An extended version of a conversation between HYPEBEAST China and creatives from around the world, including Jam3 Creative Director Roger Dario and Strategist Caroline Leung.
With the global expansion of social networks & increasingly creative ways to use data, the marketing rules are being rewritten. In the era of big data, there are more and more variables in the entire marketing system. This complexity has caused the entire system to slowly start to lose focus, with marketers unsure about how to use the dozens of channels at their disposal.
In this context, if a fashion/trend brand wants to express its brand values and ethos, does it need to spend money and creative power on “creating and maintaining a brand website”? Our thoughts below.
1. Why do brands (especially fashion brands) still need a website to present themselves when social media is the mainstream now? What information does it need to provide to the users?
Caro: Honestly? They don’t. Having all your information in one place doesn’t necessarily make it more accessible. Digital is great because it decentralizes how and where you connect with your people. Pivoting your e-comm strategy to Instagram is still missing the point. We all shop, learn, connect with ideas and objects differently.
“If you think of your website as a playground, an extension of your creative expression, it can be a much more powerful tool.”
The word ‘website’ connotes this sense of rigidity that we can and should leave behind in this era of digital creativity. If you work for a brand, your website is probably the biggest, most bureaucratic channel to get anything done in. I’m not arguing for the Death of Website. I’m arguing for the Death of Website as One-Size-Fits-All digital presence. Use it to consider your SEO or first point of contact for some audiences, but be flexible about what lives on it. It shouldn’t just be your digital brick-and-mortar that you occasionally change up the window dressing of. Give the media a reason to pay attention, give the people a reason to revisit.
Roger: Social platforms force you to work within constricting boundaries that often inhibit creativity or experimentation. In fact, you often end up looking the same as everyone else. From the algorithmic timeline to infantilizing UX patterns that promote short-term virality and engagement, the platformization of design (while good for a brand’s bottom line) has given rise to sanitized digital spaces that ultimately won’t help you create lasting and meaningful connections with your audience.
If you think of your website as a playground — an extension of your creative expression — it can be a much more powerful tool compared to the metrics-based benefits than Instagram offers, while allowing you to retain more ownership in the age of data surveillance and authorship in the age of derivative hashtag moodboarding.
2. What factors do you consider before designing a website for a brand?
Caro: If we’ve come to the conclusion that websites are the right design solution, then it’s questions like — what conversation is this site trying to start? Who are we trying to talk to? Will they think this is corny? Does it matter, as long as they remember it?
For a site like Ozweego, we knew it was important that people bought into the mood of the shoe. We really abstracted it from its technical details and focused it more on what we wanted the viewer to feel. Our wormhole was so weird and kitschy. It captured this sense of nostalgic futurism — like the Airhead candy. That’s how I want you to feel when you reach for the pair in the morning.
Roger: It’s more important to create compelling content than the form a website takes. A successful digital presence should reflect or shift culture the same ways your product aims to. Consider the creative point of view you are trying to express and that should manifest in the interactions you design. A more experimental brand might try to channel their perspective through an unconventional interface or even existentially challenge the necessity of a website. Define your voice IRL to design your best URL.
3. What are the design essentials for (fashion) brand website design?
Roger: For a fashion brand, probably self-awareness and a sense of humour. A starter pack meme might go further than a cool font and some Marvelous Designer renders. Our product drop for Donald Glover’s adidas collaboration last year at Coachella was lo-fi but earned us more attention than a website could have.
4. How can brand positioning and value be reflected through web design?
Caro: Start with literally living up to what’s in your brand story. If you call yourself “different” or “innovative” or “unique”, then make sure your site doesn’t look like anyone else’s. Nix the moodboards.
Orient your design and creative decisions around the content you want people to engage with, not what you want them to look at. Shoutout to our colleagues who worked on Twitter Culture Tracker, who did an amazing job in materializing so much data and information in an inviting way. Each topic felt like a rabbit hole I wanted to lose myself into. When I’m there, I can feel what Twitter’s trying to signal to me as a brand — that they’re paying attention to culture, they care about making sense of what we’re talking about on the platform.
5. What special features and content does web design need for a brand?
Caro: I don’t think brands should be investing in features and content in order to be special. To be “special” as a brand, you should be investing in process and vision. Building complex, boundary-pushing digital experiences involve a lot of people. So if your process has more than 3 layers of stakeholder approval or leadership who aren’t on the same page, then “special” just isn’t going to happen.
Roger: While often overlooked, accessibility is a crucial component of any website or digital presence. Your acid rave gfx aesthetic is probably illegible or even unbearable to look at for many people. Creating inclusive spaces is vital, both online and off.
6. Can you give an example of a good website design that you like and explain why?
Caro & Roger: Nuclear Dissent is an interactive documentary we at Jam3 produced that tells the story of activism in French Polynesia during a decades-long period in which France was conducting nuclear tests in their waters. It demonstrates the impact in 360° while relating the story to contemporary politics through an interactive fallout map where you can see the impact of different hypothetical nuclear bombs in your neighborhood.
Virtual Fashion Archive is a digital museum that celebrates iconic archival designs and recontextualizes them in a virtual world. The recreations are stunning and allow you to interact with the garments in such an intimate way.
https://blacklivesmatter.carrd.co/ The work isn’t done. We must continue to learn, support, donate, and create actionable change.
Jam3 is a Design and Experience Agency. We help the world’s top brands launch products and design new customer experiences in digital and beyond. Rather than make ads, we create relevance with consumers by attributing purpose and innovation in everything we do.
Our partners include Google, Spotify, Microsoft, Adidas, Facebook, Ford, Sephora, MTV, and Disney Pixar. Modesty aside, our diverse work has received global recognition from Cannes to The One Show, and even the Pulitzer Prize. To learn more, visit us at jam3.com.