Archive for ‘Review: websites’

October 1, 2010

Association of Rotational Molders International

overview
Few logos can best the Association of Rotational Molders International‘s in symbolism, simplicity, memorability, and flexibility. Perhaps ARM doesn’t realize the potential branding equity that they could enjoy through using it more effectively. Their site design is an expression of missed opportunity that demonstrates obvious ways to improve. (It is easier to change a site design than a logo.)

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Association of Rotational Molders International

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Purely descriptive, ARM‘s geometric logo uses the most universal symbols in an unusual way. It makes a sphere and a plus sign mean something new. It is a visually striking and memorable composition!

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
ARM‘s graphics do look industrial, and in that way are appropriate. But brevity, organization, blue bands, and minimalism do not make up for material that is hard to read and visually nondescript.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
This is where ARM could make the most improvement. The site navigation is hard to read and visually all the same. The space at the top of the home page is trying to sell its first banner ad. Unless they have one to start, this space can be better used. (Perhaps the blankness can remind members of its availability each time they enter.) Though you have to know initially what rotational molding is, with its depth of content, ARM‘s site could be really engaging! Constructed only of type and a generally unchanging frame, this is low budget probably at its potential. With a bland page design, the logo actually stands out more!

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
ARM seems to have placed no emphasis on visual development beyond the logo and a brief decision-making process about the website. As imaginative as is their logo, that’s how unimaginative is their other graphics. When exploring various benefits and services, the eye is jarred by a secondary level graphic that brings in new colors and a different design approach, such as in their Library section and Annual Meeting presentation. Here, visual gimics are used on the logo that don’t contribute to its visual strength.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
ARM has many resources for building visually, especially within their “Design Applications” section. Members love to have their work showcased! Another resource untapped comes from their “Awards” program. It is unfortunate to see such unrecognized opportunities.

Many organizations have dynamic logos but stop there in graphic development. The most common reasons for accepting “Okay” include: lack of budget, executives have other priorities, no one can handle, or no one cares. In a visually-sensitive marketplace, even small improvements that make content easier to find, read, use, and enjoy, can make major differences in member perception.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

The Sebastian Study 2010 national review will be available at the end of the year. If you want to be sure that your organization is included, please click here.

the end

Advertisements
September 13, 2010

Second City

overview
Second City’s graphics snuck into this study. Usually the top visuals begin with a strong logo. A script handwritten-style symbol is an easy solution—too easy for a high visibility group. Yet their site is exceptional and worth a study in style and navigation.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Second City

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
If the name “Second City” is covered up, this logo could be for any organization that wants to appear friendly. The script has a thick/think brush quality to make it bold. The overall shape is easy to use and the script can appear in a variety of sizes and media. If the image were distinctive, these would be positive attributes.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
A theme for a theater is obvious, but Second City presents with panache. Carrying excitement from one metaphor to another is rarely better accomplished. On their website, there is a visual unity between their long history and their great variety of productions, training, and locations.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Second City’s website is engaging through its big picture presentation: the current attractions along the top and history along the bottom. Consistent throughout page visits, this frame allows the central portion of the screen to change—like a video controlled by the viewer. This site conveyis a love-affair with the subject and the audience. Their navigation is particularly masterful. I feel inspired every time I view it. But, of course, the point is to inspire me to attend, which I do regularly.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Second City’s visual language uses the casual handwriting for headlines which makes them inviting and easy to read. Strong black backgrounds and small areas of jewel colors offer a platform like a stage for their many subjects. Study this site for how it both carries the elements and varies them throughout the sections of the website.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Overall graphics give Second City its personality. With much to be proud of, this organization also keeps its cutting edge and status in national theater. Successfully bridging double audiences (those who attend productions and those who are students for training), this is one of Chicago’s best examples of an arts group bridging to business relevance. The graphics reinforce this connection though an identifiable and enjoyable visual approach.

