Case Study: Redesigning the Creative Alliance at The Patterson’s Web Site for Baltimore, and the World!
It is a longstanding tradition at The Berndt Group (TBG) to develop Maryland arts web sites pro bono or partially pro bono, which enables us to contribute to what we think is one of the strongest positive aspects of the region—its rich creative community. Not only do many TBG employees have activities outside of work in the cultural sphere, we are also by and large great consumers of the local vibrant and stimulating culture.
One of the strongest organizations in the region along these lines, and a longstanding TBG client, is the Creative Alliance at The Patterson, located in the renovated Patterson Theatre on Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown. TBG previously designed and hosted the organization's site in 2003—a great site, but it had become dated and somewhat out of phase with the organization's evolving needs. The site was also old enough that it no longer fit contemporary screen real estate and as a result, looked rather squashed in the upper left corner of the browser.
The Creative Alliance has, on a limited budget, consistently increased the profile of both performing and gallery arts in Baltimore, and presented a monumental amount of great stuff every year. The Creative Alliance's sensibilities are broad and inclusive, ethnically diverse, participatory, and equally open to fun/kitsch stuff as well as the serious and avant-garde. It's really a model for the world of what an arts organization should be like!
For these reasons and others, we considered them to be a prime candidate for a serious redesign, with a number of pro bono elements. In fact, it was a great pleasure to be able to design such a fun site not just once—but twice!
Working with Creative Alliance staff The Berndt Group developed an overall roadmap for the project, which included web strategy, user experience, and template production by The Berndt Group and a focus on finding a developer to implement the site in Drupal (a platform TBG thought would be best long-term for the organization, but not one we are currently focused on). Our process, as ever, included substantial best practices research—looking at some of the best performing arts sites in the country for inspiration and ideas and coming up with our own creative solutions.
In the course of the project's discovery phase and strategy development, we focused on a number of key issues that would drive the site design:
Since the ultimate process was collaboration between the Creative Alliance, TBG, and the Drupal developer, we were sure to have plenty of extra cross-communication with all parties from early in the process to avoid any misalignments between user experience and the overall implementation of the site.
Aside from resolving a variety of back-end usability considerations and making the site friendlier to contemporary monitors and mobile devices, we feel that this redesign successfully has brought the Creative Alliance into a more successfully web-centric period. The design of the site has been broadly popular, and ultimately extends the Creative Alliance brand in an effective way, as well as allowing for tremendously improved usability for the organization's visitors. TBG is thrilled to be able to be a part of this great project!
Julia Niederman, TBG Creative Director, and designer of the new Creative Alliance site, commented, "The new Creative Alliance site design project was a great opportunity for us at TBG and for me personally; striving for something fun and still clean and modern is one of those challenges that us designers itch for...and knowing that we were contributing to the promotion of art and education in Baltimore - and a truly unique venue - brought it close to home."
It meant a great deal to us at the Creative Alliance to have The Berndt Group take us on again as a pro bono client. Not just because of their rock-solid design skills, or the thoroughness with which they manage the entire process, but because in their own way they've been leaders in the arts scene as well for many years. It was a testament to their previous design for us that we were able to rely on it for so long, but needless to say the new site has opened up whole new worlds for us, and it's a joy to play with.
Creative Director, the Creative Alliance at The Patterson