Responses by Seb Tremblay, creative director and designer, Newbambi.xxx.
Background: This site is the first digital presence of L’École supérieure de mode de l’ESG UQAM (ESM), Montreal’s best fashion education institution. Established almost thirty years ago within Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), one of Canada’s most prestigious universities, ESM felt it was time to step out of UQAM’s shadow and have an online identity that reflected the international quality of education of its programs—and attract a larger pool of students.
Beyond fashion design, the school also offers other programs—such as fashion marketing—that prepare students to become future leaders of the industry. In light of that, our target audience and our ultimate goal were intimately intertwined: we wanted the experience to inspire individuals with a lot of potential to choose the school that would support their path throughout higher education.
Larger picture: The site was the central element in relaunching ESM’s brand into the collective imaginary. While still a crown jewel of its parent institution, the school is transitioning into being known by its own identity.
Design core: When we started the creation process, we went through multiple workshops to establish the boundaries of our playground in terms of identity, core messaging, concept and creative direction. We then explored four stylistically distinct directions, and the client chose to move forward with the direction you see on the site—which is best described as Swiss-inspired design. One of its strongest aspects is its tension: all along the design process, we were striving to compose every page to build tension in between elements by generously applying contrasts of type sizes and strong visual elements, almost verging on discomfort at times—but not quite. This made for a site design that you can’t ignore and systematically leaves a strong impression. Be it positive or negative, the direction is unapologetic.
More of the site is being worked on as we speak, and there’s a lot of exciting stuff coming up. But as of now, the sorting quiz as an interaction is indicative of the core principles we wanted to imbue into the design: playful, different and simple.
Challenges: Keeping the client inspired to be uncompromising and unapologetic for the design direction they chose. This was a very bold departure from some of their previous design exercises, and a single moment of doubt could have washed the whole process away. We had to make sure they understood every bit of the process and design decisions so they would stand behind it, which in the end, was a good exercise for us. It showed us that the more a client gets close to the process, the more they tend to be leaders in it and empower everyone in their work.
New lessons: To me, ESM’s site further proved the point that working with a team of smart people is not enough. You need to work in a smart way, and that’s what we did.
Navigation structure: The thinking was to make it simple. The site is meant to be a springboard for students to take the next step in their educative path. Education is a very complex thing; wherever we could, we wanted to keep things straightforward. To me, websites have to have goals that you want users to achieve, and when designing experiences and visuals for those goals, I strive to make sure users can succeed in every portion of their experience, whether it’s a quick blurb about values or dispatching themselves to their relevant endpoint.
Special navigational features: Besides redundancy in the form of multiple reframings of the same information in different ways to serve the variety of mental models among users, one of the special navigational features is definitely the quiz. It helps users to funnel themselves out in a fun way, and it empowers them as well as being a bit unconventional.
Technology: For ESM’s site, we used a simple stack. The back end is built on top of WordPress at the client’s request, and the front end is powered with only jQuery and TweenMax. It is a simple but robust work admirably executed by our developer, Dominique Fournier.