Based in London and founded in 2008, Outside Studios develop, design and deliver museum galleries and interactive interpretive environments. With over 50 years’ combined experience, Co-directors Catherine Halcrow and Dug Mackie are experts in ‘making meanings, connections and memories that stand out from the everyday.’
In 2020, Catherine contacted us with a most unique enquiry and one that, to this day, is still quoted by Full Proof’s MD Nick Jones whenever he’s asked, ‘What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever proofread?’
Outside Studios had been commissioned by English Heritage to produce St George flags that were to fly above numerous English Heritage properties across England – but not just any old St George flags. These were 3m x 2m in size and contained the surname of nearly every single person living in the country. That’s a whopping 32,000 surnames – and Full Proof’s job was to proofread it!
The flag design was sent to Full Proof as a PDF, and it was quite a sight when the file was first opened. When 32,000 words are included on what is essentially one PDF page, they are so small that they form what looks like a magic eye picture (see image 1). It’s only when you zoom right in that can you see the surnames bunched up very close together separated by a dot (see image 2).
Our job was to painstakingly scroll across the PDF from the top left to the top right and work down the page, cross-checking every single name against a master spreadsheet. While the names had been added to the flag design automatically, there is always a danger that a layout issue could occur or some a character may have randomly dropped out, as sometimes happens with PDF files.
Using our dual-monitor setup to great effect, we spent several days on this project, slowly but surely, knowing that at some point this PDF was to be transformed into a fully fledged flag, flown at historical English landmarks for thousands to see, and we didn’t want any visitors to the attraction complaining that there was a typo in their family name, or that it had been omitted!
As it turned out, English Heritage also created an online version of the flag which allows users to search for their name. As a result, it was even more critical that there were no errors! The online version of the flag is still online and can be viewed here.
English Heritage went on to fly these flags during Euro 2020, which of course took place in 2021 due to Covid, and as avid supporters of the England football team, we at Full Proof were proud to have played our part in the production of these delightful beacons of diversity and inclusion which were displayed at Stonehenge and other famous sites before that memorable Euros final between England and Italy. A huge thank you to Outside Studios for inviting us to take part in this fantastic project. Read more about the English Heritage project here.