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As a creative agency we’re always striving be innovative and original. But not every project gives you the same level of artistic freedom. That’s one reason NewActon was a job we could really get excited about. From the beginning NewActon has pushed back against prescriptive design ideals which emphasise orderliness and designation (read: rigidity and stasis), so we knew we’d be afforded a kind of creative latitude that not every project can offer. As if that wasn’t incentive enough for us to bust out the crayons and start doodling, NewActon is also home to our Canberra office. It’s definitely one of our favourite projects and one that came oh-so-close to winning a coveted Webby Award in 2017 for best homepage.
NewActon is a mixed-use precinct that blurs the line between order and chaos. You could say it’s carefully considered chaos. Developed piecemeal over six or so years by local developers, Molonglo Group, there’s a really organic feel to the place. Like a small village that’s popped up one building at a time, each of them having a distinct and different style. Despite the varied architectural styles—or perhaps owing to them—there’s a kind of disjunct harmony to the whole.
The precinct plays host to residential and professional suites, cafés and restaurants, exhibition spaces and more. But the heart of NewActon is its vibrant community of creators and businesses that are just a bit left of centre and dedicated to making their space the cultural and innovative hub of Canberra (we’re one of them!).
Explored, Not Navigated
With art installations dotted throughout NewActon and cafés and restaurants tucked around every other corner NewActon is designed to be explored, not hurriedly navigated through. So we wanted to let users explore NewActon. To experience a place you need to actively engage with it. Indulge your curiosity. Turn over some stones.
Our solution was to split it up all the bits that attract someone to the precinct into a few categories and splashed them onto the homepage, letting users freely roam around an abstract representation of the physical space. The ‘Community’ section of the site would host some information about some of the precinct’s creatives and businesses. This is content is easily managed by the client through a CMS (WordPress). The ‘What’s On?’ section scrapes event information from one the client’s other sites, meaning they don’t need to update two sites with the same information.
Bringing the Space to Life
In creating the landing page for NewActon we asked ourselves:
What makes exploring a place so inherently interesting?
Why do we enjoy re-exploring some places?
How can we recreate those experiences?
The reactive visual map captures that feeling of coming to NewActon for the first time—when you’re freely roaming about and seeing the place come to life around you. The weather influenced colour palette and shuffled distribution of the map captures the fluidity of NewActon, where there’s always something happening. No two visits are the same. Plus, it’s nice to know what the weather is like, I guess.
While we would love users to enjoy the visual map we created, we recognise that at times people may desire a more ‘direct route’. To accommodate for this we built in both an A-Z section, where users can find services by name, and a physical map, for the less waywardly inclined.
Although the unique artwork of Zoran Pungerčar is definitely the tip of the spear in terms of engaging the users’ curiosity, it was actually one of the last pieces of the process to fall into place. We collaborated with Molonglo Group in selecting an artist, trying to find something that meshed well with the NewActon vibe and fit with our own vision. We spitballed artists back and forth and whittled the list of suggestions down to a few before we agreed on Pungercar. His unique, whimsical style felt like the perfect fit for our little precinct.
At ED. we understand that our clients’ websites are a vital aspect of public perception and engagement. It’s the modern front of house. Our work is designed to reflect the client. NewActon is a reflection of the precinct’s fresh, arty atmosphere and employs atypical design features, embracing its desire to stand out as a cultural and innovative hub.