Q&A with Isabel Hartnett, winner of The Digital Hub Award at Kaleidoscope 2022 for ‘Fast Fashion Unadorned’.

Kaleidoscope is the end-of-year show for graduates of Creative Digital Media at TU Dublin’s Blanchardstown campus.

Since 2018 The Digital Hub Award recognises one outstanding final year project and this year’s winner which we recently announced is Isabel Hartnett for ‘Fast Fashion Unadorned’, a project that highlights the consequences of fast fashion industry practices. Isabel Hartnett describes Fast Fashion Unadorned as a story and a parable – one that reveals the truth of the disastrous consequences of the practices of the fast fashion industry and puts the consumer at the heart of this story.

Describe your design project?

I chose to highlight the non-sustainable and exploitative practices of the fast fashion industry and the nature of consumerism. As part of this project, I created an illustrative storytelling parallax website. This website is designed to be used as an educational tool to inform users about the real world implications of the fast fashion industry. It is designed to appeal to a chosen demographic (teens & pre-teens, 10-15) and promote sustainability.

Telling stories has always been an innate part of human behaviour to pass on vital knowledge and guide the next generation. A good story can capture the imagination and let it soar into limitless realms. I designed and illustrated a website that enlightens and informs my audience. The design and concept are adapted across social media, a modern means of storytelling for this demographic, to engage with the young consumer of fast fashion. The consumer becomes the protagonist in my story. After all, the best stories are the ones where we can identify ourselves with the characters. The goal is to change consumer habits and encourage a more sustainable approach to fashion.

Why did you choose fast fashion as the topic for your final year project?

Sustainability is important to me, and I also have a love of fashion. The fashion industry is making attempts to address the issue of sustainability which has become a hot topic. I wanted to address the nature of consumerism and my initial research produced some alarming statistics that showed that the current trajectory of our seemingly insatiable appetite for fast fashion is alarmingly increasing CO2 emissions, producing high levels of water waste, shockingly poor working conditions for garment workers, high volume of water pollution and the ever increasing mass of textiles being deposited into landfill every minute.

Background photo of the Fast Fashion website, with the text Let's tell a story.

Describe how you went about designing the website?

Initially, I took a deep dive into the topic, an important stage for any project. After deciding to create a parallax website, I did more research into design trends i.e., what web design styles and techniques were commonly used when it came to a parallax website design. Next, I created mood boards in Adobe Illustrator and presented different ideas and concepts to my project supervisor. It was important to ensure the website was consistent with the branding while appealing to the target demographic.

I created a storyboard by hand and used this to bring my ideas regarding the story content, illustrations, and navigation together. I continued the process by creating wireframes to visually demonstrate the infrastructure of the website. Visual hierarchy was key as the information needed to be clearly conveyed to the user. I had a plan in mind when it came to the visual story illustrations. I would create the story elements as scenes to appear one after another like a story. I decided to put the text in a curved edged box while using colours from the colour scheme I proposed. From this I worked on low fidelity mock-ups and high-fidelity mock-ups after receiving feedback from my supervisors and/or peers through various surveys, feedback sessions and workshops (online). The wireframes and mock-ups were created using ‘Figma’. Once this stage was complete, I began putting together the structure and layout of the website in ’Wix’. Throughout this process the design did change slightly as there was some restrictions when using ‘Wix’. The branding, colour schemes and logo etc., were applied to the website and I experimented with different versions of these designs at numerous stages of the website development.

When it came to the home page of the website, I wanted to add an engaging and functional feature which wasn’t already part of the initial web design plan. This was the creation of the animation feature for the three circular images/graphics that are used to represent the stories as well as the text being displayed next to it. I created the graphics for these in a more simplistic style that still fits in with the overall design aesthetic of the website. I sketched out different graphic images and ideas first to get the creative juices flowing. Once, I settled on a design, I brought it into Adobe Illustrator and began to perfect it. The design for these particular graphics had to work with some sort of animation feature that I would implement later. I wanted the animation not to just be an engaging element to the website but to also have a purpose in relation to both the design and text being displayed. An example of this would be for the circular dress surrounded by flowers. The idea for this is to represent ‘circularity’ and the concept of the circular economy. Each of the three graphics were brought separately into Adobe Photoshop and cut up onto different layers. After this, I exported the Photoshop files into Adobe After Effects and begun the simple animation process.

What media did you use to design the project?

I used ‘Adobe Illustrator’ for the illustrations, graphic design elements, and branding. I added animated features using ‘Adobe After Effects’ for the on the graphic elements on the home page of the website. As for the website design, I used ‘Figma’ for the wireframes and low fidelity & high-fidelity mock-ups. The website itself was created using ‘Wix’. ‘Pinterest’ was used as inspirations points to create mood boards in ‘Adobe Illustrator’. ‘Adobe Colours’ was used to help choose the colour scheme of the website and to ensure a cohesive brand design. I used ‘Miro’ to keep a record of the entire project process from start to finish. This showcased the idea generation, research, literature reviews, benchmarking, mood boards, sketches, inspiration points, development of illustrations (character design, story scenes, graphics etc), web design process, the prototype, storyboards and much more.

You did all the illustrations yourself — Describe how you went about designing the logo and branding?

When it came to the logo and branding of my project, I wanted to create something that would be eye-catching both on a website as well as on social media. First, I researched different logo ideas online using platforms like ‘Pinterest’ and ‘Instagram’. I created mood-boards based on inspiration points.

I then sketched my original ideas and concepts for a logo design. By the end, I had pages upon pages of sketches and concepts. I presented some sketches for feedback and began the process of producing digital forms in ‘Adobe Illustrator’. I created nine different logo concepts and iterations digitally based on my sketches. Some concepts were based on the idea of a clothing tag, brand stamp, emblem, crest, or clothes hanger, combined with some elements that represented nature. I presented these designs for feedback before creating my final designs. I wanted to capture a logo that has elements that represents nature and one that represents fashion and bringing the two harmoniously together. I experimented with different fonts and chose the font styles that complemented the branding. I adapted and modified the logo slightly for the social media account.

What has been the response to your project?

The response to my project has been overwhelmingly positive as I’ve been told that I created something informative and engaging about a topical and important issue. During the ‘Kaleidoscope’ show at TUD, I spoke with many different people from the creative industries, and the overall response was very positive. Many people knew about the topic just from scrolling on social media or seeing some high-street brands promoting their sustainable fashion lines, but they agreed that my project was well designed and informative. They were intrigued by my creative approach to promoting the topic.

In your opinion what is the most important part of website design?

There are many things that go into what makes a good website design. In my opinion the number one thing would be ‘user experience’. This was my ‘holy grail’ throughout the project. A good ‘user experience’ should cover anything from how well the user can navigate the product, how easy it is to use to how relevant the content displayed, for it to be successful.

What’s the most important thing in designing a logo for a brand?

I believe that a logo should be able to express the message, values, and vision a brand represents. The design of the logo should be unique and memorable, achieved by having a core concept with a simple message. You want to think about what feeling this will evoke in the audience. The use of colour is very important as colour can evoke certain emotions and can be used to express the brands personality. A good logo is distinctive, practical, appropriate but still easily conveys the identity of the brand. A logo should be flexible and able to simply adapt to work on multiple platforms and devices.

You can view Isabel’s project and samples of some of her work at https://isabelhartnett.wixsite.com/portfoliosite or Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/isabel-hartnett-0902a4194/

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