Art asks,“What could happen if there were no walls? If the lines between the imagined and the existing, the comfortable and the unexpected, the creator and the audience disappeared?”
Art asks, and The Sheldon boldly answers, “Connections would happen. Between everyone.”
So begins the glorious birth of a creative microcosm of sound, color, light, movement and art. Or in simpler terms, a new brand and website. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The original Sheldon—built as the home of the Ethical Society of St. Louis—was constructed in 1912 and designed by renowned World’s Fair architect Louis C. Spiering. In the mid-1980s, an attorney purchased The Sheldon just in time to save it from demolition after the Ethical Society moved out, and it became a concert venue. The building’s shining selling point has always been its brilliant concert hall acoustics, or as Tony Bennett has called them, “the best acoustics in the world.”
By the early 2000s, The Sheldon added educational programming to its repertoire, exposing local students to music and art experiences that are unique in our community. The Sheldon also grew their footprint by converting the parking garage next door into The Sheldon Art Galleries and increased event spaces. These additions created a unique juxtaposition of historical and modern within The Sheldon.
Since its construction over a century ago, The Sheldon has housed great thinkers, creators, artists and leaders—all of whom contributed to its evolution into the premier arts destination in the St. Louis area and beyond.
Over the course of a relationship spanning more than 20 years, we have partnered with The Sheldon to create event collateral, fundraising support, program branding, concert promotional material and more.
Our team has directly impacted the evolution of The Sheldon’s brand, watching it grow from a destination concert hall to a world-class hub for curated music and visual art experiences from all over the world. However, through all of The Sheldon’s exciting growth and evolution, it became clear to our team that the organization would benefit from a new brand identity that gives appropriate weight to its increased value in our community.
(Although, we’ve been together for so long that the logo and website we updated was our own work.)
Our first challenge was to succinctly articulate The Sheldon’s value in a way that celebrates their unique, varied offerings.
After a thorough discovery process, we created a toolkit of brand elements to guide all that would follow. An all-encompassing brand story, brand pillars, key messages and a redefined tone culminated in the creation of a tagline that wouldn’t limit our clients’ potential: Arts Without Borders.
We knew we needed a visual territory that embraces The Sheldon’s rich history and promising future while inspiring new audiences and loyal patrons alike. In its simplest form, The Sheldon is a space that transforms—both itself and the people who step inside. The new logo showcases viewpoints of a cube, representing how audiences are given the opportunity to participate in countless unique experiences and challenge their own perspective at The Sheldon. This logo—much like the beautiful spaces within The Sheldon—makes “arts lover” an accessible role to all.
After establishing The Sheldon’s new visual identity, we transitioned into website design, where our interactive and development teams collaborated to execute a site that solves many of the past site’s usability issues. Created in the early 2000s, the old Sheldon site proved adequate and efficient, but we knew their new site needed to execute complex functionality with friendly, intuitive design.
Cutting-edge design, a best-in-class event calendar, clear user pathways and compelling content transport the user into the world of Arts Without Borders, where the line between audience and artist blurs into oblivion.
To allow for flexibility, the site offers a robust set of design components, some repurposed from page-to-page while others are completely unique. This balance gives the site visual rhythm and consistency sprinkled with surprise-and-delight design elements like the 3D logo on the homepage, the About page hero and the Venue Rental scroll layer stack.
Color and typography were carefully curated to deliver functionality without sacrificing brand aesthetic, bringing the new Sheldon brand to life while meeting ADA and proper usability standards. When analyzed by a third-party UX tool, the seamless website experience earned an outstanding accessibility score (92/100), ensuring Arts Without Borders is truly open to anyone who wishes to experience it.
With a wide variety of programming to promote, the new calendar on the site helps visitors better navigate scheduled events while allowing The Sheldon staff to more easily create new events. We also developed user personas during the branding phase that helped define key pathways and related content suggestions throughout the site, helping visitors seamlessly navigate the content most relevant to them. Additionally, all of the fragmented, outdated content on The Sheldon site was reevaluated and sorted to create a clear hierarchy in which every piece of current and future content would have a proper navigational home.
In the final stages of site development, we worked closely with The Sheldon to time the launch of their new brand and website. The May 2020 website launch aligned with the onsale date of The Sheldon’s 2020-2021 Season Series Subscriptions, optimizing their potential to increase new subscriptions. Over 2,000 unique visitors flocked to the new site in its first week, and several other arts organizations reached out to applaud The Sheldon for their successful pandemic glow up. In the month following, thousands more visited the site, totaling over 5,000 unique page views for The Sheldon.
To experience the magic of Arts Without Borders for yourself, visit thesheldon.org.