Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ArtPrize gets it right

"Intersections" by Anila Quayyum Aghawon
won the people's vote and split the juried vote.
(Ignore the purple light - that was an inartistic
side effect of the camera flash.)
This was the sixth year that I’ve been to Art Prize in Grand Rapids. Artists from around the world enter their artwork for a chance to win the $200,000 top prize voted on by the public. In total, about 1,500 are accepted into the event and hundreds of thousands of people walk the city to see this fantastic array of art: from steel structures of beasts to intricate woodcarvings and plant-based artwork.
With each year of this masterful exhibit, the “way finding” gets easier. It’s not just because I’ve been there before, it’s also because the printed maps of the exhibits are getting better.
Isn’t it amazing how good organization can make a special event even more special? It’s easier to find the works of art. There is less getting lost or wandering to places where not much is showing. With about 15 miles worth of walking to see the whole show, it is extremely helpful to know where you are going with an idea of what you will see.
One of the best maps this year was a two-sided piece that showed the top 20 artworks on the front with a key of where each was located. It helped that some of the larger buildings hosted more than one “top 20.” While I wish that I had produced that map with my graphic design team, I know that it took brainstorming and many renditions to get it right.
What this good organization meant to me is that my friend and I saw nearly the entire top 20 in about four hours – a long afternoon. In the past, another friend and I wandered around trying to find the top artwork as we consulted a map that was far less graphic and detailed.
I am an organized person. There were times when I thought that being organized was boring. Wouldn’t it be more exciting to shake things up and try to find things as if one were in a road rally? Not really. Being organized makes things run smoother.

Good organization for printed materials and websites can mean a tremendous difference in the user experience. Being able to find things easily and drill down into the subsets of an item take you where you want to go – seemingly effortlessly. That’s because all of the effort was put in at the front-end to keep things flowing smoothly and easy to find for the user.
Think about that the next time you are tasked with a big, audacious, voluminous job – whether it’s a website, a report, an info-graphic, or a map. Breaking it down into an organized fashion can be done with some fairly easy grouping measures.
Here are 5 ways to produce an organized, effective marketing piece for print or websites:
1. Color-code groups of similar items or locations, so users can see them at a glance.
2. Group related items together – e.g. indoor art on one side of the flier and outdoor art on the other (this was done on an ArtPrize postcard that served as a guide)
3. Don’t just bullet-point items, number them. Remember how easy it is to order from a Chinese menu when you can say, “I’ll have #22.”
4. Drill down. Have an umbrella term for an item and group related items in that category. For example, when I work on a project, I’ve got individual electronic folders for background information, interviews, drafts and final copy – all tucked into a master folder with the name of the project. Use this tactic for website subheads.
5. Be intuitive where you place items in print or in a website. Just like you might hang a key hook by your back door, it helps to put items where people typically look for them. If you’ve got a detailed file on one page with symbols linked to a key, don’t make readers turn the page to find the key. Group them together, so it’s a simple glance up and down on the page. Think of road maps and how the legend is on the same side as the map.

What are your tricks for staying organized in print, websites or online projects? Another item to think about – can you recall an event that you attended that was easy to navigate due to the signage, graphics or way-finding maps or fliers? (Think zoos, museums, parks and concerts.) And lastly, if you attended ArtPrize, what did you enjoy most about it?

Photos by Liz Cezat. Art by some amazingly talented artists.