Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the
competition, in which an esteemed jury
identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear,
compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design
thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on
A cornerstone of IBM’s centennial year celebration, “THINK: An Exploration into Making the World Work Better” was an
exhibition experience that pushed the boundaries of technology as we
know it. The goal of the project was to bring to life the ways in which
people are making the world work better through innovation, and to engage
people in some of the ideas around IBM’s Smarter Planet agenda. It was
free to the public, drawing more than 25,000 diverse visitors—from heads of state
to school kids—in its month-long run at New York City’s Lincoln Center.
The creative directors were first given a very broad brief from IBM,
requesting a meaningful and significant expression of the brand to
celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary. Diving deep into the history
of IBM, the creative team recognized a legacy of inspiring widespread
curiosity about science and technology. With the last big public
expression of that position well in the past (the Eames and
Saarinen–designed projects of the 1960s), the team believed that a free
exhibit bringing to life some of the latest technologies would strike
the right chord at this moment in time, when technology is more
pervasive in our lives than ever before.
“THINK” was inspired by IBM’s Saarinen and Eames–designed 1964 New York World’s
Fair Pavilion, which ignited widespread public interest in computing and
set the stage for the technological revolution. Just as the pavilion
presented complex scientific concepts of that era, “THINK” aimed to change
today’s conversation about technology, focusing on how people can make
the world work better through innovation.
The creative team worked extensively with IBM researchers and scientists to develop the content for the “THINK” exhibit.
Once the creative team settled on the idea of a public exhibit at
Lincoln Center in New York City, they partnered with IBM to examine innovation
throughout history, identifying a pattern that has driven the perpetual
forward momentum of humankind: seeing, mapping, understanding,
believing and acting. This pattern served as the basis of the exhibit
experience. The team worked with a broad range of experts—from
researchers building traffic models to biologists studying the rice
genome—to ensure accuracy in every detail. Designers,
filmmakers, developers, architects and artists then translated the
science into an emotional and visceral exhibit experience.
“THINK” transformed a cargo ramp and subterranean storage space at Lincoln
Center, near the corner of 65th and Broadway, into a 10,000 square-foot
state of the art technology experience. The exhibit consisted of three
distinct experiences: a real-time data visualization of New York City systems
(traffic on Broadway, solar potential of rooftops, air quality in the
city) that were tracked, mapped, analyzed and rendered on a 123-foot
digital wall; a 10-minute film played in an immersive media field with
40 digital panels; and life-sized touchscreen interactive modules that
invited participants to contribute their thoughts, opinions and ideas
to the larger conversation about what progress means.
“THINK” played three different roles often considered to be at odds. It was a selling tool used to explain IBM’s capabilities to clients and
business leaders. It was an educational experience used by schoolteachers to explain the
role of technology in making the world work better. And it was an art
installation that brought to life real-time data and was photographed by
thousands of visitors and passersby.
“THINK” achieved the goal that IBM set out for the design team: engage new
audiences across generations in a meaningful conversation about
progress. The exhibit drew more than 25,000 visitors during its run at
Lincoln Center. IBM polled exhibit visitors and found that more than 70 percent
of adults felt inspired to think more about making the world work
better. The survey also showed a 57 percent increase in the public’s
familiarity with the IBM brand.
Impact spread far beyond New York City, with press coverage including
features by the New York Times, ABC News, Scientific American and the
Huffington Post, among others. More than 1.9 million Twitter impressions
about “THINK” were logged from September 5 to October 28, 2011.
Learn more about the jury’s perspective on the competition and their
rationale behind the selections.
Section: Events and Competitions -
AIGA’s national design competitions celebrate exemplary design and
demonstrate the power of design.
Section: Events and Competitions -
In order to inform the public about budget cuts that would affect children, the Children's Defense Fund launches a program that relies upon concerned individuals sharing information through a microsite and social media channels.
Section: Why Design -
advertising, web design, advocacy, social responsibility, Design for Good
The online network that Cloudred built for Cities of Service—a bipartisan coalition of mayors working to engage citizens in public service—allows cities to broadcast their most urgent needs in a quick and easy format.
Section: Why Design -
web design, social responsibility, Design for Good
AIGA invites all designers and creatives to participate in a virtual Town Hall to solve social issues in our communities by developing tangible engagement tools and generating new, productive conversations.
Section: Tools and Resources -
design thinking, advocacy, social responsibility, Diversity and Inclusion
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