Responses by Bonnie MacTavish, head of experience strategy; Ahmed Meer, head of design technology; and Christine Sultana, head of operations, Nightjar.
Background: On March 5th, Australian-based global rug brand Armadillo launched its “Ellipse” collection, a collaboration with London-based design studio House of Grey. To herald the launch and create a memorable experience for trade media, Darlinghurst, Australia–based event company Studio Messa created Rhythm of Nature, an immersive, interactive installation that takes visitors on a sensory journey through different terrains, each representing a different rug from the collection. However, given the reality of COVID-19 restrictions, guests to the physical Rhythm of Nature experience were limited. In order to expand the reach of this sensory walkthrough, as well as to create a more immersive hub for the collection to live online, we captured the content and gave it another life beyond the showroom walls on a standalone website.
The Ellipse collection launch is less about the rugs themselves and more about building a brand story for Armadillo. It was a strategic initiative to position them as a leader in the design sphere, particularly with design- and architecture-trade media. This campaign enabled Armadillo to start targeting a wider creative audience, so we needed the campaign site to engage beyond the purchase of a rug; it needed to be an invitation to explore something truly beautiful and be inspired by nature through a digital realm.
Larger picture: The site forms part of a larger ecosystem that includes the physical experience created by Studio Messa. Other elements in this ecosystem are the “Rhythm of Nature” short film shot in the sensory walkthrough, directed by Glendyn Ivin with director of photography Sam Chiplin, and stills shot by Daniel Goode for press and social media.
The PR campaign that accompanied the launch targeted high-end design publications, with the collection as well as the website featured in Apartment Therapy, Belle, RUSSH, Vogue Living, Wallpaper* and Yellowtrace, to name a few. The website also picked up an FWA of the Day in record speed, which we were thrilled with.
The Rhythm of Nature site played a key role in bringing all the elements of the campaign together and was pivotal in bringing the experience to a wider audience around the globe. The online experience helped to position Armadillo as design-thought leaders while acting as a conversion tool, with users able to shop the Ellipse collection from the Rhythm of Nature site and peruse the rest of the Armadillo collection.
Design core: With the Ellipse collection focusing on organic tones and textures inspired by the outdoors, the site needed to evoke the same sense of calm and tranquility fostered by the physical experience. Leveraging footage captured by Ivin and Chiplin, the design of the Rhythm of Nature site is minimalistic, letting viewers be immersed by the moving images and descriptive copy. The dreamy feeling evoked through Goode’s stills give the site a relaxed, ethereal quality, and we have created a place where the viewer can explore but also unwind—which was a core objective of the brief.
The slow-paced guided tour of the various rugs in their elemental surroundings, the use hotspots and gentle zooms in to rug details, and the landscapes of soil, sand and water—all these ensure an experience that mirrors the collection itself and nurture a gentler pace of life. The soundscape is vital in creating a soothing experience, and the smooth transitions and reminders for visitors to pause, breathe and relax also encourages visitors to slow down and transcend the everyday. Our partners at Armadillo actually used the site as a tool to destress in the manic days leading up to the collection launch, so what can we say: the experience works!
Challenges: As there were multiple studios involved, the challenge lay in how to bring all the elements together in a harmonious manner that would be soothing to the viewer—particularly for an experience that extols the virtues of embracing a gentler pace of life. The days leading up to launch were anything but!
A cohesive experience can be tricky to achieve when you’re working with video edits and copy still being crafted down to the wire, but it was a truly world-class team and the professionalism everyone brought to their specialties ensured a seamless finished product.
Time constraints: As there was a raft of PR going live, the site needed to be tested, launched and on point to coincide with the media invitations to experience the sensory walkthrough. We had a large studio set that prepped for the shoot, which was later hastily transformed into the walkthrough experience. We worked closely with all teams on shoot day to ensure we were capturing the shots we needed specifically for the site experience concurrently with the film shots.
Luckily, we had started development early on the site experience, so all our test procedures had been ticked off. However, getting the content in was a last-minute piece in which we had to make final adjustments to get just right. The CMS gave us full control without having to alter code, which saved us a lot of last minute changes; we were able to move the content hotspots on the screen for the perfect placement.
What really helped us deliver on this experience was the trust from the Armadillo team, that we would achieve the best creative result that still met the time and budget constraints, and that we would uphold our strict Nightjar standards.
Navigation structure: The site experience is designed to flow in a linear manner, taking the user on a tour of the installation. Navigational aids were kept hidden so that you follow the step-by-step nature of the site. Each room is driven by magnetic hotspots that you can tap on to explore each rug. You can also jump to a room or shop the Ellipse collection directly from a tray at the top of the screen at any point in the journey. This feature gives users some control over how they would like to experience the site—which is especially important for returning visitors.
Technology: We used a Vue.js application using NuxtJS as the framework, and our animations were powered by GSAP. Our CMS choice for this instance was Prismic, and we deployed the site to Vercel. Given the time constraints, we kept all technology decisions simple, and our main focus was to spend the majority of our time getting the best video experience on the front end.