Section Logo
Go BackGo Forward

Interactive Annual 15:
information design

Spectra Visual Newsreader

Launch Live Site

“Copious amounts of information could not be easier to navigate. Just an exceptional and sensible use of a 3-D space in Flash.” —Stacey Mulcahy

“Proof that novel visualizations of data can be entertaining.” —Jay Zasa


Overview: Research showed that msnbc.com users don’t get a quick news fix and leave; they loiter and explore. That insight led to the “A Fuller Spectrum of News” concept and its multicolored information graphic metaphor. The Spectra Visual Newsreader extends the brand by introducing experimental navigation, customization and interactivity. It was the leading edge in a second wave of branding work for msnbc.com and launched the same day as newsblastergame.com and newsware.msnbc.com. Since the launch, additional features have been phased in and Spectra has been altered to be operated via touchscreens and giant display.

  • • The team worked from three separate time zones: msnbc.com is outside Seattle (PST), SS+K is in New York (EST) and Fluid and Blixem are in the Netherlands (CET).
  • • There are well over 100 RSS news feeds/channels.
  • • Interfaces and 3-D visualizations are almost fully-generated by ActionScript 3; the application is relatively small and downloads before Spectra launches.

Comments by Sam Mazur, Matt Ferrin and Remon Tijssen

How did this project compare with others you’ve worked on in the past? “This was our first extensive project conducted over an ocean. After the job was awarded, our kick-off involved a trip to the Netherlands to brainstorm almost every detail and feature with Fluid and Blixem. Technology makes long distance collaboration possible, but nothing could replace that initial face-to-face quality time spent together. The fact that a team from New York could work seamlessly with a couple of Dutchmen was a pretty cool thing.”

Was there anything you weren’t able to accomplish due to timing, budget or technical constraints? “We tried to make Spectra as robust as possible, but several features didn’t make it out of our collective sketchbooks: additional viewing arrangements based on story data; third-party feeds; community features; and customizable color-coding. On the flip side, the human body interactions built into Spectra led to additional development of five touchscreen kiosks and a giant display at the msnbc.com Digital Café at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.”

Were there any specific demands that made the project easier or harder? “It’s a tough and exciting space when your project is blurring the line between a Web site and an application. Industry-wide, we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what the experience of an online application is, and we’re proud Spectra is a recognized inspiring step in that direction.”

Credits

Matt Ferrin/Sam Mazur, art directors/writers/creative directors
Marty Cooke, chief creative officer
Marco Christis, Blixem Media, developer
Katie O'Kane, project manager
Remon Tijssen, Fluid, project design and development
SS+K (New York, NY), ad agency
Catherine Captain, msnbc.com, client