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2015 – A year in review

Categories: Our work

All I want for Christmas is

All we want for Christmas, in work-related terms, is for 2016 to be not dissimilar to 2015.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have added some fantastic new clients to our portfolio this year – from as far north as Aberdeenshire right down to West Sussex on the south coast – as well as continuing to work with lots of old friends.

Our 2015 started with a bright and colourful splash – the launch of an all-new vintage-inspired fashion brand and website for Lee & Lawrie, as well as an incredibly well-received re-brand, season campaign style and new website for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

CBSO branding, print design and website

In the spring we welcomed a new member of the team – Josh (Ainsworth). Which means we now have two Joshes – The Joshi? Both of whom also have surnames beginning with ‘A’. And both of whom are developers. Meaning no little confusion in the office at times. Hmmm. We’ve plumped for Josh 1 and Josh 2 for the time being as Backend-Josh and Frontend-Josh just didn’t sound quite right …

In the summer we worked on some ace projects – including websites for Stratford Circus arts centre in East London, author and knitting designer extraordinaire Sarah Hazell, and architects Sjölander da Cruz.

Stratford Circus, Sarah Hazell and Sjölander Da Cruz

James and I also found time to attend the Arts Marketing Association’s annual conference which was held in Brum; I wrote a series of blog posts about some of the talks, including a fairly popular one about 'sweary spaces and loyal fans'.

One of our biggest achievements this year was launching three complex and very different websites within a matter of days of each other – Chichester Festival Theatre, Sound (Scotland’s festival of new music) and Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Chichester Festival Theatre, sound and Birmingham Royal Ballet

It just shows what a small team can get done … though, for the sake of our nerves/sanity, we’re unlikely to repeat this time-defying feat anytime soon.

Early autumn saw us kick-off a new website project with our most scenically-located client – Longborough Festival Opera; a boutique country house opera with stunning views of the glorious Cotswolds. (And their productions are nothing to sniff at either.)

Their all-new Spektrix-integrated website will be launching soon, but in the meantime here’s a sneaky peek:

Longborough Festival Opera website sneaky peek

As if all that excitement wasn’t enough, in mid-November Josh (1) and his wife welcomed a new baby daughter. Awww, a Supercool baby!

So, what’s in store for Supercool in 2016?

Amongst other things … a refreshed website for our friends Guthrie & Ghani, the second stage of our work with Chichester Festival Theatre, and brand new websites for one of the UK’s finest concert halls and a national ballet company.

It looks like 2016 will be another busy year, so here’s to a relaxing festive break!

Warmest winter wishes, and all the best for 2016 – from Supercool.

Plug it in

Categories: Learning things, Our work, Useful/interesting

We're always interested in making things better through design, and as technology develops we're increasingly able to improve functional – as well as visual – design 'under the hood' of the websites we build.

A great user experience for admins as well as website visitors? In the web parlance of old; EPIC WIN!!11!!.

Many of these improvements are made possible by judicious use of plugins.

What's that now?

Avoiding too much techy jargon, a plugin is a bit of code that gets added (plugged-in) to an existing software application to help it do more.

Plugins come in all shapes and sizes – some tweak an existing feature to make it work in a slightly different way; others are incredibly involved and drastically extend the capabilities of an application.

As an example of the latter; an off-the-shelf content management system (CMS) won't necessarily come with an integrated shop, so if a website needs to sell something, that functionality needs to be added – in the form of a plugin. (It's either that or build a shop from scratch, which will have a fairly drastic impact on cost and timescales.)

In essence, plugins add specific features to an existing application.

Why we use plugins

Our favoured CMS, Craft – a beautiful, simple, lightweight system – has a good deal of built-in functionality, but sometimes we need it to do more or do something a little differently.

So, we tailor Craft to each project by adding certain plugins – giving the system the precise features to meet a project's needs without it getting weighed-down with superfluous functionality.

I guess the mantra's "Start simple and add only what's needed."

We sometime use plugins made by third parties but when there's nothing out there that does the specific thing we need, that's not a problem; that's when we build it ourselves.

Plugins we've made

Pimp My Matrix
Keeps a complex and long list of design functions neat and easy-to-use.

Button Box
A set of field types for colours, text size, star-ratings, customisable buttons …



Table Maker
Our most recent release is Table Maker which allows website administrators to define their own table columns; something Craft's in-built table function doesn't (yet) do.

This plugin was developed so one of our clients can easily and flexibly create tables of wildly differing datasets, without needing umpteen table templates to choose from – pretty fundamental for a governmental finance organisation.

TL;DR
We build Craft plugins which are freely available for other developers to use – plugins.supercooldesign.co.uk

This post was co-authored by Josh.

Red all about it

Categories: Our work, Useful/interesting

If you've been anywhere near Birmingham city centre recently, you can't fail to have noticed the abundance of – very red – promotional bits and pieces we've designed for International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014.

It really does appear that IDFB's painted the town red – handy really, as one part of the festival is a participatory strand cunningly named Paint The Town Red.

We also did the promo for the previous IDFB in 2012, but this year is a whole new kettle of fish (red snapper?), what with IDFB being the 'signature festival' of the city council's new Festivals Birmingham initiative. There're posters, flags, banners, planter boards, scrolls, bus 'supersides', digital screens, airport toblerones, phone boxes …

I've been out and about taking photos of various ads, as well as being sent pics by other folks – here are a few of 'em:

Photos of various bits of IDFB outdoor promotion – flag, poster, banner, bus, train, phonebox

Keep an eye out for all the other stuff – and have a browse of the festival website to find out what's on: idfb.co.uk/whats-on

(IDFB 2014 runs from today until 25 May.)