World Business Chicago
World Business Chicago (WBC) is a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city. One of the programs of WBC is Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE), which matches local minority and women-owned businesses with large anchor institutions in the city.
The team at CASE use a scoring system to determine the readiness level of small business to work with large institutions. This process involves interviewing business leaders, reviewing their capabilities, and assessing financial stability. Until recently, this process has been highly manual and has relied on complicated spreadsheets coordinated by multiple people.
We engaged with CASE with the mission to build a custom web application to support this process. I engaged with WBC for our second phase of design, which involved (x).
Competitive analysis, landscape analysis
Pen & paper, Sketch, Marvel
We began with a formal audit across NEX’s digital and print platforms. By doing this, we were able to catalog the different ways in which the brand was communicating to the public. We also identified significant inconsistencies related to use of color, typography, illustration, and other graphic elements.
Given the amount of design debt NEX had accrued over the years, it became clear that any product and website effort would have to first begin with the establishment of a design system.
Color + Type
Laying the groundwork for an identity system began through color. We winnowed the existing palette to a small group of core colors. Special attention was paid to narrowing down the number of red hues in use from four to a single one.
We then worked on setting up color application guidelines—an important matter given the client’s unhappiness with the overuse of red in the existing mobile application as well as their desire to achieve visual parity with larger competitors.
Next, we tackled typography. By extending the use of Sofia Pro (a versatile geometric sans with a large family) on the mobile app to all other digital and print spaces, visual coherence began to take form.
Strategy + Brand
Through workshops and ongoing discussions with NEX, we were able to define the core purpose of the web platform. Once we established the website would operate as a point of entry to the offers served by the mobile application, the content structure and site architecture began to emerge.
In crafting the aesthetics of the website, we took into account the need for an elevated, polished experience. At the same time, we worked hard to ensure the creative direction reflected the very heartbeat of the mall itself—its customers. Where possible, we discouraged the use of models and stock or stylized photography. Instead, we pushed for photography and video on the site that captures real customers interacting with products and spaces in the mall.
We relied on color and typography to establish the foundation for the designs and utilized white space to provide a sense of openness and refinement.