Designing a home for community and serendipitous discovery
The wonderful folks at the On Being Project came to us with kind hearts, a growing team, and a huge archive of work. Our challenge was to redesign a digital home that reflected their radio show past and empowered them for their expanding future. Within their old site’s search queries, we found phrases like “does life have meaning?” “mother,” and “divorce.” With such important content on hand, we asked ourselves: can we build an interface to wisdom?
A deep commitment to humanity runs through the veins of the On Being team and wove its way through our project together. We pitched the work through an in-person workshop in Minneapolis, visited their team often for on-the-ground collaboration, and tested the work with their community throughout the project.
What resulted is a new editorial strategy, an evolution of their brand expression, and a new digital home. On Being is the host, curating the experience and making all feel welcome. The home is spacious and comfortable. Every person and idea is treated with dignity. Warmth and care radiate. The community keeps coming back because they feel (in On Being’s words) nourished, accompanied, and emboldened.
Curating thoughtful collections
On Being is so much more than a radio show. It’s a conversation and a public life initiative. Over the past 20 years they have produced a breadth of work, including essays, events, multiple podcasts, poetry, and more. Together we developed two new frameworks for curating their content: Libraries and Starting Points. One starting point, “New to On Being? Start Here.” welcomes new users with an ever-present front door to some of their best work.
Starting points are infrequently and thoughtfully curated collections of audio, essays, and poetry, packaged with a custom illustration, like “For the Exhausted and Overwhelmed.”
Libraries are larger, programmatically gathered collections, grouped by themes like “Judaism” and “Aging”
A shift in storytelling
While we rebuilt the foundational pieces of their website, the On Being team asked us to reevaluate their editorial and blog strategy as a whole. Our recommendations led them to shift away from commissioning time-consuming blog posts and focus on repackaging their work while engaging in two-way conversations on social, particularly Instagram.
Providing hospitality via generous wayfinding
We aimed to provide multiple pathways to On Being's thousands of episodes and posts, serving both casual browsers and directed seekers. A powerful Solr search, fine-tuned with On Being editor's deep historical knowledge, empowers you to quickly find a particular line from a transcript. Carefully crafted recirculation helps you discover things you weren't looking for. A persistent audio player allows you to keep roaming the halls while listening to an episode uninterrupted.
Built with editors in mind
A focus on future flexibility guided our project. In the past, On Being’s editors spent hundreds of hours sourcing images for every episode. The updated site relies on typography, optional imagery, and illustration to make publishing more sustainable. A module-based page builder tool empowers their team with a flexible and expandable editing experience, preparing On Being for whatever great challenge of humanity they tackle next.