When Adobe approached Alfalfa Studio about constructing a website using Adobe Muse exclusively, the branding and graphic design firm jumped at the opportunity. Although Alfalfa is well-versed in the art of website design, Muse would allow them to work using intuitive templates and without the limitations of code.
The result is a stunning love letter to the studio’s favorite city, NYC, called New York Is My Muse. Dubbed a “virtual tour” of influential designers’ “city secrets,” the site features graphic design greats like Gail Anderson, Manuel Miranda, Karin Fong and more. I caught up with Alfalfa’s Guillaume Boucher and Gabriela Mirensky, and they gave me the details on what it was like to work with Muse, the difficulties of being your own client and how they felt about their NYC website design. Here’s what they had to say:
How did you come up with the idea for New York Is My Muse?
Gabriela Mirensky: We’re very excited about it. We are all lovers of New York, even though no one on the team is originally from here. We thought, ‘Why not use this opportunity to do something New York-based? If we contact designers that are well-known but local, they can give us a personal view of their New York.’ We figured we could use that for the Muse site. We contacted about 40 people and heard back from about 30. We had 16 designers that answered most of our survey questions—there were many questions—so phase one features 16 designers.
What was it like to use Muse for the site when you were so used to coding?
Mirensky: The charge from Adobe was to build the site using Muse almost exclusively. We wanted it to be really attractive to designers, eye-catching and interesting. We didn’t want it to just be pretty; we wanted it to put content into it, too. This was the perfect opportunity to include information that is not widely available. Muse allowed for that. We worked with Adobe to develop and enhance some of the features. It was a great process of discovery concerning what could be used, and Adobe was helpful with expanding the features and functionalities. The parallax effect was really easy to use with the software, and it was well-integrated with Muse.
Boucher: Muse is perfect for someone who doesn’t code. It works like Illustrator and Photoshop, and you can import images. That is really helpful for someone who doesn’t know anything about code. I know how to develop websites, but it’s a great tool for print designers to approach web design.
Did you encounter any hiccups or issues when attempting to build such a complex site?
Mirensky: We had to go back to the drawing board a couple of times to find ways to display the information effectively in a way that Muse would allow. We thought about the relationships between the pieces of information. When we build a regular site, we start by doing a site map. With Muse, that part is really easy. It is the best feature. You can change things, and it is simple to do. Even though we always think a lot about information organization, with Muse, somehow we could think about it in a more visual way. We could immediately see it and change it.
Another challenge was that there were so many people involved. We had to collect the information, clean it up and put it together. There were answers that overlapped, and we had to figure out how to express that so you could immediately see that there were several people who talked about a certain place but also make it clear that they were individual people. It was very challenging to say the least, but we were amazed at the answers and how personal they were.
How did you feel about the results?
Mirensky: I think the result is great. The small group of people we shared it with though it was really engaging and not your usual ‘You want to know New York? Here is a tour.’ This is more personal and design-focused. We’ll see the verdict when it launches to the general public (Editor’s Note: The site is up and running. Take a look and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.) The people we have shown the site to are really enthused, including some of the designers we showed.
The process made us think about how you deal with yourself as a client while at the same time being commissioned to do something. ‘You can do whatever you want’ is basically the hardest creative brief ever. New York Is My Muse is a good balance of what we were able to do and what we wanted to do. We were excited. It was a good result for everyone.
Want to learn more about making your own site using Adobe Muse? Alfalfa Studio’s Guillaume Boucher and Gabriela Mirensky will be a part of the HOW Design Cast with Adobe on September 17. Tune in to learn more or check out the various Adobe workshops available from HOW Design University.