Six to Start

The Radio 1 Love 40 for BBC Radio 1

Six to Start recently built The Love 40 for BBC Audio and Music Interactive and launched by Radio 1. The Love 40 is an experimental prototype that uses the Radio 1 Top 40 chart data as supplied by the Official Chart Company.

The Love 40 is a new way of looking at the UK’s Top 40 singles and album charts, showing you the last ten weeks of activity as well as letting you love music you, well, love.

Make your Love count

We were invited to pitch for the design and build for the as-yet untitled Radio 1 Chart Data Visualisation Project back in December 2009 and, given the brief, understood that we were something of a wildcard – our executive producer at Radio 1, Hugh Garry, admitted as much in his blog post detailing some of the project’s history. We knew what we wanted to do – telling stories is a very big part of what we’re about – but it was the how that took a while.

We were asked to create a new chart page that was jaw-droppingly beautiful, one that offered interesting visual ways of looking at the chart, but that could also be personalised. What ultimately became the Love 40 is just the first step in offering alternative views of the chart by using data from on and off

There’s some really interesting dynamics behind how the Love 40 works. We went through lots of iterations based on some sterling work led by Kim Plowright and Paul Mison. There’s a tension behind the jaw-droppingly beautiful infographics that there’s a trend for nowadays, which are painstakingly hand-drawn and created (for the most part) by humans, and machine-generated visualisations. The latter, unfortunately, tend to be less jaw-droppingly beautiful. Another tension was in the paucity of data: as it stands, the top 40 chart isn’t necessarily data-rich. The data-modelling we conducted early on in the design process revealed this simple model:

Each time (either weekly or mid-week), we update a chart of releases (which can be singles or albums) of a particular genre (in this case, R&B, indie, dance, rock or compilation), ranked from 1 to 40.

It turns out that the number of plays top 40 singles receive during the week is relatively low. Combined with the low update frequency of the chart (weekly or, since early 2010, with a mid-week update), we ran the risk of a dynamic, jaw-droppingly beautiful visualisation of the top 40 as being, well, boring.

Love 40 Mockup - The Big Picture

Alongside that, we didn’t strictly want to turn the top 40 into a game. There’s a trend for gameification at the moment that isn’t necessarily apt for everything. On the other hand, the top 40 does tie in well with the language of challenges and achievements – for the participant artists, if not for the listening audience – pointing us in the direction of defining algorithmically found exceptional events.

… and some of our other early work was slightly more frivolous.

What we needed to do with Radio 1, though, was to help specify, design and build a new platform for interacting with the Top 40. In the end, that meant scaling back a lot of what we could have done, and paring everything down into a good starting point.

In the end, that drew us to the Love concept.

… from starting from a new view of the single and album chart, to…

… the cheekily-named Love Button, inviting audiences to interact, simply (and pre-Facebook’s Like!) with their favourite music…

… complete with a detail view inspired by and referring back to Radio 1’s logo:


Six to Start

  • Kim Plowright (Exec Producer)
  • Dan Hon (Exec Producer)
  • Lisa Long (Project Management)
  • Paul Mison (Web Development)
  • Steve Snasdell (Flash Development)
  • Simon Cook (Graphic Design)

BBC Radio 1

  • Hugh Garry (Exec Producer)
  • Chris Johnson
  • Robert Issit
  • Patrick Sinclair
  • Tom Spalding
  • Vibha Nigam
  • Mark Channon
  • Joanna Attree
  • Ben Chapman
  • Chris Thorne
  • Suzy Hogg
  • Chris Price
  • Ed Perkins
  • Kostas Koukoravas
  • Deanna Marbeck
  • Dan O’Callaghan