Buckle up! We’re diving into the world of travel website design

West Coast Tasmania: www.westcoasttas.com.au

Tourist boards aren’t often known for their thoughtful designs or eye-catching aesthetics, and it’s easy to end up with a product that feels glitzy yet soulless; sun-kissed landscapes and smiling faces that are ultimately lost in the sea of other tourism websites that offer pretty much the same thing. West Coast Tasmania, however, truly breaks the mould in this regard. When you land on its website, the first thing you’re presented with is a near-full screen video montage of some of the most beautiful views around Tasmania’s rugged west coast, framed by an enticing red and yellow border which sets the tone for the overall colour palette. It feels rich and characterful and nothing like what you were expecting.

Designed by New Zealander studio Sons & Co., and branded by Australian agency For The People, the West Coast Tasmania aesthetic strikes a great balance between the contemporary and the retro. “The illustrations are reminiscent of bygone travel souvenirs, like sew-on rucksack patches and suitcase stickers,” says Sons & Co. founders Matthew Arnold and Timothy Kelleher. “Meanwhile, the large-scale typography references business signs commonly seen throughout the region during the early European settlement and late 19th century mining boom; and the photography is dark and moody, defying the stereotype of sunny, smiling tourism imagery.”

Speaking on the inspiration behind these design choices, Matthew and Timothy explain that they were heavily informed by the unique history and location of the region. “The west coast is a World Heritage Area with significant natural and cultural value. It’s beautiful, but it can be hard. It’s a long way from anywhere, the landscape is intimidating and the weather harsh.” However, embracing these aspects of the area transformed them into selling points, rather than things to be avoided. They go on: “By not shying from the ‘negatives’ – isolation, darkness, untamed, unforgiving and inhospitable – an unconventional beauty is revealed, which appeals to – and provokes – people who have a determination to take the path less trodden, to see what it feels like to stand on the very edge of the world.”

These characteristics are tangible throughout the website, which is honest about the reality of life in the west coast. It’s also upfront about the region’s confronting modern history, which includes “European settlement, convict times, mining, and subsequent environmental controversy”. Some tourist boards would avoid spotlighting these less glamorous elements, but here they are made a part of the region’s imperfect story – which is in turn a part of the local population’s story, and it’s very clear that the locals are a major feature of the branding. In fact, during the making of the design, it was decided that the system would be open source, allowing local businesses to create their own branding using the various typefaces and graphics. Matthew and Timothy say this is their favourite feature of the site: “There’s a tool to help anyone make their own west coast-style logo, which is fun. It’s a sort of open source brand, free to use and adapt.”

Matthew and Timothy’s top tip:

In some ways it’s easy to make an attractive, usable website because these designs already exist in abundance, and it’s not too difficult to be original, as anything goes. But the trick is to make things that linger in the mind.

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