Internship Series: Nexgeneracers Website Redesign ~ Final Implementation

Internship Series: Nexgeneracers Website Redesign ~ Final Implementation

Through the past week, Rod and I added the final adjustments to the Nexgeneracers website. As I played with layout and information placement, Rod wanted to see how I took advantage of the design process. He explained that there is a research stage, an exploration stage, and an implementation stage that constitutes the design process. Gathering the information from the client, searching for precedence, and conducting research on how to best solve the problem are all in the first stage. The exploration stage is where the designer uses the information gathered to experiment with form. Finally, implementation initiates when a final form is selected and produced as the most functional solution to the problem.

Rod and I discussed the value of input for a designer, especially for a young designer. Input from the client can influence a better solution, as the client’s needs become an important parameter to work in. Being involved in this internship gives me the opportunity to receive input from experienced designers. I have realized I need to improve my frequency in asking questions when I am not sure of the best way to approach a task.

What Rod and I also reflected on was how I analyzed the information about Nexgeneracers, and used it to create the redesigned website. He did not want me to just take the information and add it to the website without any consideration of overall design. Just because I am told to add certain information to the homepage, does not mean that there is only one way to do it. Rod suggested that I should sometimes step back and assess how I can make something look more cohesive, or more intriguing than just a paragraph, or easier to understand. These seemingly small challenges still compel me to apply my visual communication skills. How can I communicate the core message behind Nexgeneracers through the website? How can I ensure that parents, directors of youth programs, and educators are getting the information they need at the right moment? These are the types of questions I need to consider throughout exploration and implementation. The way I communicate the core of Nexgeneracers might be in the images, the type, the graphics in the program logos, and the colors and textures of each component.

The Nexgeneracers website will be published at nxgdriving.com.

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Internship Series: Avon Branding & Wayfinding System ~ Design Development

Internship Series: Avon Branding & Wayfinding System ~ Design Development

Me and RLR designer Andre are moving forward with designing the wayfinding system for Avon. Together we conceptualized some signage designs. Andre helped me with implementing some of my signage shape ideas into a formal presentation. Once you have an idea for a design, it’s important to show the family of signs together; creating a gateway piece, a welcome sign, a two- or four- directional sign, a destination sign, and a promenade set all make up the sign family. We presented six designs to the rest of the group to choose a top three. We gathered some great advice, since neither of us had designed signs before. Color schemes, other attachment ideas, and pulling back some design elements were some of the feedback we gathered.

We are also in the process of creating a design intent document for the wayfinding signage. This document is presented to the client to show the design of the signs, their construction, their locations, and their messages. Once the design intent is signed off by the client, it is sent to the fabricator to be constructed. In this way, the design intent is written for someone with possibly no experience with architecture terms, and for someone with high experience in construction and materials. There is a balance to consider. The document must be as explanatory as possible for the client and the fabricator to understand. From looking at example design intents, RLR applies plenty of graphics of the products. Measurements and scale are also crucial. Also, RLR adds a glossary explaining architecture specific terms for further clarity.

The design intent document comes in four parts: the design drawing, the location plan, the message schedule, and the specifications. Graphics illustrating the product in consideration is a part of the design drawing. For Avon, we would present the look of the sign family, the type in use, the view of the signs in different dimensions, and the terminology of symbols.

The location plan is what I am currently working on now. From looking at a map of Avon, we have to determine the key destinations that we will sign to, keeping in mind the branding of Avon. The use of location tags help with placing a specific sign type with a certain message on our map. What I had trouble with at first was making sense of which way the sign should face at an intersection! It took some practice, but I finally got it. As far as trying to determine what destinations to put on our signs, Rod explained that we want to leave bread crumbs for the driver to follow. What I am also adjusting to is being able to work quickly and efficiently. But, I’m glad that I have Andre there to ask questions about how I can improve on doing something.

The message schedule could be either a spreadsheet, or visual representation of what is being said on the signs. I am creating this as I finish placing signs in each section of Avon. We would indicate the location tag with the certain sign type and message number, and connect it with the list of destinations we are signing at that point.

The specifications will probably come later into the process as we narrow down a final sign family. This section would dive deeper into explaining the materials needed, the dimensions, the dimensional type specs, and much more. Check out the process so far down below!

Internship Series: Avon Rebranding & Wayfinding System ~ Schematic Design

Internship Series: Avon Rebranding & Wayfinding System ~ Schematic Design

I am officially entering the world of environmental design. My real test will be if I can grasp the principles of environmental design as I work with the designers at RLR on Avon’s new wayfinding system.

Rod provided me with a lesson breaking down what all goes into environmental design. For a place, like Avon, branding is the top branch. RLR has established that Avon is a place to live and play, emphasizing cultural events, recreation, residents, and beautiful parks. Our goal for Avon is to ensure that this message is known statewide, where the wayfinding system embodies that visualization.

