The last time we redesigned our website, it was 2012. We were a company of 15. We worked out of a collection of bedroom-sized offices spread across two unconnected buildings in Dupont Circle. We had three designers and two developers. We were always very, very tired.
How things have changed! We began this year by moving into a sprawling, 17,000 square foot, built-from-scratch headquarters in Shaw. (Our photography studio today is larger than that original office.) We’ll be a team of 80 before the end of the summer. And (most of the time) we get a little more sleep.
The redesign —
When we set out to redesign our website this time, three years later, we had some clear objectives: we wanted to provide a deep, narrative look at our best projects; to make video a centerpiece of our design language; to make this our most performant website yet (challenging given all the video); to showcase our new office; and to make applying for a job really, really simple. Also: we wanted to make something that would make the internet smile.
We were very confident. This was going to be easy!
Three years in Internet time is equivalent to a few decades for the rest of the world. The old istrategylabs.com was a time-capsule — not the good kind — of design and technology that offered very little worth salvaging. But it was more than just dated. Design and technology had evolved, as they always will, but we had changed too. We had grown up a bit. We had gotten bigger. We were better at what we did — and we were doing a lot more, from broadcast commercials to all kinds of connected hardware. What was all of that going to look like?
Over the course of six months, we comp-ed and iterated, dev-ed and refactored. We made a lot of weird left turns. We explored and discarded a dozen workable-but-not-quite-right solutions. We made a million mistakes. We made a comical number of contact pages (sorry, Maggie). Each time, hopefully, carving away a little bit more of the unnecessary. Each revision taking us one step closer to our ultimate goal: to make every decision a purposeful, considered one. To be intentional with all of our design and technology choices. It’s probably not possible to make a perfect thing — but you can make an intentional one.
Part of being intentional was to make just about everything from scratch. We built 11 different case studies — each one designed with custom components that best told the story of that project. This was probably a bad idea. It took a long, long time. But it gave us the opportunity to think critically about how we talk about the things we make — and to make things like a WebGL-powered blueprint of our REDD’s set.
Ultimately, what I hope we made, is a simple frame to hold our best work and highlight the many, many incredible people that make ISL possible. At least, that was our intention.
All of our ambitions would have been moot if not for a tireless, passionate, borderline-obsessive team. Front-end development was led by Eli Fitch with profound contributions from Thomas Degry, especially across case studies. Back-end development was spearheaded by Kyle Jennings. Design was a collaboration between Maggie Gaudaen and me. Individual case studies were designed and dev-ed by two person teams that included almost every member of both teams. Sarah Sugarman and Maggie took our photography. Vinh Le edited our new reel. Dana Fraser, our project manager, kept the ship on course even during stormy weather. Peter Corbett, DJ Saul and Margot Mausner wrote our copy.