The Internet is a complex, interlocking city. User-experience designers serve as urban planners, putting in place the systems that guide us through the space. Web designers are the architects, giving shape to the products we interact with. And then, of course, there are the citizens. These individuals give each product a distinctive personality. By virtue of the content they create, view, and share, it’s the citizens of the web who have ultimate control over the online experience.
Given that the Internet is the world’s largest city, in order to realize the full potential of a digital strategy, it’s critical to think in terms of placemaking. In urban design, placemaking is the process of designing spaces not purely for utility, but with a people-first approach. By first understanding the needs of the people who will use the space, designers can create places that both foster community and promote individual well-being.
As marketers, we must also adopt a holistic, people-first approach, considering both the platform our creative lives on, and the individuals who will see, interact with, and share what we publish.
Let’s for a moment consider the citizens of a physical city. New York City, long monikered “the melting pot,” is a prime example of why individuals are integral to how a city is experienced.
New York is famous for places like Chinatown, a neighborhood where the signage is dominated by Chinese characters and street vendors sell exotic fruits that the average tourist can’t name. While Chinatown is an iconic example, every New York neighborhood shares this motif. Walk a few blocks in New York and you’ll find yourself in a new neighborhood that differs radically from the one that came before it.
Each neighborhood is defined by the people who make it their own. What would the Lower East Side be without the outlandishly dressed artists, or Williamsburg without the bearded Bernie bros? It’s the people who dictate the culture and rhythm of a neighborhood. It follows that the web, where we are increasingly spending the bulk of our time, mirrors this same pattern.
When staring into the pale blue glow of a screen, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the Internet is a space designed by people, for people. Far from being one seamless, homogenous center where we gobble information like whales passing through a swarm of plankton, the web is an amorphous ecosystem full of complexity and personal interaction.
Atomization is a recognition and celebration of that heterogeneity.
Atomization is two-fold. First, it recognizes there is no such thing as a “one-platform-fits-all” approach when it comes to creating content. A long form editorial piece won’t mesh well with the GIF-loving audience on Tumblr, just like a GIF-heavy listicle isn’t the right fit for the New York Times.
On the other side of the coin, Atomization is about how marketers can tailor their message to reach both these audiences. A narrative can be remixed into many different forms, and it can – and should – be shaped to fit each platform.
In this issue of Unfiltered, we put Atomization into action by creating content that supports one overarching message, but is tailored for many different platforms and audiences. The message we chose is scent.
We chose scent because, like Atomization, it operates on both a micro and macro-level. A scent is made up of individual molecules that our nose absorbs and our brain defines. But on a macro-level, it’s also a shared experience, one that helps define and brand objects, people and places.
In this issue, scent was atomized into a podcast, an infographic, a reported article, a Snapchat story, and an Instagram photo essay. At the end of each piece, you’ll find an author annotation that delves further into the process of Atomization, illuminating why the format was chosen, and why the platform is integral to distilling the message.
We hope you enjoy absorbing this issue as much as we enjoyed dispersing it.
Smell you later,
The Unfiltered Team
Top image shot by Chris New, Director of Multimedia, art direction by Joelle McKenna, Visual Designer, doodle bomb by Frances Matos, Visual Designer, animation by Cindy Suen, Animator.