Second City slips into this study due to their strong website. There are other groups that have average or even poor logos but good sites that may be over looked, so suggestions for inclusion are invited.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

September 3, 2010

Interactive Integration

overview
Overall, organizations put more resources into websites than any other graphic category. Requiring an ongoing budget and sustained attention, an association’s website compiles and represents their largest projects. Allocating resources to the pages that are read the most, using templates for informational pages, and featuring visuals to augment versus dominate, the best sites are engaging.

A small percentage of organizations pair a strong website with a strong logo. A standard has been formed that places the logo in the upper left corner. Commercial sites can deviate but nonprofit sites are wise to follow viewer expectations. Having a site even provides the opportunity to closely study viewer participation. A marketing tool like no other, the interactive quality can build a cyber community. The best graphics create a personality and an experience, combining relevance, mystery, point-of-view, style, clarity, and focus.

Of the nonprofits that possess memorable logos (27 out of 700 Midwestern organizations), only 6 have truly exciting websites(view three currently reviewed). Then there are those with good logos but don’t realize the potential begun.

NOT THE BEST BUT COULD BE:

spiral bullet Chicago Symphony Orchestra
A moving target, this site changes often—a recent one has gone from warmer to more aloof. Of all sites that should be welcoming and demonstrate the personalities of their musicians, CSO could enhance online offerings.

spiral bullet Mainstreet Organization of Realtors
Illustrations used in logos run the risk of looking cartoonish, are stylistically dated, or become too complicated. MOR finds a great balance in their aesthetically pleasing and classically appealing symbol. But they don’t carry this exciting beginning into their website design which?

spiral bullet Strategic Account Management Association
Making a great use of icons, SAMA offers a website with easy navigation. But what it has in intriguing visual elements, it lacks in finesse. Confronting the viewer with many choices, the structure is average and the most interesting graphics underplayed.

spiral bullet Urban Gateways
Many websites depend on engaging photography to give the site a personality. Urban Gateways demonstrates the conceptual rift between photo image and the rest of the site. Though the information presented is appealing, how it is presented could match but doesn’t. Of particular interest that has potential to increase the online experience: meet the artists, use the blog for more than a news vehicle, and develop a graphic theme that supports the photographic images versus the opposite.

spiral bullet Word of Mouth Marketing Association
This site offers warmth, engaging content, and demonstration of their own expertise of using technology to connect. However, the parts are greater than the whole: individual elements are fun and upbeat, comprehensive offerings include guides, blogs, videos, and social media. It is unfortunate that the graphics don’t represent the vitality of this group.

Please see reviews of several other organizations with have graphically communicative elements that could be better integrated:

Giving Institute and Foundation: PreviewReview
Green City Market: Review
Madison County Chamber: Preview; Review
Metal Construction Association: Review
Water Quality Association: Review

spirals
The Sebastian Study: Midwest Nonprofits is completed in this blog. If  you wish to know if your organization was considered, please visit www.wofw.com and contact me; I will be happy to share the review ranking with you.

The Sebastian Study: Second Life Nonprofits now begins, so watch for reviews, overviews, and experiences shared in upcoming posts. The ten best presentations will be analyzed, the almost-greats critiqued, and new conclusions drawn to help evolve effectiveness.

the end

 

July 27, 2010

Giving Institute

overview
As a leader-development source for nonprofit managers, the Giving Institute must exemplify excellence as their own example. When consulting to nonprofits, they must practice what they preach. Presenting a simple but effective graphic environment, they successfully express a focused range of activities. Their mission and communications inspire leaders to inspire philanthropic growth.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Giving Institute and Giving Foundation

