Artists in Buffalo is a collective of artists and galleries in the greater Buffalo area, showcasing the rich artistic talent of the area's artisans and art spaces.
The mission of Artists in Buffalo is to support and increase the visibility of the region’s talented artistic community. They needed a clear, simple brand that would represent this broad-reaching and multi-faceted collection of artists, and a dynamic website that would allow the individuality of its members to shine through.
Building on the elements of an eye-catching modern identity, Visual Inclination built Artists in Buffalo a visually simple yet technically complex website.
Allowing the region’s artists to sign up individually and represent themselves, by supplying their own content and imagery to the framework of the site, the site achieves a secondary goal of the project: to create a space that is as unique as the artists themselves and entirely community-supported. Built on a solid foundation that features artists’ work as the focus, the website is dynamic and highly explorable, while remaining remarkably intuitive for members and non-artist visitors alike.
Artists in Buffalo is an organization that has existed since 2001. But they had never formally distilled the visual presence of the brand into a single unifying identity. Before approaching a website, which was the primary objective of Visual Inclination’s undertaking, a new identity was clearly necessary.
Two of the tenets of the organization’s mission are to represent the individual talents that combine to make a unique artistic collective in the region, and also to promote the region itself (from Niagara in the northwest to southeastern Buffalo) as an art destination, both for tourists and artisans alike.
The new identity attempts to capture both of these notions, representing the individual artists in bold distinct shapes that come together to form a monogram, with shapes that also represent the directions that define the region (to the southeast and northwest); simple ideas that are more than the sum of the simple parts.
The Website's Role
Periodically, Artists in Buffalo create and distribute two printed guides to promote its members and their work: a biannual Artists and Galleries Guide, showcasing the current roster of regional art for tourist and visitor consumption, and a Holiday Open brochure that coincides with an event of the same name every December that brings thousands of visitors from the city and surrounding areas. Both of these documents share the same goal: to allow the user to discover new artists and galleries in the region in an efficient way.
But with hundreds of artists and galleries involved, the medium of print prevented the information from being up to date, and these printed pieces are not always the easiest for visitors to browse. The collective did have an existing website, which mirrored the same listings as the printed pieces, but it was under-utilized. It was not dynamic, and didn’t leverage the power of the member-base to keep the website up to date. What was needed was something intuitive, easy to explore, and simple to update.
Visual Inclination understood that the best way to keep the website relevant and timely, as well as a place that its members were proud of, was to put the power of the artist and gallery listings in the hands of its members. A sizeable chunk of the website’s content would be administered by the talented directors of the organization, but each artist/gallery’s information would ideally be kept up to date by the member, each with a personalized username and login to allow them to administer their own profile and image gallery. The challenge would be in building a back-end that was easy to use and intuitive for users, from the tech savvy to the web reluctant.
The entire website was built on a tried-and-true PHP and MySQL back-end powered by the robust ExpressionEngine. For the site member, this back-end would be wrapped in an intuitive, guided interface that allowed users to sign up and maintain their own information on their site, on their own schedule. This would include managing their own modular art gallery, contact details, artist summary and other important details. It would also facilitate the online enrolment into Artist in Buffalo’s printed guides, as well as allowing the members to suggest upcoming events for inclusion in the Event Calendar.
Understanding that the best way to showcase the work of the artists would be to let that work take centre stage, the site was designed to do just that. The homepage showcases a randomized array of all of the art stored in the member-managed back-end database, allowing each artist an equal chance to shine when a visitor first lands on the site. This facilitates an easy way for visitors to explore new artists in an engaging, visual way.
The site’s overall layout is kept modern and minimal, allowing the rich content to take focus. Navigation is intuitive, and the highly customizable Artist & Galleries section allows the user to browse through all of the artists and galleries that comprise the Artists in Buffalo, allowing filtering by many different criteria while also offering quick search functionality. Other niceties include a chronological event calendar, Google Maps integration for studio/gallery and event locations, and easy access to the members’ back-end. All in a beautiful, evocative package.