Aug'14

STEMScouts.org Goes Live


by STEM Scouts



By Trent Nichols and April McMillan

It’s here! We’re so excited to announce that STEMScouts.org is up and running. A lot of hard work went into the site, so we sat down with Principal and Creative Director Joseph Nother and Content Developer Susan Hamilton at Designsensory to learn more.

What are the first steps in designing a website like this?
JN: We always start by trying to understand what the user needs to know, to see and read to be able to make a decision. Then we think about the goals of the brand and try to match the two.

Our process always involves research, but with this website we conducted focus groups and asked participants what they wanted out of STEM Scouts, what barriers they may have, what appealed to them. As we created blueprints for the site, we showed them to the focus groups for feedback.

What was interesting about this website was starting from scratch. Sometimes, a client wants to rebrand a site with a fresh look. Other times, the brand has been around for a while, people recognize it, so we have that to work with. We had a great opportunity to create the brand and the website at the same time. STEM Scouts had no history so we started with a blank slate, which made it a more interesting challenge.

How did you choose the colors and pictures?
JN: It goes back to branding. Before the website, we created the brand strategy and visual identity and chose the colors. The color palette is fun, but they’re also colors found in nature. We looked at a lot of photos from the scientific community for inspiration. Trying to incorporate all aspects of STEM education was certainly a challenge.

SH: What is really cool about the logo is that the basis is the XY axis that you see in math; the upper left quadrant looks like a planet, the lower right like the sun. There’s math, geometry and nature in it. Every time I look at it I see something different.

How did you make the video on the homepage?
JN: We shot video over a few weeks with the PopFizz crew. We staged the scenes based on real lab experiences. We shot at Pellissippi State Community College, at the University of Tennessee, and at Clayton-Bradley Academy. They were all very gracious and great to work with.

Then we spent about two weeks in post-production. Our own Matt Honkonen, who happens to be the project’s account manager, wrote the music. Harrison Vincent, a former Designsensory intern, did the animation, which really makes it come alive.

SH: I think that speaks to how important people think this program is. It was a collaborative community effort. All of these entities really stepped up to support it.

What are some of the fun features of the site?
JN: I don’t want people to be distracted by bells and whistles; I want them to read the content, to see that STEM Scouts can be very beneficial to their child. I hope it communicates how wonderful the program is.

SH: The thing that I like best is the curriculum pages, with big, iconic images—big in size and in what they represent. They speak to the importance of what children are learning, but are personal enough to appeal to them. And I love the icons.

JN: Yes, the iconography is phenomenal. We tried to give it a trendy but slightly retro feel, inspired by the U.S.’s heyday in space exploration, in the 1970s and ’80s. We want it to be fun—to be sure STEM is seen as fun—because it is. That’s the main thing I hope people realize: how wonderfully fun STEM can be.

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