Southwings

2011 - 2012

WEB DESIGN
WEB DEVELOPMENT
BRANDING

SouthWings partners with conservation groups, community groups, media, and decision-makers to provide a unique perspective to better understand and solve pressing environmental issues in the US Southeast. An extensive cadre of volunteer pilots act as guides, educators, and entertainers for these distinguished guests, and the Southwings organization relentlessly matches guest needs with place-based issues and pilots in the right places at the right times.








In 2011-12 I was tasked with reimagining Southwings’ web presence to attract and serve the needs of three distinct user groups: guests, pilots, and funders. I chose to create a custom Wordpress child-theme built on a premium theme that included the boilerplate features we wanted, and was responsible for providing key staff with CMS training at hand-off. We told the Southwings story via a series of slides on the landing page, pinned clear calls-to-action for each user group to the bottom of the screen, and included a consistent ajax-powered experience for card/detail views of featured pilots, partners, and news.
Tools: Wordpress, HTML, PHP, CSS, JS, JQuery, Illustrator, Photoshop








Positioning and initial wireframes:


High fidelity mockups:










In addition to designing and developing a new responsive CMS-based website from the ground up, I crafted a new logo and visual brand language.

Though Southwings’ existing logo was showing its signs of age, it had a good story and quite a bit of love invested into it. I worked closely with their team to understand what factors led people to resonate with this existing brand and then craft a modernized and web-friendly update that continued the legacy. 
Tools: Illustrator, Hand sketching








I initially abstracted the existing logo into two overlapping ellipses and then built up a round of swift and swallow-inspired options based on those. Although I was enthusiastic about several of the directions, I learned a valuable lesson on this project. After several rounds of iterations, the Southwings team wound up choosing to go with a logomark direction that I had initially presented for the sake of breadth, but wasn’t all that fond of. Despite hours of tweaking, poking, and prodding, I just couldn’t quite balance thick and thin, linear and curve, positive and negative. The proportions were just ... off.

As an experiment I went back to one of the birds I initially looked to for inspiration on this, the chimney swift, and did a few form studies that more closely mimic its silhouette:









While these forms brought more thin and gracious forms onto the scene, there were a few fatal flaws: I wasn't a huge fan of the clover/flower shape that was formed in the negative space, the swift forms looked kind of like a circle of people joining hands from above (although the metaphor is kind of nice, it seemed a little too "Kumbaya"), and the organic nature of the lines – especially around the head – were distracting. SouthWings' clarified mission and goal of partnering with business and political big-wigs continually brought me back to the need for a similarly clarified and confident logo built from simple, geometric forms.

Taking all these factors into account, I translated these symbolic swift studies into abstract geometry, just as I’d done initially with the original logo. The result checked off all the boxes on Southwings’ end and my own, and eventually became the final logomark:













DESIGN FOR LIFE
ETHAN FRANCIS SMITH        LEFT COAST, USA

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