Toppling the Hierarchy

Building a Website for Artists and Designers

Curt Kotula ’01, Yianni Mathioudakis ’07, and Tracey Halvorsen ’98

Can a website capture the essence of an institution, the intense spirit of innovation and creativity, its future-forward thinking, and its community of collaborative artists and designers? Could a website convey the power of its mission and the beauty of its vision that make it clear why it is recognized as one of the top art and design colleges in the nation?  

And oh, by the way, could this website also feature an intuitive navigation system and include the essential facts and figures that provide necessary information for its users?

These questions were posed to Fastspot, a nationally recognized interactive agency based in Baltimore — one that was founded by a MICA alum, Tracey Halvorsen ’98, who serves as its president and chief visionary officer, and whose team includes two other MICA alums, Curt Kotula ’01, the firm’s creative director, and Yianni Mathioudakis ’07, director of design.  

"I think an art and design college has to make a different kind of appeal to a different kind of student — generally, we're talking about a more media savvy, visually oriented student,” said Kotula. “But an art and design college website doesn't have any fewer needs in terms of nuts-and-bolts functionality than a conventional higher ed website. So, MICA's site needed to do more and resonate visually with students in very nuanced ways.” 

Fastspot’s deep understanding of the College was a distinct advantage.  Although they graduated many years apart from each other, their separate experiences informed their thinking throughout the site’s construction.  

"In the fine art realm, 'salon,' a generic French term that dates back to the 1700s, refers to filling the walls with everything to give viewers an immersive experience in order to spark better conversation and better art," Halvorsen said. "Similarly, that's what I think a MICA education offers its students: an immersion. In this case, it's an immersion into all aspects of what it means to be a creative person pursuing a creative or arts-oriented education and career.”

Working closely with a team of MICA professional staff that sought input from throughout the campus, Fastspot has built a site that is distinctly different from other higher education websites.  The site is centered around the practices and accomplishments of students, alumni and faculty. Viewers have the ability to explore over 450 examples of art, interviews, and profiles from the site’s salon.  Through a unique navigation system and powerful search tools, viewers can find anything they want or need with great ease and accelerated speed.

The MICA site launches on September 18, 2018, but will be ever-evolving site, aligning with MICA as its momentum continues into the future.