American Blackout

National Geographic Channel


    Hoist aloft thy tallow candles and gape into the darkness! This artful collection of Web finery helped to tell a harrowing tale of electrical paroxysm and woe in the Colonies.

    Ever since Benjamin Franklin conducted electrical experiments with the aid of a kite and a metal key, the American way of life has grown increasingly dependent on the ubiquity of electricity. Most of us are used to flicking a switch and seeing the lights turn on, but what would you do if all of the power was suddenly gone? How would it affect you?

    National Geographic Channel’s American Blackout television event explores the grim possibility of a nationwide blackout caused by a cyber attack, so we made sure our battery backups were online before we began working on a multi-pronged campaign to support the show. 

    Creating the Chaos

    Spanning ten days of a nationwide blackout, this visually-striking tour through a country in chaos offered a wealth of original content that enhanced the American Blackout experience. We crafted a photorealistic world in the midst of crumbling and gave curious voyeurs the ability to watch society’s deterioration unfold a day at a time. 

    Exploring these thoroughly-researched elements not only gave viewers a sense of the danger that an extended blackout would present, but it also revealed valuable information and tips that could literally mean the difference between life and death during a disaster scenario.

    • Setting the Scenes

      Each day of the interactive timeline focused on a particular theme that was introduced by video segments performed by actual Fox News anchors.

    • Calculating the Damage

      Using complex formulas and extrapolating from previous disasters, we projected national fatality statistics and financial impacts for each day.

    • A Country Unravels

      Slowly panning through these dense, frozen moments revealed an unsettling number of unexpected complications that could arise during such an unprecedented event.

    • Watching the World Burn

      Plausible vignettes of hospitals consumed by darkness, people fighting over food and water, and cars burning in the streets peer into a future no American ever wants to face.

    • Diving Deeper

      Each scene contained real-world examples culled from a wide array of sources.

    • Do Not Adjust Your Set

      On the day of the American Blackout  premiere, visiting the main National Geographic page triggered a convincing animation full of graphical glitches that simulated a server-side power grid failure. Visitors were then redirected to the full American Blackout experience.

    • Handwritten Horrors

      We speculated that a young woman might have chronicled her struggles during the blackout. To tell her story, we created a hand-written diary and associated artifacts, such as personal photos and receipts, to share her harrowing experiences. The journal hides in plain sight throught the website.

    • Found: Diary tumblr

      The diary author’s troubling tale is revealed through diary entries and editorial commentary offered by a fictitious Tumblr account owner, a man who claims to have found the diary in a gutter three days after the blackout ended.

    Explore the Blackout