How do you coherently present a lot of content online? Five designers of archive sites explain

Random Studio: archive.cpcompany.com

Creating an archive for a brand with as much clout as C.P. Company is no mean feat. But Random Studio has produced a site that tackles the challenge with ease. From a simple loading page that flicks through archival imagery to a handy filtration system and myriad easter eggs thrown in too, it’s a joy to dig into. The key reference when it came to creating the site, Random Studio tells us, was a “video from 1995 in which Massimo Osti walks the viewer through [C.P. Company’s] internal archive which documents the garments and its many experiments.” Inspired by this BTS glimpse into the archive and how Osti himself uses it, the studio wanted to “open up this experience to the public. Drawing from the video, our focus for the visual language of the site was to make it look and feel as though users are browsing around an internal database.”
Random Studio’s top tip:
A mammoth project (it also included creating a physical exhibition mirroring the online experience), Random says that it would advise others undertaking similar tasks to focus on the curation and documentation of the archive. “C.P. Company has such an incredible amount of garments, experiments, visual content etc. More than we could have ever planned for,” the studio explains. So you have to think about the future: “an archive is ever-changing and can exist in many different forms. It’s a living organism that will continue to grow as C.P. will use the site as its personal and public archive, adding items in the future.
Design
-wise, Random kept things simple so that the focus is on the garments: “their details, materiality, data and relation to the other artefacts.” When you transition from one page to another is when the site breaks that minimalism somewhat, featuring a sort of splash screen that Random explains was an attempt to “visualise the analogue process of documenting garments and focusing on the textiles by drawing attention to their materiality and making it tactile.” While aiming for a site that looked great was important, ultimately it needed to function and be a “powerful, tactile tool” so users can “browse, filter, arrange and preview the content in multiple ways – for example being able to navigate based on colour or look at a specific garment on a white or black background.”

  1. Understand what story there is to tell and how you want to tell it. The design is always second to the story and the content. In this case, the artefacts are the main focus and everything else follows.