COVID and its aftermath have been full of surprises. One of the more unexpected twists for me has been when WorkReduce, the advertising talent company I founded, won a landscape architecture award this month.
How does an advertising company win an award in such a seemingly unrelated category? Read on to learn about how we bridged data, talent and advertising with the study of plants blooming to give something back at a time when people have turned to the outdoors for relief in huge numbers.
First, what’s the Rose Kennedy Greenway? If you’ve ever heard of the Big Dig – once the world’s most expensive infrastructure project – you’ll know that a hulking, ugly, elevated interstate highway through the center of Boston was buried underground in the late ‘90s.
The Big Dig left an open space that winds through downtown, set just back from Boston’s no-longer dirty harbor. And through a public/private partnership, it’s now home of a lively, beautiful and vibrant park.
The Greenway today is home to trees, plants, art, beer gardens, a carousel, food trucks and thousands of visitors daily. Even more, it’s one of the most visible symbols of Boston’s ongoing evolution out of its gritty past. It’s also a striking, modern complement to the city’s famed Emerald Necklace.
In 2020, during the pandemic, a volunteer with the Greenway approached me. A team of people, I learned, had been gathering data for years about when each of the 700 unique species of plants flowered every year across their 15 acres of landscape.
Could that data, he wondered, be used to help visitors plan their trips to the park, learn more about plants, and grow awareness and engagement?
I thought about the problem. Awareness. Engagement. Reams and reams of messy, unstructured data. All issues that advertisers deal with day in, and day out.
And the data itself is fascinating. Known as phenology, the study of cycles in nature can unlock information about climate change, the health of the park in a challenging urban environment, and more.
With some extra time on my hands during the pandemic, and an ongoing mission to do good things with WorkReduce, I set about solving the problem.
First, the scope. What would be useful? I sat down with Greenway execs and volunteers, and we quickly settled on the idea of a mobile app which would let people visually explore the park to explore the data.
Second, the talent. WorkReduce builds teams for our clients, including in data & analytics, so this was straightforward. We quickly found an up-and-coming Ukranian data visualization expert who was based in Helsinki.
We roped in the WorkReduce Service Desk data quality team to start cleansing and organizing mountains of volunteer-gathered data from a range of spreadsheets. I assigned myself as the system architect and project manager, in part to scratch my periodic itch to get back into software development.
It wasn’t long before we had prototypes in front of the client for feedback, and we worked through the dev cycle to launch in October – a little behind schedule as is typical with any software project, especially one that plays second fiddle to operating a rapidly growing business while navigating a global pandemic.
Since its launch in October 2020, the app has been used by thousands of viewers. Earlier this month, we were honored to receive a BSLA Design award for Communication for the bloom tracker. We’re proud to have been involved in an amazing project and partnership with The Greenway Conservancy.
Jury Comments: This ambitious project is beautifully simple, straightforward, and accessible, providing a useful tool for the Greenway that emphasizes planting and getting people to engage with the park. The tool has the ability to entice not only the garden clubs, but the average curious person, to think about and appreciate the planted environment.
Take the app for a spin, regardless of whether you plan to visit Boston, and drop us a line if you’d like to build an exciting visualization tool of your own.
By Brian Dolan, CEO, WorkReduce