The Design Brief: Medieval to Digital

As our project continued to grow, it seemed like new ideas were becoming actionable plans every day. This was undoubtedly exciting, but we quickly realised that because we operate largely in our specialised groups (Exhibition, Media, and Website teams) we faced the problem of stylistic cohesion between the teams. We needed a creative design brief, a concise document that outlined the styles, colours, materials, and requirements that would be universal in our project. A simple but vital example was matching fonts and colour scheme throughout our social media posts, exhibition, and website.

In a previous in-class brainstorming session we developed profiles and objectives for the project. We answered key design questions including:

-Who is our audience? Who are our contributors?
-What are our main objectives?
-What is our budget?
-What is mandatory for our project? What is supplemental?

Once we established the answers to these questions, we had a clear direction. We were ready to start producing —but first, we needed a cohesive design.
We knew our audience: exhibition guests would be students, faculty, and enthusiasts and what they shared in common would most likely be their residency (live in Ottawa) and their interests (enjoy medieval things, museums). It was important to address these in our design of both the physical exhibition and the website.

Ottawa residents would likely be drawn to the fact that the manuscripts and folia in our collection belong to an Ottawa institution, Carleton University. Therefore, the logo of the institution will feature quite prominently. Exhibitions tend to draw in visitors both young and old, and accessibility concerns were a major factor. We chose neutral dark tones (black, dark grey) and with white to provide the high-contrast needed for colour-blind visitors and those with eye-strain (after all, students and professors spend a lot of time looking at screens!). For our accent colour, we built a colour palette with using a scan of one of the folio to be exhibited. The result was a beautiful variant of blue called lapis lazuli (#26619c) which was serendipitous following this article that came out earlier this year.

There were limitations to what we could accomplish with a wordpress site, but thankfully through reclaim hosting we were able to get access to some premium plugins. After a  crash-course refresher, I was able to manipulate the wordpress CSS (the style sheet used to style an html page) to give us the desired fonts, colours, and frames.

It was also important to have a contingency plan in our design brief in case key elements of the website did not work. For example, if we cannot create an instantiation of a Mirador viewer on our site, it was important that we have a backup plan for how to display our scans and their respective metadata.

Although we cannot anticipate all the roadblocks we face in designing both an exhibition and a website, a design brief is a great place to start. Not having the budget for a user-experience test, we stuck with tried-and-true styles and fonts in order to have as little error as possible. That being said, it won’t be perfect and feedback is always welcome.

—Kate Brasseur, Website Team Leader

Interested in watching the website go from bare-bones to exhibition companion? Follow our progress here!

One Reply to “The Design Brief: Medieval to Digital”

  1. Kate,
    Your writing is very eloquent. This was not only an easy post to read but delightful at the same time. I was informed and taken on a journey as I read through this post. The tone and language was amazing. Now that I my English-minor is showing (hehe) let’s talk about the content in your post.
    I am very happy you mentioned the issue of “we faced the problem of stylistic cohesion between the teams”. This is important for not only us to recognize but those outside of the class as well. Personally, I think being transparent with the intended audience is always far more beneficial than hiding behind a false reality. Often times it is forgotten how much work goes on behind the scenes – including how to work as a team, highlighting this is very important. I also thought your point of “Although we cannot anticipate all the roadblocks we face in designing both an exhibition and a website, a design brief is a great place to start” is really great. Although we cannot foresee all the possible outcomes, having a strong foundation will assist the team in moving forward. I think the website team has an excellent foundation and I can’t wait to see where your work takes us.

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