Fantastic Voyages

BBC Future

At a glance

Two interactive visualizations, two fantastic voyages. We took people on mind-expanding journeys to the edge of the solar system, depths of the ocean and core of the earth.

introduction for Space race interactive data visualization
introduction for journey to the centre of the Earth interactive data visualization

Great distance

Distance can be hard to fathom. How can we really understand the massive space between our planet and other heavenly bodies in the solar system?

Or just how deep the ocean is? Or how far you’d have to travel to reach the Earth’s core? And if you did, what would you see along the way?

We set out to help people discover the answers with two interactive visualizations that take them on these incredible journeys.

Scrollin' deep

For both, we used a super-long scrolling page to illustrate the notion of relative distances from the surface of Earth.

‘Space Race’ sees a rocket blast off from a launch pad and make an interplanetary trip filled with facts, animations and illustrations.

For ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, we used a coastline split-screen to seamlessly tell land and sea stories together, winching down from the surface in a diving pod and a deep-earth drill.

Sketch for Journey to the Centre of the Earth
image showing the colour palette in situ for space race

The right stuff

We wanted to evoke the nostalgic look-and-feel of the ’60s space race and give it a modern twist.

So we based our colour palette on vintage Soviet and US posters of the era and added strong, warm/cold contrasts to echo the high skies, sunsets and auroras.

Sketch of the vehicles for journey to the centre of the Earth alongside the final design

Steampunk style

Fittingly, Journey to the Centre of the Earth took inspiration from Jules Verne’s stories, with a touch of modern-retro steampunk style.

For both visualizations, colour is used as a storytelling device – the deeper we journey, the more the palette darkens.

Screenshot of space race interactive data visualization
Screenshot of journey to the centre of the Earth

Moments of wonder

For the iconography of stars, planets and shuttles that fly past on the journey, we took our aesthetic from children’s books: simple, inviting and colourful.

We also stirred in subtle visual and editorial touches wherever we could: warnings flash as the rocket passes through the Van Allen belt’s radiation zone, while the submarine’s lights scan the oceans it ventures into the darkest depths.

Screenshot of space race interactive data visualization

Star stories

As users navigate these vertical voyages, they encounter fascinating facts which roll into view as you fly, drill and dive onwards.

In space, that included the distance each country has travelled into the great beyond or the closest we’ve come to a catastrophic meteor strike.

Screenshot of journey to the centre of the Earth

Deep learning

And here are just a few of the things you’ll learn as you journey to the centre of the Earth…

  • How many metres underwater do you have to go before the cork is forced inside a champagne bottle?
  • What are the different layers of strata of the Earth?
  • What lives at the deepest points?
  • What’s the deepest we have dug?
  • What’s the deepest we have been undersea?
  • Have fewer people really been to the depths of the sea than to the moon?

Take the trip for yourself to find out!

Then read the amusing thread that Journey to the Centre of the Earth sparked when it went viral on Reddit