Notable clients: London Symphony Orchestra, Nike, Feilden Clegg Bradley architects
Part of the beauty of digital design is how much easier it can make your life. Take Sennep’s Bus O’Clock, for instance, a live London bus departure app – an invaluable tool that’s saved many a commuter a rainy wait for the 55. It’s these sort of simple tools that when done well, as Sennep’s products are, identify an issue, and solve it with little fuss, but plenty of usability and a splash of playfulness.
Alongside working on one self-initiated project a year, Sennep’s main work is creating websites and apps for clients, and the output always reflects the agency’s ethos of designing “playful and memorable interactive experiences, with a distinctively human touch. The goal was to work with interesting clients and inspiring people that understand the value of good design.”
Christoph Lorenzi, Sennep technical director, says: “The projects that excite us most are usually the ones where we can see a purpose for the user, where we can fix a problem or just make life a little bit easier.”
One project that exemplifies these goals is Sennep’s work for Urban World, a global management consultancy which collects data showing how the world has changed, and predicting how it is likely to in the future. Sennep was asked to visualise this data on the iPad in an engaging, informative way accessible to anyone from school children to company directors.
This resulted in a data display that showed around 50,000 data points for over 2,500 global cities on both a spinning globe and flat map, allowing users to zoom into a location, open a graphic representation of the data and compare it to any other region, country or city that you choose. It was a great way of showing a vast and poetically confusing data set in a simple, yet not patronising way.
A rather different project, but one that also balances complex design solutions with playfulness and grace is Sennep’s website for the London Symphony Orchestra, LSO Play. The site is used to introduce school children to orchestral music, and allows users to interact with an orchestra performance using high-definition concert footage, meaning they can tinker with the different sections of the orchestra through access to six different camera streams.
Christoph sums up Sennep’s approach as “generally clean, considered and crisp”, and it seems awarding panels agree - the agency has won accolades including D&AD, Webby, Design Week, Lovie, and BIMA awards, as well as being featured in the Creative Review Annual.
“We try to always think of the user first and strip out everything unnecessary,” says Christoph. At the same time we like to think there is something about the feel of a Sennep piece of work that is recognisable, be it a playful touch, an executional detail or a level of digital craftsmanship. What we like to do is to evoke an emotional response that has its own value beyond pure functionality. Hopefully this makes our work linger in people’s memories longer.”
To ensure this is achieved, Sennep’s products go through a rigorous testing procedure, which includes giving the app or site to someone with no idea of what it is, to see how navigable and user-friendly it is. Making a product that instantly works and delights, though, is never achieved without a rigorous work ethic.
Christoph says: “Creating great work requires time, skill, knowledge, experience, expertise and a lot of hard work but sometimes I feel there is a tendency to think that websites and apps appear overnight with the press of a big ‘make website’ button. We believe in taking the correct amount of time necessary to consider the details and how they affect the wider experience.”
But all this, of course, is balanced with Sennep’s self-initiated work, which the agency sees as an invaluable way of exploring ideas without the constraints of working for a client. “Working on these projects provides a great sense of ownership and the energy they bring keeps us fresh and inspired,”says Christoph. “We see these projects as a ‘win-win’ as they provide a platform for innovation and learning, and ultimately enhance and inform our client work.”
“A lot of the time we work on solving practical problems that are tied to usability, functionality or business objectives but that doesn’t mean the result should be dry or formulaic,” he adds. “Digital art and experiments can be fun, addictive or just plain bizarre and are often created in an environment free from practical constraints.”