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Blending two related organizations is tricky. The Giving Institute and Giving Foundation have sister logo that applies the same design to both: built from the “G,” the same lettering and composition apply but are color-coded. Ordinarily, this pie-shaped illustration would not look like a “G” when viewed by itself. But it does read within this context. Flexible for scaling, this graphic approach grows modularly.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Philanthropy is symbolically abstract. Photographs can represent it literally—especially in the places where donations are applied. The Giving Institute and Giving Foundation attempt to integrate both—placing more visual weight upon the photographs than on graphic symbolism. Using black and white in both the photos and as the palette for materials, the colors of the Institute and the Foundation stand out.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
A great example of a website home page that represents the two related groups, the Giving Institute and Giving Foundation express their purposes through simple selections. Featuring member logos at the bottom gives a visually engaging action to the page while choices are being made.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
The black and white theme and color palette are consistent throughout the Giving Institute and Giving Foundation’s presentation. Although the home page is elegant and simple, such care isn’t carried as much into subsequent pages as may be expected from such a beginning. What does give visual interest are photographs from a contest held a few years ago. It would be nice if these were updated as a growing collection.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Few groups integrate visually as well as The Giving Institute and Giving Foundation—much less two groups together. With a tremendous potential for more visual depiction of giving, hopefully they will give us more to see when revisiting. But if the side doesn’t evolve, then an opportunity to increase dynamic interest begun will be underutilized.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

July 8, 2010

American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery

overview
If any group should look good graphically and understand the importance of first impressions it should be an association comprised of cosmetic surgeons. So the warm and well-presented image that the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery presents is expected. Appropriately, it is polished, attractive, simple, and elegant. Generally, to call graphics ‘pretty’ is condescending—but here, it is a compliment.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Combining the letterforms (C and S) with brush stroke swashes creates an elegant and humanistic logo for the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. Somewhat flame-like (which doesn’t feel as appropriate as the other references), its configuration is distinctive. Although the typography is very conventional, as a classic unit, the logo block has flexibility. However, the logo presents best in two colors.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Beautiful faces gaze at the viewer from AACS’s pages. Gorgeous photos rotate on the website which encourages visual intrigue. The theme of cosmetic perfection, though obvious, is enhanced with a color palette, geometric borders, and strong use of a white background.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Probably the easiest way to make static templates interesting is through photography. AACS uses them with expertise and appealing composition—distinct from fashion yet exuding glamour and health. Though their publications are limited to members-only, the website content is targeted well to the viewer groups of both patients and surgeons.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
AACS’s design strategy is simple and easy to implement. Although they invite readers to share cosmetic surgery stories, what happens to these stories? It is not clear. Yet other information, such as the Myth and Fact section is educational and helpful.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
There are more exciting graphics to be found from other organizations, but few that are more elegant or tasteful. AACS uses the basics well, imparts a crisp professionalism and accessible presentation.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

June 29, 2010

Green City Market

overview
Raising awareness of local food resources is a community responsibility. In Chicago, Green City Market assists this effort through a friendly communications strategy—linking farmers to chefs to the public through programs and online. Although their graphics are simple and basic, they are fun, easy, and engaging—presenting a range of attractions.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Green City Market

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Though thin and light, the balloon images represent the positive and upbeat personality of Green City Market. Simple and flexible, the tag line integrates well with the symbol, but the name overpowers. Though the three elements function as a compositional unit, the stylistic blend could be more creative.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Although Green City Market’s theme of balloons, begun by the logo, is not expanded upon, the typefaces, colors, and burlap textures set up a friendly environment.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
From the pictures of farmers to the recipes of Chicago’s best chefs, the Green City Market website is fun and educational while it supports an environmental cause. The site is a good introduction, but could be enhanced with more highlights, features, and interaction.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Throughout their website, Green City Market’s template is static. The typeface, though strong, is not enough to push towards a visual potential. The organization’s goals are to create an “inviting ambience and sense of community.” Though the pages have engaging content, they don’t change often. And their blog indicates a “post and ghost” problem with old entries and few comments. They demonstrate a pattern that affects many organizations: excitement with new opportunities but difficulty in sustaining the communicative projects once begun.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Few causes affect more people that sustainable food sources. Throughout Green City Market’s materials, their dedication to promoting local produce oozes from their pages. With perhaps the greatest potential of any organization covered in te Sebastian Study, a graphic foundation could sustain communications as their mission can sustain food production.

