Design vs. Design

By Cory Kibler, Contributing Writer

26402 Arbor Day FoundationThere are two types of design involved in the fruition of a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.

The first is the architectural design. Behind every life-changing outdoor classroom is a designer (or group of designers) who’ve poured their heart, soul, and expertise into a new design that’s perfect for each site. They travel to large cities and rural towns to work with all kinds of people with all kinds of needs.

The second is graphic/web design. For the most part, outdoor-classroom advocates see the natural side of the Nature Explore program, rather than behind-the-scenes work. But it does exist, and it’s vital to our organization.

For example, every time someone visits our site to place an order, register for a workshop, certify (or recertify) their classroom, or request a Resource Guide, our website needs to work perfectly for them. Our web/design team is always improving the way we do things—the perfect website is a moving target—but we are always striving to make it a pleasant, informed experience.

The two disciplines are as similar as they are different (how’s that for a paradox?). Both have the same ultimate goal: Create the best possible experience for the end-user. In the case of the classroom designers, it’s children, teachers, and parents. In the case of the graphic/web designers, it’s anyone who visits our website.

On the other hand, the way people experience each is totally different. When an outdoor classroom is constructed, it immediately becomes “open-source.” That is, people immediately begin shaping the design of the classroom to their needs by planting flowers, moving stumps, implementing their own messy materials, etc.

Meanwhile, the website is an interactive experience, but visitors can’t change the way the site works for them; they have to rely on us to make sure we’re providing what they need. We do our best to design our website with our users’ best interest in mind, but sometimes, we have to do some serious digging to find out who our users are. In truth, they range from people who’ve been working with us for years to people who searched “Natural Playground Equipment” on a whim. And it’s our goal to serve both of these users (and everyone in between).


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