THINK: An Exploration into Making the World Work Better


A cornerstone of IBM’s centennial celebration, THINK was a multimedia exhibition that brought to life the many ways in which people are making the world work better through innovation. It drew more than 25,000 visitors, from CEOs to school kids, in its month-long run at New York City’s Lincoln Center. THINK was inspired by IBM’s 1964 Worlds Fair Pavilion, which ignited widespread interest in computing and set the stage for the technological revolution. Just as the pavilion demystified the complex scientific concepts of that era, THINK aimed to define today's conversation about technology.

The purpose of the exhibit was to build constituency around a big idea, one that is core to IBM but much broader than the company alone. The exhibit focused on progress: how it happens and how it can be accelerated by technology. The exhibit had to be both relevant to scientists and CEOs and fun and engaging for kids. The team worked with a broad range of experts—from researchers building traffic models to biologists studying the rice genome—to ensure that every detail of the exhibit was scientifically accurate. Then the team of designers, filmmakers, architects, developers and artists translated the science into an emotional and visceral experience utilizing some of the most current technologies.

From the beginning, the design team understood that conveying the complex idea of progress through a single exhibit experience would require a clear framework—a coherent through line that a compelling narrative could rest on. Working in partnership with IBM, the design team examined innovation and invention throughout history and began to see a pattern, one that has driven the perpetual forward momentum of humankind. With this pattern in place, the team began the design process, creating a three-part experience. All three distinct parts utilized technologies developed specifically for THINK.

The 128-foot LED data-visualization wall used over 1.18 million pixels. Live data from solar, traffic and air-particle sensors were fed to a central computer that processed the information and created real-time animated renderings. Visitors socialized and rested on the benches while learning how we can see opportunities, waste and change in the world’s systems.

To fully immerse visitors in the story of progress, the design team traveled the world to create a 10-minute film to be viewed in the round on more than 40 digital panels. The film showcased a broad range of awe-inspiring stories of progress and brought them to life in an emotional and visceral way.

At the conclusion of the film, large interactive touch screens transformed the space into a forest of discovery. Visitors learned how maps have been used to track data, from early geographical maps to the most recent databases and data visualization platforms. They interacted with the models used to understand the complex behaviors of our world—from weather-prediction algorithms to virus-spread simulations. They heard from leaders of world-changing initiatives about how they built belief. And they read about some of the most inspiring examples of systemic progress around the world.

Credits: SYPartners, Ralph Appelbaum Associates Inc., Mirada, George P. Johnson
Corporate Sponsor: IBM
Contacts: Natalie Silverstein: