dec. 30 — our first year, reviewed

It’s been a little over a year since we started co-creating websites at Bisita, and two years since I suggested to Rachel that we run a web studio together. 

At the time, I spent my workdays creating landing pages and user flows for local tech startups, which, despite giving me a venue to develop my craft and get mentorship, felt disconnected from the kind of design projects I envisioned for myself. I wanted to explore how technology could facilitate change on ground — to build things that could impact communities still struggling to close the digital divide. 

Rachel instantly resonated with my pitch, and we ran with the idea of building digital homes, malleable websites that serve as vessels for our stories and dreams of better Filipino futures.

We talked about giving agency to the people we’d collaborate with; in a landscape where the commercial web can feel so extractive of our attention, we wanted to humanize web design and the processes surrounding it, shifting from viewing Filipinos as passive, faceless users to active visitors. Thus, Bisita was born.

We’ve had an exciting start, and after working on three projects that aligned so closely with our vision, we’d like to close this season by sharing what we learned from our collaborators throughout 2023.

⛰ For the Future

Meet our co-creators: For the Future is a nonprofit started by a group of friends with a dream to help reforest the ancestral lands of the Yangil Tribe in Zambales. Co-founder Issa Barte, also an artist and National Geographic Explorer, made the hand drawn illustrations seen on the site.

What we did: We redesigned their online home to reflect stories and art spanning the 60+ areas the NGO has mobilized to. It has a donation flow through which visitors, particularly youths, can contribute towards planting trees, providing immediate aid, and so much more.

  • We’ve learned to draw on the lived experiences of our clients, who are in the best position to distill the essence of their messaging. Before proposing any designs, we prepared lots of questions about the roots of For the Future and the people that inspire their work. The new homepage reflects their story about raising funds for the Yangil Tribe’s reforestation efforts — a core memory that brought the founders together and molded their determination to take their work a step further.

  • Putting ourselves in the role of virtual architects, we also asked the team to imagine their website as a live space. What kind of experience do they want to give their visitors, and how do they want them to feel when they leave? One team member, Maita, described the ideal webhome as “a juxtaposition of the lush forest dream and the devastation of typhoons.” We had to consider this tension in crafting the site’s visual direction, keeping the design approachable for interested youths while being real about the ramifications of climate change.

  • Another important consideration was content architecture. Since the team handles multiple initiatives across different locations, we wanted to make it easy to post updates specific to each project. We structured the site so that blog posts, once published, appeared under the page of the project they were relevant to. Many galleries can also be found on the site, as photography is central to For the Future’s work. The team recently held film photography workshops for indigenous storytellers, equipping them to bring a piece of their homes closer to online visitors.

🍦 Museo Pambata

Meet our co-creators: Museo Pambata is the country’s first children’s museum in Ermita, Manila. Founded in 1994, it aims to inspire the Filipino child to discover the self, community and environment through interactive and cultural exhibits. Tasha Tanjutco of TAYO illustrated most of the site assets, including the event posters on the fundraiser page.

What we did: Having been around for 25 years, the Museo needed to reimagine their spaces, both offline and online, for the next generation of Filipinos. We created a site in preparation for Sama Sama Para Sa Bata (Together for Children) in New York, an event raising funds to build new galleries and bring over 1,000 underprivileged children in Manila to the museum.

  • Because Museo Pambata is a kids’ museum, we really enjoyed the invitation to play with the design of the pages. It was a conscious decision to remix both new and nostalgic aesthetics: Most of the site is set in dark mode, a modern style of web design that allows the fiesta-inspired brand colors to shine. On the other hand, we kept the grainy texture of Tasha’s illustrations and started paragraphs with drop caps reminiscent of storybooks.

  • We worked on a tight timeline in anticipation of the fundraiser, so communication was everything. On one of our first calls with the team, we showed them our suggested sitemap and co-designed it from there, moving sections around until they felt that all the necessary content could be found on each page. In the month that followed, we checked in regularly on everything from design direction to external integrations, providing support until the weekend of the fundraiser itself. 

🌊 Lokal Lab

Meet our co-creators: Lokal Lab is an NGO shaping sustainable futures for the island community of Siargao. Their latest programs include Tropical Academy, a vocational school educating locals on climate-adaptive practices, and The Hub, a social enterprise offering homegrown food options, cultural tours, and artisanal souvenirs.

What we did: We redesigned their site to capture the ecosystem Lokal is situated in, covering their programs, social enterprise, and allies both within and outside the organization. This web home was the work of so many hands — we’d like to give a shout out to co-founders Mark and Kara for helping us understand the full scope of their work since Lokal’s inception in 2017.

  • In 2021, a Category 5 typhoon hit Siargao, damaging 95% of the island. Because their projects evolve according to the needs of their community, Lokal had to restructure internally, focusing on long-term solutions that would help rebuild the island stronger. As designers, it was important for us to move with their shifting needs, making space for new information that would gradually emerge with their internal restructuring. We learned to be adaptable in our process, and in crafting a design direction that would also accommodate their dynamic nature.

  • I had the opportunity of visiting Siargao in the middle of our process, where I met the team, attended Fête de la Musique — a festival hosted by Lokal and the local community — and visited their project sites. While working on the site at their Hub, I met Lokal's project manager, Patricia. As I walked her through the initial concepts, I got to learn more about her experiences working on ground and what I needed to adjust to better support their operations. Immersing in their ecosystem in person (pakikisalamuha) led to a more rooted co-creation, giving us the necessary context to communicate Lokal's vision through our designs.

  • We worked closely with the team to create visuals that simplified and translated their model for shaping Siargao into a self-sustaining island. A common thread in the diagrams was circularity, reflecting Lokal’s emphasis on regeneration in both their social enterprise and community-building projects. Our collaboration invited us to rediscover the Filipino value of circularity, and in the next year, we're curious to explore how we can further draw on nature-based practices and indigenous world views in our work as technologists.

That was one for the books, 2023. We're taking a break for the holidays, using this season to clear our minds for the next creative endeavors.

See you in the new year!

With care,

Nikki & Rachel

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