With its millennial pink, trendy teal, moving typography and striking layout, the website for Amsterdam’s Frans Hals Museum feels startlingly different to similar institutions’ platforms. Siting history within a place of humour and playfulness, the platform was designed by – perhaps unsurprisingly – a studio that mostly specialises in e-commerce, working with brands like Adidas, Ace & Tate and Schipol Amsterdam airport.
That studio, Build in Amsterdam, was commissioned by the museum and KesselsKramer, which designed the museum’s identity, to create a platform that reflects the duality of the contemporary and classic in Frans Hal, which showcases a collection of 17th-century art from Haarlem (“the birthplace of Dutch painting from the Golden Age”) alongside its collection of art from the 20th and 21st centuries.
KesselsKramer’s concept was based around this marriage of old and new, combining two images into a single frame often with surreal, and rather funny results. This concept was taken as the site’s main theme, which uses the branding created by KesselsKramer throughout. The site manages to merge clarity with quirkiness, prioritising large headlines and animations and creating a visual language and user experience that looks to appeal to older audiences as much as art-literate crowds, students, children and tourists.
“The museum reached out to us as they knew that they wanted a different approach,” says Build in Amsterdam Creative Director Daan Klaver. “KesselsKramer had created this cool identity and concept that we could work with, so we were very enthusiastic about it from the start.” He adds, “We also needed to start to target a younger audience. Most museums attract a lot of older people and we wanted to attract both sides.”
“They gave us so much freedom. They were an awesome client as they just wanted something completely new – they knew it was still important to convince people to go to the museum and to do that, you have to make them enthusiastic and convince them in a new and fresh way. With the site, we tried to challenge everything and make sure it’s also a lot of fun to browse through.”
A ‘discover’ section offers some fun and surprising ways to browse the museum’s collection: users can explore artworks by mood, colour, medium or artist or select ‘random’ to be served with a randomly generated collection of pieces. Within the random function, there are tabs for specific themes such as ‘food’, ‘nudes’ and ‘animals’.
A navigation bar on the homepage allows visitors to find important information – such as the museum’s location, opening times and events going on each day – without having to click through to the ‘visit us’ pages. The homepage also promotes the museum’s Instagram page, bringing in recent photographs from its Feed.
Much of the project for Build in Amsterdam was about translating the graphic approach of the branding – and the physical experience of the museum itself – into the digital realm. As well as the inherent focus on the duality of the organisation, this played out through developing a new set of icons for the website, which mirror the signage within the museum. The agency also created a digital ‘toolset’ for the museum to give detailed explanations of their art pieces online.
Klaver sees his agency’s background in e-commerce as a boon for the project. “A museum is about selling tickets – in the end, everything is commerce – so that combined with our creative approach to the project really helped create something that was new and different for the museum.”
However, the studio was keen not to go too far on the wacky or commerce side. “The menu structure is actually pretty normal,” says Klaver. “It animates a bit differently but we didn’t choose a hamburger menu or anything – it’s actually pretty traditional within the more crazy experience.”
Build in Amsterdam has created digital experiences for a diverse range of brands – from Amsterdam bookstore Mendo to outdoor clothing brand Open Wear and underwear retailer A-dam – but with each project, Klaver says it aims to balance playful touches with a functional design, ensuring that fun doesn’t come at the expense of being able to easily browse and buy products (or in the case of the Frans Hals Museum, to browse artworks and see what’s on at a glance).
“We use our learnings from e-commerce but try to create brand experiences to make something unique and make sure there’s relevant calls to action along the way in certain sections pointing to things like more information or how to buy a ticket,” he says.
“But within that, we always want to make sure people can find their route through to where they want to go. Even if it’s an unusual website, you still have to make sure people can find their way.”