Design & Strategy

RESEARCH & STRATEGY

Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

Building on earlier work, the DRWC team reached out looking for ways to further engage waterfront visitors through a mobile experience beyond their website in the form of a mobile app. We wanted to make sure an app was the right solution for DRWC and allow research to drive the work going forward, as apps can be a costly solution with little value and low reward.

We encouraged DRWC to partner with us on an exploratory research and strategy project that would allow us to first understand how and why visitors are using their mobile devices before, during, and after their visit to the waterfront, which would help to identify opportunities that would achieve their goals—both online and offline.

 

PROCESS

  • A series of on-site interviews and site observations to better understand how individuals are using their mobile devices before, during, and after their visit
  • Designed and installed physical signage that helped us explore the following:
    • Will people engage with a physical installation?
    • If so, will they share their images as prompted to?
    • If so, which through which channel do they prefer to share in?
  • Interviews with key staff and managers of the main parks along the waterfront

From this research, we found that an app would not be the right investment for the organization—as there were no immediate needs or problems it would solve.

We did, however, find and recommend opportunities worth exploring and investing in:

 

interactive, physical interventions

People were lining up just to take part in taking pictures from the signage we installed—they’re hungry for being a part of something and interacting with the space, give them these opportunities!

Social media

A surprising number of people we spoke to were first-time visitors and found about the parks through their friends images taken there. Additionally, we found many people “researched” the parks before their visit simply by scoping out images from people who have checked-into the parks. We felt this was an opportunity to create accounts for each of the parks and meeting people where they already are to provide announcements, event information, facts about the parks or opportunities to engage with visitors through asking or answering questions.

Brand

“DRWC” and “Delaware River Waterfront Corporation” was almost never recognized by the nearly one hundred visitors we interviewed at the parks, and often to confused with the Delaware River Port Authority. When we spoke to the staff at several parks, they mentioned the number one question (besides “Where’s the bathroom?”) is “who is responsible for this?” We suggested their team undertake a brand refresh to create a brand that connects and resonates with the people visiting the waterfront, and maximize its presence and visibility within the parks.

Wayfinding

One of the biggest challenges the organization faces is that their parks are distributed throughout a long stretch of the river where each park is not visible from another, so many people do not realize that there is more than the one park they are in. Additionally, a major highway separates the city from the waterfront. Creating signage or other creative way-finding would help draw more people to the parks and encourage them to visit more than one.

web presence

The individuals we spoke to mostly heard about the waterfront park they were in through word of mouth, social media, a blog or event website, or literally just walking by. Few individuals recalled visiting the DRWC website. For information, most people recalled checking Google Maps for directions or Google to search for hours or other information. With this in mind, we reminded DRWC that it is important to not only to be updating their own website but to be actively reviewing and editing information elsewhere on the web.

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Community Design Collaborative

Website Redesign

Visit the website

home
 

The Community Design Collaborative provides pro bono preliminary design services to nonprofit organizations in and around Philadelphia, offering volunteer opportunities to design professionals, and raises awareness about the importance of design in community revitalization.

As a part of the design community in Philadelphia, it was an honor to work
with the Collaborative’s team in redesigning their website to celebrate their volunteers and showcase the incredible projects they’ve shepherded and impact they’ve made in the city.

Here were some of the things that were important to us throughout the project.
 

Draw people to the projects.

When asked “What do we absolutely have to get right?” in initial interviews, almost every stakeholder stated that the most important focus of the new website was to showcase past work in order to best communicate who the Collaborative is through the wide range of work.

With records and data from hundreds of projects in their database, we quickly knew that the Collaborative’s impressive portfolio of work would be the driving force behind the website.

We employed several ideas generated from the a stakeholder workshop including the ability to carefully curate and highlight specific projects, as well as filtering through projects based on a variety of tags (Open Space, Economic Development, Education), and a map feature indicates the extent of the Collaborative’s impact in the city.

Help your helpers.

