Snow White had her seven dwarves. Each one with their own personality lended its strengths to the others in order to accomplish a task. Our work with Virginia Humanities provided a platform for seven distinct websites, each with their own role, to share the stories of all Virginians.
Each website has a unique way of sharing stories – a radio show, an apprenticeship network, a book festival, a physical space for learning, a map, a preservation task force. Each is necessary in order for all the stories to be discovered and preserved, for people to have access to hear them, and for communities to gather and pass down them down. Each website contributes its strength in order for the work to be done.
Accomplishing this mission required developing smart and hard-working systems to preserve individual strengths while at the same time allowing the network of sites to support and promote each other. Openbox9 created systems for the visual identity, database, and content.
- The visual system defines the unique personality of each Program, while creating shared traits that relate each to the larger family. We designed a shared visual identity guide to draw cues and inspiration from to strengthen the brand through cohesion. These consistent elements freed our designers to create unique graphical elements to best fit each Program’s particular work. Each Program’s visual elements support its role and relate it to the larger network.
- The database system structures the varied content types enabling work to be promoted and shared across the websites. From mp3 files to an interactive map, from long form articles to event promotion, the database accommodates all the ways stories are communicated while finding a thread to tie them together. A dual taxonomy system gives each program an organizational system particular to its topic, while at the same time providing a shared taxonomy logic for related content to feed into and be promoted across the network.
- The messaging system provides guidelines for the voice of the Virginia Humanities network. It gives enough consistency so users know they are hearing from a trusted source while giving each platform the ability to speak through their own personality. The messaging framework defines the voice of Virginia Humanities, while allowing that voice to speak in a way most effective for telling each story.
Bridging the Websites
The cohesion created by these systems creates a richer user experience. While reading an article on the main website, a user can discover a radio segment on the same topic to learn more. Book Festival attendee can find a reading list at the Center of the Book to add to their next library pickup. A seamless journey throughout the network leads to deeper engagement with the stories provided.
The systems also reduce the maintenance load in caring for 7 unique websites. Each Program’s work is dynamically drawn into and promoted across all other sites in the network due to the database structure. Particular controls are built into the logic ensuring just the right story appears at the right time. There is consistency wherever the story appears due to the visual identity meaning there is no need for duplicating content or having to customize views in 7 different places. The content system means that each story resonates in harmony with the others, even when it displays on another program’s website.
Systems provide the boundaries needed for creativity to flourish. The boundaries provide a platform for improvisation so each Program can focus on its particular role, knowing it is supported by the network. The result is a beautiful, functional, and enjoyable network of websites, all working together to share stories and empowering the audience with resources and courage to tell their own.