Designing & Curating IDeas
As the ‘most visited moving image museum in the world’, ACMI aspires to have a strong voice on digital & screen culture worldwide. But in order to do that — especially for the long haul — the institution needs to be able to have a ‘home base’ for that voice.
An internal brand refresh that defined ACMI’s core values as bold, playful and smart together with a new website that embraces distributed authorship provided the perfect opportunity to bring out the smarts in and around the organisation.
The aim for the Ideas section of the website is to make sure that our audience’s journey doesn’t stop at the film, event or exhibition they’ve found, and that it is clear that there is always more to explore.
Ideas not only celebrates the richness and diversity of our programming and the incredible artists, producers, and makers that ACMI has collaborated with, but also the wealth of expertise of our people. Anyone in the organisation is able to pitch to write about a relevant subject that they’re both passionate and knowledgeable about. It’s central to the distributed authorship ethos we are rolling out. It’s also central to the old philosophies of the web.
Like all museums, behind the scenes at ACMI is a very special place. It’s a melting pot of diverse talent and life experiences, fascinating personalities and really smart people. An award winning documentary filmmaker, sits next to a musician, who sits next to a photographer, who sits next to a VFX supervisor, who sits next to me. Each of these people are part of a community of practice beyond ACMI, too, who are often drawn into the institutional orbit. All of these people, in time, will be able to contribute their unique knowledge to the Ideas section.
Taking inspiration from the Walker Art Center, who made a splash in 2012 when they switched their website to become a showcase for their internally produced content and ‘news from elsewhere’, we also adopted a magazine style approach that can mesh blogs, videos and podcasts in an enriched curated space and experience.
We use a Trello board clumsily named ‘ACMI Ontology’ to manage what began as a massive Post-It jam session. Broadly speaking we’ve broken topics down into two major categories — technical/craft-oriented topics and more conceptual topics— that run across our current curatorial thinking and programming. The Trello board is a central place where we plan the curation of content, assign people with the expertise to write on topics and project manage the writing and production of each page.
Each article is credited to its author, albeit rudimentarily at the moment. Over time, we want to draw attention to the unique and diverse personalities that make up ACMI, rather than a singular generic ACMI voice. A forthcoming authorship function will enable a search function by author along with short bios.
When we started working through the idea of the Ideas section we imagined it as a rich resource for industry professionals and students, offering a wealth of craft and industry advice. We hope that our gallery and cinema visitors would be able to enhance their physical experience with in-depth extras around exhibitions and films. Much like the Walker, we have faith that by drawing these to the front of the website both designwise and architecturally, they will have more impact.
For the vast majority of website visitors, we’re expecting that there will be a small percentage who browse after finding the event they were looking for. Fortunately, the ACMI Marketing team has already built a strong social media audience across several platforms and when visitors arrive from social channels they will now land in a more contextualised and connected place than the previous ACMI blog. We will be keeping an eye on how people behave and engage with Ideas and fully expect to have to adopt new approaches to build a more inquisitive audience who want to stay and explore.
With the current iteration we have a desktop version with a static hero image that takes up important real estate on the left hand of the page.
The mobile version loses space with an imbalance of image and text.
In the next iteration I would like to see a better optimization of space being dominated with more visually potent imagery giving the user more to care about. The mobile design for PBS Newsroom and Museo del Prado for example use imagery to great effect.
We are refining our style guide to ensure we have consistent characteristics across our many voices. It will include guidelines around:
titling that is more evocative and provocative that also leverages SEO
image choice and cropping for effect
embracing the style guide of bold, playful and smart
and mobile-first writing tips.
Not only does Ideas bring together our past content that was previously spread across different platforms and defunct websites but it gives us a strong framework going forward to build audiences, tailor content and create conversations in more dynamic ways. The capability to embed external content into a discussion will give us room to shift our internally generated content to a more idiosyncratic ACMI-centric space.
The first shift in content is a new podcast series of in-depth interviews with our internal team and external creators about happenings around ACMI. We will continue to evolve our content to draw out our expertise in engaging ways, creating a mix of heady debate, insightful technical knowledge and relevant conversations.