Photo Finish Records is an indie label with bands such as 3OH!3, New Medicine and The Downtown Fiction. We were so impressed with its hip and funky 3D design that we asked Edith Levin of Edith Levin LLC, a freelance designer for Atlantic Records, to walk us through how she came up with the design, and offer up some of her own design tips.
Photo Finish Records' design has the hallmarks of the standard Ning Network (three column with a header), but has a totally custom look. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind it?
The label asked us to design a clean and simple site. One that’s easy to navigate and well organized. Originally, the idea was to break the site into very clear sections, giving each segment a defined header, making it simple for a visitor to navigate. The main header was made to be very prominent in displaying the label logo. I helped create organization by making the kind of atmosphere where a viewer would have the illusion of dimension, using simple shapes that appear to be based on a single vantage point.The header needed to be the main block that appeared most prominent and catching to the eye. The sections became smaller individual blocks below creating a frame for the main content, which happens to be the only information appearing on the "background level.” With that header in place, it only felt natural then to create a less dominate footer, providing a defined end. The color scheme came together through trial and error, after which I decided on the shade of yellow that became the front panel of the sections.The side panel created depth and the shaded bottom panel gave the section the appearance of a block. It was very important for this to stay consistent, creating a hierarchy that a visitor can follow without much thought. Using the original concept, and my additions, we were able to create something that was simple, unique and true to the Photo Finish Records brand.
As a designer, what is the process you take when scoping out a new project. What are the first steps?
As a designer for Atlantic Records, I find myself doing a lot of investigating before approaching a project, whether it be a small web banner or a larger web skin. Atlantic Records deals many artists and bands, therefore it's always good to research the existing identity of these artists. I tend to search for images and blogs and sites for a while to get a general feel for the design direction that's out there already, as well as what sort of audience I am dealing with. I usually then begin sandboxing in Photoshop with the assets that are given to me (logos, publicity photos, album artwork, and sometimes provided copy), all the while thinking about making something that stays true to the identity without appearing regurgitated. Some designers like to sketch things out on paper to create various versions of compositions, I personally prefer to roughly “sketch” layouts in Photoshop and save them as different versions.
Lots of people who are creating and designing Ning Networks aren't professionals. What advice would you give to newcomers to web design?
Since I still consider myself a beginner (having started at Atlantic Records just a year ago as a design intern and later becoming an addition to the team), I find it difficult to speak on the behalf of professionals. I do have enough experience under my belt to give some basic advice to aspiring web designers.Most important is to keep things consistent. When you are dealing with the web it's extremely important to create consistency throughout the page, since you are usually challenged with organizing large amounts of information and copy. For example, always make sure that links and buttons (that have similar purposes, i.e. buy buttons) appear with the same treatment, to give off a simple signal to the viewer: when you see this, expect this.Second, create hierarchy. Always keep in mind what the main purpose of the site (or banner) will be. Keep the most important information, which is often the merchandise or other money generating links, above the "fold line" (usually 600px-700px high, the point at which you need to begin scrolling down the page).When it comes to the actual design, remember that you are an artist and treat the web space as you would a canvas — this is the most valuable lesson I learned from a fellow Atlantic designer — Amy Stein. Don't be afraid to explore the space and do something original. Even with strict platforms and wireframes, it is possible to create something intriguing and different. I think the Photo Finish Ning Network proves exactly that.