We had a chat with Chris Elphick, Design Director at 100 Shapes, who oversaw the design of Symphinity.
What are you hoping to achieve with Symphinity?
Classical can seem like a huge world, so it's often hard to know where to start. We’re hoping that Symphinity will help introduce people to the genre, while providing those who already love it with something new.
The BBC and Radio 3 have an extensive and ever growing library of world class classical recordings. Symphinity allows us to broadcast that exceptional content and wrap it up with cool facts and excerpts about the composers and their music. We’re hoping the stories that surround the music will capture people’s interest.
What would you like to find out from the audience?
We’d like to know if Symphinity helps satisfy the curiosity they may have about classical music. We’d love to hear if they discovered something new, and what they think about the stories and excerpts they see.
What is the most exciting thing about Symphinity?
Without a doubt it’s helping people to discover classical music that they would not have found otherwise.
What’s more, the facts and stories that are displayed give you some useful context and bring those sometimes-distant composers to life. Many of the composers had some quite striking experiences. For instance, you learn that Chausson nearly topped himself when he mistook a bottle of engraving acid for red wine, all while listening to the music that made him great.
How did making Symphinity compare to what you do most of the time?
It’s familiar territory for my team and me. We run a user experience and design agency that works with broadcasters. Our team has worked on many of the products and services that BBC audiences use everyday.
Did you use any new or different technology?
We took leading frontend web development tools like Angular.js and Webpack and used them in conjunction with the BBC’s existing systems. For example, we used the /programmes resource and the embedded media player.
How was Symphinity designed?
It was hugely important to us to design Symphinity while keeping the end user in mind. Our design process involved regular workshops where we tested our ideas, designs and prototypes with real people (both fans of classical and those new to the genre). From our initial sketches through to the final experience, audience members guided our designers and provided useful feedback.
Did the end result turn out as you expected?
The challenge has been a technical one. With new classical performances being recorded weekly it was really important to us that Symphinity was integrated with the BBC’s library and systems. This now means that freshly recorded performances can be grouped alongside older broadcast material incredibly easily. It also means that if this pilot is well received, it will be much easier to make it a more permanent BBC offering.
What’s next for Symphinity? Could it work anywhere else in the BBC?
We hope that audiences enjoy using Symphinity and share it with their friends. If it’s a success, we’d like to see Symphinity expand to include even more music, with broader, perhaps more unusual selections. It could even include music beyond the classical genre. Long term, we’d love to see it incorporated firmly into one of the BBC’s music services.