Compelling youth theater requires a compelling website and brand redesign
Mudlark Theaters Artistic Director Andrew Biliter??and Executive Director Michael Miro stopped by our Studio one day with a problem: they needed help positioning their organization as something special but had a limited budget. They had previously received pro bono work to conduct some brand discovery and direction but it fell short of solving their problem of how to communicate what makes them most unique.
We sought out LimeRed Studio because we wanted the design of our website to evoke the character and quality of the work we do: collaborating with kids to produce real, compelling theater. We wanted a design studio that would get what made us unique.
Andrew Biliter, Artistic Director, Mudlark Theater
Sarah Kowalis, our UX Architect and design lead on this project tells us a little bit about the process and how we were able to achieve the project goals.
What was the initial approach to the Mudlark Theater design project?
What was missing from their original intake was this level of sophistication, it seemed childlike. They wanted to make sure that people understood that it isnt just another program, that all kids can just come in and participate–the level of talent was above and beyond what a lot of other programs in Chicago offer.
We started with taking their original mark, which definitely had more of that organically, hand-crafted feel to it. We took the basis of the shape of their logo and we refined it. We cleaned up the lines and we made it a little more sleek and sophisticated.
We added this really fun slab serif typeface that is thin and gave a more youthful look on this site. We also replaced everything that was white with black to make the other colors more rich. We also added little touches of cyans and electric blues to give it a bit more youthful energy.
What was done to try and keep the project within budget?
So they had already worked with a content management system called SquareSpace and thats what we all decided to stick with. Because they were already familiar with the system, it cut out a lot of time for more user training for developing new training guides. This helped cut down the time and reduce the budget. We took out a lot of the custom development we usually do and started with a SquareSpace template, and then added our own custom styles. We didnt have to start from the ground up building the site and that also saved time.
What were some special functions or features for this site?
We tried to understand and find things that SquareSpace was really good at and take advantage of that. One of those things was categorizing and tagging content such as their list of classes for youth. The way we set it up on the back end made the process a lot faster and easier by giving them the ability to just log in, pick whatever class that needs to be created or updated, and add a tag. The way their site is set up, as soon as you tag it, whether it is where a class is at or a summer class, it would automatically feed the content into that page. So they dont have to go through individual pages and try to place content on their site. They only have one spot to go to do that. So we made that process a lot easier for them.
Another thing thats different with this content management system that is a lot different than others weve worked with, is that this is very much a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) on their end, and its a lot of click and drag to actually rearrange the columns, structures, and the design. So they actually have a lot more flexibility and control over the site design and it gives them more creative freedom. If they want to start changing column structures and templates they can, its not just content they have control over. They have control to completely change the color, type, navigation, everything. Lastly, we updated their site from version 5 to version 7 of SquareSpace.
The one thing I enjoyed most working on this project was not only thinking about the end-user’s experience with the site, but actually Mudlarks own process and experience managing the site. Trying to figure out how SquareSpace works best and figuring out how it will help them, so they can use it to their advantage, make their workflow better and easier to use. They also had such great photography to work with and that also helped save a lot of time.
Just because you dont have a big budget doesnt mean you cant accomplish what you are trying to communicate. We took the Mudlark Theater brand to the next level with minimal changes by tweaking colors, adding new typefaces and we believe it communicates who they are more effectively.
We love our new logo, and we were very impressed with LimeRed’s structured, thoughtful approach to the work process.
Andrew Biliter, Artistic Director, Mudlark Theater
In all, the project took LimeRed Studio about 40 hours to complete the design and development work. Check out their site and learn more about their innovative work at www.mudlarktheater.org.