by Rebecca Ferlotti, Muse Content Writer
Once Muse brand advisors completed positioning, naming and messaging strategy for Feed Our Future, a regional farm-to-school initaitive led by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, it was time to develop a central hub to communicate its mission and engage audiences. Muse commissioned Andrew Kuhar, freelance illustrator and art director, to design a website that showcased our purpose-driven messages with a killer user experience and multi-faceted functionality.
How did Feed Our Future’s mission inspire different facets of your web design?
I think a big part of it started with the style guide and branding guidelines that were established through the positioning process. We adapted it for web design, and interpreted a lot of open-ended design choices…things like color and typography.
The colors offered options for coordinating with the seasons of harvest. There’s greens for spring and summer, the blue became the color for winter, and the orange for fall. The color scheme felt appropriate for the fact this is about naturally grown, local food.
One of the challenges was that we had so many audiences to deal with between students, parents, teachers, administrators, foodservice professionals. We were trying to appeal to a lot of different audiences with different age ranges, reading levels, motivations, and ways they could get involved. We wanted to make sure that each audience could come to the website and feel it resonated with them.
In what ways did you leverage best practices in web design to tell the Feed Our Future story?
Muse wrote a lot of the content upfront for this, so there wasn’t too much placeholder text. That’s really important in web design; we got into the real version of the website quickly, which helped refine the style of the website over time. We could lay the site out ideally for how we thought users were thinking about the information versus having to redo it once we saw the actual content.
We didn’t force ourselves to make any of the graphics be married with text. When you embed text in the image, it can lead to a lot of search engine problems and reader friendly problems for accessibility concerns. We made sure we had inline text as often as possible, which the whole site does.
The goal of the site is to get people to take the pledge so ultimately, people can stay informed. When you’re on a page, you’re given an out to go to another area that has information that feels meaningful, and if you’re at the end of that information, you have an opportunity to take the pledge. We thought about it like an interactive brochure. It was an exercise in efficiency for how few steps it would take for someone to get to something meaningful to them.
Where do you find your design inspiration?
I feel like my go-tos tend to be magazine layouts or photography books…seeing how things are presented in a tactile context. My major’s emphasis was game design, so I’ve had to do a lot of user interface (UI) design and mobile app UI design. I tend to look at finished products and think about how I’m using them.
One thing I wish I could bring more to web design is biomimicry, which is the whole concept of looking for design inspiration in nature and biology. It’s a tough thing to marry the two; I haven’t come across many recent, good examples, but I know product design relies on biomimicry quite a bit. It would be great to find a way for web design to do that, because I like to look to nature for patterns and ideas for how things relate to one another.
I go to the Cleveland Museum of Art a couple times a year at least and I find that I actually get really inspired when I go there, seeing the history of one form of art or seeing a lineage of a bunch of different artists trying to express the same thing.
Given that you’re a professional musician with The Commonwealth, when you’re in the design zone, what’s your favorite song to play in the background that encourages you to keep working?
Radiohead’s “Treefingers.” That song is so ethereal and moody, and it feels way longer than it is. It just has this zen-like focus to it, and it’s really organic sounding. That song in particular is a song you can put on repeat and it helps you get in the zone.
I also listen to Father John Misty because his vocal range is really easy to harmonize with. I like getting practice in when I’m not in the rehearsal space and can try different melodies I’m not used to singing. There’s a song on his album called “Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution.” It’s tough with web design because when you’re coding, you have to read and use both parts of the brain, but with that song, I can just muscle memory turn off part of my brain and start singing along. I find myself still able to code and do mockups at the same time.
What is the quintessential design book for someone just getting into the field?
I recommend The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman. That’s the first book I would read if I was looking to expand my design perspective. It focuses more on a physical, industrial design/product design perspective, but the book is filled with all these human, revealing observations about things we take for granted on a daily basis. It talks about the way everyday objects are designed for usability and gets into a cognitive aspect of how things were designed and put together.
He opens the book talking about how sometimes we go up to a door and we don’t know whether we should push or pull it, and there are certain visual cues that tell you whether or not you should do that. When you do the thing you’re supposed to do and the reverse happens, your brain short circuits for a second.
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