The “live and play” phrase is something we as designers can pull from when trying to make all of Avon look cohesive. We plan to split Avon into four sections, which references our final logo for the town. These sections must have assets or destinations that allow wayfinding to function. The Farmer’s Market, Town Hall, parks, and schools are great destinations to highlight in our “live and play” theme.

Under the large umbrella of branding, wayfinding and gateways are two tracks that can either be separate entities or work cohesively within a place. Gateways are usually large structures that express an official entrance into a place, or they can work as piece for the epicenter of a place. Wayfinding includes promenades (sectors of a place that follow a theme) and signs. Sign types can include a gateway, such as an arch, but this can also be a separate entity. Other sign types consist of destination signs, directional signs, and welcome signs.

The look of the sign is determined by four elements: size, shape, method of attachment, and message. The size of the sign should fit it’s anticipated environment. Seeing that most of Avon is populated with retail stores and huge retail signs, the size of our signs will have to be large. Also, the signs will have to be big enough for drivers to read quickly. Shape can usually express the branding of the place. I am learning more about the method of attachment as I see the engineering side of design. The structure has to be stable enough to withstand certain winds or a car accident. The message will be different depending on what type of sign, but it should be clear enough for people to read.

Rod also introduced me to considering some ordinances when creating a sign. We have to keep in mind the the guidelines of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). This can influence the method of attachment, the colors we apply to the signs, the typography on the signs (line spacing, character spacing), and where we plan to place the signs. I learned about the right-of-way, which is the dividing line that separates one piece of land over another.

More to come on the designs that stem from my new understanding of environmental design!

Internship Series: Avon Rebranding & Wayfinding Signage ~ Client Meeting

Avon Rebranding & Wayfinding Signage ~ Client Meeting

A project that was already jump started before I started at RLR was the rebranding of Avon, along with rejuvenating a wayfinding system.

So far, the designers at RLR constructed an assessment of their observations and recommendations for Avon. It’s a spiral-bound booklet, beautifully designed, and complete with visuals that clarify findings and suggested plans. I found this very useful to read to get a feel for Avon, as I have never been to the town. It’s also good for the client to keep as an archive of elements that will influence the final project. Research tools such as surveys, statistics, graphs, and quotes from residents were all in the assessment to refer to for future development.

Precedents of town logos and city wayfinding systems were included in the assessment as well. I felt this was useful for initiating ideas on how to create sensible artifacts, but still being mindful of uniqueness.

So far, three logo options for the town were created. I attended a client meeting with two members of the Avon town council looking over the logo options. The meeting was interesting; I noted the way that Rod spoke with the council members. He pushed our recommended logo for the final choice, though we still had two other logo choices up for selection. Since all of the council still has to vote on a final, Rod and the present members plan to encourage the rest of the council to pick the recommended one. They discussed that the next council meeting be more casual so that the atmosphere feels more like a workshop, leading to a more open forum.

From this meeting, I observed in action how, in most cases, the designer has to guide the client in directions they feel work best for the project. A more weighted, and well-thought rationale for the top logo can help with making this influence. Keeping in mind, the client should feel like they are in control of the decision-making; the designer should not dominate the situation, but act as a helpful guide for the client.

I took advantage of being in the Avon area by taking pictures of key areas where our signage might go.

Internship Series: NXG Website ~ Development

Nexgeneracers ~Website Design: Development 

As of now, I am in the middle of the NXG website development on WIX. I am continuously adding in graphic elements and body text for the site. Progress checks with Rod every other day has been helpful. Our collaboration will make the Nexgeneracers website unique and impressionable.

I’ve found that WIX is great for making quick adjustments to websites, though there are some faults to using a non-code open source web program. There were issues with adding full-width images, a possible online application, and using styles to customize boxes and fonts. Being new to using WIX, I’ve managed to learn about this application as I designed. This project was not to be long-term, so I think I gained the ability to learn quickly, and build quickly. The estimated end-point for this project is the first week of June.

Below are screen shots of pages in development.

Internship Series: NXG Website ~ Schematic Design

Nexgeneracers ~ Website Design:
Schematic Design

The next step I took for the Nexgeneracer’s website redesign was prototype sketching and wireframe creation. I set aside time to experiment with how to arrange all necessary content. Rod and I discussed the NXG’s audience in the context of what they would expect from a website. In all, we stressed clarity and strategic placement of important links and information.

What I thought could differentiate the website from the other motorsports sites was possibly adding unique graphics that reflect each NXG program: NXG Experience, the Lucas Oil NXG Motorsports Academy, and the NXG Grand Prix.

Another thought Rod and I considered was giving more emphasis to the go-karts the kids would learn to drive on the website. From seeing how authentic the equipment is, this might attract the kids to the program.

NXG website wireframes

Internship Series: NXG Website ~ Design Strategy

Nexgeneracers ~ Website Design:
Design Strategy

I was given the task to redesign a website for Nexgeneracers, Inc. This organization was founded by Rod Reid, who also manages RLR Associates, Inc. and my internship for the design agency.

