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London Design Biennale

The London Design Biennale is an exhibition of design-led innovation from across the globe. They came to ON to increase the discoverability of the exhibition and refine the content management system for administrators and exhibitors.

The Biennale is attended by participants from around the world, including members of the design community, international cultural and business figures, and a design-interested public. Its location at Somerset House, a creative hub in central London, with proximity to the Courtauld Institute of Art and King’s College, attracts creative industry professionals and students alike.

After the success of our work on the London Design Festival, we were commissioned to work on the Biennale, which is closely linked as its sister event. In the 18 years since their first festival, LDF has become a cultural hub for designers, international cultural and business leaders, government bodies, and a design-interested public to get together and shape the future of design. They’ve come a long way since their first festival, with 1.1 million visitors to date.

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The brief

The London Design Biennale wanted a sophisticated website that reflected the high-quality of the exhibition’s output with an effective UX for visitors and exhibitors.

The Biennale’s previous website was visually static and difficult for users to navigate. It required re-imagining to marry their twin goals of showcasing contemporary art whilst working as a functioning ticketing and event organisation platform.

The client team wanted to improve user experience on a range of devices, and provide a flexible CMS for content editors. This included the creation of a dedicated exhibitor dashboard to simplify interaction and information sharing between exhibitors.

To show the exhibition’s dedication to contemporary art, the website needed to make use of outstanding imagery and video. The website also needed to promote its editorial content, and archival material that would encourage users to visit the exhibition.

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Flexibility throughout the year

The new website needed to align with the exhibition's opening and closing. We built in flexibility that supports the different phases of the Biennale calendar.

The purpose of the website changes before, during and after festival week, requiring content and functionality to adapt accordingly. Furthermore, the website needed to maintain its relevance during the off-season by housing content that reflected the Biennale’s continued work in design beyond the festival itself.

Our modular approach allowed the website to transform throughout the year. We delivered a flexible CMS that enables content to be added accordingly in different phases of the project, and archival material to be added over time. Our dedicated dashboard for partners supports effortless content upload, reducing errors and increasing security.

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Streamlining navigation

We created an integrated tagging system that increases discoverability of content and improves navigation towards booking a ticket.

The previous website was overly cluttered, making it difficult for users to find the information they were looking for. As well as simplifying the visual design, we streamlined the navigation, creating a system of tags that visitors can employ to move between different online pavilions. These tags allow visitors to explore submissions from different countries and exhibitors and move forwards effortlessly to booking tickets.

A part of the Biennale team’s vision for the new platform was to display a timeline of the output from the exhibition. Our tagging system allowed us to create a neatly ordered archive of all of the exhibition submissions from different countries and organisations.

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A portal for applications

We created a user-friendly portal that allows prospective exhibitors to easily apply to the Biennale and help administrators manage the flow of inbound information.

In the running up to each event, the Biennale is inundated with applications to exhibit. They therefore needed a solution that helped them manage the inflow of information, reducing the effort required in organising each exhibition. From the exhibitor side, the platform needed to provide a user-friendly way of adding information in a standardised manner that reduced errors.

We created a dedicated portal that exhibitors use to create their own individual pavilion with tailored information for different categories of entry. Within this portal, exhibitors can upload their photos, forms, and content in specific fields, allowing administrators to sort through the information with ease. The portal also reduces effort for regular contributors, as their pavilion is saved as a permanent portal for future exhibitions.

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2021 campaign

2022 campaign

2023 campaign

“With simplicity at its core, the site’s overall user experience is driven by the content, while giving a stage to the bold identity.

In a year with collaboration as its theme, it was fitting that the site was an international partnership between myself, ON, Pentagram, and the Biennale team. Truly a dream project.”

Visual richness to match the Biennale’s excellence in design 

The Biennale needed a confident, rich visual experience: we created a dynamic design system to support future evolution of brand expression.

Our partners Pentagram and Fred Flade provided the initial designs for the website that we then brought to life.

A particularly striking visual is featured on the home page, which uses animation to present an interactive view of Somerset House created by Pentagram. As the user navigates through each country, a different image appears, summarising the country’s offering.

Every other year, the home page will adopt a new identity in accordance with the Biennale’s brand identity, representing brand evolution with each cycle. Our flexible approach to CMS allows modifications in visual appearance to be made to the platform with minimal effort by the client team.

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The result

‍We are proud to have created a new digital experience for the London Design Biennale that celebrates contemporary art and provides a robust foundation as their new online home.

Our dedication to strong user experience means that the new website is easier to navigate for visitors and exhibitors, as well as simplifying the organisation of each exhibition for the Biennale team.

“The partnership with ON was successful because it challenged us to take strategic design decisions that would not only improve the visitor experience but also directly influence the Biennale's business.

The project centred not only on our practical needs, but also how our team would operate the website, removing unnecessary friction and future-proofing it for the next edition.”

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London Design Festival

London Design Festival is an annual event that brings together the London design community. They came to ON to bring clarity to their digital experience for visitors, and to make content management more sophisticated for their internal editors and partners.

London Design Festival (LDF) celebrates and promotes a range of design disciplines, bringing the London design community to life. It attracts local and international audiences to over 300 events and installations every September.

In the 18 years since their first festival, LDF has become a cultural hub for designers, international cultural and business leaders, government bodies, and a design-interested public to get together and shape the future of design. They’ve come a long way since their first festival, with 1.1 million visitors to date.

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