Digital space

Digital Space, Sense of Place

By Katie Jennings

Category Content & Brand Strategy

Date Published October 13, 2017

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While we work with a wide array of institutions and organizations, they nearly all have one thing in common: they're looking to bring their physical space into the digital world.

Fastspot is fortunate to work with colleges and universities, museums, non-profit organizations, hospitals, and more. With list of clients this diverse, you might think it would be hard to find a common thread, but in fact, there are a few things that nearly every client has in common. Chief among them: the drive to achieve a sense of place.

Many of our clients and prospective clients are organizations that are tied to a physical space -- a campus, a historic building, a city, a garden. Building a connection with website visitors means giving them a sense of what it’s like to interact with this location, big or small. Using images, videos, and other creative elements, a website is uniquely positioned to make that connection, even for those who may never actually make a physical visit. Here are some of my favorite Fastspot examples.

Chicago Architecture Foundation

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The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) is an organization dedicated to inspiring members and visitors to think about why design matters. CAF offers tours and educational opportunities, all of which must be supported by the website. But it also needs to be evocative of the city itself, whether connecting digital visitors to the potential physical experience or allowing them to glimpse the city’s architecture from afar. The site that Fastspot designed for CAF includes a buildings database, with buildings searchable by style, architect, and neighborhood. It's easy to use, and the images are stunning. If you can’t wander around the Loop, this database helps you get pretty close.

George Washington's Mount Vernon

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The historic mansion at Mount Vernon is familiar to anyone with an interest in the first president’s life. Fewer people realize the extent of the grounds and gardens that surround Washington’s home. We worked with the team at George Washington's Mount Vernon to create a website that invites virtual exploration of the estate. Visitors can explore the grounds and see what's happening on any given day. I particularly like the plant finder, which allows me to search by plant type and find the locations and seasons. I’ve actually never visited Mount Vernon, but I’ve spent a good bit of time in the garden.

University of San Francisco

University of San Francisco

I was lucky enough to visit the University of San Francisco when Fastspot was being considered for the redesign project a few years ago. The campus is right in the heart of the city, and I was really struck by the beauty of the place, and the energy of being in an iconic city and on a vibrant campus. Capturing that feeling is one of the challenges that we tackled in the redesign. In the resulting website, the city isn’t represented in one place, it’s in every place. In the photography, the information architecture, the features, and the content, the symbiosis between city and university is constantly reinforced, and the energy and opportunities are almost palpable. If that’s not a draw for prospective students, I don’t know what would be.

DePauw School of Music

DePauw School of Music

If you’ve spent any time in a school of music, you know that you’re surrounded by the art, audibly, at all times. You can always hear someone practicing or performing, and there’s a feeling that the next show is just around the corner. For the DePauw School of Music, there couldn’t be a website redesign without music. It just wouldn’t make sense. The resulting School of Music website, with video and audio featured on the homepage, shares the constantly moving, constantly musical feeling that one might get from being a part of this community itself.

We’re often asked how we make sure that each website is unique. The answer, in many cases, is that each place is unique. The websites that give an authentic sense of place will always stand apart.