National Geographic Channel

American Blackout

Fig 545a. National Geographic Channel

Format: Website c.2014

Witness the catastrophic impact of a national blackout in this online extension that explores what experts project would happen if the entire United States suddenly went  dark.

Ever since Benjamin Franklin conducted electrical experiments with the aid of a kite and a metal key, the American way of life has grown increasingly dependent on the ubiquity of electricity. Most of us are used to flicking a switch and seeing the lights turn on, but what would you do if all of the power was suddenly gone? How would it affect you?

National Geographic Channel’s American Blackout television event explores the grim possibility of a nationwide blackout caused by a cyber attack, so we made sure our battery backups were online before we began working on a multi-pronged campaign to support the show. 

Project Services

  • Strategy
  • User Experience
  • Conceptualization
  • Copy and Content
  • Animation
  • Sound Design
  • Video Production
  • Design
  • Development
  • Post Editorial

Creating the Chaos

Spanning ten days of a nationwide blackout, this visually-striking tour through a country in chaos offered a wealth of original content that enhanced the American Blackout experience. We crafted a photorealistic world in the midst of crumbling and gave curious voyeurs the ability to watch society’s deterioration unfold a day at a time. 

Exploring these thoroughly-researched elements not only gave viewers a sense of the danger that an extended blackout would present, but it also revealed valuable information and tips that could literally mean the difference between life and death during a disaster scenario.

  • Setting the Scenes

    Setting the Scenes

    Each day of the interactive timeline focused on a particular theme that was introduced by video segments performed by actual Fox News anchors.

  • Calculating the Damage

    Calculating the Damage

    Using complex formulas and extrapolating from previous disasters, we projected national fatality statistics and financial impacts for each day.

  • A Country Unravels

    A Country Unravels

    Slowly panning through these dense, frozen moments revealed an unsettling number of unexpected complications that could arise during such an unprecedented event.

  • Watching the World Burn

    Watching the World Burn

    Plausible vignettes of hospitals consumed by darkness, people fighting over food and water, and cars burning in the streets peer into a future no American ever wants to face.

  • Diving Deeper

    Diving Deeper

    Each scene contained real-world examples culled from a wide array of sources.

  • Do Not Adjust Your Set

    Do Not Adjust Your Set

    On the day of the American Blackout premiere, visiting the main National Geographic page triggered a convincing animation full of graphical glitches that simulated a server-side power grid failure. Visitors were then redirected to the full American Blackout experience.

  • Handwritten Horrors

    Handwritten Horrors

    We speculated that a young woman might have chronicled her struggles during the blackout. To tell her story, we created a hand-written diary and associated artifacts, such as personal photos and receipts, to share her harrowing experiences. The journal hides in plain sight throughout the website.

  • Found: Diary tumblr

    Found: Diary tumblr

    The diary author’s troubling tale is revealed through diary entries and editorial commentary offered by a fictitious Tumblr account owner, a man who claims to have found the diary in a gutter three days after the blackout ended.

Explore the Blackout