Cantilever Design Ethos

At Cantilever, we value simplicity over complexity. We prefer smart, intuitive solutions over "cool" executions. We don’t mind a cool website at all, but what many perceive as a cool website often involves a lot of functionality that makes the build user-unfriendly. An ideal world, our builds are both aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.

A lot of our success is a result of our clients' wellbeing. Our sites are first and foremost usable and facilitate completing certain actions. Sometimes it’s to buy something, but at other times it’s to sign up for a newsletter or simply to tell a friend. We believe that websites are like spaces that users enter and explore. Like architects, we plan spaces that feel comfortable while meeting specific technical requirements. Like interior designers, we build an aesthetic that touches people’s emotions.

Cantilever design is also uniquely tied to our development approach. We design systems, not sites. Our work is built to change and evolve over time. This is not the place for “concept“ design. We create intuitive, fast, trustworthy and welcoming websites. Thank you for being a part of our proud history.

Samples

We are very proud to have worked on a lot of amazing projects over the years. Some of the ones we love to present are: coversports.com – a brand whose visual identity and website we redesigned. More here.

https://bipartisanpolicy.org/ – one of our biggest clients to date and one of the most extensive projects we have worked on. More here.

https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/ar/2021/eng/ – another one of our favourites, a website for IMF’s annual report that is nice and simple. More here.

Design Values

Results are the key

Nothing about our design matters more than the outcomes. If it’s beautiful and functional and fails to do its job, we have failed to do our jobs. Sometimes its job is abstract, perhaps too abstract to measure. We accept and embrace this ambiguity, but attempt to honor this principle regardless. We value beauty, in the abstract, because beautiful things just tend to work better. Many studios can create gorgeous, cinematic sites that are a pain to use, and the message is lost. We will never fall into that mistake. When designing, our premise is that

We want our clients to feel that we have crafted a unique product, whether it’s a website or an app, etc. Our designs should be informative, usable and accessible. The websites we build should be perceived as inclusive, intuitive, fast, trustworthy and welcoming. In order to measure this, our expectations are that:

– All our sites score a minimum of 70 on the System Usability Scale (SUS). All our sites be AA-complaint as a minimum. – None of our sites use any dark patterns. We’re also considering introducing accessibility statements on all websites to demonstrate commitment to accessibility, and to social responsibility (TDB).

“Good design” is an extremely subjective and delicate matter. It’s hard for an organization to measure the impact of visual design. Some will say, “it needs to look good” or “it needs to make the customers feel good when browsing”. That’s a wicked problem. What we believe to look good might not necessarily look good to someone else. For that reason, we prioritize the elements of design we have more control over, such as the usability and accessibility elements. There are certain standards that we can base on our designs on in order to ensure that they’re as user-friendly and accessible as possible.

Guiding principles

At Cantilever, there are a few principles that we follow when designing products. At times we find ourselves deviating from these principles, willingly or unwillingly. They’re a result of many years of work in the field where a lot has changed over the years. Some things remain the same though, and we continue to believe in them.

Simplicity

We don’t use two lines when one would work just as well. We don’t use three fonts when we could get away with two. We focus on creating design that is also accessible to people with visual or physical impairments. This also leads us to try and keep things simple. Simplicity makes websites more approachable, faster to build, and easier to maintain. It makes a huge difference for our clients.

Accessibility

Digital Hospitality means creating opportunities for anyone to use and enjoy our work. We focus on creating gorgeous design that is also accessible to people with visual or physical impairments. This also leads us to try and keep things simple. For more on accessibility, please read

. For how to create accessible designs, pleaes read .

Usability

We expect all our sites to score a minimum of 70 on the System Usability Scale. In order to ensure that, we will validate the site using a questionnaire. It is recommended that at least 5 people participate in the questionnaire. See here for more details on the method.

Modularity

We don’t just design a product – be it a website, app, logo, etc. We build a system. We then use the system to construct the product. Most of our projects often involve more than just designing a one-pager. Through building modules, we make sure that the builds are easy to change and grow over time. Our development approach emphasizes modularity of code, so we tailor our designs to this style of implementation.

