Not Your Average Cup Of Tea - Part 2

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Sort of set myself up calling my blog “quippy words”. I’ll try to sneak some sass into this post here and there, but I’ve got so much to share about the second half of this workshop. Jon told us that we were going to be working on redesigning a B&B, in the lovely Chelsea District in NYC. First, we got some context about the Inn on 23rd and took a look at their site. Although it’s often fun to start taking jabs at a site when you know you’re going to redesign it, I was still able to look past the aesthetic things that rubbed me the wrong way…as I was totally mesmerized by the charm of this place. I could see it, the potential. For this example project, the Inn was looking for a site redesign, and wanted to aim at a younger and hipper business demographic, as opposed to the family clientele it was currently bringing in.

First, we took a look at the photos of the place. The sky is the limit in a workshop project like this, so suggesting adjustments to the overall layout of the hotel were totally fair game. After getting warmed up, we got to work on mood boards. I’ve decided that mood boards are one of my new favorite exercises. One, it doesn’t involve drawing wireframes (haters gonna hate). Two, it basically combines my love of Pinterest and taking dozens of screenshots of things I like throughout the day, which end up in my “desktop crap” folder once they overtake my desktop. I go back and look at them all the time, I just hadn’t always organized them nicely in a manner where I could easily find them or associate them with a specific project. 

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So here is what I ended up with for my first official mood board. At this point, a lot of people were going the route of luxury, or focusing on the whole vintage modern trend. But I was captivated by the exposed bricks on the walls, and a quilt hanging over one of the beds. Not to mention, this wasn’t just some Victorian mansion. This was a townhouse. Now I don’t know about you, but when I stay at or think of a B&B, I think pretty old house. But this was a townhouse, with exposed brick. They even mentioned in their bio that they were an “urban B&B”. I wasn’t sure they were all the way there, but I thought they were definitely onto something.

I figured we would nix the old carpets, but showcase those gorgeous walls. If you don’t like exposed brick, I may have to rethink the possibilities of a friendship. It’s raw and industrial and beautiful. And as for that old quilt, that was where I could bring in the modern. By using modern quilts and geometric patterns, I could really bring this place forward. As for the logo, I used roman numerals to carry through the geometric bold shape concept, and to make the Inn seem a bit more bold and young. I contained the letters in a tall rectangle, to hint at the fact that they were in a townhouse, a unique differentiating factor in my opinion.

Speaking of differentiating factors, this was the part of the workshop where we worked on brand pillars, my new favorite concept and probably the best thing I learned all day...maybe all conference. Jon was hooked on the power of three, which pumped me up, as it's a principal I’ve been using since design classes in college. Good design things happen in threes, just don’t question it. He had us focus on three differentiating factors, three terms or phrases that defined your brand and that set you apart from the competition. Besides the location and the style of the B&B, they also had amazing reviews that talked about how wonderful and welcoming the owners were. BOOM, the brand pillars I came up with were:

  1. located in Chelsea 
  2. urban townhouse
  3.  intimate atmosphere

I could work on brand pillars all day. I tried to make some for myself, but all I came up with was “lover of food.”

The group was pretty much on the same page for the personas, which was the last thing we worked on before starting our wireframes. We focused on groups like creative professionals and trendy couples.  Then, it was finally time to start mocking up some site ideas, starting with the home page.

At this point I was like a little kid waiting for candy, squirming around in my seat thinking of all the things I wanted to do with this mockup. I know you probably won’t believe me, but I actually do a lot of wireframing in my head. I start moving pieces around like I’m a superhero, a creative hipster Ironman perhaps. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, and I daydream and imagine things all the time. I always thought Ally McBeal was crazy cool but a little eccentric with her bizarre visions, until I realized that I’m basically just like her, except I don’t have a TV show that visually depicts my thoughts and I don’t dream of dancing babies. If you haven’t watched the show, you have no excuse. It’s on Netflix, and it features a young Robert Downey Jr.

Because this was just a project for fun, I couldn’t help jumping to more visual mockups. Again, not knocking on wireframes…I was just too excited to stop there. I focused on content and navigation that reflected the brand pillars. I took the fact that the owners are considered buds by the time most of the visitors leave, and went with informal punchy headlines. Combine that with some photos to show off the brick walls and bold geometric shapes, and you’ve got an inn I’d be dying to visit.

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Samantha NovakComment