Past Special

Remembering Quokka

NBC Olympics 2000

Back in the late 90’s and early 00’s, Quokka Sports was doing some pretty groundbreaking design. Their sites were unlike anything I’d seen online before. An amazing mix of raw data, bold images, and real-time data that really connected you to the events.

Quokka was founded to cover the 1997-1998 Whitbread Round the World yacht race. After the race, they aimed to become the premiere digital sports media company. And they produced some great sites including the 2000 Americas Cup, Moto GP 2000, and the first ascent of the 5000-foot headwall of Trango Tower in Pakistan (1999).

Perhaps their biggest achievement was for NBC’s coverage of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. It was big, bold, information dense, and constantly updated — a radically new experience for users who were only just beginning to use the web. (The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has a partially functional version of the site here.)

Their design team included Lisa Strausfeld (now at Pentagram), Eric Rodenbeck (now at Stamen), Ryan Hicks, and Kirk Clyne.

I remember seeing Lisa present this concept/prototype demo movie at the second AIGA Advance for Design summit in 1999. It was a fantastic vision of where they wanted to go as broadband became more prevalent. My (fuzzy) memory recalls her describing it as a “Bloomberg terminal for sports.”

Quokka’s work was consistently amazing and, at the time, almost shocking. As a reminder of what the web design works was like back then, Eric Rodenbeck gives the context as “back when full screen pixelated images freaked people out.”

I have to admit that their sites didn’t always run smoothly on my computer. They pushed hard at web browser capabilities and often required fast data connections.

Unfortunately, like so many dot-com companies, they were ahead of their time and short-lived. In 2001, they started their decline. But it sure was fun while it lasted.

Be sure to check out Stamen Design’s pages for more details on the Whitbread Chronicle and Trango Tower sites.

Still from demo movie
Americas Cup 2000
Trango Tower (1999)
Whitbread Round the World yacht race (1997-1998)
Moto GP 2000