10th January 2024

Creating the KOTAverse to celebrate 10 years of KOTA

by James

Introduction.

Welcome to a milestone moment in our journey – a decade in the making, yet it feels just like yesterday when I was sat in the sunlit corner of a cafe, scribbling name ideas for a new design agency as if it were my first born child.

Fast forward 10 years, and here we are with an amazing team of 15 super talented individuals who consistently produce amazing work for our ever-expanding client base.

In 2023 we decided to celebrate this milestone with an updated website (coming very soon) and also something standalone, where we could share our history and who we are today.

Collaboration

As we wanted the project to be a collaborative effort, we got the design team together (Matt, Margo, Nicola and myself) to start brainstorming ideas.

The requirements were :

  • Standalone microsite
  • Includes our history
  • Shows where we are now
  • Highly interactive
  • Uses cutting-edge web tech
  • Big and bold design

Nicola, our talented Digital Designer, had the first light bulb moment – “We’ve gotta call it the KOTAverse right?!”

BINGO! …The KOTAverse was officially born. Now onto the design.

Designing the timeline

Visualising what the KOTAverse could look like was our next challenge. We embraced the spacey, futuristic vibe that the name brings to mind, and in our research phase, stumbled upon a couple of incredibly cool things.

Firstly the Blob Mixer, an interactive WebGL componant. As we’ve already got a soft spot for blended gradients as part of the KOTA brand, we thought this would be perfect as the blob’s material. It looks futuristic ✅, uses cutting-edge technology ✅, and is interactive ✅!

The second cool thing we found was the portfolio of Cyd Stumpel, an extremely talented creative Web Developer based in the Netherlands (more about Cyd later).

We loved how she presents her work on the homepage using a rotating 3D carousel and it got us thinking of how to present our history.

So with this and the blob in mind, we started to experiment using After Effects. The concept is centered around an interactive journey through history; as users scroll, they’ll see a dynamic visual timeline, with events orbiting around a central blob. Each event can be clicked on, inviting users to delve deeper and explore more about each significant moment.

Early demo

Once we were all happy with this concept, we gave the design a bit of polish.

Going deeper

For the ‘Who We Are Now’ section, we quickly knew that it would be contained within the KOTAverse orb (our signature blob). Here, users are enticed with the option to click into the orb to ‘Go Deeper,’ a feature that transports them inside, offering an immersive, in-depth exploration of our current identity and ethos.

We then came up with 5 content types we feel make us who we are now, we’re most proud of and were interesting to share.

The fifth Element

After we decided on the content, Margo (another very talented member of the design team) blew all our minds. Her idea was that the five content types were actually ‘elements’ with the Fifth element – Our team, being the most important.

To tie things in with the orb, each element would be represented by a 3D shape using our brand colours.

Now that we had the five elements confirmed, we started to think about how this area of the site would function. We really liked the concept of an innerspace, inside the KOTAverse, where you could drag around exploring these elements infinity (until you got bored of course).

Nicola had a fun idea that the team were on Top Trump cards, so we decided to use this format for all the other elements.

We also used AI and Neuralframes to create some pretty cool avatars of ourselves.

Going deeper

Development

You might remember Cyd, who’s website inspired our timeline idea. Well, half way through the design concepts we contacted her about developing the site for us …and she said yes!

Here’s a bit from Cyd about the technical aspects of the build and what makes it unique :

The timeline was built using Three.js, a library to create intricate 3D worlds. In ‘conventional’ web development, a developer adds HTML elements to the page that have default behaviours; for example an HTML button element is clickable and has a focus state.

Experiences created with Three.js do not consist of HTML elements, every pixel that is displayed on the screen is calculated on a canvas element. To make elements interactive you have to calculate if the mouse is overlaying a certain pixel, or use other tricks to make it feel like any other UX pattern that a user is used to.

This makes the development process a lot more complicated but also enables us to bend the pixels in images and videos which is impossible in regular HTML images and videos, and make the animated blob in the background respond to the scroll direction and speed.

The cards that are shown when you “Go deeper” were created using ‘plain’ CSS 3D animations. By animating some of the media inside the card in a different direction from the cards it makes the static cards look dynamic and reminds me of the motion cards of my childhood.

One of the most important things for making an animation heavy website look good and like a coherent thing, is adding similar easings to the (dis)appearance of elements. For that we used Greensock’s GSAP library. For the virtual scrolling (that’s the thing that makes your scroll feel smoother on this website) we used Lenis.

It was great working with her so please check out her work : cydstumpel.nl

The finished site

After months of hard work we can now say; THE KOTAVERSE IS LIVE! We’re all extremely happy with how the project came out and excited to share it with the community.

It’s been amazing to see it getting award recognition across the CSS Design Awards, Awwwards, and The FWA, as well as being featured across countless design inspo sites, feeds, and publications.  Even the Digital Agency Network is shouting about it!

It’s not always possible to have so many people working collaboratively on something, but it goes to show the great ideas that can come from it. Thanks to Matt, Margo and Nicola on the design team and Cyd for the build!

James
Creative Director @ KOTA

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