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Redesigned MICA Website Breaks New Ground

A new online presence for one of the nation's top schools of art and design

Posted 03.06.09 by MICA Media Relations

BALTIMORE--The launch of a new MICA website on Sunday, March 8, 2009, is the culmination of a three-year effort to create a unique college Web environment developed specifically to meet the needs of one of the nation's top colleges of art and design. To achieve an ambitious vision for its online environment, MICA selected three internationally renowned firms to execute the site: information and interaction design are by Adaptive Path, a San Francisco-based firm whose clients include Flickr, PBS, Greenpeace, and Microsoft; visual design is by Happy Cog, a firm founded by Jeffrey Zeldman with studios in New York and Philadelphia, recognized as an international leader in Web standards-based design; the content management system is by Ingeniux.

Rather than opting for a site that emphasizes a flashy visual experience to highlight MICA's national leadership in visual art and design, MICA has developed an institutional website whose focus is on the needs of the user: simplifying and streamlining content access, enhancing interactivity, and creating opportunities to engage the College's diverse constituencies and build community.

The impetus for the new site's user-focused approach came from a two-year planning process by the College's Web Steering Committee, whose members represent every major audience group (prospective and current students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, friends, and the international art, design, and higher education communities). That process yielded a Web Vision/Mission statement that has guided the entire redesign process by setting three key goals: communicate the College's mission, vision, and future directions to the larger world; provide a place where the College can interact with all of its constituencies with the same professionalism and service orientation they've come to expect from MICA's real-world operations; provide a place where members of the MICA community can connect with one another and remain connected to the College.

To meet these ambitious, potentially competing goals, the new site includes a number of innovative features:

- Integrates "internal" and "external" web functions. Through a "single log-in," students, faculty, and staff can access through www.mica.edu content that was previously hidden on a separate internal "portal" website, including transactional and business processes (viewing grades and transcripts, registering for classes, accessing budgets, institutional databases, and purchasing).

- Better reflects what's happening at MICA now. A site-wide news database allows news items to be published on nearly every page; content partners across the College can "curate" their departmental websites using department-specific news.

- Emphasizes the importance of art-making and sharing art in the MICA community. A site-wide "browse art" database makes student, faculty, and alumni artwork available on every page, through curated galleries (including a rotating gallery on the homepage) and the main menu.

- Provides short-cuts to essential content for key users. User-focused "MyMICA" pages pull together timely news and other content from throughout the website of special interest to parents, alumni, employers, students, faculty, and staff.

The new website launched on March 8 replaces an award-winning 2001 site design by MICA alumnus Peter Quinn at Baltimore's Carton Donofrio Interactive. This is the third complete website redesign since MICA launched its first public website in 1994. Its visual design incorporates the Pentagram-designed logo/branding system unveiled in April 2007.

Over the coming year, MICA will add even more features to the new website. Enhancements to the site will be driven by ongoing testing with users, but already in the works are:

- An interface that will allow all MICA students, faculty, and staff to submit news items directly to the news database for publication on the website (spring 2009).

- A newsletter tool that will allow content partners throughout MICA to generate e-mailed newsletters built from news items on the website (spring 2009).

- More complete integration of "portal" functionality within www.mica.edu (spring 2009).

- An enhanced Events and Exhibitions page (spring/summer 2009).

- Social networking functionality that will allow students, faculty, and staff to connect with one another within the Browse Art environment, building portfolios and galleries for view and comment by logged-in users (fall 2009).

- RSS feeds, the ability to subscribe to a range of e-publications (fall 2009).

Please let us know what you think. Share your comments, questions, and observations about the redesigned www.mica.edu.

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.