Now that the One World Trade Center is officially open, I can talk a little about my process for creating the designs! This project marks the first time I used Cinema 4D to create the visuals. The look of the water, map, globe, lighting, and pins were all created in C4D, while the typography and stat designs were created in Photoshop. Below is the breakdown of my process.
one world observatory, one world trade center, dataviz, infographic, design, nyc_
Process Design:
Experimenting using Cinema 4D to create a quick topography. cinema 4d pin test_
Depth Maps:
Once narrowing down a good thickness and spacing for the pins, I used two depth maps to create the continents and ripples. A depth map is an informational image that changes the height between planes, all based on black, white, and grey values. White areas indicate where sections of the image will be raised up and black areas will remain lower. The ‘depth map for continents’ raises areas to create continents and the ‘depth map for pin ripples’ lifts elevations around Brazil, Europe, and Japan. Pro Tip: any area that is not 100% black or 100% white will cause the elevation in that area to be somewhere in between the highest and lowest point. In this case, our ‘pin ripple’ depth map is smooth gradient so the elevation falls off smoothly, causing cone-like shapes. depth map explination examples_
Visual Design:
Starting to add color, creating a low poly texture for the faceted oceans, and testing out placement of lights. In this rendering I’m using powerful lighting techniques called global illumination and ambient occlusion. This brings me to a very important point. If your graphics are going to be built to run in real time by a developer, work with them early in the project to make sure designs can be replicated in code. Cinema 4D is capable of very complex lighting, but there are a lot of cases when you can’t replicate it in code due to hardware and software constraints. In some instances, these effects can be replicated but it will drastically cut the frame rate in the build. Always consult your developers! After making these renders and talking with our developer Joel, I learned some of these lighting techniques aren’t practical for apps that are generated in real time. cinema 4d render of the worldcinema 4d render detail cropLighting and camera setup. High school photography classes for the win!gergwerk-One World Observatory process lightingGlobe view. The mountainous areas represent where most guests are visiting from since the opening of One World Observatory. To get this effect, I went back to using our good ol’ depth map technique.globe depth mapLastly, I created a nebula-like background using Trapcode Form in After Effects. This will be tweaked and placed behind the globe for the big transition reveal.nebula test after effects using trapcode form_
Final Design (black space represents a hallway). Graphics were created in Cinema 4d, After Effects, and composited in Photoshop. Click images for larger detail:
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Motion Graphic studies: Now that the designs are signed off from the client, it’s time to give the visuals some movement.

These first animations are tests for the stat ribbon. Stats update in real time based on live data being collected when tickets are scanned. While creating motion studies, I like to produce one direction with lots of complex movement and a second that is much more restrained. This allows our developers to start building the simpler version and add in additional flair if there is time.

Once tickets are scanned, country of origin labels will populate on the map. Some of these animations transition on at a harsh angle as a way to continue the faceted design language.

This is the Welcome Wall animation (area above the hallway) that greets visitors in a variety of foreign languages. These languages update in real time based on where people are visiting from. To continue with the OWO faceted design language, angular shapes and sharp shines reveal and hide images as a transitional approach.

And that’s it! I feel honored to have been a part of such a grand experience. I will leave you with an image taken by a visitor of the One World Observatory.  To see the portfolio page for this project visit: Au revoir!One World Observatory data wall by Edward BlakeImage by Edward Blake
Client:  Hettama Group // Legends
Agency: Stimulant

Stimulant credit list:
Design Director: Nathan Moody
Art Director: Jules Konig
Design Lead // Motion Designer: Gregory Kaufman
Technical Lead: Joel Pryde

Project Manager: Julie Yamato
Quality Assurance Lead: Aron Schoppert