Branding, Design, Social, Web

Outdoor art without full bars

We tackled this interactive development project to showcase our community’s rich tapestry of outdoor art.

Art in the Open

The Ask

Make outdoor art accessible, online and on the road

Venture Niagara sought to develop a user-friendly and bilingual website or app that would present information about outdoor artwork in Niagara, and that would direct users to the artwork so they could enjoy it IRL. The project would compliment the organization’s ongoing promotion of cycling in Niagara, and serve as a new tourism feature celebrating local investment in existing and future outdoor art.

Our Approach

A happy marriage of design and technology

After considering the pros and cons across the spectrum of native mobile applications, hybrid apps, and web apps, we decided to approach this project as a progressively enhanced web application. Custom-built as a JavaScript progressive web app (PWA), Art in the Open users can explore and navigate hundreds of outdoor art pieces, with or without an internet connection.

The digital product would be supported by a memorable and translatable name, captivating brand narrative, and a cohesive and memorable visual identity. Stunning photographs would be taken of the artwork in situ, along with a comprehensive social media strategy and content calendar, and print collateral to direct users to the online experience.

Brand Development

Naming and navigating for digital and real-world exploration

After researching global outdoor artwork and tourism initiatives, and working within the mandate of creating a memorable and easily translatable name, we landed on “Art in the Open / Art en plein air”. In choosing this name, we considered that the project would appeal to other municipalities, and thus shouldn’t be Niagara-specific.

Taking inspiration from the Niagara landscape and the enjoyment art brings to its viewer, we crafted a captivating brand narrative to describe the project in a way that would entice both tourists and residents to experience the full spectrum of outdoor art.

In developing the brand’s visual identity, we focused on creating an eye-catching mark that would work in all print and web settings and translate well between English and French. We wanted the colour palette to stand out against traditional map colours, so we decided to steer away from the blues and greens that seem so common in other projects in the area.

These components were compiled into a foundational identity guide, providing clear rules for usage that can be applied in all ongoing project initiatives.

Progressive Web Application

Accessing autolocated artwork in the wild

After many hours of carefully documenting, categorizing, and photographing the vast library of artworks, Art in the Open was built in ReactJS, including a custom-built admin backend. It is a single-page application that changes states with interactions, making it smooth and fast. Vendor caching and code splitting optimize user experience and the speed with which content is delivered to the user.

By building a PWA, we were also able to tap into geolocation technology so users can be autolocated and nearby artworks can be displayed on an interactive map, which uses the MapBox API. The application’s NoSQL database allows for geolocation capabilities and for measuring distances between location points, so users can explore artworks within a specified range from their location.

Social Media Marketing

Curating and sharing outdoor art experiences

A comprehensive social media strategy was developed to build a relevant and engaged audience for Art in the Open and to position the project as a valuable resource for arts, outdoors, and community enthusiasts. A six-month content calendar provided ample opportunity to engage with local arts, tourism, and active lifestyle events and thought leaders while sharing the features of Art in the Open with a growing audience.

Print Map

Putting the art in cartography

We created a printed map that directs users to the online experience while displaying the clusters of outdoor art across all twelve of Niagara’s municipalities. Intended for distribution through tourist information centres and at events, the map incorporates the visual identity of the Art in the Open brand while providing valuable information about the project and the breadth of artworks.

What We've Learned

Niagara is a natural canvas

Niagara’s heritage is as robust and layered as its bountiful landscape - from early Indigenous settlements to the battlegrounds of the War of 1812, Niagara has seen its share of survival and sacrifice. Historical and modern-day artists have found unique ways to mark the landscape with a myriad of structures, sculptures, statues, and more. Our experience in building Art in the Open has opened our eyes to the amazing outdoor artworks our region has to offer, and has made us acutely aware of the artworks that dot the routes we take every day.

Mapping your own adventure?

We majored in made-to-order.

Let's make it work