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Culture Cloud – Part 10 Receiving and Judging

June 6, 2012 Leave a comment

After setting up the registration site, entries started flooding in instantly. We actually ended up getting a lot more entries than predicted – 906 compared to 200/300!

It could be said that this was due to effective marketing of the project and through our links with 8 art organisations across the UK. These organisations promoted the project throughout their wide reaching networks and displayed our flyers in their venues.

NAE launched an e-flyer campaign from the mailing list and advertised in major art magazines such as Art Monthly, Artshub and visual art websites such as AXIS and Arts Council England. Additional exposure like an article in the Guardian also helped.

The registration process ran very smoothly due to the ease of use of the registration site and the simplification of the process. The terms and conditions really helped clarify the legal side, so that applicants fully understood what they were singing up for and the stages of the whole competition.

With the vast amount of entries received and the limited time frame, we needed to judge the works quickly and efficiently. Our task of processing the works suddenly became a daunting one. But due to the ease of use of Jotform, producing a single excel sheet with all entries on one page, it made it a bit easier. We then used Mail Merge to transfer to works to PDF format for easy viewing and judging.

The process would take a while, so we decided to lock 5 judges in a room for 3 days. The NAE judging team consisted of Skinder Hundal (Chief Executive), Melanie Kidd (Director of Programmes), Armindokht Shooshtari (Executive and Projects Assistant), Shaden Meleas (European Volunteer) and Patrice Puchaux (European Volunteer).

Once the judging was completed and the top 100 art works were selected, we had to process them in one form to get to Artfinder. The timing of this was very tight. This process required us to email the contacts and get additional information from them about the pieces. On reflection, maybe we could’ve added the additional fields into the registration form. I also realised that there was a setting in Jotform that meant any uploaded content could be automatically connected to an ftp and added to a folder. This removed the need to download each image individually and as a result, freed up some time for other tasks including proof-reading. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

The information had to be submitted within a tight deadline. Reasons for this were that when creating the site, Artfinder were also creating an ebook that had to be submitted to Apple for approval. Also we were a small team and the number of entries we had to trawl through to extract the information was a lot more then we predicted.

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud – Part 9 Adding the content

April 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Customer Service

It was going to be a massive task to provide customer support for the whole project. We thought about how we could offer the most amount of information and address the simple inquiries which usually take up a lot of time in customer service. Looking at a lot of major sites today they simply offer a Q&A section and no additional customer support (such as Facebook). We decided that we could still offer an email address for customer service and a Q&A that we could update as more questions arise.

We then had the challenge of how to pick the Questions that will cover the most Questions users have. Armindokht Shoosthtari, Melanie Kidd, and Skinder Hundal went through the list of Questions and Answers we had created. They edited them and made sure that they covered all the questions artists would want to know the answer to.


Then we decided that the whole process needed to be simply lay-out on the FrontPage so people got an idea of the whole project process. We split it into stages and highlighted certain areas of the text with black to attract the eye. We wanted to show off all the partners, funders and organisations involved in the project. The idea came to have a ‘Partner Arts Organisation’ box that would display all the logos in order and make them clickable. We wanted the funders to be in a different section as they are funding this whole project. So we placed the logos in black on the footer of the page (like most websites put their copyright and information on people involved). A few additions to the FrontPage were added such as being able to view the full terms and conditions and a JavaScript Countdown to the end date of registration rather than just the date displayed.

As of any site these days’ social media links are essential and must be displayed in a clear fashion. We used some social media icons and placed them horizontally (seems to be a trend at the moment) and displayed them on the side of the site. I also added a ribbon to the side with ‘Win £2000’ to the site just so it stood out more.

When creating the text I wondered how we can display which menu you are on and keep the site simple. I decided to change the text on the Cloud Logo to say whatever page you are on (Except when on the FrontPage). I think it really helps the site flow and gives it that modern theme.

We also created an about section with had further explanations of the project, a more detailed timeline and links to every single site involved in CULTURE CLOUD.

Registration Section

When creating the registration site we needed to make it simple as possible. The process was very complex with lots of elements and this needed to be displayed very clearly. We started with the textboxes on the registration site displaying the full artist’s agreement the site terms and conditions. I added areas for Name, Address, Email, postcode and where you heard about the project. I added an area for a short description of the submitted works and an upload section. For signing the legal agreement and the terms and conditions I created required checkboxes and a submit button.

After creating this I decided to get the opinion of some Independent Visual Artists. They looked over the site and singed up to register. They fed back some very good points about people not being able to work out what they were signing up for and a lot of the details not being so clear such as percentage cuts for the selling art online and IP issues.

