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Exploring On Being

We’re thrilled to announce the release of a new project in partnership with On Being, the Peabody Award-winning podcast and public radio show that “opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?”

We created a discovery tool based on the hundreds of conversations that have taken place over the show’s fourteen-year history. We designed an algorithm that distilled the episodes into a collection of key ideas and phrases, woven together by threads of related thought. Our aim is to allow listeners to explore the show’s archive and discover serendipitous connections between their favorite episodes and ones they may not have heard. Once users have found a topic that interests them, they can read the transcript, stream the full episode, or add it to a playlist and save it for later.

We wanted the visual design of the discovery tool to reflect On Being’s mission of exploring the human condition through conversation, so we created what we call “whispers.” These excerpts from the show’s transcripts fade in and out across the screen, highlighting the key phrases for each episode and giving the impression of overhearing an exchange between two people. Whispers that are most closely related to the current episode appear at the top of the page, so users can dig deep into a single idea or click on different themes to switch topics completely.

We enjoyed working with On Being because we share their sense of curiosity and attention to detail, which matches well with our design and development process. Over the course of a few months, we created several variations of the archive explorer as we worked with the show’s producers to figure out what features would be most useful to devoted followers and new listeners alike. Ultimately, we arrived at a design that combines audio episodes and transcripts with a collection of beautiful images and a focus on the unique threads of conversation that make On Being special. We hope you find something new while exploring more than a decade of thoughts and ideas.

You can check out the project here.