It’s like watching paint dry.
You could probably substitute that phrase with “It’s like watching pitch drop,” and we would still get the idea that whatever you’re describing is boring.
But an Australian University and a wonderfully creative web design agency might be changing all that. The University of Queensland is home to the longest running science experiment: The Pitch Drop. Yes, it is probably exactly what you’re visualizing right now. The experiment is literally watching pitch slowly drop from a funnel. The catch? In 86 years (and eight drops), no one has seen it actually happen.
Apparently everyone has something better to do than hang out in the lab and watch pitch drop. Now, with the magic of web cams and clever branding, the ninth drop might actually have an audience. Yes, The Ninth Watch is a website and – I can’t believe that I’m saying this – it is shockingly intriguing.
Clemenger BBDO in Brisbane, Australia built a brand and a website that also built community, anticipation, and general interest in an 86 year old, slow moving, science experiment. That takes serious skill. When speaking to Fast Company, Bec McCall, digital art director of The Ninth Watch at Clemenger BBDO, said, “The project started as an open chat about what we could do to get the attention of international students. When the University of Queensland told us the ninth drop was due to fall this year and the unbelievable stories of the near misses, we knew we had found gold.’
John Palvus, Fast Company, wrote, “The Ninth Watch isn’t overly flashy or even all that technically innovative. What it does have is class and cleverness: imaginative typography, an intriguing but not overbearing social-media component (the site invites you to “join” the Watch on Facebook, but you can skip it if you like), and a user experience that makes the experiment seem dramatic, immediate, and fascinating without being ‘sexed up.’ A live webcam view of the pitch drop, complete with a ticking clock, fills the screen; a ticker displays how many other people are watching along with you; and other science-news headlines scroll enticingly across the bottom of the screen, offering something else to feed your brain with while you check in on the experiment.”
“It ain’t rocket science. It’s just designed with an approach other than complete indifference.” – Palvus (Fast Company)
Go to The Ninth Watch yourself and just try to tear your eyes away from the pitch drop. Just as McCall said, the history and near misses are a great story – but sometimes, stories don’t have the opportunity to reach a captive audience. With creative branding and time spent thinking about how to tell the story, The Ninth Watch has received international attention, which was exactly the goal they were hoping to achieve.
Palvus wrote, “In other words, it ain’t rocket science. It’s just designed with an approach other than complete indifference. And it wasn’t some pro bono job where BBDO took pity on the poor broke scientists, either–the faculty decided that investing actual money into an appealing presentation of their science was worthwhile. Why doesn’t this happen more often?”
At Trifunk, we care about great design, especially when it appears online, which is why we second Palvus’ question about why this doesn’t happen more often. Hopefully, The Ninth Watch is part of a growing trend of making science more accessible. Chris Hadfield’s social media success certainly backs up that idea!