Taking on board these suggestions we presented the registration in a clear way. We then decided to create a Breakdown of the key points of the Artists Agreement and link to full-size Agreement. We also added external links to view the full artist’s agreement in a nicely formatted way. I think these changes really helped the sign up process and make it much simpler for members of the public to grasp the concept.

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud – Part 8 Creating the Website

April 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Before building the registration website I needed to work out what system could be used for the registration process. I did not want to use a CMS (content management system) as I felt the website was too small and it would have required additional work to adapt the site to suit the CMS.

After a bit of research I found a secure form building platform that I could embed into the site. I started testing it using the domain. Once the system had been set up and I was satisfied with the simple form I tried to log on. The site was down and I was pretty confused having paid membership and setting up my form. Strangely it seems that the U.S. Secret Service requested that GoDaddy took the whole .com domain down!  The site had been suspended as part of an ongoing investigation disabling around 2 Million Jotform forms.  Luckily Jotform also owned and my account was accessible via that domain.

After about a month came back online and the U.S secret service refuse to explain the whole situation

I stated off building the basic site with a simple div with a border and some CSS buttons linking to each section with some dummy text. I also added the logos of the funders and partners to the footer of the site.

I wanted to make the site look modern but not over complicated, I had the idea of having one background image with Div layers on top of it full of content.  Working with RARE COMPANY we decided to adapt one of our stock images of the main gallery space at the NAE.

Koo came up with this image that reflected the angles and colours of the CULTURE CLOUD logo. This to me looked like a digital storm crashing into a quiet gallery space. Koo also added these orange spikes at the bottom so that I can could overlay them with buttons.

I started to add divs on top of the background to create areas for content. I created divs and added linking text over the buttons area. I also added social media buttons, partner logos, Java Countdown script and social media links.

The website systems and layout was finalised and tested. Now all that was left was to add the content and tweak the site.

by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud – Part 7 Designing The Cloud

March 18, 2012 Leave a comment

We decided that for CULTURE CLOUD we needed to have a registration process of some kind. The initial thoughts on this were that we could simply have an email address that people post their work to and it gets processed to the art finder site manually.

We thought that this was a bad idea as the user and the admin experience would not be a nice one and would not the project a feel of quality or professionalism.  Artfinder were unable to produce a website for us as they are not site builders. I have had many years of professional coding experience after living with a web designer for 5 years who taught me CSS and HTML5 and a bit of PHP. I spoke with Skinder and offered to create the custom registration site freelance for NAE.

Over the years experience helped me visualise and design how the site would look in my head. It’s always hard to translate an idea from your head to other people who are not so web experienced. I knew we would need 3 elements, graphics, management systems and information; lots of information. I myself not being a graphic designer thought that the way to achieve a modern and branded look was to get a designer with the marketing team to come up with some concepts for the CULTURE CLOUD branding. Initially it was a logo that we wanted. We wanted to take an alternative look at the Cloud, we looked at other clouds like Soundcloud/iCloud/cloudapp


We needed to create a digital look that was different to all of the other cloud ideas. They all seemed to be slight variations to the shape. With the help from our Friend Koo Bhangra at RARE COMPANY we decided to go through the options.

Koo and the CULTURE CLOUD team decided that a few variations on the cloud theme might help us get a clearer picture. Koo thought we could do one in a similar style to the NAE logo like a simple line with a C inside a C to create the logo. We also decided to see if the cloud could be created using different shapes such as circles.

Koo then came up with this outline design and the cloud being made from what looked like icy futuristic sharp shapes. It looks like a cloud from a strange planet or one that could be found floating in the skies of cyberspace. Realising the importance of the logo looking striking we decided that having one tone of colour might seem similar to other web logos.

Injecting some colour into the logo really helped and Koo came up with five bold colour choices. The logo started to take on the feel of something very modern and even in a similar style to lots of Olympics advertising recently. We decided on the orange highlight on the image (I liked the green personally but it might have turned out looking like a lemonade advert).

Typography has always been important. This has not changed with the invention of the internet so getting the correct font and modern feel for the logo and site text was very important. A very popular text font at the moment is Tahoma (facebooks current font) and I decided to use that on a lot of the normal text. Then we had to choose title and heading text; after Koo showed us another five options for fonts we picked Gotham Rounded (option D).


by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud – Part 6 Artfinder meeting

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

The New Art Exchange team took a trip to London to meet the Art Finder (AF) team in person. We had a crack team of four people from the NAE were CEO Skinder Hundal, Vice Chair Sukhy Johal MBE, Pips Bhadere and Me of course Ravi Abbott.

We arrived at the  (AF) office in Holborn and met up with Will Doward and CEO Spencer Hyman . Their office was a room full of young people tapping away at the keyboards and felt a very creative and technological environment to be in. We stated discussions about what we hope each other can achieve and what we can realistically deliver in the timescale.

