15 Artists, 15 Visions of Speed: Art of Speed

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Once again, Nike turned to interactive agency R/GA to be the architects of its latest online initiative, Art of Speed @Nikelab.com. The R/GA crew, highly decorated at the awards fests for its work on Nike's various websites, created the web housing for the project-an online film festival featuring 15 talents from the underground art scene, including Friends with You, Justin Harder, Saiman Chow and Han Lee, who bring offbeat filmic interpretations to the idea of speed. R/GA created the festival's "theater," a component of Nikelab.com, the part of Nike's web network dedicated to the brand's latest innovations and known for its tie-in to underground artists.

"The overall objective from the Nike standpoint when they first briefed us was to create the most innovative online film festival ever," explains R/GA art director Jerome Austria. A websurfer arrives at the showcase by various entry points, including Nike.com, a link featured on separate promotional tie-in with the Gawker.com blog or through web banners that R/GA created featuring mini trailers of the individual artists' films. All lead to Nikelab.com, where the spaceship-inspired design presents three doors, the third of which leads to the Art of Speed.

The site itself resembles a stark museum gallery, where the visitor upon arrival becomes surrounded by a constellation of shifting movie screens, each of which display a film or the series' trailer, featuring a futuristic "world of speed" that R/GA developed in collaboration with Tronic, another of the filmfest participants. The site unfolds with elegant, yet immersive simplicity, and a click on any of the screens brings it to fore to show a film. "We had specific objectives, one of which was to have the films be the hero, but at the same time, when you're viewing a film the experience can be as important as a great film itself," says Austria. "Often when we come up with design directions, we try to look at experiences similar offline and online. We looked at the way people view films and rather than modeling this on just the regular theater experience, we modeled it after the idea of a planetarium, where the experience is all around you."

Austria notes that one of R/GA's biggest challenges was accommodating the global nature of the site. "When you're creating the visual design direction, the tricky part is how do you make this universal," Austria explains. "How do you make this accessible and not culturally biased in any one direction?" The team's response was inspired by two quotes, the first, "Less is more," from Mies van der Rohe. "That's a very minimalist philosophy, and the screens are very minimal, with just the videos and the titles. We also took a second quote from Philippe Starck, who said 'Less and more.' For the more part, we took the interface and put it in 3-D, and in motion. This goes back to the planetarium idea. We're not just using technology for technology's sake. We moved toward a more visual and less copy-intensive direction because in some ways visuals can be more universal than the spoken or written word. In the trailer, we do use copy, but notice the way it's presented. Typically films with multiple languages have subtitles-'sub' as in not as important, or a secondary way of looking at it. But in our trailer we use the copy as a design element in six different languages, all on the same hierarchy. In that way we speak to the global nature of the Art of Speed, as well as the global nature of the films' artists, who work all around the world."

In addition to the housing, online trailer and promotion banners, R/GA also produced an Art of Speed DVD, featuring an enhanced version of the web experience.

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