Designing the NAGB Website

 
Thierry Lamare,  On the Way to the Farm

Thierry Lamare, On the Way to the Farm

The medium is the message.
— Marshall McLuhan

i. Connection

Globally, much has changed from 2015. See here for the growth of the internet

In 2014, The Bahamas had an estimated 20.17 fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 persons (Trinidad and Tobago had 17.57). Higher per capita than countries like Russia and China, according to World Bank statistics. This was an almost 400% increase in subscriptions from 2013, not including mobile. 

Fixed broadband subscriptions (per 100 people)

Statistically, the population of The Bahamas (~391,135 people) is about a quarter of Trinidad and Tobago's population. The geography of this country spans 700 islands, cays, and islets, with 70% of the population residing in New Providence. 190,000 are subscribed (about half the Bahamian population) on Facebook. 


ii. Art

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) is 14 years young. It is where Bahamian art lives and breathes. Their mission:

The NAGB is committed to engaging the history of Bahamian fine art and visual culture, making creative output accessible to diverse Bahamian audiences and local residents, and to be a showpiece for visitors from abroad to appreciate superior Bahamian fine art. (website)

Compared to Trinidad and Tobago and much of the Caribbean, the general outlook on Bahamian art seems to be a lot more positive. Much I imagine to do with the establishment of the NAGB and emphasis on the arts as a means of national and cultural preservation. 

Bahamian art: Presenting. Uniting. Educating.
— National Art Gallery of The Bahamas

The Bahamian art community is tight—not only amongst the artists, but also the public. In stakeholder interviews with the NAGB staff and artists for the website, several expressed a genuine desire to feel better connected to the Bahamian art community—especially for those who live and travel abroad to study and/or practice. 


iii-A. Website Context

The last NAGB website was made about 10 years ago. Web 2.0 was now making a resurgence with things like Wordpress and its open source movement, which permitted and encouraged user-generated content and interaction (ex. social networks). This earlier NAGB site however, was a Web 1.0 website, where user interaction was mostly for consuming content and restricted. As we write this, Web 3.0 is already becoming parlance, with the talk of the internet of things.

The redesign of the NAGB website was a much needed and practical response to both the vibrant and growing Bahamian art community (locally and abroad); and also the dramatic increase in internet connectivity on the islands, and Caribbean region as a whole.

It aimed to provide the staff at the Gallery with the right tools and technology to (1) help them achieve their personal goals and Gallery mission, (2) to create and drive the conversation around Bahamian art, and (3) to actively engage with their growing network of artists, collectors, and public audience (students, teachers, parents, and visitors) in a more direct, efficient and sustainable way.

iii-B. Website Specifications

The following software and web applications were used to make this website:

  • The NAGB website is built on a responsive web platform called Squarespace. It adapts to mobile.
  • The Gallery's country domain is registered at the College of The Bahamas, with DNS name server hosts with CloudFlare.
  • Custom HTML/CSS in Squarespace was used to fine tune many of the design details (typography, colour palette, animations, user interactions, etc.) of the website with the aid of Chrome's Web Developer Tools
  • Mailchimp was integrated to manage newsletter subscriptions, as well as to add a popup subscription form to the website.
  • Wild Apricot for NAGB membership management.
  • Vector icons were courtesy of Font Awesome.
  • We used Mapbox to host our Nearby Attractions map.
  • Social media (facebook, twitter, vimeo, and instagram) sharing was included to push content.
  • Libib is a third party cataloguing application being considered to manage the library component of the website. 

Internally, Gmail and Skype were used for main communication (stakeholder interviews, team meetings, and training). The design of a revised logo was introduced with the website, and built with the Sketch App. A futura was used for the logotype, as well as the display face for the website. Body text was set in Proxima Nova to improve website readability. The colour palette as well was refreshed to make the NAGB brand more web friendly. It also functioned to bring the main content forward — the artwork, the artists, and the community.

We all learn more—and are more successful—when we share what we know with anyone who wants to listen.
— Jeffrey Zeldman

My decision to share openly about design on my blog is under the precept that the internet is a gift economy that gives agency, to myself and others. It opens a conversation built on this idea of open source which sustains development of the internet and the current knowledge economy. Without it, the internet as we know it today would not exist. Not sharing knowledge would be counter productive. To learn more about gift economies, read this lovely thought piece by Sep Kamvar. This is especially relevant to the Caribbean — a space that lags in development to our neighbours (with disparity within the region as well). 

The ability to empower and provide agency in individuals is an important and modern world view. Those living on the islands are challenged with knowledge gaps and access to resources. The ability to work together more fluidly and share networks of resources, allows us to have ownership and thus representation over our cultures, to articulate stories with more nuance, more authenticity, and truth — to the rest of the world. There's a lot to say about this region, but also how we say it — as McLuhan points out.


 

TEAM:

Holly Bynoe (Project Manager)
Amanda Coulson (Project Manager)
Natalie Willis (Curatorial)
Richardo Barrett (Curatorial)
Corrinne Lampkin (Education)
Abby Smith (Community Outreach)
Darchell Henderson (Membership)
Jackson Petit (Media)
Kriston Chen (Web Designer)

WEBSITE:

nagb.org.bs

iv. Additional Resources

Caribbean Hub (Slack Community)
A super friendly community of web folks in the Caribbean. Topics range from blogging to startups and freelancing.

Caribbean Tech Forum (Slack Community)
A tight group of Caribbean tech enthusiasts (based primarily in Trinidad, Barbados and the diaspora) discussing a lot about design, bitcoin/blockchain, and development. There are also meetups. 

Succession, by Sep Kamvar
A series of vignettes, describing human-scale systems of production that foster autonomy and individuality. He discusses the role of the software engineer in catalysing these systems, as the designer of frameworks that create environments for agency. These frameworks begin an ecological succession towards large-scale gift economies.