SportsChord was proud to have a number of displays on show at the exhibition including a mix of interactive and static installations. The Exhibition is undoubtedly SportsChord’s most exciting collaboration to date and saw 18 months of discussing ideas with fellow F1 experts and enthusiasts, editing & tweaking countless drafts, gathering and automating data collection and designing for a range of formats and sizes. Read on to explore the journey to F1: The Exhibition!
Kate from Round Room Studios, the producers of the exhibition, first reached out in June 2021 to gauge interest in working with Round Room on an exciting exhibition being curated around the history of Formula 1. Needless to say, this sounded like a fantastic project so there was no hesitation in agreeing to work with the team on the exhibition.
The initial scope proposed by lead producer & huge F1 fan Tim Harvey was the creation of an interactive application that allowed a user to interact with F1 data with an end goal of establishing the user’s G.O.A.T (or Greatest Of All Time). Tim passionately described his vision for the app, “I want to be able to have one set of data showing Hamilton as the GOAT, one with Senna, one with Chris Amon (sometimes described as the greatest driver never to win a race..)”.
It was certainly an intriguing challenge. The GOAT discussion rages across all sports (Messi vs Ronaldo, Federer vs Nadal) - everyone has their reasons for one over the other and F1 is no different. “Nobody beats Senna over a single lap”, “ Schumacher’s race craft is unrivalled ”, “If Alonso had been in a car capable of winning championships..”. Of course there are those that point out comparing drivers from multiple eras is impossible due to the drastic changes in machinery, technology & the ever evolving F1 calendar, which is a fair argument, but where’s the fun in that!?
It also threw up a number of design challenges. How do you select which metrics are most important in determining the GOAT? How do you present these in an unbiased manner (it should be the user’s decision with minimal interference from the designer)? How do you design an interface containing so much data and stats yet still remaining accessible to an audience which will likely only engage for fewer than a couple of minutes?
Astonishingly, the initial concept and storyboard which SportsChord presented to Round Room & F1 expert Peter Higham in January 2022 isn’t drastically different to the one delivered in Madrid in March. That isn’t to say it was all smooth sailing - there were plenty of adjustments, tweaks and u-turns on decisions along the way. Watching visitors interact with the app the couple of days following the launch also threw up a number of tweaks and potential enhancements to the app which could be implemented at future iterations of the exhibition - there’s nothing like seeing the app out in the wild for picking up on behaviour that could never have been anticipated in the development phase!
Beyond the GOAT application, SportsChord was tasked with creating an 8 metre wide infographic covering the teams and personalities across F1’s history from 1950 to present. This workstream led to the creation of the constructors stream graph, the dramatic splash of colour that covers the back wall of the exhibition’s Revolution by Design room, illustrating the ebbs and flows of teams through the different eras of F1 racing.
SportsChord also delivered a second application in collaboration with Gravit8 software on the topic of personalities & their interconnections, as well as a series of visualisations in the Drivers & Duels room, covering career pathways, the story behind the stats and the greatest driver duels.
Data Collection, Modelling & Automation
All of the pieces SportsChord worked on within the Exhibition had one thing in common: data. The numbers and stats in different parts of the Exhibition had to tie together, be accurate, verifiable and updatable as new races and results completed throughout the F1 season.
In order to achieve this, the Exhibition was provided with credentials to access the F1 API, through which SportsChord was tasked with extracting the relevant information and writing scripts to ensure that the data was refreshed and kept up to date. Any race results from an F1 weekend should be reflected in both of the digital applications for visitors to consume first thing on a monday.
The majority of the data was readily available via the API - race entries, qualifying results, race results and fastest lap times were all pulled from the API and stored in a database for consumption within both applications. The scripts, written in python, would run once a day in the early hours of the morning to pull the latest information and add it to a database. This would then feed the charts and interactive elements within the GOAT app and encyclopaedia app.