Many of the Collaborative's volunteers are young designers and architects just starting out their careers, some of whom are looking for more experience and to work on projects they might not typically get to encounter in their jobs. Stakeholders felt that the Collaborative should leverage the value of volunteer support and highlight the expansive network of volunteers and partners. In hearing how essential the Collaborative’s volunteers are to their projects, we designed a way for volunteers to tell their stories on the Collaborative’s website through profiles.

profile


Using a tagging system, profiles can be automatically populated and highlight projects that the volunteer has worked on, articles they have contributed to the website’s Design Digest, and quotes or testimonials attributed to them.


It’s about the process.

Stakeholders consistently shared with us that, in some ways, the approach and process the Collaborative follows leads to more impactful results than the tangible outcomes of a project, like drawings or design renderings. Additionally, we recognized there is a complexity to and range of services the Collaborative offers. To address and communicate both, we developed a “process timeline” widget for the website, that can be placed anywhere within the site and easily edited through the administrative interface.

timeline

The timeline can feature different information based on contextual placement on the website, and is interactive, scrolling to reveal next steps. Additionally, pages were designed to highlight featured process images, as well as finished renderings or professional photography.

 
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little baby's ice cream

Ice Cream Flavor Creation
Workshop

On April 1, 2015, P’unk Ave turned 10 and we thought what better way to celebrate it than with a custom ice cream flavor.

I had the opportunity to work with my friends over at Little Baby's Ice Cream on a workshop to produce perhaps by far the coolest outcome of a workshop I've run yet. Yep, you guessed it—an ice cream flavor

We designed and participated in a workshop that asked members of both Little Baby’s and P’unk Avenue to think beyond just the literal flavors that our team frequents (like banh mi, bacon, coffee, pho, tacos) and instead draw inspiration from our other senses and our souls, exploring the meaning behind the objects, work and people of P’unk Avenue.

Participants shared stories that used food as a metaphor to describe values, qualities and characteristics of P’unk Avenue, as well as personal food experiences they’ve had that correlate with emotions they selected in teams as the feeling they want people to have when tasting the final flavor.

Instead of a workshop focused on creating a specific flavor in the end, this experience provided an opportunity for the Little Baby’s Ice Cream crew to gain greater insight into our team, culture and values, which they then interpreted into a new custom flavor revealed at P’unk Avenue’s 10th birthday party.

You can read more about the flavors here.

 
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Brand strategy

Grateful Plate

I had the pleasure to work alongside designer Matt Goold, to lead the research and strategy for the renaming and brand refresh of Grateful Plate—formerly known as A Mindful Me.

 

Formerly A Mindful Me, Beth Kaufman Strauss and her husband & business partner Mike Strauss, were seeking a brand refresh for their business to:

  • Better represent the range of services offered: meal delivery, health coaching and personal chef services

  • Feel more approachable and accessible to more people 

  • Better reflect the quality of food and experience she brings to the table—literally.

Through a workshop that explored audience, voice, tone, visuals, values, and more – we also created exercises to mine the experiences and stories that provide insight into the history of A Mindful Me, as well as Beth and Mike as individuals.

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As a homework assignment, we asked each of them to write a This I Believe essay that answered to the following prompts: “Are there any values, beliefs or principles you use as guiding force in your work?” and “Tell us a story about a time where one of these was demonstrated through your work.”

From these essays, among many other things, we learned that Beth’s parents were Dead Heads – Grateful Dead being a band that connected both Beth and Mike’s families – and that they have a tradition of sharing “Gratefuls” at every meal (things they are grateful for), even at dinner parties with friends. It is no wonder, that during a naming brainstorm exercise later on in the workshop – which built on the conversations and questions answered in other exercises – we had two people arrive at the same name, effortlessly—Grateful Plate.


From here, our team created a playful mark that honored the roots of the company (ba-dum-cha!) with a carrot and which represents Beth’s “technicolor” aura in life and in her work, a word one of Beth’s clients used to describe her and her food.


 

Here is a short video featuring some of the branding work:

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RESEARCH & STRATEGY

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Throughout the summer of 2015, I worked with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy on their ‘broader relevancy’ goals—a part of their five-year strategic plan for 2019. Through the course of this work, I developed strategies and recommendations for the ATC to help them in reaching their strategic goals of making the Appalachian Trail relevant to a younger, more diverse audience—ensuring the protection, preservation and enjoyment of the Appalachian Trail for generations to come.

