Responses by John Himics, partner; and Pauline Himics, partner and creative director, First Ascent Design.
Background: The goal of Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD)’s new website is to establish credibility with prospective students and their families in order to drive inquiries and applications. This is accomplished through showcasing artwork from students, faculty and alumni; providing program information; and highlighting the benefits of a DCAD education.
Larger picture: The website is the foundation for all current and upcoming recruitment campaigns involving digital channels. All marketing efforts lead back to the website where prospective students can learn more about DCAD and inquire for more information.
Design core: Working with an art and design college meant that we had a great library of student artwork to use throughout the website. We used these assets in carousels, as backgrounds and even as the letters creating the words thank you on the page shown after a student submits an inquiry. Additionally, art school is a very tactile, hands-on experience, and the paper textures and colorful smears of paint used throughout the site evoke that feeling.
Favorite details: The “What’s Trending at DCAD” Instagram feed is custom designed and built.
Challenges: Content organization. The new website has reduced the overall sitemap and number of pages by roughly 30 percent without sacrificing meaningful content.
Time constraints: The website was launched incrementally over a number of months to allow content and design decisions to be made with the perspective of what’s most important to the organization and its audiences instead of compromising.
New lessons: Every time we design a website, there is the challenge of balancing creative layouts and strong visuals with readability and usability. This was a great exercise in incorporating the different design elements—vibrant colors, paint smears, paper textures and charcoal lines—in a way that didn’t overwhelm the student artwork while still providing enough white space. That way, users can still easily navigate the site and find the information they are looking for.
Navigation structure: This website contains a lot of information. We didn’t want an extensive menu to distract from the design, especially the student artwork used throughout the site. Therefore, we made the navigation intentionally simple at first glance with just a menu button, search button and apply button. Apply is the primary call to action throughout the site. Opening the menu reveals categories that users can quickly scan to find what they need.
The design is meant to flow visitors from page to page without needing to use the search or the menu. Various user flows are mapped out through links on the pages themselves, versus relying on menus, which enables a more organic, exploratory journey through the site.
Special features: WordPress Gutenberg allows us to build websites from scratch that are fully and easily updatable by the client without having to compromise on design.