1st edition — by Casey Barthels — Nov. 27, 2006
The Site Type
If you're a regular to link heavy design portal sites like linkdup, then you're familiar with just how many sites there are out there representing creative firms and studios. It's an extremely large category covering an even larger spectrum of styles. We could talk for days about all the different approaches and examples that can be found on the topic, but since we all have work to do and no one wants to read a 45 page post, I'm going to try to narrow it down a bit.
First comes the mother of all questions. How do you brand and design for a company that brands and designs for other companies? Good question. Like most things in the design world, there's no right or wrong answer here as long as you're communicating the right message with accuracy. However, it would seem that most everyone who has asked that question has landed in one of two big buckets. The "über clean,” or the "mega branded.” Of course there are always exception, but again for the sake of time, I'll try to keep all the examples within these two buckets.
In bucket number one (über clean), the creative direction is to keep the site as simple, minimalist and out of the way as possible. Be it work samples or studio process, the idea here is to not overpower what it is you want to deliver with a load of extraneous graphics, color variations, and generally anything to distract from the core message. In this bucket you'll usually find an abundance of open space, concise navigation, clean crisp type treatments, and minimalist color palettes. A great example of this style can be found on the Cultivator site. It's crisp, to the point, easy to navigate, and allows the work to shine. Another stellar example within this bucket is the In2Media site. You can see that it looks much different than the
site, but shares the same overall "über clean" technique and allows the samples/message to shine.
In bucket number 2 (mega branded), the creative direction is to establish a presence through a unique brand delivery. The idea here is to not only display your studio’s capabilities through the work samples and core messaging, but to also create a memorable experience that reflects the character of the studio with a little “wow factor.” This seems to be the place that many creative firms utilize as their outlet or playground so to speak. To strut and show off a little. Not in a bad way, but in a "test new technology” or "blow off some creative steam" sort of way. The client majority doesn't want, or need for that matter, a mass of bells n’ whistles accompanied by a highly conceptual brand that is maybe one or two steps beyond the norm. However, it's not to say that a potential client couldn't land on a site like General Public or Square Circle, and say to themselves, "Great Odin's raven! If they can do this, they can surely create a great website for my business!” This happens quite often actually. The lists of otherwise conservative clients that are attracted to creative studios with highly branded, experimental, and/or over the top websites, continue to blow me away. Maybe there’s a higher level of comfort and confidence that comes with hiring a design firm who has an impressive “wow factor” website? So don't underestimate the power of building a memorable brand site for your studio. It may just attract the right attention.
There are millions of directions to take when designing for a group of designers, and as we all know, we're our own toughest critics. Just keep in mind what you want your visitors to take away from the site. Do you want the site to focus on the outstanding work the firm has done and the outstanding process the firm has? Or do you want to convey a little more about the character of the firm and leave a memorable impression above and beyond the samples contained within?
About Guest Writer Casey Barthels
Casey Barthels is a Creative Director and Partner at TargetScope Inc. in Dallas, TX. When he's not in the trenches with the troops on the latest and greatest new project, he can be found reading actionscript books to his 2-year old son or devouring some buffalo chicken pizza at the local Pizza Inn.