A lot of the focus was on AF and what elements and technology they can provide as we had not had the chance to go into as much detail previously. AF clearly explained to us what they can and cannot do. This was very useful as we needed to know exactly what was achievable.

We decided that we would aim to make it as simple as possible and use systems already popular online and easy to use such as ‘Facebook Connect’. We talked about milestones to make sure we are all working to the same schedule.

We also discussed how the voting system would work and how we can provide incentives to get an audience and encourage people to get involved.  We talked about which sites, Gallery’s, websites and artists networks we can get involved with.

We discussed contracts and making sure that exactly what can be achieved and the milestones we have. It was a great meeting and cleared a lot of things up from both sides. We came away with a clearer head and vision on how the project will turn out.

by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud -Part 5 Creation

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

So we decided to create some promotional material and created an advert for our 2012 programme for Rashid Rana. I worded it to keep it open and not give away too much asking people to send initial interest or contact to an email addressee we had set up I also created the websites

I put  the same text and images from the programme onto the site. This means we can use these urls for the project in the future.

Whilst this was going on we started working creating business plans and legal documents in preparation with our next meeting with Artfinder and Skinder started contacting partner galleries and spaces.

by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud – Part 4 First Contact

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

The first big meeting was held on 15th November 2011. In attendance from Birmingham City University (BCU) were Dr Paul Long, Dr Nick Webber and Dr Simon Barber.  From NAE we had CEO Skinder Hundal, Ravi Abbott, Islam Muhammad and Laura Rossi. We were also later joined by Will Doward and Priscilla Li (former CEO and NESTA bid partner) via conference call.

Initially we discussed the level of the Researchers input and how they did not want to dictate to us, but draw advice from previous experiences they have been involved with.  They want to work out our sense of what we are thinking, prioritising, what we can learn, how we can use our time effectively.

The research team highlighted that anything we write about and blog, will be under public scrutiny, as this is a publically funded project. In light of this we supplied the researchers with the original ideas, drawings, mind maps and documentation to show how we came up with and developed the idea.

We then talked about people’s intentions and what we could do to drive people to get involved and be active on the site.  Can we use incentives and keep people coming back for multiple reasons?

We arranged a schedule where the researchers would be interviewing us and getting our feedback and getting them involved in projects as soon as possible.

Having set up a Skype call with AF we found technology failed us and we were forced to retreat to the old style of telephone conference call.

Talking to AF we discussed the advantages of the project and what it could bring to each organisation – raising its profile, more traffic and recognition. Getting more into the details of the project, we talked about marketing and placing an advert into our latest programme. Making sure we had a decent amount of artwork on the site when it first opens so people do not instantly lose interest. We then decided to produce a set of milestones alongside the researchers, AF and NAE so that we were all working to the same timescale.

by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud -Part 3 Defining the Idea

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Skinder returned from his journey with a more defined idea of the how the project could work. He had added an extra element after discussion with ArtFinder (AF). This was the idea that people could also sell their physical work at the Media Box when it’s being exhibited. This works well with AF who previously provided services for printing and distributing art works. It would also make Culture Cloud appeal more to the artists, as it provides them with an opportunity to make some money. Skinder added that places like IKEA produce prints of art on a mass scale and it’s usually the same pieces with hardly any input from the art world.

The idea seemed to really be focussed at this point. Skinder started to create the application, sending different drafts to the Culture Cloud team.

Then after not hearing about the project for a while, I suddenly found out we were in the finals and Skinder was having a meeting with NESTA!

The next day I received a call with the words ‘Are you sitting down?’ At that point, I knew we’d got it.

Once we won the bid and it was made public knowledge, we decided to explain the project to the rest of the staff who were not involved in the process. They seemed to like the idea and were really happy about raising the profile of NAE.  We looked at the other bids on the NESTA site and saw some interesting, innovative and impressive ideas.

We decided to expand the Culture Cloud team and bring in the wider NAE team.  We added our new Director of Programmes, Melanie Kidd and our Exhibitions and Programmes Co-ordinator, Roshni Belakavadi.  This was really useful, as we had an initial meeting to explain the idea and get some feedback. After this meeting we realised how complex the idea was and that we needed a business plan. We had a lot of legal technicalities to tackle including royalties, rights, distribution and how to deal with prints etc.

Skinder visited the NESTA office to meet the researchers who were going to bid to work with the successful NESTA projects. Skinder described this to me as a ‘speed dating process’, where each group would talk for 10 minutes to another group of researchers explaining their project. After the researchers placed their bids, NESTA and the Arts and Humanities Research Council picked the appropriate candidates. For Culture Cloud they picked Dr Paul Long, Dr Nick Webber and Dr Simon Barber from Birmingham City University.

by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant