Designing for Designers
Smith Design is a packaging and branding design firm that’s been around for over 30 years, but their website hadn’t kept up with the advancements, updates, and successes over that time. They approached e9 for a new website that embraced their success and their new office space, but still celebrated their roots.
Helping designers design what they want
For Smith, a website that showcased the breadth of their capabilities, their past success, and that would be easy to update was a top priority. The new aesthetic needed to be fresh, but also nostalgic. The team worked closely with Smith, paying close attention to details, to arrive at the perfect look.
Designing for designers
“It’s great to work with such an experienced team who was able to bring our vision to life.”
MARK ERRICHETTI | Senior Production Mgr
Designers are quite the meticulous bunch—something even the designers at e9 will admit! Arriving at the final aesthetic took time, patience, and a lot of creativity. Smith has a wide variety of clients, and a generic template just wouldn’t do. To accommodate this, the team created a mosaic-style layout to showcase the case studies for the different brands. The mosaic is structured to be flexible and unique for each brand. For instance, if a product needs a vertical, horizontal, or another layout to best display it, Smith can change the mosaic to accommodate.
This customization extends even further into mobile. The team gave Smith the ability to upload a unique background image for the mobile version of each brand’s case study. This way, they can choose to use one particular aesthetic or image for the desktop version of their site, and another for the mobile version. e9’s developers worked closely with Smith to ensure that each brand can be highlighted according to their unique style or needs and still fit within the structure of the page or browser. Consistent communication and flexibility ensured that e9 was able to help Smith achieve the level of customization they sought.
The importance of “why”
When e9 and Smith started this project, it was unclear what the final outcome would be. Smith brought a lot of ideas to the table but still had a “once we see it, we’ll know it’s right” sense of openness. The team presented several style options over the span of the project: modern and clean, nostalgic, image-heavy, and more. After several rounds of creative, the story of Smith Design finally came to life through a sophisticated, yet inviting, look with a crafty, and organic aesthetic. Finally, they had a website that set them apart (something their name hadn’t been doing for them!).
Because Smith is primarily a packaging design firm, the rounds of creative the team developed turned into an opportunity to teach Smith the best practices of web design. It was important to explain the “whys” of the design decisions the team made, and go deep into the strategy of e9’s work. Smith learned how to work within the structure of their new website, and e9’s team learned how to push that structure to its limits.
Setting themselves apart
Now that Smith and e9 had created a new, updated aesthetic, they were in a better place to set themselves apart and prove Smith’s position as leaders in their industry. Their name may sound common, but what they offer to their clients is anything but. For Smith, client relationships and the working process are top priorities. So much so, they recently moved locations and reconfigured their space to be completely client-friendly. This means that their facilities offer their clients any tools they might need, such as test kitchens, conference rooms, photo studios, and more, all surrounded by the design expertise of Smith’s staff. This new facility reflects the core of Smith Design, and it was important to incorporate that into the new website. Luckily, as it is a natural fit into the heart of Smith Design, it also blended perfectly into the feel of the website.
Giving the client the reins back
While e9 was able to teach Smith a lot in terms of web design throughout this project, the website still needed to be developed in a way that Smith could easily step in and make changes in the long run. To ensure this process would be simple for Smith, e9 developed an editor that gives someone with limited coding experience the ability to easily make custom visuals and designs. This is especially important for Smith’s portfolio, where each brand will likely require a different style and structure.
e9 worked hand-in-hand with Smith in the browser to make changes to help with both design decisions and teaching opportunities. Smith was able to see—in real-time—what does and what doesn’t work, and how to implement e9’s developments for future additions.
Final thoughts: Flexibility is key
“e9 is a skilled team who’s flexibility allowed us to customize our CMS platform to fit our unique needs.”
MARK ERRICHETTI | Senior Production Mgr
Sometimes, even as a designer, you just can’t put your finger on what you want until you see it. The answer isn’t always clear, and it’s not always simple. At e9digital, the team understands how important it is to be flexible; whether that’s with the number of changes coming back from the client or with the actual design of the project itself. Ultimately, both the client and the teams at e9 want the same thing: a beautiful, functional, and successful design. e9 believes that by keeping an open mind, staying flexible, and adapting, a beautiful solution, like the final Smith Design website, will be found.