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Interactive Annual 15:
information design

Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil & The Presidency

Launch Live Site

“A wonderful companion piece to the PBS series. With a clean, straightforward interface, it’s easy to digest and navigate the wealth of information available, and just as simple to tailor a lesson plan for students or to save content for later reading.” —Ranee Chung

“This excellent education tool provides teachers with a wealth of information in an engaging and easy-to-navigate format.” —Amber Bezahler


Overview: This Educator’s Toolkit complemented Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil & The Presidency, a nationally broadcast PBS documentary chronicling the life of one of America’s most controversial presidents. While a Web site accompanied the live broadcast, this DVD-ROM was created to be an exhaustive resource to be used in the classroom to deepen the experience of the film. It included a wealth of multimedia content in an easy to navigate and clear interface that gave teachers the ability to organize lesson plans (akin to a custom playlist, maintained between independent uses of the DVD) based on their own content preferences—an extremely powerful tool.

  • • The project included 466 on-demand video clips, high-resolution images, interactive maps and documents.
  • • A resource index, accessible via a persistent navigation bar provided an instant shortcut to massive amounts of multimedia content in a simple, glossary-like format.

Comments by Jimmy Mooney and David Neiman

Was the topic/subject of the project a new one for you? “We had never done a DVD-ROM project before, but we were asked to architect this project after working with PBS/KCET on the Andrew Jackson site. It consisted of reevaluating content that was essentially the same, revising it and conceiving of the best ways for it to be used in conjunction with viewing the documentary. With a DVD-ROM, you only have one chance to get it exactly right before it’s a gold master and duplicated—there’s much less room for error.”

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “Our audience—middle school and high school educators and their students—is actually a difficult one. The majority of DVD-ROMs we reviewed before beginning were either unnecessarily complicated, visually over-wrought, overly simplistic or some combination of the three. We wanted to strike a balance between making the content engaging and aesthetically appealing while keeping it easy to navigate.

“The demands of DVD-based projects are much more stringent than Web-based-especially for the education market where a four- or Þve-year-old computer is not unheard of but where new top-of-the-line computers must also be considered. And who knows what the hardware configuration might be. This project required extensive testing on different systems.

“To a certain extent, the sheer depth and volume of content posed a formidable challenge. During the first few months of development, there were several instances in which unexpected changes and variations to the content made it necessary to reevaluate the architecture and hierarchy of information and build extensive new wire-frames. Without our upfront work of getting the wireframes and initial concepts just right, and nailing down the data structure and organizational format, nothing would have matched up at the end.

“While our initial conceptual thinking allowed us to deal with all of the changes, the bumps in the road required considerable patience on the part of all parties, as well as a decent amount of brainstorming. By the project’s end, the moments of creative conflict had given way to a product that we and our client (and its talented team of educators) were extremely excited about and that takes full advantage of the strengths of the DVD platform. ”

Credits

Sharon Hannon, KCET, writer
Philip Dunn, KCET, creative director
Matthew Morris, designer
Jimmy Mooney, JM Interactive, information architect
Peter Grant, KCET, illustrator
Kate Fulton, KCET, associate producer
Dan McDowell, KCET/Douglas Varchol, KCET, producers
Jackie Kain, KCET/David Neiman, Sketch Interactive, executive producers
JM Interactive (Austin, TX)/Sketch Interactive (Los Angeles, CA), project design and development
KCET, client