There were a couple of instances where extra data was required - there was nothing which codified race circuits as street circuits or permanent tracks, something that we were interested in looking at as a toggle within the GOAT app. Weather records and classification of whether a race could be considered a ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ race weren’t reliably available going back to the 1950s.
Fortunately, we were able to draw on Peter Higham’s extensive records to supplement the F1 data in terms of the weather records - Peter has an incredible knowledge of Formula 1 and supported a number of projects across the Exhibition. We’d also like to thank the Formula 1 team, coordinated by Amelia Cozon, who were extremely helpful in dealing with any queries or requests we had and were able to expose an additional API endpoint to us in order to automate the wet/dry race parameter alongside the other race data.
Once the data had been captured and the automation scripts set up, the data had to be modelled to shape it into the set of metrics required for the GOAT app. Following a research and exploration phase, it was agreed that the application would use a weighted model to produce a total score based on six metrics. The user’s GOAT would then be the driver with the highest total score based on the filters they had selected and the weightings they had chosen for the model. The key to this was producing the least biased model possible - there was still bias in selecting which metrics are most important in determining the GOAT, but after this it is kept to a minimum and the power switches to the user who is able to toggle and tweak depending on what is most important to them before arriving at their final ranking.
Design and delivery
The final phase was the creation of the front end of the applications and the design of the infographics across the Drivers & Duels and Revolution by Design rooms. While there is great satisfaction in seeing a process such as the data collection fully automated, the creative design process is an opportunity to express something that the outside world will interact with - nothing beats it!
Let’s start with the GOAT app. We used Adobe XD to create a series of components, heavily influenced by Google’s Material design. The hardware setup (one non-interactive projection, one interactive touch screen), meant that everything had to be controlled via the touchscreen. We named this view ‘Race Control’, hoping to channel the pit wall feeling in F1, where team principals and engineers monitor data to make decisions during the race.
On this screen there are a series of intuitive toggles, buttons and sliders which users are able to interact with to filter and edit the results section. The model then works its magic to produce its top 10 drivers, from which the user can select a driver to explore further stats on the projection in front of them.
The main call to action placed on the Race Control screen is to ‘Submit your vote’ - once the user is happy with their filters and weightings they are able to hit submit. This triggers an update to the Exhibition database, adds the user’s submission to the overall scores and is then reflected in the top 10 leaderboards for the day, week and Exhibition overall. You’ll have to attend the exhibition to find out who’s on top for each of these!
Moving away from the app, the second biggest piece SportsChord designed was the F1 Constructors Stream Graph, spanning 8 metres in the Revolution by Design room. When walking around the Exhibition, this room is a feast for the eyes and senses. There are two stunning F1 cars from generations gone by - a gorgeous red Ferrari and a Lotus Ford positioned back to back. The whole room feels spacious, and the stream graph at the back wall adds a large splash of colour behind the two cars. It encapsulates what SportsChord was created to be perfectly, artwork with information hidden in the beautiful shapes, waiting to be explored and understood.
The stream graph itself depicts the number of points won by each team per season, moving from 1950 on the left to present day on the right. As the F1 calendar has expanded, the height of the streams grows, making viewers want to follow a particular path from start to finish. The streams are sorted by total number of points won, meaning there is an ever present streak of red at the top of the graph, representing Ferrari’s ever-presence in the sport. More recently, the instantly recognisable Mercedes teal and Red Bull dark blue dominate the far right of the graph, while Brawn GP’s neon green shows the incredible single season success the team had in 2009.
This project was certainly one that will always remain close to the heart. Several of the current F1 drivers, including Pierre Gasly & Carlos Sainz, have visited the Exhibition and have interacted with and consumed SportsChord designs - pretty cool!
As with all projects, there are ideas and iterations that come up after the delivery is complete which would enhance the designs, particularly on areas of the GOAT app where the in person feedback of watching users interact with the application was priceless. Fortunately, with the Exhibition due to continue there may well be opportunities to implement these changes as the format and content iterates.