National Geographic Channel

American Genius

Fig 590a. National Geographic Channel

Format: Website c.2015

The fires of innovation burn bright in America, home to a special strain of genius. Explore America’s most notorious rivals of innovation in this multimodal interactive history  timeline.

Groundbreaking advances are often surrounded by controversy, and history doesn’t always tell the whole story. National Geographic Channel’s American Genius gave audiences ringside seats to eight epic battles between fierce competitors whose drive and vision changed the world. Every time you light a room with the flip of a switch, you can thank competing inventors Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison for harnessing electricity. The device you’re using to read these words was probably influenced in some way by the heated rivalry between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Standing on the shoulders of these and other titans of innovation, we crafted a content-rich online companion experience for American Genius that explored some of the most significant advances in human history. Think you know the whole story behind your favorite tech? This site might change your mind.

Our American Genius website provided a beautiful, flowing experience on both mobile and desktop platforms, allowing visitors to casually scroll through the stories behind some of the world’s greatest inventions. Evoking the feel of classic boxing promotional posters, each battle page pitted genius vs. genius and adopted the look and feel of its historical era, with the fonts and visuals reflecting the prevailing styles of the period. Our fully responsive design created a side-by-side historical journey on desktops, with each genius’ progress unfolding in a dedicated column. On mobile devices, content modules gracefully stacked into a single column for intuitive browsing. Year markers and a subtle progress meter at the bottom of the page helped visitors keep track of their position both in history and in the selected battle.

Project Services

  • User Experience
  • Conceptualization
  • Copy and Content
  • Sound Design
  • Design
  • Development

The Genius in the Details

Using a combination of historical and modern assets, the site explored both sides of every battle in rich detail.

  • Selling the Drama

    Selling the Drama

    Inspired by the furious pageantry of the boxing matches of old, each battle was promoted with flair and a style befitting its era.

  • Telling the Tale

    Telling the Tale

    You probably know that Edison invented the light bulb, but did you know that he claimed a $50,000 bonus offer to Tesla was a joke when it was time to pay? Hundreds of facts took visitors deep into America’s history of innovation.

  • Test Yourself

    Test Yourself

    Key moments in history provided visitors a chance to test their knowledge about each battle. Think you know the answer?

  • What If?

    What If?

    History is an infinite stream of tiny moments filled with choices that can have enormous consequences. Even one change in the timeline might result in a world vastly different from the one we know.

  • Gorgeous Galleries

    Gorgeous Galleries

    Striking photography from the 1800s through today filled battle galleries and revealed certain details better than words ever could.

Genius in Motion

American Genius is a beautiful experience on every platform. 

Nearly Two Centuries of Content

Hundreds of historical and series production photos glided on and off the page with smooth precision and a sense of depth, while low-key soundscapes drew visitors deeper into each inventor’s laboratory. To offer a taste of the high production quality of the American Genius series, short video clips from the episodes appeared throughout various timelines. Binding it all together, text features told each tale of innovation from conception to completion, including historically significant trivia that just might change your perception of who was responsible for some of America’s greatest inventions.

Although American Genius strove to achieve complete historical accuracy, key moments during each battle were highlighted with interactive questions and speculation about how our world might have changed if things had unfolded differently. What if Soviet cosmonauts had walked on the moon before Neil Armstrong? Would WWII have ended in an Axis victory if Werner Heisenberg had perfected his atomic bomb before J. Robert Oppenheimer? Thankfully, we’ll never really know the answers to these questions, and this interactive can show you why.