 

process

  • Collecting and synthesizing existing work within the organization and organizations doing similar things 
  • Interviewing and surveying ATC staff, volunteers, board members, partners and experts in the field
  • Facilitating a workshop with staff, volunteers, committee members and K-12 teachers in the TTEC program
 
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BRAND STRATEGY

Good Company Ventures

 

GoodCompany Ventures, a Philadelphia-based global social enterprise accelerator, was looking to build on their existing brand by to creating a more authentic and consistent voice in their communications and to create a more bold and professional visual presence.

I had the opportunity to lead the research and strategy for Good Company's brand refresh, working alongside my friend and former colleague at P'unk Ave, designer Tim Quirino.  Years before, I was a Design & Communications Fellow, supporting individuals in the 2011 incubator program.

To build on the already established brand, we created a collaborative process that allowed us to work with a range of stakeholders – including past and current entrepreneurs, staff, board members and partners – through content-focused and visual exercises intended to explore and identify core values of the organization.

The workshop, in addition to stakeholder interviews, enabled us to create brand guidelines, a voice guide, and style guide, which included logos, colors, font family recommendations, and other elements important to the visual representation of GoodCompany.

 
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Facilitation & Workshop, Brand Strategy

Mural Arts Program

Open Workshop: Community Engagement

Invited by the Mural Arts Program to find ways to help support artists in their community-engaged creative processes, I led a team to design and facilitated a conference focused on skill-building in the community engagement process. 

Recognizing the tremendous wealth of expertise, knowledge and experiences that would already be in the room – between art educators, artists, staff and project managers attending the Open Workshop – we led two four-hour workshops with exercises focused on reflecting and sharing their own processes, experiences and tools.

This provided attendees the opportunity to learn tools, tips and tricks that will enable them leave with new skills and actionable next steps or ideas for continuing to evolve their individual community engagement practice.

Following the Open Workshop, we provided a document that outlines our recommendations for the Mural Arts Program going forward, based on initial research and findings from the Open Workshop. Recognizing the capacity of the organization and the amount of time that would need to go into each of them, we broke our recommendations into short, medium and long term commitments and provided guidance, acknowledging that it is extremely difficult to see real change internally without full commitment from your team—the Open Workshop was intended to plant the seed but it is up to their team and leadership to follow-up on these opportunities by dedicating the time and resources they require.

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PRODUCT & BRAND

Latch

Latch is a tool for capturing the aura and majesty of the Appalachian Trail through the lens of those experiencing the trail and for those who long to be on it.

latch-home

Latch allows users to live and relive their Appalachian Trail experiences through capturing, sharing and viewing a collective tapestry of trail moments.

From the trail, users can share their Appalachian Trail experiences – the trials, the triumphs, the joys and the community – in a way that can sometimes only be told through an image, a sound, a drawing, a song, a video, a word or a sentence.

sound

Latch allows individuals to share these snapshots with others without interfering with the experience itself. The Latch app’s simple and minimal interface allows users to capture and share these moments while still being in them – whether on the trail, or looking back at the images, videos, sounds, and thoughts of a previous excursion, months or years later.

Latch collects these moments in time and automatically populates an online tapestry and interactive map, giving a voice and window in on what’s happening on the Appalachian Trail. Additionally, Latch shares these moments through preselected social media channels —allowing individuals to share these moments but stay connected to the experience itself, not their digital tools.


Process

I led the brand and UX strategy for, and all designs are by Stuart Romanek.

Working in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, we kicked off this project with an open-mind and the goal of creating a digital experience that would support or enhance one's experience with or on the Appalachian Trail—not distract you from it.

We set off with interviews with Appalachian Trail celebrities like Jennifer Pharr Davis, M.E. "Postcard" Hughes, and Laurie Potteiger (staff at the ATC and mentioned in the infamous book A Walk In The Woods) and later followed with an exploratory workshop in Harper's Ferry at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters with their team. 

