Redesign Recap Vassar Department of Film

Vassar Film Homepage
The new Vassar Department of Film homepage, launched May 7, 2013.

Vassar’s Film Department was long overdue for a redesign, and I was really psyched when the project was assigned to me. Having a film degree myself, I have warm and fuzzy memories from my years on set. Filmmaking is a highly collaborative art form, and students in film school can’t help but create strong bonds as they work on each other’s projects. It was those memories, and that feeling of kinship and collaborative creativity that I wanted to come through in the new Film Department website.

In our initial meetings with the department, other important design considerations came to light. Vassar’s Film program is very diverse. Unlike programs at similar colleges whose curriculums focus primarily on American and European films, students are exposed to a more global perspective of filmmaking. The Film professors, themselves, are from all over the world, so the Department’s multicultural perspective needed to be apparent, too.

Like all departments at Vassar, Film also values an interdisciplinary approach, grounding students in history and theory before offering intensive courses in production. The academic, theoretical approach was another characteristic that needed to be represented in the new site.

It was with all of these ideas in mind that I set out to create a new face for the Film Department.

Taking inspiration from the raw medium itself—film—I created angled color bands alluding to film strips, a black stripe behind the department title, and hard angles throughout, hinting at the sharp cuts of spliced film. Alongside this motif, vibrant, bright colors were interjected, inspired by colors found throughout the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film. Finally, the design balances grittiness resembling film grain with clean-cut, neatly organized content areas. The design is both precise and professional, while exuding an energetic spark of excitement.

The real character of the department comes through, however, in the collage of rotating images on the homepage. The photos are arranged in a dynamic way, keeping with the  movement and energy of the color bands in the background; The images themselves show the full spectrum of what the department offers.

At the bottom of the page, a playful graphic also sums up the experience: students in silhouette direct a scene in front of a dramatically lit Vogelstein.

Responsive layouts
Responsive layouts.

With such a clear understanding of the department’s character, the design came together effortlessly. The tricky part was building the site responsively, working with the unique arrangement of images on the homepage and adapting the layout for multiple screen sizes. It took several breakpoints (nine, actually!) and a lot of trial and error to adjust the site seamlessly throughout the range of device sizes.

I also worked with my colleague, Ray,  to create a hiding search bar, so that precious screen space wasn’t wasted on a search form for users on smaller devices. Instead, the search collapses down to a single button, tucked at the top of the page, that can be tapped to expand the search.

While most of the content on the site was typical for our Vassar academic sites, there were some unique cases that Film presented. Mainly, students in the program complete a thesis project, either writing a dissertation or screenplay, or directing and producing a short film. The Student Work page was added to give equal attention to these projects, allowing visitors to watch completed films and read thesis papers.

The Student Work page
The Student Work page lets visitors watch recent short films and read thesis papers.

Also unique to the Department is Film Festival accolades. Vassar Film actually has a designated staff member that submits films to festivals, and each year several students are official selections and award-winners at prestigious screenings around the world. The Festivals page was added to give recognition to these exceptional achievements.

The Festivals page
A chart of recent film festival acceptances and awards gives recognition to successful student work.

Our Web Design team collaborated closely with the Film Department, and thanks to the organization and effort on their part, and our shared vision for the new site, the partnership was a successful one. The end result is dynamic and fun while staying true to the department’s mission and accurately reflecting its diverse personality. I am happy to have been a part of the project, and very pleased with the end result. Sources tell me, they are too. :)

Check out the new Film site for yourself here.


  1. I really like the Vogelstein graphic you’ve got in the footer. That, and the custom YouTube icon you did for the Student Work pages.

    Excellent job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *