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As Tiffany Meyers observes in her overview of the 100 winners, one can’t peg 2009 as the year of any specific color or typographic convention. But the winning projects are reflective of today’s increasingly diverse design discipline. In fact, one has to wonder if there is any longer such a thing as a design discipline—in light of today’s fast-changing and even amorphous practice, the word discipline seems a little out of place.
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Best of Web: Sites of Merit (cont'd)

FIRST NET IMPRESSIONS | www.wildridgegolf.com
“I’ve never swung a club in my life, and golf courses are definitely not my scene,” says art director Beth Larson. Not that she isn’t pleased as punch with her web design, meant to increase memberships at the Wild Ridge and Mill Run golf courses, and inspire current members to spend more time on the Wisconsin properties. “The biggest challenge as a designer is to be capable of divorcing yourself from your own personality and embracing the ideas of the client,” she says.

For this job, she pretended she was somebody else: “I had to imagine I was a businessman in my late 30s, sitting in my office, wishing I was golfing.” For inspiration, she looked to lawns. “I wanted you to almost be able to smell the dew on the fresh-cut grass.” She brought a photographer onto the courses to get just the right photographs, making the final product precisely representative of what people expect to see when they come to play. Besides her sketchpad, Dreamweaver and Photoshop, Larson employed a soundtrack to help her design the site. “I chose music to emulate the feeling of fight and serenity,” she says. “Had I been working on a design of a tattoo parlor, the music would have been completely different.”
Dana Rouse

First Net Impressions | CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Maria Herbert | ART DIRECTOR, DESIGNER, DEVELOPER: Beth Larson | PROGRAMMERS: Brian Racer, Don Ross | WRITERS: Beth Larson, Jim Buyze | PHOTOGRAPHERS: Richard Gregerson, Mike Klemme | www.firstnetimpressions.com

CARAT FUSION | www.caratfusion.com/richmedia/clients/wachovia/championship/index.html
To lure pro golf fans to the bank, get them to play a beautiful hole on a championship course. “Creating a website with a game like Championship 17 provided a great deal of brand interaction,” says senior developer Jon Szczur, namely, “an average of 39 seconds of interaction time per user.”

The site is a lively, engaging experience, allowing users to simulate the challenge of staring down the flag on Wachovia Championship Hole 17, selecting the right club, checking the wind and hopefully taking the perfect swing. “Technically,” says art director Giancarlo Pisani, “the pieces of the site are nothing new: Flash video in a Flash interactive wrapper.” But Flash shouldn’t get all the credit, says Szczur. “There’s a lot of JavaScript talking to the SWF, and let’s not forget the always-important Photoshop CS2, or the underrated Fireworks for its file compression algorithms. Oh, and about 10 Wilson Big Red golf clubs.” Most of the video the Carat Fusion design crew shot themselves, editing in After Effects. “The bottom three-quarters of my [body] is literally in the game,” says Szczur, “which is nice when you overhear people talking about what a sweet swing that guy has. Unfortunately, I never actually overheard anyone saying that but my Dad.”
Romy Ashby

Carat Fusion | ART DIRECTOR: Giancarlo Pisani | SENIOR DEVELOPER: Jon Szczur | COPYWRITER: Marc Gottesman | PROJECT MANAGERS: Christy Awbrey, Scott Kogos | www.caratfusion.com

SMASHLAB | www.designcanchange.org
Though it smarts to say it, designers are a wasteful bunch. “We had been talking about how our studio could do less damage to the environment,” says smashLAB creative director Eric Karjaluoto. “It felt like an overwhelming issue.” The environmental costs associated with the design industry are monumental: “The paper and pulp industry is the third largest polluter,” says designer Peter Pimentel. “According to the AIGA, American designers alone specify or purchase $9.1 billion in printing and paper annually.” Finding few resources specifically to help graphic designers, smash- LAB decided to create the optimum.

“We contacted numerous organizations whose goals fell in line with those of the website, and most were polite but noncommittal,” says Pimentel. It was surprisingly difficult to rally support from potential partners at first. When Getty Images signed on as the official photography sponsor, smashLAB had its advocate. For the design firm this was its most rewarding project ever: “We went from feeling powerless to the realization that we could impact change,” says Pimentel. As decision makers, designers control vast purse strings. Once committed, they can make a huge difference. “It’s truly fulfilling to think that we might influence a designer to make a decision that could save a forest or prevent several tons of emissions.”
Dana Rouse

smashLAB | CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Eric Karjaluoto | DESIGNERS, WRITERS: Eric Karjaluoto, Peter Pimentel | ILLUSTRATOR: Peter Pimentel | PROGRAMMER, DEVELOPER: Eric Shelkie | www.smashlab.com

FIREBELLY DESIGN | www.lgbttobacco.org
Big Tobacco just loves the lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgender (LGBT) community. Being anywhere from 50–200 percent more likely to smoke than any other group, it’s the very bull’s eye of the national nicotine target. A resource to counter tobacco use in this demographic would have to be authentic in its representation of the community and encouraging to those seeking help. The client, Fenway Community Health, wanted a website with an urban and provocative style, but not to the point of scaring away more conservative health organizations.

“Visual cues throughout acknowledge the LGBT audience without making the site feel like a ‘queer-only’ space,” creative director Dawn Hancock points out. Several Firebelly designers come from graffiti backgrounds, so street art came naturally here. Textures were created by hand, then scanned into the computer, all of it programmed and developed from scratch with PHP. Using the imagery of guerrilla political campaigns—wheat-paste posters, stencil graffiti, paint splatters and distressed textures—the result is gritty and polished at once. “Firebelly is fiercely anti-tobacco, so the cause and client were close to our hearts,” Hancock says. “I lost my mother to lung cancer and see any opportunity to fight Big Tobacco with design as a dream-come-true project.”
Dana Rouse

Firebelly Design | CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ART DIRECTOR: Dawn Hancock | DESIGNERS: Katie Yates, Dawn Hancock | ILLUSTRATOR: Katie Yates | PROGRAMMER, DEVELOPER: Kara Brugman | www.firebellydesign.com

FIREBELLY DESIGN | www.firebellydesign.com/animation_reel2006.php
As a studio, Firebelly does a lot of design work away from the computer. The designers there like old-fashioned hand-drawn illustration; they like letterpress printing and salvaged ephemera; they like graffiti and watercolor; they like photographs and books and everything that can be spread over the floor to get dirty in. That’s often the way they work, and Firebelly has plenty of stellar projects piled up to show for it.

As the team began to develop content for a 2006 self-promotional DVD, says producer Antonio Garcia, they realized they had a ton of stuff just right for animating. Animating their work was something they had never done before, so they decided to create the Firebelly Animation Reel, a short graphics piece to present some of their work in an entirely new context. Collaborating as a studio on such a self-reflective piece turned out to be fun and refreshingly uncomplicated, Garcia says. Everyone wanted the focus to be on the quality of the work and what they all stand for as a team. “No one wanted to use trendy effects for eye candy,” says Garcia. “We all wanted the piece to be authentic and inspiring, not just an animated jog through our client list.”
Dana Rouse

Firebelly Design | CREATIVE DIRECTOR, DIRECTOR: Dawn Hancock | PRODUCER: Antonio Garcia | MOTION DESIGNER: C. Thomas Smith | www.firebellydesign.com

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