Additionally, we collected ideas from hikers as they visited and passed through the visitors center.


BRAND

We needed to create a name and build a brand that resonated with our audience—particularly the existing Appalachian Trail community. Throughout our interviews, we were struck by the different pronunciations of Appalachian (one being "app-a-LATCH-an" and the other "app-a-lay-shun”) and the response to our own pronunciation of it. Through our partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, we learned this is a constant, playful yet tentious topic of conversation.

As a playful nod, we phonetically extracted “latch” as it is a word that hold a lot of meaning and holds a story that will resonate with this audience.

swag

The Old English origins of the word "latch" goes back to the idea of ‘taking hold of, to grasp (physically or mentally)’—similar to how we hope Latch will allow users to capture experiences that "take hold" of them as they walk on the trail.

From this, we created a mark that represents the playfulness of the word and the motion of moving along a path. The mark remains familiar yet timeless, and gives a nod to the visual language of outdoor gear (i.e. maps) while remaining accessible and appealing to a wider audience.

 
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Moore College of Art & Design

Website Redesign

Visit the website

 
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I had the privilege to lead the user experience and strategy for the redesigned Moore College of Art website. Having grown up outside of Philadelphia as an art student and attending art school in the city, it was an honor to work with the nation’s first all women’s art school and one of the most well respected colleges in the country.

Overall, the website needed to represent the authentic Moore and
“look like an art school,” as many stakeholders put it simply.
This meant a few things:

 

“Look like an art school”

Just about everybody said it. A dramatic departure from the previous design – which, I kid you not, featured a lacey, floral pattern background (you know, what women like) – the website now represents the cutting edge and vibrant college that it is. Many of the design elements were inspired by our initial tour of the buildings—the lightness from the windows, (some of which are diamond-shaped), the splashes of color throughout the different floors of the building, and most notably—the very active pinboard that provided a glimpse into campus life and culture at Moore.

Feature less polished, less posed images in an effort show the true and wonderful “grit” of art school. Students, especially art school students, want to see people in the shop welding, on the floor with charcoal smeared on their clothes, something unusual but interesting running through the bandsaw—not girls sitting indian style in the grass under a tree laughing and eating salad.

Show you’re alive

Many college and university websites hyper-focus on the prospective student that the website becomes a once-browsed, flat and frozen digital brochure. By making it a resource for students, staff and faculty, as well– prospective students (and their parents) want to see what’s actually happening on campus, as well as the resources and support they would have when they get there. We created opportunities for dynamic, rotating content and sections designated for current audiences.

Simplify content

This has been one of my hardest challenges and greatest successes professionally—a true testiment to my collaborative and inclusive approach to strategy. At any large college or university – or company, for that matter – where you are to address the needs of multiple stakeholders equally – and who all lead other departments, programs, offices and so forth – the approach to the architecture and content on the website can be a gruelling feat.

When we started this project, the homepage of the website had over top-level thirty navigation items with no organization or hierarchy—the product of a democratic (or, just defeated) spirit and the tension that internal politics creates. We reminded their team that they are a college that needs students to apply and, to get students to apply, the students need to have an experience that helps them see themselves there—not spending time trying to figure out the navigation so they can how to find the information on majors that are offered.

During the course of a workshop early on – which included the Moore’s president, faculty, the marketing & communications team, exhibition’s team and other staff members – we challenged groups made up individuals that represent different departments or programs in the college to use their stack of thirty cards representing each navigation area to boil that number down to, at the most, six navigation items—whether through elimination or creating bigger buckets.

This exercise was a success in that it created a level of critical thinking about the content that hadn’t previously guided decision-making, it generated a level of empathy for our team in recognition of the hard task ahead and most importantly, empathy for one another and a glimpse into the needs and desires of others departments, offices, programs, and so on. This ultimately paid off down the road as there was more buy-in internally from the team during content entry of the website, as the different parties felt heard and included in the process.

 
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Facilitation & Workshops

Junto Retreat

The Junto Retreat is a retreat for current or aspiring business leaders working to create a more thoughtful world, as well as an on-going dinner events series in Philadelphia. I helped co-organize these events.

