True innovation is found within spaces that encourage off-the-cuff experimentation and thinking that challenge traditional models. Coastal Jazz & Blues Society, now 30 years strong, hoped to create an online identity that would strike a chord with the history of its community, while still recognizing the progressive nature the genre is built from. Logos that had been presented in the past were specced out with structure and logic. Yet the brand was calling out for spontaneity and fun. We realized quite early on that Coastal Jazz did not simply need someone to capture the brand, but the website had to maintain the essence of jazz and the celebration of improvisation at the same time. We felt a closeness to the jazz genre’s ability to disrupt classical norms and how it is akin to the way startups, and agencies like ours, are disrupting normal business conventions. The creation of Coastal Jazz’s website was the result of a duet between our team and the longstanding relationship of music lovers in Vancouver.
Together, Coastal Jazz’s online presence pulled the weight of the community, paid homage to its roots and altered the scale of visual communication for its audience.
Community Over Company
The importance of public inclusion was the first note in the array of ideas for the Coastal Jazz website. Rather than building a festival website where jazz devotees visit only once a year, the website needed to become a platform where music lovers could connect and engage with each other. By implementing NationBuilder we shaped the Coastal Jazz website into just that, a community platform. We succeeded in centralizing the collective excitement of Coastal Jazz’s over 20,000 enthusiasts into one online focal point. Leveraging the fanfare of the audience meant a bolder, vibrant brand.
With NationBuilder’s CRM-like capabilities, including a payment system, we fused Coastal Jazz’s internal and external communications together. This turned the organization’s website into a strong and fully functional platform that could include volunteer sign-up, donation collection, membership, and integration with social media management among many other things.
Disruption Through Improvisation
When Creative Director, Michael Parks, and UX Designer, Arman Keyvanskhou, brainstormed the mock-ups for the Coastal Jazz website, they realized the classical element of the grid structure was contradictory to what they were attempting to create. Grids allowed information to be presented through hierarchy and framework; jazz embodied everything but those qualities. “Rarely can you break that grid, unless you want to get user’s attention in certain areas,” Arman explained, “Well, we wanted to get the user’s attention.” By designing the layout of the website with a broken grid, this allowed the website to visually speak to both the history of jazz and Coastal Jazz’s active role in fostering its future.
We couldn’t ignore how similar the history of improvisation in jazz was to the disruptive nature of the tech industry. The ability of the jazz genre to remix the traditional practices of classical music in order to create a new style of sound could be compared to startups’ alterations of old capitalistic norms.