Co.Design

Ericsson Creates 36 UIs In 30 Locations, To Teach About The Internet's Infrastructure

To make a dull brief from Ericsson sing, creative agency House Of Radon decided to go big.

There’s work that makes you jealous, and work that inspires you, and sometimes both at the same time. This simple-yet-over-the-top corporate promo, by Swedish creative agency House of Radon, falls into that third category. The brief they got from Ericsson would make even an actuary’s eyes glaze over: "Show how a multi-purpose, multi-technology network node enables operators to meet their three priorities in relation to data traffic explosion: differentiation, control and monetization." Radon’s solution? Go big: They designed three dozen touchscreen UI concepts to visualize Ericsson’s message and filmed them in 30 different locations in just three days. The result:

This video is a great example of the changing nature of what advertising clients like Ericsson need, and how agencies like House of Radon deliver it. The big companies who make our ubiquitous digital infrastructure work, like Ericsson (or Google, or GE) aren’t peddling products so much as ideas. That gobbledegook brief that House of Radon got isn’t describing a thing that can be lit nicely and filmed, like a car; it’s outlining a (barely intelligible) concept about how Ericsson moves data around, and why it matters. House of Radon’s job isn’t to make sales out of that concept; it’s to make sense out of it. Much like the Eames Office used to do for behemoths like Westinghouse and IBM back in the mid-20th century.

And the key to "making sense," as Charles and Ray Eames understood and House of Radon clearly does too, is in that second word: sense. As in, "appeal to the senses." Data, nodes, operators, differentiation—all of these ideas in Ericsson’s brief are just so much insubstantial vapor. House of Radon’s video translates them into snappy factoids, which helps. But the idea of embedding them into physically appealing touchscreen interfaces—and then embedding those into a series of viscerally evocative first-person live-action scenelets, where just a hint of sound effects and out-of-focus background action instantly tells your five senses everything they need to know about what’s happening outside the edges of the frame—that’s what makes Ericsson’s brief make sense.

This creative concept could have worked fine even if House of Radon didn’t go overboard with it. But the fact that they did makes sense, too. Data is everywhere now—and watching this video, with its zillion interfaces in a zillion different (but vividly rendered) places, makes you feel that in your very bones. Just like the Eames’s multiscreen propaganda film "Glimpses of the U.S.A." won Nikita Kruschev over by showing America’s industrial prowess from seven viewpoints at once, House of Radon’s relentless cutting from new interface/location to new interface/location, three dozen times, is an essential part of getting the message across.

As more and more innovative companies find themselves "selling" invisible-but-essential ideas, this kind of advertising-as-sensemaking becomes more valuable than any glib "Got Milk?"-style product campaign ever could be. Does every spot need to cram in 30-odd interfaces and locations to make its point? Of course not. But the designers behind this House of Radon spot know that, sometimes, "too much" is just enough.

[Watch House of Radon’s promo for Ericsson]

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