Brendan Dawes
Analogue + Digital

Why I think the Desert Island Discs site is the best thing @mnwork have ever made

On Monday, whilst many in the USA were celebrating Independence Day, July 4th also marked the the eleventh birthday of [redacted]. I'm very proud of all the work we've produced over those eleven years but none more so than the site the team, together with the BBC, created for the legendary Desert Island Discs. For me it's the most important piece of work magneticNorth has ever created and I'll explain why.

I have a strongly held belief that data by itself is not enough. Data needs poetry. Data should be a means to and end and not the end in itself. I see so many so called data visualisations that whilst they might be pretty I question what they're actually saying or communicating apart from "ooh that looks pretty", and god knows I've been guilty of adding to that in the past. Data to me should simply be components you can use to communicate something, including telling stories.

That's what Desert Island Discs is to me - a system that allows people to tell stories, stories that they uncover through the course of exploring the content. We always knew the content on Desert Island Discs was great –  how could seventy years of wonderful interviews not be – but it's what people did with that content that really had an impact on me.

Some of the stories we've seen people uncover include how Boney M crops up in the choices of three TV chefs (@KristianDando) ; how only seven people have taken Dusty Springfield tracks to their desert island (@helenmfj) ; how several landscape paintings from the likes of Constable, Turner, Bruegel, Palmer have been requested as luxuries (@Some_landscapes) and that only five people have ever chosen Velvet Underground tracks and one of those was John Cale! Of course the great thing about the site is all those stories can be linked to through the wonderful search system that has been put in place on the site.

Over eleven years mN have done some work that I'm very proud of, but let's be honest, things like the site we did for Diesel are just transient blips that exist for only a short period of time. When the Desert Island Discs site is described as "a brilliant snapshot of our culture" (@theokk), well, that's different and dare I say even important. I'm incredibly proud of the team at mN for the wonderful work they did on the project. I believe eleven years of practicing our craft led to this point.