Inspired by the original Junto originally formed by Ben Franklin and his friends in 1727 – who, as a diverse group of business leaders, met on a regular basis to "exchange knowledge of business affairs" – the P'unk Ave team has hosted a dozen of Junto gatherings for nearly the last decade, inviting individuals from across the city to share valuable knowledge and reflections around a broad range of topics.

In 2013, we chose to revive the spirit of the Junto in the form of a retreat, as we believe that running a business in a "not just for profit" way is rewarding both financially and emotionally.

By coming together, as Franklin and his friends did, we hoped to share valuable knowledge and reflections that can improve ourselves, our businesses, and our communities. In the grandest sense, we hoped such an exchange will indeed help us create a more thoughtful world.

The Junto Retreat has grown into a richer, more diverse group of individuals looking to make an impact on their communities and contribute to a more thoughtful world. The Junto Retreat is intentionally and specifically a retreat—it is designed so you won't be talked at all day and, instead, are a part of the conversation.

During the course of the annual two-day event featuring carefully curated talks, the majority of the time is for attendees to think, reflect, write, and share. Attendees participate in hands-on exercises and activities to help them reflect on what they stand for and the impact they hope to make. In past Junto Retreats, we’ve heard from: chefs, architects, entrepreneurs, musicians, librarians, writers and founders & CEO’s of leadership organizations, yoga studios, foundations, technology companies, ice cream companies, ad agencies, radio broadcast organizations, theatre companies and social enterprises—to name just a few!

The community that formed through the retreat continued to engage throughout the years for Junto Dinners. In the same spirit as the Junto Retreat, these dinner events were geared towards an exchange of knowledge and ideas through an interview and dinner conversation with a guest of honor, as well as time for attendees to to think, reflect, write, and share in their journals and with the group.

 
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UX DESIGN & STRATEGY

Franklin & Marshall

 

In the fall of 2013, my colleagues and I kicked off a year-long process of research, strategy, design, and development for the redesign and rebuild of the Franklin & Marshall website, designed chiefly for prospective students. This led to the creation of an emotionally engaging web presence for the college, as well as huge learning experiences and enhancements to our own CMS, Apostrophe.

Here are some of the directions that guided our approach:

 

Design for the right audience. 

Throughout the course of the project, our team along with the stakeholders at Franklin & Marshall used the question “How will this work for a prospective student?” to guide each of our decisions and directions—returning to it as a metric of success from research to the launch of the website. To reinforce this, we created a physical reminder of the prospective students in the form of a “prospective student”playing card, which we distributed to our project stakeholders to take back to their office as a reminder of our common goal.

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Design for identity and unity

One of the difficulties of designing for any large organization or academic institution is allowing each of the departments and offices to represent themselves in an authentic and unique way while still giving users a consistent experience throughout the website.  Additionally, recognizing many visitors to the website will not enter through the homepage, we wanted to make sure that each section of the website stood on its own. To address this, our team of designers came up with a flexible system of pages that allowed departments and offices to create a unique identity through consistent content across their pages. 

 
 

Create a sense of being there

Somewhere between the campus tour and trudging through a foot of fresh snow to our workshop, our research team began to uncover a kind of authentic experience that students at F&M all seemed to have—the unique first-year houses, the Common Hour on campus each week, the culture of research collaboration between students and faculty, to name a few. All of these added up to a rich experience that made the difference for students choosing Franklin & Marshall. We knew that conveying this experience through the website was crucial. One branch of this strategy called for using photography which gave the viewer a sense of participation in a particular scene, making the user feel as if they were a part of the experience that the site was conveying.

 
 

Empower your partners

Knowing that we had a large pool of content implementers (F&M faculty and staff), we knew partnering with the communications and technology teams at F&M would be crucial for disseminating strategy and training users on our CMS, Apostrophe. To do that, we ran initial strategy and training sessions with their teams and later, members of our team supported sessions where they became the facilitators and trainers. Empowering them to own the strategy and technology was crucial to ensuring a consistent content and design strategy across such a wide pool of CMS users.

 
 
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