Viewers want more than a one-way presentation. This organization offers a platform to showcase members by offers chefs’ signature recipes—leading the viewer through key information.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

June 24, 2010

Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association

overview
Contrasts are often the most educational. Although this organization calls themselves ISSA (International Sanitary Supply Association), they really should be called WCIA (The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association), as their information explains that they changed their name five years ago. Yet they show imaginative thinking, innovative approaches, and robust offerings in other areas. This is a great example of some interesting approaches despite a serious identity problem.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating ISSA: Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
If the ISSA is not engaged in a logo change, they should be. The name change is obviously justified, but they didn’t carry through with the project. Name changes are complex and the only help for it is to plan. Their Association History explains that the change was made five years ago, ample time to establish a visual foundation. Making a name change is never done lightly, and the logo is part of the process.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
The appeal of an innovative home page dims upon subsequent pages. There is little thematic opportunity begun by the logo or the animation. Nowhere is this more noticeable than their e-newsletter: ISSA Times. The template overpowers the content, yet the navigation is well structured. ISSA has all the elements needed to set up a strong theme. Hopefully their plans include development.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
The site ISSA has a portal page that offers nine publications. Most are monthly. The archives are inviting in structure and include a few visuals for emphasis. But the visitor has to be a member to read them. The range of content on the site and the variety of publication offerings are extensive. It would be more inviting if they offered samples for prospect viewing. Many organizations allow downloads of current features to demonstrate the quality of their content.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
ISSA’s graphics are minimal and subservient to functionality. It bespeaks of either low budget or low priority. The name change is a missed opportunity for graphic development. Not offering any sample articles or publications online limits interest. They will allow a free account with registration, but many prospects aren’t ready to get their names on a list without checking quality first.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
ISSA is an organization with contrasts: an international focus with a confused identity, an inviting home page with limited access to the most interesting content. An engaging beginning, however, can’t sustain visual interest of the total visiting experience. Because communications and providing information are several of ISSA’s missions, visual content should be a part.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

June 16, 2010

Society of Women Engineers

overview
To organize information for compelling communications, skillful marketing encompasses a blend of making the complex simple, using space wisely, and choosing media for meaningful features. The Society of Women Engineers accomplishes a strong understanding of strategic integration. Investigating their graphics is a tour of handling the fundamentals effectively.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Society of Women Engineers

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Though simple and almost elegant, the SWE logo is not as exciting as their website design. Although the logo conveys industry symbolism with the gear image, the design is not as contemporary. However, it scores highly for flexibility, simplicity, and recognizability.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Although subtle, the look and feel of SWE’s graphics is crisp and ties together through color and symbolic icons. All programs and features have visual clues that support the stylistic approach and tie them together. The use of video to support the various programs is particularly well done.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
SWE’s site excels in the layout of information and inviting pages. With consideration to screen size, the home page is exciting to view, pulls the reader into the main choices from “above the fold” and places further attractions below. The designer is sensitive to how people view and how to prioritize content.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
The friendly and accessible approach continues through all SWE’s publications. Particularly worth viewing is their online newsletter with links to current programs and features. Easy to read with short drop-down articles, the All Together newsletter represents strong communicative policies. It brings their comprehensive offerings together in a monthly overview. Conversely, though SWE’s magazine uses high tech features online, it demonstrates the difficulties of trying to make print e-legible. The scrolling and cumbersome interface works counter to their otherwise savvy use of e-functions.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Anyone who wishes to express a professional, visually inviting, and integrated presentation can learn from viewing SWE’s materials. It is exciting to see blended media support a range of initiatives, provide useful and easy online features, and develop an engaging visual language. Their graphics make me wish I were an engineer!

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end