Return to the Undark: Just as Breathtaking as Before

A screenscap from The Breathtaking homepage.
Chart of the size of PM2.5 screencapped from Breathtaking homepage

Breathtaking is an online presentation published by Undark. You may recognize it from an earlier post of mine: Ten Things About “Breathtaking” that Took Mine Away It’s purpose is to educate people on the dangers, and spread of PM2.5, a dangerous air pollutant subparticle that is less than one tenth the diameter of a strand of hair. Despite it’s diminutive size, it is extremely deadly. I won’t steal any more of their thunder here. If you want to learn more (and I hope you do! Never hurts to know every item on the list of things wrong with the world, we kinda need to fix em all if we’re going to survive for future generations), I encourage you to check out the page, which is linked above at least twice.

My previous post is a listicle celebrating things I liked about the project, this one’s purpose will be to review it as a presentation, from aesthetics to design with a few things in between.


Use of an image matching the main site palette, and accompanying graph. Screencapped from Breathtaking homepage.

The use of color for Breathtaking is excellent; very well thought out and executed. The site where the presentation rests is very dark (ironically contrasting it’s name). It’s palette consists largely of black, white, and shades of brown as depicted in the image illustrating the size of PM2.5. This is also true for many of their images as well, as shown in the two above. There are others like them, that share these three main colors. I feel that this is an excellent use of color, as it matches the colors of the photography they utilize, making them work well together. There was clearly attention paid when considering color. Using black as a background color, and keeping it from being too colorful in most places, gives it a serious feel, which is appropriate given the topic at hand. It also makes the words pop as they are a light color (mostly white, though some are that shade of brown). Even when other colors are present they seem to somehow have an image that goes keeps up with it in terms of color, while still keeping to their main palette, as depicted on the left.




There are sensory elements, outside of sight, but they aren’t too enumerate. To me, it doesn’t feel inadequate though. They make use of links that take you to quite a lot of relevant places, videos, and interactive graphs, charts, and maps (some of which I believe update in real time), to help you see and understand the severity of this microscopic menace. I think this is a job well done, given that anymore relevant interactivity would likely revolve around a physical reaction to PM2.5 which technically we’re having constantly so you know what? I’m counting that for them too.


Some of this follows interactivity, in that it makes use of things that utilize more of your senses than sight, but this kind of gets into the specifics and how they contribute to the story itself. The pictures are there for us to examine, and in them, we can not only see these parts of the world littered with dust, we see the people who are living amongst it. We can see some of how unclean the air is. Providing us both evidence, and a degree of experience with this epidemic. On top of that we get to see real faces of people who have been heavily effected by this. We get more information on the cleanliness of the air in all the charts, and maps. While the videos and links give various types of information, be it on PM2.5 directly, or how a specific area is being affected, and much more.


I think the presentation is designed very well overall. The use of black as a background color offers yet another function, in being easier on the eyes to read (in addition to other benefits that have given rise to ‘dark modes’ for many devices, applications, etc). Nothing is redundant, unnecessary, or out of place. It links to seven subpages for specific countries at the top, acknowledgements, discreetly tucked into the top right corner, and is overall formatted simply and cleanly, which you know I like. All of the site buttons that aren’t on the sticky bar up top, are at the bottom, and while they are kind of packed in the only thing poorly done is the text describing the newsletter box is very close in color to the box itself. Which is overall not too bad, and extends beyond Breathtaking to Undark proper.

Final thoughts

I think this is overall, very well done, informative, and creative. The use of color for a generally, visually uncreative minimalist like myself is a little mind blowing. It also found many creative ways to get it’s information across, and covered a little know, but vastly important topic. Very well done indeed.

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