“Nerds love fractals, and I’m a nerd, so I especially love this tribute to the father of fractals. Thanks to Benoît Mandelbrot, fractals are forever part of our design vocabulary.” —juror Ginny Golden
“This was a creative execution to celebrate the birthday of an IBM researcher in a truly social way, and the use of Tumblr spoke perfectly to the digital-savvy audience.” —juror Jon Jackson
Overview: In the mid-1970s, IBM researcher Benoît Mandelbrot made a groundbreaking discovery: an entirely new branch of math he named fractal geometry. To renew awareness of IBM’s little-known role in this achievement, Ogilvy New York held a month-long fractals celebration. IBM Fractal Fest blanketed social media with original fractal art, a moving interview with Mandelbrot that was filmed just three weeks before his passing, a Reddit AMA and the Fractalizer, which turned all of Tumblr into fractals.
• The Fractalizer app was built directly into IBM’s Tumblr and turned the images on any Tumblr page into fractals.
• A creative developer and artist was commissioned to design and code more than 40 fractal GIFs.
• The documentary “Big Brains. Small Films. Benoît Mandelbrot, the Father of Fractals.” was created from a 2010 interview with Mandelbrot filmed by Errol Morris.
Comments by Sam Mazur and David Schneider:
What was the purpose of the project? “We created IBMblr, IBM’s Tumblr, to highlight the brand’s often-overlooked culture of innovation through a channel that would engage a younger generation. In particular, we wanted to target audiences who were interested in science and technology, but didn’t have an awareness of IBM’s commitment to research. Fractals are an inherently fascinating hybrid of science, math and art. We wanted to inform, surprise and delight our audience with fractals and use their mesmerizing allure to attract new interest in IBM.”
Did you meet with any out-of-the-ordinary obstacles during development? “Our original plan was to turn every page on the web into fractals—a prototyped feature for animating page text into fractal trees was stunning. But in the end, creating contingencies for every conceivable page layout on the open web was a bite too big to chew, given our timing and budget constraints. Also, copyright concerns prevented us from implementing a sharing feature for the Fractalizer that would have turned regenerated images into downloadable and sharable GIFs, which was a shame.”
What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “IBM is more than 100 years old, and no longer in the consumer product scene, so it isn’t as sexy as younger tech companies and startups. This makes the brand a real underdog when vying for the attention of influencers or millennials. But with tomes of innovation stories to draw from—IBM still earns more patents than any other company in the world—there are endless opportunities. By translating stories, anecdotes and secret insights from IBM Research into the language, style and sensibilities of Tumblr, we put a modern twist on one of technology’s most enduring brands.”