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    Case Study No. 1


    Enjoy the Outdoors

    Creative Direction
    Product Design

    For the last four years, Emerson Stone has helped the OpenSnow team—Joel Gratz, Andrew Murray and Sam Collentine—with branding, creative direction and digital product design. Joel approached Emerson Stone in the Spring of 2016 with a new product idea that moves away from the snow and powder forecasts into something built for backpackers and hikers. The need OpenSummit was immediately evident for hikers and backpackers to limit the risks in the backcountry and enjoy more time outdoors. The initial launch of OpenSummit focused on a mobile-first strategy to gain early user support on the devices users were likely to have in the backcountry. 

    Emerson Stone began with the product design of OpenSummit, working to understand the use-cases and using the functionality to shape the brand aesthetic. After realizing that the OpenSummit app felt like an evolution of a backcountry guide, with information about the mountains along with the weather patterns, the app was organized into different groups of educational content. The organization was split between two primary categories. There was the evergreen content, with information and how-tos for the backcountry, and then the dated content, with up-to-date models of weather patterns and lightning risks. 

    Colorado 14er hiking app information architecture and site map

    The designers at Emerson Stone created a full information architecture of the application including all of the screens for the initial launch and subsequent versions. The primary focus of the research was to ensure that users never hit a dead end with content, and were always given a “next step” to learn more. While the information architecture was originally created for native mobile apps, it could transition seamlessly to other interfaces including mobile and desktop web. 

    The brand and the user-interface for the application was created in tandem—constantly testing the brand colors, type and illustrations within the app to ensure the functionality matched the intended creative direction. A style reminiscent of the 1930s Public Works Administration (PWA) posters for the National Parks was created in the illustrations to be used across marketing and application design. Outside of giving users an experience unique for a mobile app, the brand could also feel at home on a printed poster, mailed postcard, or displayed advertisement. 

    Colorado 14er hiking app illustration and sketch

    This WPA style continued into the actual identity and wordmark. The wordmark was based on a customized version of Moriston, a grotesque typeface by Riley Cran, that fits perfectly with the traditional National Park aesthetic. The mark was drawn to look like a hiker’s patch that evokes the feeling of the outdoors even on an iPhone screen. There are both full-color and knockout versions of the identity that are used throughout the marketing and application design.

    Colorado 14er hiking app brand logo design
    Colorado 14er hiking app logo mark and app button design

    The illustrations tell the story of a hiker experiencing the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains, including: researching the area, mapping the hike, setting up a basecamp, hiking the mountain, and returning home victorious. The full story was meant to be more of an easter egg for observant users rather than a focus of using the app.

    Colorado 14er hiking app illustrations

    Incorporating the creative direction, illustrations and brand into the app’s UI resulted in a simplified typographic hierarchy and straightforward approach to interactive elements. This was critically important for displaying important information like “chance of lightning” or “peak temperatsure” that users needed to fully understand before setting out on their own adventure. The simplified user interface also allowed the illustrations and brand to be the memorable aspects of the application.

    Given the agnostic approach towards interface elements across Android and iOS devices for the last couple of years, a style that would feel native for both devices was established early on. For groups of hikers with different phones, the application needed to have similar functions and navigations so everyone can be included on important decisions. 

    Colorado 14er hiking app user interface design
    Colorado 14er hiking app user interface design


    The brand, illustrations and marketing collateral were incorporated throughout OpenSummit’s launch and appear throughout the application. The information architecture, functional requirements and user interface were delivered to OpenSummit’s developers in order to start work on the native mobile apps that are now live in the App Store. Unique images were created for sharing across different social media platforms that were immediately used by both OpenSummit and fans of the application. 

    Emerson Stone also worked closely with OpenSummit’s developers through the whole process to ensure a well-tested mobile app at launch. Individual animations and interactive elements were created by Emerson Stone during the development phase to explain unique transitions and application states. 

    Colorado 14er hiking app design display at app store


    The initial launch in Fall 2016 was met with positive reviews and sentiment across the web, with many users noticing and promoting the unique brand. The app currently sits with a 4.5/5 on the iTunes App Store across all versions. While the functionality of the app is at the core of the positive reviews across the web, the branding created an immediate connection for new users.

    The next version of OpenSummit will have even more functionality for hikers, backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts building on top of the strong foundation set up by the brand and application design. Stay tuned for news about OpenSummit and the 2017 launch. iOS users should head over to the iTunes App Store and download today.