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Create Upstate

Spotting Our Design Community

As the neighborhood’s welcoming committee for 250 designers, handing out touristy “pamphlets” seemed irresponsible. Creating a a pocket guide and mobile-friendly website? A little more our style.

The four of us experience Armory Square on the daily. Even though we joke that we visit the same three or four restaurants for lunch, in reality, there’s not a “spot” we haven’t visited multiple times. Naturally, this awareness informs the recommendations we give studio visitors.

When Create Upstate, a creative conference, was being held just down the street from our studio, we tapped into this collective knowledge to create Spots, an unconventionally tailored travel guide for attendees coming from far and wide.

In This Case Study
  • Chapter One Trust Imparting Hospitality & Expertise
  • Chapter Two Wit Adjusting the Language of Tour Guides
  • Chapter Three Utility Unpacking the Idea of Usefulness
  • Chapter Four Results A Catalyst for Community
01

Trust

Imparting Hospitality & Expertise
Chapter One

A major shortcoming of most local guides: they’re incredibly comprehensive. When conference-going, there’s rarely enough time to pop open your laptop and spend an hour comparing Yelp reviews. Even then, it’s not obvious which reviewers are actually local. It dawned on us that our recommendations might be more than opinions—they might be invaluable for folks in a pinch.

We strongly felt that there was value in curation; if our team wouldn’t recommend you get coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts (we wouldn’t), why include it?

In essence, we staked our reputation on our recommendations. While risky, we were confident in the quality of what Syracuse had to offer.

02

Wit

Adjusting the Language of Tour Guides
Chapter Two

Travel guides have a knack for being dry and void of personality, and as a result, they’re rather uncompelling. We felt confident we could toe the line of witty yet informative.

Although the switch in tone is evident in each brief description, we pushed it further by including a “pro tip” for each spot. It’s truly the essence of the guide: could we sway your decision based solely on a witty one-liner? Challenge accepted.

03

Utility

Unpacking the Idea of Usefulness
Chapter Three

Restaurant recommendations were seemingly the core of our task, though the potential needs of a conference goer are many. Where do we send people to grab coffee? What are the best bars to hit up after being inside all day? Is there anything worth doing or seeing on the weekend for an extended stay?

Usefulness is also quantified by format. We wanted something easy to hold and stash in your conference tote. We also wanted something a bit unique: the typical fold-out map seemed too expected.

We landed on a format familiar to Pantone-collecting designers: multiple cards fastened together by a Chicago screw, a.k.a. a “fan deck”.

If we had one criticism of the printed guide, it was that it wasn’t practical to call a restaurant for a reservation or pop an address in to Google Maps. Hey, it’s paper, what do you expect?

Spots screamed to be represented on the screen. The above utilities accessible from a single tap? Sold. We built a responsive version tailored for narrow screens like smartphones, resulting in a great compliment for the book. The customized WordPress backend makes it easy for us to add, edit, or even feature spots, making for an incredibly viable platform for future updates.

04

Results

A Catalyst for Community
Chapter Four

We’re thrilled with the reception from Create Upstate speakers and attendees, and can’t wait to dive back into Spots at the very next chance. We’re excited about the possibilities it has here in Armory Square and beyond. Our Syracuse-lunch-resource wheels are always spinning…

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