DX Award :: The City of Ottawa


Design for a municipality is an often unrecognized challenge. The individual designer must work with the city council, a host of political staff under the mayor, the mayor herself, and hundreds of lower level administrative functionaries. Each one believes that they have the unique vision that will ultimately yield the best product.


ARCHIVED DESIGN AWARD PAGE :: 1996 DX AWARDS

This page is republished for historical and archival reasons, highlighting the history of online design and the work of some of the many talented individuals who were instrumental in the early days of online media.


We are honored to select The City of Ottawa as this week’s recipient of the IPPA’s Award for Design Excellence.


Design for a municipality is an often unrecognized challenge. The individual designer must work with the city council, a host of political staff under the mayor, the mayor herself, and hundreds of lower level administrative functionaries. Each one believes that they have the unique vision that will ultimately yield the best product.

On top of this, the site must be designed to be simple enough for maintenance by government staff. This is not to say that government staff are incompetent (indeed they are not) but that every four months you should expect that the site maintenance will be reassigned to another division across town. Balancing these interests, goals, and competing inputs is a great challenge. It also explains why so many of the better municipal pages online today are “unofficial.”

Therefore, we would like to salute the work of one of Canada’s premier design agencies, Non-Linear Creations, Inc., for their work on the City of Ottawa pages. The Ottawa City site meets all of the design criteria and reflects the conservative viewpoints of the city government while remaining simple, colorful, and elegant.

Forget the opening splash screen of the city’s coat of arms. It is the best they could do with a bad opening requirement. Instead, focus your interest on the main menu page and subpages of the Ottawa site. Examine the color selections, balance, and the photo image treatments. Very clean and very clear.

Navigation design is quite critical for municipalities. Here, the direct approach works quite well. Note how the designers have completely ignored the trends of online design and eschewed a menu bar and set of clickable icons. As a designer, if you take the road toward ever more “cool” menu bars and animated icons, you are practicing “multimediocrity” at its worst. Their simple typographic solution is perfect and works on every page.

Sadly, third level links within the site will yield the same photographic banner bars as their parent pages, but this is a good compromise that allows the city itself the opportunity to take over, expand upon, and manage the pages without too much confusion. Each of the image banners is rendered with an excellent eye and is a great use of black and white photographs.

Ultimately, the Ottawa pages are a bright reminder that it doesn’t take a load of Shockwave and GIF89 to create some bright and effective pages. Non-Linear “did it right” for the City of Ottawa, creating a set of pages that are easily maintained and updated. It is good, very creative work, and this is simplicity at its best.

Scoring (10 is Maximum):
Graphics Design…….. 7.8
Programming………… 7.0
Content and Copy…… 8.3