This past week, we had the honor of working with the Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy, to design a new website. I can’t even begin to explain how nervous I was when I learned about this next project. I went home that night absolutely tense with fear of failure. After all, everyone knows who Lucille Ball was – one of my mother’s favorite comedians (secondly only to the late great Richard Dawson). And millions of people, from all of the world will visit this site.

After hours spent researching Lucille Ball, reviewing the countless number of photos I would eventually use in the site – I was determined to design a vehicle that would not compete with the character ‘Lucy’ but one that would take a back seat to this larger than life comedian.

I found a similar color scheme in several photographs from that era that I would use throughout the site. I learned about Lucy’s love of polka dots and decided to use the polka dots in such a way that paid tribute without being predictable. And I would attempt to use the endless amount of black and white images to tell her story.

With my design refined and ready, I turned to building the case. I would rationalize the color palette with color psychology data, my fonts we’re carefully chosen for their readability on the web and their ‘friendly’ and ‘casual’ persona, and I punctuated my design with user-interface heat maps and scanning habits.

Despite all that – being a designer often means catering to a specific audience. Serving tofu at a convention of cattle farmers is not going to go over well – no matter how water tight your argument is for doing so. However, it’s important that we understand who the customer is and what they expect. After all, our job is to increase the perceived value of your brand.

In the case of Lucille Ball – the brand is established, even entrenched into the lexicon of American culture. Bold polka dots, deep purples contrasting fiery reds are visual components that Lucille Ball’s audience expect. It’s symbolic of her presence – and now her new website.

Knowing who our audience is – can be the toughest challenge for many clients. We often project our own personal opinions, values and beliefs – and are most often completely wrong. But in the case of Lucille Ball – once we understood that, we were able to nail down some of our best design to date. It’s the best kind of design – the kind that reaches our audience and is the most effective.

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