The Next Chapter

2nd December 2015
by Scott Burnett

Cover image: The Next Chapter

Well, we’ve just launched an updated website. It’s been a year in the making all things considered and was made possible thanks to support from ID2015 and key members of the 100 Archive community. While much core thinking remains in place, we were always mindful that since our launch in 2012 we’ve had many comments from visitors, both designers and the wider audience – mostly that they didn’t fully understand the scope and ambition of the project. So during this past year we’ve tried to address these issues and get the site – and our ambitions – into a position where we can make the project sustainable into the future.

As part of the Year of Irish Design (ID2015) funding call we made a competitive submission for support to help us realise the next phase of the 100 Archive. In preparation for the funding request we built a temporary homepage that set out our stall more clearly, outlining our 3 main areas (submitted projects, archives and articles); communicating the role and value of each, while also highlighting our strong and growing numbers of submitted projects, associated designers, companies and articles. However we knew that it was a priority to both make it clearer and clarify for ourselves and the wider community the purpose and aim of the project. 

Along with the constructive critique of the project we also enjoyed seeing the site evolve over three years as people used it and contributed to it in diverse ways. Areas and features that had seemed supplementary at launch had become central to the project. We wanted to build on this, to make sure that the community is at the heart of the project and that its ultimately something that offers inspiration, insight and usefulness.

Our Original and Core Thinking Mapping the landscape - The main purpose of the site from the outset has been to reveal and map the rich, diverse and changing landscape of Irish graphic design. By creating more visibility of the breadth and quality of work being produced, and exploring the industry behind the outcomes we hoped that practitioners would gain confidence and a stronger sense of where they fit. 

People / Projects - Another important aim has always been to make the design process and the wider industry more transparent. Projects, even small ones are the sum of many parts and usually involve several people. The default for other models we looked at was to prioritise agencies [with the ability but no requirement to outline contributors] and to pre-categorise projects into industry standards. Approaching things from the simple position of people and projects created an open and level platform, allowed for a wider variety of projects and leads to a more detailed view of all aspects of our industry. 

Connections - This more detailed view of the profiles and data captured provides a rich series of connections and professional relationships. This joined up information gives us better insight into how things are made, and while this is interesting now, it becomes extremely valuable in years to come providing a clear sense of the work that was being done and the context it was done in. It also provides a very intuitive way of navigating the site that reflects how we fit together as a community of peers, collaborators, co-workers and competitors.

Community centred - The point of the project was always to give voice to the community and shine a light on it – it’s successes, personalities, challenges and debates. Of course this is only possible if people see the value and decide to get involved. Thankfully this happened from the start with support being generously given when we had nothing but an idea. We’ve had our work cut out in some cases, for example there’s still not as much corporate or commercial work being submitted which we’d love to see more of. From the outset we’ve tried to encourage work from as broad a base as possible. The more diverse the submitted work is, the richer an understanding of practice we get. 

We also realised very early that if we wanted this to succeed and grow then it had to really involve people, not just making submissions, but writing articles, offering opinions and feedback and helping in maintaining and running the project. This is something that is ongoing and we’ve tried to reflect this not only in the redesign of the site but also in the broadening base of contributors working with us to fulfil our collective ambitions.

Clarification While it was clear that these core ideas were all still working well there were several aspects of the project that needed to be clarified. The main thing that seemed to confuse people was the word archive. Generally it suggests that there’s a wealth of historical content, which we clearly didn’t have. It’s still our aim to capture and publish notable projects from the last 50 years however this was never our main focus. The idea was always to develop a new approach to building an archive. To make sure that we have a well documented archive in the future by actively capturing what’s happening now.

An archive engine - Every decision we’ve taken in the design of the site has been to make this process easy and worthwhile, to remove as many barriers as possible, capture as much information as we can [without everyone logging off from boredom or annoyance] and to make the experience a rewarding one. For all intents and purposes we have created an “archive engine” fuelled by contemporary work that will provide a comprehensive and detailed insight into our community and practices in years to come.

Evolving This iteration of the site allowed us to refocus on these aspects, make them clearer and activate all the great projects, articles and people that have populated the site over the last 3 years. We’ve made more of the rich connections we’re mapping, by highlighting them wherever possible. Groups, categories, collaborators, workplaces, mentions, these are just some of the ways we’re doing this. This of course has implications for submissions, the more detail you can supply when uploading work, the more useful and accurate the site gets. 

Writing While the blog started life as somewhat of an afterthought, its grown to be a strong part of the site. We want this to continue, both to help in giving the community a voice, but also because it’s important to capture the events, ideas and opinions of the day to help make sense of any future archive. This commitment to writing has been reflected in the site design. The articles and their writers feature prominently on the home page. Published articles and mentions appear on profile pages and members mentioned in any given article are listed at the end. Hopefully the message is clear, we want you to get writing, commenting, debating and discussing the subjects and issues that matter to us all within our community! 

Search and shape  The backbone of the new site is an organised search function. This not only makes it easy to find and browse content but allows us, and you, to easily shape groups of projects which can be easily published. You can see some of our initial examples on the site and we hope that this becomes an active and interesting way of making sense of what we do. We think there’s lots of potential in this new aspect of the site and already have ideas on how it might develop, and as always we’d love to hear your thoughts too.

Sustainability A key aim this year was to get the archive into a sustainable shape. Clarifying our role and developing the new site were the first steps. We’ve a to do list of ideas that we’ll share as they become more defined, but for now we’d encourage you to explore and enjoy the new site, and please let us know what you think!

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