Creating an Online Masterpiece for Edinburgh College of Art

The art of website design and UX

Engaging, thoughtful design combined with smooth UX

How Hookson Helped Edinburgh College of Art Paint the Online Picture

Edinburgh College of Art shines brightly in one of the world’s most creative cities. Reaching out to an international audience of students and art lovers, Edinburgh College of Art attracts talented new cohorts and maintains a global reputation for diverse and groundbreaking art.

We were delighted when the College asked Hookson to design its new website. Following the success of this design, Hookson would go on to create sites for the college’s revered annual degree shows.

Helping Art Thrive in a Pandemic

For Edinburgh College of Art’s 2020 Degree Show – one compromised by Covid-19 – the website would have to work even harder than the degree show site Hookson had previously created. For obvious reasons this show, comprised of more than 2,500 exhibits, would exist exclusively online. The situation demanded more content that would bridge the distance caused by the pandemic. Accommodating this, Hookson introduced a number of new innovations and features highlighting student work.

These included full-width animating sliders. Adding to engagement and UX, these sliders – each one rich in eye-catching movement – invited interaction with website content including student stories. These bite-size interviews expanded on the students’ work and their ambitions.

A Home For Moving Stories

Sliders also highlighted events, both cultural dates like screenings and talks, and those connected with career progression and advice. Added to the 2020 site also was a dedicated home for News and Features, and for video presentations: a crucial asset at a time of social distancing. Lastly, an elegant infinite scroll – a feature introduced in Hookson’s previous degree show website designs – greatly assisted in clearly presenting dozens of student projects and the artists and stories at their heart.

Drawing Traffic: Making Our Mark

Hookson’s main Edinburgh College of Art website had been received so well that we were subsequently asked to design sites for the college’s celebrated annual degree shows. We ensured this first Hookson-designed degree website, although related to the main site via similar typeface and linear details, presented a personality all of its own.

Promoting Portfolios

Deliberately emphasising the students and their exhibits, use of a mesmerising parallax effect and large visuals spotlighted these up-and-coming artists. Clicking each piece’s image block opened up a gallery of images and, importantly, information about the artist. This ‘calling-card’ approach subtly promoted the students and linked to their own websites and online portfolios.

A visually stunning treatment worthy of a major arts event

Designing with Distinction: Conceiving Edinburgh College of Art’s Main Website

After gaining valuable insight from discussions with Edinburgh College of Art, our top priority for the college’s main website would be positioning the institution as a highly creative school within the University of Edinburgh. We would achieve this via a distinct website design. Built on the flexible Drupal system, the website would marry visual assets, student stories and key information.

Skill and Personality

From the off, it was important to provide a taste of the college environment and to communicate what it meant to study at Edinburgh College of Art. To this end, website content emphasised student projects. This demonstrated skill and creative thought but also drew on the personalities of the students themselves.

Creating a Movement

One way we told stories of life at the college was via the use of film. Short segments, created specifically for the website, saw students working across different college environments. These films rotated on the homepage, adding movement, authenticity and personality.

Learning From the Masters

In a similar way, our website recounted the expertise, experience and interests of first-rate teaching staff. Insight told us that the quality of the staff was a key driver for applications. This feature, therefore, further strengthened Edinburgh College of Art’s credentials.

Applying Art

In addition to presenting Edinburgh College of Art to the world, one core aim was to attract high-quality applications. A steady intake of terrific students is, after all, the heartbeat of a successful college.

Combining Art and Information

Research informed Hookson’s approach to navigation and UX. Firstly, a course-search feature, prominently sited on the homepage, invited engagement. Next, a mega-menu granted users an overview of all content. Imagery further elevated key sections like the specialist schools within the college. By creating templates and using beautifully designed blocks, Hookson combined artwork and student life with information and resources.

Guiding Users Via Smooth-as Silk UX

On the pages themselves, a drop-down breadcrumb menu provided context and access to relevant pages and sections. Additionally, a thoughtful information architecture connected pages and guided users to related content. Use of filters further empowered visitors to dig deep, zero-in on information and enjoy a smooth-as-silk UX.

Whilst UX made finding courses a snap, use of video brought the college to life

It was important to communicate what it meant to study at Edinburgh College of Art. So content emphasised student projects. This demonstrated skill and creative thought, but also drew on the personalities of the students themselves.