Full of Spice festival

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

At a glance

Bringing the flavour… Three real-world data visualizations to inspire visitors at Kew Gardens’ ‘Full of Spice’ summer festival in London.

Cumin soon

Boasting the largest botanical collection in the world, Kew Gardens is one of London’s most famous destinations.

But its summer ‘Full of Spice’ festival would pack extra zing.

We were asked to create a colour-popping physical installation that told sense-tingling visual stories for their spicy showcase.


Star spices

We decide that the spicy stars of our show would be the ones we all think we know: everyday heroes like ginger or chilli.

With these at the heart of our concepts, we got stuck into the data research for find compelling editorial angles.

We also considered the final forms: monoliths, vinyl stickers and large board-mounted posters.

Right on Kew

While digital projects need wireframes to perfect the user experience, this physical creation meant we literally had to walk in our audience’s footsteps.

We wanted to understand the architecture of the buildings, paths and desire lines in Kew Gardens. Step by step, we explored how visitors might move around and interact with the installations.

For even more inspiration, we visited organisations with a reputation for world-class exhibitions, like the Imperial War Museum, Tate and Science Museum.

Photo of people viewing data visualization decals

The test of thyme

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the biggest challenges was choosing the right materials.

It was crucial to ensure our installations were weatherproof, made from ecologically sound materials and that they’d be durable for a full summer season.

(And, it turned out, even beyond that. The pieces proved so popular we were asked to extend their run by an extra three months.)


Sticking to the plan

To help make sure there were no hitches, we created robust prototypes.

We wanted to see how illustrations would print on our chosen wood and even which eyelets were optimal for threading parachute cord.

We made sample vinyl stickers to check their ‘stick’, as well as the legibility of text on their smooth surfaces.

And which boards could be printed on crisply while resisting the fading and weathering brought by an unpredictable British summer.

First impressions

You couldn’t miss our first piece, ‘Origin of Spices’: five two-metre-tall monoliths placed near the main entrance of Kew, greeting visitors as they walked through the gates.

A journey through history

Stringing visitors along a course through history using multi-coloured cords, our fact-packed monoliths revealed where the spices originated, along with when and how they first arrived in the UK

Illustrator Eve Lloyd Knight’s distinctive style brought these individual spices to life with wit and warmth.

Photo of close-up of Spice of Life data visualization

Sage advice

As well as bringing some kick to your cooking, spices can play an important role in keeping us healthy.

And our Spice of Life visualization took a myth-busting slant on this story. We plotted each spice’s health benefits against evidence-based data, serving up some deep research in easily digestible style.

Visitors could quickly spot which spices really do have health benefits. (Allspice, for example, has a reputation for being ‘anti-cancer’. Yet the scientific evidence for this is as shaky as .)

Photo of physical data visualisation at Kew Gardens

Spice world

Spice of Life was exhibited on glass on the outside of the imposing Princess of Wales Conservatory. We chose colourful, perfectly scaled decals to represent each of over 40 spices.

Photo of physical data visualization 'Spice Invaders'

Stepping it up

Our final piece, ‘Spice Invaders’, consisted of two large panels housed in the Spice Exchange performance space.

These timelines revealed how spices have changed our world in both culinary and cultural ways.

'Photo of Spice Invaders' timeline data visualization

Questions and curiosities

Children were encouraged to get involved too, by posing questions like, “What spice made Cleopatra more beautiful?”

(Answer: saffron. It was added to her baths for fragrance and colour. An expensive soak…)

Close-up of timeline data visualization
Close-up of timeline data visualization Close-up of timeline data visualization