Nexgeneracers, Inc.  is an organization that introduces youth to the world of motorsports through hands-on and classroom course settings. Children ages 11-15 get to experience the exciting, strategic, and technical aspects of racing by learning to drive go-karts that max 45 mph.

To begin my initial research about this entity, I viewed their existing website. Though it appears that the overall theme of motorsports is reflected through the website’s design, I feel it needs use some shortening on the amount of information. Also, adding contrast with color choices might help the site’s hierarchy.

Next, I did a stakeholder interview with Rod to gather his goals for the site, as well as a better understanding of the organization. He instructed me on how to ask a client questions that do not sound like recommendations, but are related to the key points that the designer must understand–what is the business strategy? what is tone of voice? who is the target audience? who is the secondary audience? who are some other existing entities in your market space? In this way, I could frame my problem space according to these answers, which will work as my parameters for the design. He suggested I work with WIX to create the site.

From there, I went to conduct further research. I started with searching for websites of other youth motorsports organizations. I found that NXG was unique among this market, as others do not go in-depth in the education of motorsports. NXG pushes math and science fundamentals that influence critical thinking skills needed for racing. Also, NXG works to develop transferable skills for the kids, such as leadership, communication, and teamwork, which can carry on in their school and career experiences. I realized that highlighting this niche could help differentiate NXG from other motorsports academies.

I created a competition analysis where I selected some of the websites from competitors, and recorded their audiences and mission statements. Then, I created a design brief stating the intent for the NXG website redesign. Rod approved of the brief, and I began working on sketches to organize the content of the site.

Competition Analysis  NXG Design Brief

2015 State of Black America: Equality Index Rises Slightly, But Racial Gap Remains Wide

Still more work to do…

93.1 WZAK

Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Source: Kris Connor / Getty

Each year the National Urban League releases a snapshot on the State of Black America (SOBA). The report benchmarks racial equality in America across economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation. The events of past the year, including highly-publicized killings of unarmed black men by police and setbacks in voting rights, influenced the focus of the 2015 report: “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice.

One of the most anticipated portions of the SOBA is the Equality Index of Black America, now in its 11th edition. The good news? This year Black America’s overall Equality Index has risen slightly overall.

In 2015, the index of Black America is 72.2 percent. Or looking at it another way, instead of starting with a whole pie at 100 percent— in this case, which would mean full equity in these areas with whites—African Americans are missing about 28 percent of…

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Friends of the White River Group

 

Visual Communications Project {Friends of the White River Rebranding}

So, has anyone heard of the Indy local non-profit Friends of the White River (FOWR)? If not, my colleagues and I are making efforts to get the word out about this highly necessary organization.

“The primary purposes of Friends of the White River are to promote the continued improvement of the quality of the river’s water, and to maintain and restore habitat and wildlife in the river and along its adjacent greenway.” – Friends of the White River

As stated their mission statement, FOWR is an organization committed to keeping Indiana’s White River clean, its surrounding wildlife thriving, and its habitats undisturbed. As this work is crucial for communities using the White River as a resource for water, not everyone realizes the personal responsibility they hold for caring for the river’s condition. Being born and raised in Indianapolis, I was not aware of how important the White River was to my life. Approximately, 60% of water used in Indianapolis comes from the White River. And currently, 80% of White River’s upper stream is infected with Ecoli. Boating on the White RiverTo improve the health of the river, the Friends take on initiatives that arguably separate them from other environmental groups. The Friends tirelessly work to orchestrate river clean ups with other organizations or groups, uniting the community in creating a dent in the amount of pollution in the river. Since the Friends of the White River began in 1985, 1.5 million tons of trash was removed from the White River.

River School Program - Friends of the White RiverNot only do the Friends engage the community in clean ups, they reach out to Indianapolis youth with their River School program. Through the River School, the Friends can involve high school inner-city kids in learning about the White River and the wildlife that depends on it. The youth, too, get a chance to partake in one of the most famous activities of the Friends — rafting on the White River. Such fun interaction with the River can inspire these future city leaders to continue to be advocates for the river. From this brief depiction of the Friends, you can see how this organization does nothing but good for Indy communities and wildlife. This is why my colleagues and I choose this group for our rebranding project. At the end of the day, any organization that wants to promote a product, a service, or a campaign needs a brand presence that sets them apart from their competition. If my colleagues and I can revamp Friends of the White River’s brand presence and awareness tactics, I cannot help but believe that they will reach audiences that they never could before. The more people involved, the more of a change we will begin to witness.

I find it appropriate to document my group’s research into defining the values, tone of voice, and visual schemes that effectively express who FOWR really is. Mostly, I want to display my understanding of the design process. I will show how I dig into finding and expressing the heart and soul of the Friends, in hopes to design a cohesive brand for them. Here, I created a mind map to visualize any associations, core values, and generally, any heart and soul terms that reflect the Friends. This will be the first of many mind maps, I’m sure.

Friends of the White River Values Mind Map