Arcwelder Films

Early in my career I was approached by Arcwelder Films to design and develop a visual identity, and a website for them. The requirements were fairly straight forward: a site to promote and showcase their body of work, capabilities, and facilities to clients.

The design constraints were few, something visually engaging which reflected their cinematic abilities. It has remained one of my personal favorite projects; professional-level work with friends and remarkable creative freedom.
My Role

My responsibilities working with Arcwelder were on the design and development side including: Design Strategy; Creative Direction; Information Architecture; Design; UI/UX; Programming.
Strategy and Scope of Work

To create a showcase for the documentary writing, research, and filmmaking abilities of Arcwelder. The major focus was to build an archive of their body of work as a way to document achievements and promote the company to potential clients.

Summaries and stills were to be used to create a feel of each project, and a news section was made to keep visitors up-to-date on current developments and activities. Also included were the facilities (including edit bays), equipment for rent (digital video cameras), and merchandise (shirts and bags).
Design Language

Visually strong (yet, occasionally structurally unstable) text layouts and graphic elements were combined with rich photographic backgrounds to create a dramatic space of color and contrast.

Color and texture were used add mood and build an environment for the stills and written content to be showcased. I worked directly with the in-house photographer who had taken very abstract macro-shots of objects around the office.

Motion was used throughout the site for all elements of content. Navigation slid or flickered into place; paragraphs faded across into each section; and once in a while, the content would slowly falter and slide off the page if it sat too long....
Challenges and Learnings

The major challenge of Arcwelder's site was also what made it fun: design each page to be heavily visual, with an industrial/mechanical feel, and then few other rules to follow to accomplish this goal.

The design grew out of the imagery the in-house photographer delivered; macro-shots from around the office. Bits of metal, desks, chipped paint from decor, and other random interesting things. It brought the details and life of the workspace to be the abstracted environment for the site.

Being early in my career the things that stay most strongly with me are: learning how to communicate visual ideas to clients; listen and absorb all the client directly says they want, as well as what they may not articulate; client handling and communication, where I set project and design expectations for them and myself; work as both an individual (the Art Director/Designer/programmer) and as part of a team (on-the-fly work together to adjust their content or my design). The relationship was both very professional and casual at once; pieces were delivered, designs were built and presented, the client nodded yes to most everything, and something great was made.
Design: Development and Execution

The structure of the site was fairly direct: showcase projects/filmography, itemize equipment for sale or rent, centralize news and updates, and list contact information.

Arcwelder had a clear idea of the message they wanted to communicate, were well prepared with content (both written and visual), and were very open-minded to the structure and visual treatment possibilities.

The design and development of the site were both focused and organic. Having worked together to set the structure and information architecture, content was delivered for me to visually organize, consisting of photos/images, direction/notes, and writing. Page designs were developed using a very small set of consistent rules for navigation, and the visual layouts for content being explicitly varied. Permutations would be explored through a brief series of back-and-forth discussions, mixing and matching background look-and-feel with content and communication needs, to present each page design in the best and most interesting combinations of imagery and information.

This was my first all-in project, where I was responsible as creative director, designer, and programmer. Information architecture, scope, technology, and design concepts were all on me to develop, present, and refine with Arcwelder throughout the project. This combination of needs and responsibilities gave me a great start as a designer, project manager, and strategic thinker all in one.

Arcwelder would send both specific written content to be used, and more imagery than needed. I made editorial decisions to prioritize and select combinations for the greatest impact on each page.

Communication, presentation, and collaboration were constant, and they were very receptive to pushing the design as far as we could to build something different from the typical documentary business and make the site an extension of their body of work. Because of all of these moving parts and success, it is also my favorite example of being in sync with the client.