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A brand new arts organization years in the making

Two of Byte's specialties is arts organizations and nonprofits, so Imagine MKE was an opportunity to help Milwaukee's art scene become much more connected, and nationally recognized.


Imagine MKE started out of a series of meetings brought together by community leader and philanthropist Katie Heil discussing the need for a central coordinating office for the arts. Milwaukee is the largest city in the US without a central coordinating office and not having one is leaving Milwaukee behind.

Imagine MKE's founding board created the organization with the mission of being the convener, connector, and amplifier of the arts and culture community in Milwaukee. Imagine MKE needed a dynamic leader and after a national search found David Lee. We worked with David on another site, and David asked us to help create Imagine MKE's central communication platform.


Working with a brand new organization changes the way information is gathered, as some of the basic starter questions still being worked out. We are trying to define all the site's audience, stakeholders and goals, not to mention mission and vision statements, all while the organization itself is doing the same for itself.

And because it's a new organization with a very specific start date, we had a very specific deadline. As well, a brand was being developed by Chris Hansen concurrently to our involvement, which moved the order of our process around and makes a deadline date much more daunting, as brands are often delivered as just a logo, and we need the time to build the depth underneath it.

Visual Themes

We started with the idea of coalition building, so we created a series of first ideas based on patchworks and connecting lines to ideas, much like "mind mapping." We also started early with some ideas of Imagine X, where X was the world Imagine MKE wanted to build. 

Taking these connecting lines and framing images and content in them we started to see a visual that felt a little like stained glass windows, a little like piecing together colors but only being partially complete, as Imagine MKE is helping people fill in their piece of the Milwaukee's arts community.

We also wanted many the elements of a regular site, like buttons and form elements, to stay in this theme. We created call-to-action elements and submit buttons in this stained glass element format, and carried the theme with backgrounds and foregrounds that were dynamic as the arts scene Imagine MKE was trying to represent.


We often find at the end of a project that there's something calling out to us, but was beyond scope. For Imagine MKE, we realized the connected stain glass would be so much better if it was the neighborhoods of Milwaukee, as Imagine MKE was strongly about finding and promotion neighborhood arts organizations and artists. Despite the budget, we redesigned the stain glass based on the neighborhoods.

We also found animated ways to have our stain glass pieces animate into a large one using clipping that made the CMS-based content feel very intensional and purposeful. When the animations of the site match the visual themes, the site has much more human impact.

[insert image of animation of home page rollover imagine journal and the Read Post button]