Design disciplines

There are different branches of design at Cantilever:

Web Design – Work involving conceptualizing and designing a website.
Product Design – Work involving creating, and iterating digital products that solve a specific need, such as a CRM or a mobile/web app.

Branding – Work involving shaping a brand's visual identity, language in the mind of a target audience.

Find examples of each on our website cantilever.co.

Each of these involve a varied skillset that often includes a good understanding of user experience, branding, web development, business concepts and so on. We will often work with specialists in these fields depending on the context of the problem of the project we’re working on. We don’t assume anyone to be an expert in all of the above disciplines, but it’s usually favorable for us as a team if a designer is knowledgeable in several disciplines at the same time as projects will often involve a good blend of them.

Process and techniques

Simply put, our design process usually looks like this:

Framing the problem

What are we trying to solve and why? Is this even a problem? Most often, our clients need help with a particular issue. They know that their customers get lost when trying to order on their online shop. Or they’re looking to build a new feature for their mobile app, for example a feature that lets users create an account user through their social media account. In this phase, we ask questions and listen. This step is usually led by a strategist, but designers will often weigh in. This is when we frame the problem.

Brainstorm

In this second step, we come up with potential solutions to the problem. In some cases, we might realize that this is not a problem at all. It’s difficult to cover all the scenarios we can think of in the form of a simple bullet point item but there can be lots of problems out there that we might have to deal with. Once we’ve defined that problem clearly and agreed that we’re going to solve it, we will begin to think of various solutions. This step is very nebulous in the sense that the brainstorming process can be very hazy. We create sketches, we research other solutions that solved similar problems, etc. The more ideas we can come up with, the easier it is for the strategist and/or client to make a decision on the next step.

Test

Once everyone’s agreed on idea, a designer makes it come to life. In this step, the designer takes abstract concept and turns it into a tangible solution. This usually happens through creating a wireframe or a prototype of the idea that is then presented to the client. For example, the clients wants us to improve the experience of their online shopping cart. The designer (often in collaboration with a strategist) will create a few wireframes and in some cases a prototype of the screens needed to improve the experience of using the shopping cart online. Ideally, this prototype is tested with a few test users to ensure it is optimally usable and accessible. This step might take a few iterations. The final wireframes might be completely different than their first version, but that’s because the design process is often exploratory. Designers often make a lot of assumptions and test them along the way in order to come close to an ideal solution. Their deliverables need to be approved by the account strategist and by the client. Throughout this entire step, we recommend involving the developers often, as their inputs will be useful in defining the concept to follow.

Definition

Once the client have given us green light 🟢 on one of our ideas, we build further on it and get it as close as possible to a “final” solution. Of course that is subjective and no design we create is ever really final. Our designs are built to change and evolve over time. We do our best at that time of the creation but we’re cognizant of the challenging constraint that is represented by time. We will often have to go back and improve the designs based on new technological or sociological developments. This step often involves a visual design part where a product is given a visual identity of its own or an already existing one is applied. In the case of a website, this is where the wireframes turn into colorful page designs, placeholder text is replaced by actual copy and where we’ll be exploring various visual treatments. As in the previous step, the work needs to be approved by the account strategist and the client. Also in this step, we recommend involving the developers often, as their inputs will be useful in defining the concept to follow.

Implementation

Once the stars align and the client is happy with our deliverable, the designers need to ensure that the designs are ready to be built. In the case of a website, the pages/screens that the designers have envisioned will be made ready for the developers to implement them. The design and development teams will normally collaborate throughout this entire step. The designers will make design tweaks and assist the developers in order to ensure that the implementation matches their concept.

Measure and learn

Once the product launches, we will monitor it to make sure it remains as performant as possible. The designer will continue to be involved in any future build iterations.

Structure & file handling

Other Notable Projects

NameYearWhy NotableScreenshot
NYU-Poly Year in NYC
2010
Full-screen map concept that won a lot of our future work
Designer Pages 2.0
2011
Our first large webapp design
H&FJ CRM
2012
Our first (and only) CRM design
AMEX InsideHR
2013
Our first design for a large corporate
Rustic Pathways
2014
First of three site designs for Rustic
NuLawLab
2015
Webby-nominated webapp design
Esquire Classic
2016
Got to work with very famous brand
Spark+Echo
2017
Most beautiful online bible around