances that surround every point, game, set and match. This data, coupled with IBM’s built-in data correlations, helped us visualize game play in fun ways. Over 17 days, users initiated an average of 1,700 sessions per day. By allowing multiple users to engage in a simple, fun and communal experience, we were successful in creating an immersive interactive experience that added value to the IBM brand as one that uses data in compelling ways.

IBM U.S. Open 2013 Case Study (credits: HUSH)

Project brief

As part of IBM’s larger Data is a Game Changer campaign by Ogilvy, design agency HUSH was asked, for the second time, to bring this data to life at the U.S. Open. By allowing multiple users to engage in a simple, fun and communal experience—manipulating digital “tennis balls” on a touch screen wall to uncover relevant stats—HUSH created an immersive interactive experience that reinforced IBM as a brand that uses data in compelling ways.

Sports events and their fans can be some of the most difficult to engage, as they are highly dedicated to the actual game at hand, not augmented layers of digital experience. In the same way that most people commit to enjoying a movie in a theater without the distraction of their personal mobile devices, professional sports matches already engage their viewers in highly cinematic and interactive ways.

However, the built-in behavior of the sports fan revolves around energy, competition, play, team allegiance, brand awareness and the stats that surround all professional sports. These human behaviors and impulses can be harnessed in effective ways; we believe we did so for the 2013 project with IBM and Ogilvy.

IBM wanted to showcase their robust data solutions to a larger market using content that is more engaging than their typical data sets (e.g., shipping routes and weather patterns). Leveraging tennis data, they can inform a larger audience of the value they are bringing to businesses and the world.

Having worked on the 2012 activation, we set out to reinvent the experience so it would feel more like a game, with fast action consistent with the idea of real-time data usage. Our goal was speed—more energy, more movement and more gestures—to capitalize on the on-court action. To get to the core of the sport, HUSH engaged tennis experts whose insights helped the team design the nuances that surround every point, game, set and match.

Background

These particular services IBM offers are specific to businesses; however, similar to the IBM—Eames era of the 1960’s, IBM is looking to rebuild its human connection through design driven experiences.

Budget

Development budget: More than $50,000
This project is: An in-house on-going relationship
Production/execution budget: More than $100,000
Source of funding: Client

Strategy

We didn’t know what specific data sets we would be working with. Our design methodology worked in parallel with the data analysis. During the course of the project each facet helped inform decisions about the other. Our experience focused on the U.S. Open tennis event. Our installation was tied to the dates of the event.

Design solution

This was the second year HUSH designed the wall for IBM at the U.S. Open. We used existing technology and hardware to exhibit our design experience and were limited to a vertical five-screen array. However, we learned from the previous iteration, making the interaction more responsive and more kinetic to reflect both the immediacy of the data being received and the intense speed of the sport.

Challenges

The initial concept foundation involved a specific data set that turned out not to be available to third party entities (IBM included) during our initial concept phase. We had to pivot quickly and leverage other available data that still reflected our thesis. This proved to be a critical opportunity for HUSH and IBM to work more intimately throughout the development of the project and, although initially highly stressful, led to greater trust and cooperation throughout the project.

Effectiveness

Brand experiences are often difficult to measure success in a quantifiable manner, as ROI is not the guiding principle. However, IBM perceives the U.S. Open as an opportunity to educate and inspire both C-Suite individuals and the public about complex IBM data solutions. In this manner IBM considers our endeavor a huge success and has engaged HUSH two years in a row to implement the wall. We plan to develop a new experience for the 2014 U.S. Open.

Due to the experience being a touch screen we do have quantifiable data around the wall. Over 11 days, there were:

  • 300,000+ points of interaction
  • 40,000+ aces shot from the ball machine
  • 20,000+ keys to the match displayed
  • 25,000+ learnings shared about top players

We opened on Kids’ Day, when the organizers admitted the general public for free a few days before matches begin. Children ran to the wall and immediately knew what to do: they were throwing the balls to each other, tapping on them to make the balls bounce back and forth. They loved it. The tennis fans who knew all the players immediately understood the mechanics and the idea behind the wall. They dove deeper into the tiered experience of information to find out more.

Comments from the Jury

“This is a great example of demonstrating IBM’s unique prowess around data and information. The team utilized technology and design to exhibit a larger-than-life experience that is responsive, kinetic and as intense as the speed of tennis.” —Dana Arnett

“This project uses design effectively to capture the excitement and energy of the tennis fan while showcasing new technology and sharing an immense amount of data. Not only was the data design clean and attractive, the interactions and responsiveness were directly based on spatial properties of tennis and the motions of the players—a strong entry across all dimensions.” —Kate Aronowitz

“Data is powerful and with successful insights and interactions it can be fun. The US Open data visualization wall successfully transformed passersby into participants.” —Cameron Campbell

“They aced it, yet everybody won: The US Open, Hush, IBM and tennis enthusiasts.” —Joe Gebbia

“IBM and sports may seem like strange bedfellows, but the outcome of that union was a fun data visualization: Real-time data pushed from the US Open onto kinetic displays that kept users on their toes. It very effectively made IBM's business solution seem more human.” —Jennifer Kinon

“The world is awash in data. Making that data meaningful and accessible is increasingly the domain of designers. This solution for the US Open not only makes complex data clear, it makes it beautiful, engaging and fun. It’s a richly nuanced example of information and experience design.” —Christopher Simmons