Web Design with Style and Substance

May 24, 2017

When I asked why the website was designed in-house, the answer was: “Because we could.”

A Studio of Makers

This attitude fits in with everything I know about SRG. From bikes to homes to textiles, this studio has a history of makers. There’s an infectious curiosity here to figure out how things work. It seems only natural for the website to be built in-house.

Natural, sure, but there were practical reasons too. Instead of organizing a committee to work with an external consultant during time-consuming meetings, we could rapidly develop new iterations of the website and respond to feedback immediately. It was as easy as, “Hey, do you have a few minutes to go over a quick website question?” We used this to our advantage to maximize feedback from the entire studio and to continually tweak the website until we realized our vision.

Guiding Principles

We approached the process of designing and launching the website the same as any other SRG project, non-hierarchical and built around collaboration. We’re an office of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and approaches to design. We see this diversity as one of our key strengths, but it means that it can be difficult to come to consensus, especially on a project that is our firm’s public presence.

Before a single line of code was written, we established a set of guiding principles for the project, which formed the foundation for the project and the framework for decisions.

Our website should be:

  • A window into our culture
  • A portfolio of our work
  • A communication platform to share information

Ensuring that everyone on the project team had a clear understanding of why we were building a new site, and what we wanted it to be helped focus the thousands of decisions that were made throughout the course of the project. At this phase, it was critical not to focus on UX, aesthetics, or the design of the site. Without a full understanding of the problem being solved, these more-detailed examinations would have created their own objectives that would have little consequence in achieving the overall project goals.

By having a strong foundation and an agreed-upon set of goals, it gave us something to look to when we had design disagreements.

Technical Prowess

You also need the coding chops to get it done. While I knew people here have a broad range of expertise, before I found out the website was being built in-house, I didn’t realize anyone in the studio could code. These types surprises from my colleagues happen all the time.

Having all the work done in house was akin to instant gratification, because when anyone suggested a small adjustment or even big change to the site, we could experiment with these changes right away. As architectural design begins to intersect more and more with computer science, having the ability to develop in-house lets us create our own custom tools and processes. That ability brings a sense of independence, and the design of the website was a natural extension of that independence.

It’s inspiring to work with individuals who have unique, technical skills, because it makes me personally want to learn more and challenge myself. That’s the thing about a culture of makers, it encourages creativity.

The Future

Did I write realized our vision in the beginning? Well maybe that’s not entirely true. Our vision can never quite be realized, because the work of a website is never really done.

Through a careful design process, we flipped our old website inside out. We have a great, new website that shows so much of SRG’s work and culture, but it’s not the end of our story. The good news is, we don’t have to contact a consultant each time we need to update the site, it’s still just a matter of: “Hey, do you have a few minutes to go over a quick website question?”

Design work is not static, and a website should certainly not be static. SRG is the sort of place that will seek out new trends, experiment with new tools, and always innovate on how to deliver the best to our clients. This mindset is at the core of all the work we do.