Case Study

Art, Science and Our Oceans

Ocean Archive

Feb 13, 2020 · 7 min read

Last year we were approached to help co-ideate a database for ocean-related science, art and policy, based on collaboration, open-access and sharing. A platform where you can find images of baby turtles as well as scientific papers on water acidity, run by a community of artists, scientists and policy-makers that will grow this project into the go-to online resource for ocean-everything.

Real change must come from within, based on a value system of generosity, integrity, openness, and collaboration. — Francesca

With a clear scope to target leisure users as well as professionals, and to build a collaborative working space behind the scenes, this was no easy task, but surely an important and intriguing one.

Now is the time to act

The vision of a digital platform that connects artists and scientists and spreads knowledge and awareness globally is born in the summer of 2017 from TBA21-Academy, the inquisitory arm of renowned contemporary art foundation TBA21. The politics and philosophy of open-source and accessibility are central to the Academy’s approach so the platform had to rely on a Creative Commons legal framework.

Procrastination is a luxury that we can no longer afford. Now is the time to act. — Markus Reymann, Tidalectics

The ocean-archive is initiated by Markus Reymann as a pragmatic follow up to the Tidalectics¹ show/exhibition.² In early 2019 the Berlin-based team started collecting and classifying content for the platform with an initial focus set on the acquisition process. Lucid.Studio was invited to develop the concept, design and support the implementation of the web application.

The dichotomy of exploration vs. expedition became the keystone of our approach.

The ideators wanted a logic of serendipity to enable non-causal modes of inquiry, thus allowing users to endlessly flow from content to content, while keeping the ability to find specific material and not losing a scientific appeal. To increase the number of relationships between items we invented a new categorisation system, that would create new connections between content based on the value of three metrics: art, science, policy. So items are not only directly connected by say author or the tag ocean acidity, but also indirectly by similarly classified content.

An oceanic worldview

With 10 weeks of time from kick-off to the final client presentation, it was crucial to analyse a lot things in a small timeframe and be effective. The research was structured in three major areas, each broken down into smaller topics, and the knowledge iterated back through presentations and co-creation sessions — conducting numerous long, intense but highly beneficial sprints with our partners enabled more information to flow and set the basis for a productive environment, where everybody had an overview and understood the project.

  • The UI/UX research covered stakeholder analysis and a comparative analysis of big social and media platforms (among others, Unsplash, Pinterest, Tumblr, Netflix, Spotify) that allowed us to assess best-practices in structuring and presenting content.
  • The approach to the branding revolved around three questions:
    a) how do you create a branding that is strong and yet lets the content speak first?
    b) how do you intrigue average users as well as scientists and artists?
    c) how can it connect deeply with functionalities of the platform?
  • Being the ocean a topic we knew little of, we delved into literature of ocean symbolism³, anthropocene⁴ and, obviously, the precious material provided by TBA21-Academy. We needed to understand the passion that drove our clients behind their vision.

A bubble of serendipity

Lucid.Studio reached out to art director Stefan Wunderwald for collaboration. We wanted to underline the (an)archival scope of the platform and holistically transmit the feeling of the ocean. The design needed to be modern and primarily focus on digital mediums. The logo is a typographic solution based on the typeface Recta⁵, where parts of the letters have been modified by pixelating them — by doing so we wanted to highlight the intrinsic digitisation aspect of this project.

Logo of the ocean archive

The logo’s two words are separated and positioned along the left and right side of the viewport, creating the feeling of a loop, of endlessness and no boundaries; It also has a minimal animation that interacts both on page load and upon window resize.

Ocean archive signeé. Video by Kelly Lacy.

The logo is complemented by a signeé, that can be used for smaller icons and outreach channels. The almost equivalent symbol is used throughout the book Tidalectics, to mark the ending of chapters. In that context it was meant as a way of referencing the waves of the ocean using a typographic character — we decided to keep this “hidden” reference and modified the upper wave by pixelating it.

Bubble and background structure

The bubble is the entry point to serendipitous navigation on the platform — it blurs together the 3 thematic axis of the project: art, science, policies. The bubble is a powerful metaphor for navigating the waters; It is a vessel through which we can explore the oceans, constantly influenced by the water around it, and confined only by the surface above.

The changing skin of a squid inspired the focus navigation UX/UI element.

The lean and minimal design of the user interface for both frontend and backend allows users to focus on finding and editing content: only the regular style of the typeface Recta is used with no extra colours except for notifications. This allows the content to speak for itself.

Video of interactive prototype

In a two day event in May 2019 stakeholders from across the world (of TBA21, the Ocean Space, Ocean Academy and Ocean Archive) gathered in Berlin to discover and discuss the progress of the project: 45 minute presentations were followed by constructive sessions of Q&A. The concept and visual language were well received and many interesting aspects pointed out, which we iterated back in the process.

Berlin presentation. Photos by Lucid.Studio.

Global actors for a global issue

It had been a while since we had worked in the art scene (check out our article on Œuvre for renowned German artist Rainer Fetting) and were especially intrigued by the high design expectations. Launched at the end of September, the ocean-archive has recently been extended with a map view.

Launch of the Ocean Archive, September 28, 2019, Ocean Space, Venice. Photo by Photo: Enrico Fiorese.

We cherish the collaboration with TBA21-Academy and the Berlin-based acquisition team and are thankful for the knowledge and expertise shared. A particular thank you goes out to Markus Reymann, Skye Moret and Stefan Wunderwald.

Make sure you visit and feel free to reach out to us if you have questions concerning the project or would like to know more. We will soon be publishing a Behance board of our work—so make sure to check back!


[1] Hessler, Stefanie. Tidalectics: Imagining an Oceanic Worldview through Art and Science: London: TBA21-Academy, 2018.

[2] Tidalectics, June 2–November 19, 2017, TBA21–Augarten, Vienna

[3] Ronnberg, Ami, and Kathleen Martin. The Book of Symbols. Köln: Taschen, 2010.

[4] CONSERVATION FOR THE ANTHROPOCENE OCEAN: Interdisciplinary Science In. Place of publication not identified: ELSEVIER ACADEMIC Press, 2017.



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