The home page for the National Geographic Web Adventure

National Geographic Society
An Interactive Puzzle and Game Site for Children

This project started with a casual question. Jim was finishing up a book for National Geographic called Trails of Tears, Paths of Beauty, when one of the NGS editors asked him if he ever designed web sites. Why yes, he replied. Gibson Design actually spends just about as much time designing web sites as books and print materials. It turned out NGS was planning a companion web site for a line of nature guides for children as a means of giving the existing print series some extra life in the marketplace. We started designing the project the very next week. The challenge was to make something fresh that would enrich the kids experience with their pocket guides, but to do it using predominantly the information and graphics that had been produced for the original books. The solution was a series of games, puzzles, and activities that reinforced what the kids could learn in the guides, with page references that sent them back to their pocket guides to find the answers they didn’t already know.

We built the site using Macromedia’s Flash—giving us a full range of tools to work with: animation, sound, interactivity, and even video if we wanted it. Unfortunately after we designed and built three months worth of activities, and NGS ran extensive marketing tests, they decided the possible return didn’t warrant the investment and they shut the project down. But you can still check it out on our staging server. I think you will find it quite fun.

An Interactive Puzzle and Game Site for Children

This project contained one of the most unusual media translations we have ever encountered. We decided to do a whole section on the incredible hummingbird and among the materials National Geographic supplied to us we discovered a set of stepped, “stop action” paintings showing the exquisite motion of the hummingbird’s wings while it is in flight. Since this amazing bird beats its wings some 75 times a second this motion is completely invisible to the naked eye. It is therefore fascinating to see it. We immediately wondered whether these paintings were accurate enough to use as “tween” frames in an animation. We scanned them in, used Flash to align them, and then looped them together from end to end. It works quite well. You can “play” the paintings, making the little guy fly, or you can “step” from frame to frame either forward or backward. Fun.


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