Friday Fiver: Geoff Yost

Photo Credit: Colin J. Johnson, colinjjohnson.comGeoff Yost loves the creative process. As a partner and graphic designer at Annex Studio, Yost and his team collaborated with the Arts Alliance to develop www.artscharleston.org, a calendar dedicated to the arts in the Lowcountry. Prior to opening Annex, Yost worked on numerous high-profile events, including the 2014 Inaugural Ceremony for the Governor of Virginia and President Obama’s 2012 Election Night in Chicago.

We sat down with Geoff for this week’s Friday Fiver.

Annex created the platform for the arts calendar at www.artscharleston.org. What separates the www.artscharleston.org platform from other arts calendars on the web?

When the Alliance approached us to build an arts calendar, we knew using a third-party tool wasn’t going to work. For one, many of the existing calendar tools are clunky and difficult to use for developers, but more importantly, difficult to use for the visitor. We wanted to make sure the new ArtsCharleston.org arts calendar was super easy to use.

To accomplish this, we built a custom piece of software we call CurtainTime. CurtainTime is optimized for performance, chiefly ease of use, but under the hood too. A modern web application needs to work on every device, quickly, and there were many advantages to building a solution from the ground up.

We’re still working on improving CurtainTime, and since we’re the developers, and we’re not relying on someone else’s timeline, we can make improvements to add features and customizations for the Alliance and other clients much faster. Ultimately, that means every visitor gets a better experience and arts organizations, hopefully, fill more seats.

You are a font aficionado. How do you determine the perfect font for a particular project?

I love typefaces. I have since I was a very young kid. Some people say that type doesn’t matter, or there’s no difference between them, and to that I say: write the next memo to your boss in Comic Sans and see how that goes over. Like music, typefaces have tone, timbre, and rhythm. And, they change depending on the space in which they’re used. A kid’s birthday invitation might be the perfect place to use Comic Sans, although I probably still wouldn’t. A business memo, not so much.

For our projects, we start everything with research. We know the goals of the project. From that understanding, we start to get a feeling for the typographical style need to meet the goals. So, we’ll rely on our favorites, and some standbys, including the enduring Futura, the ‘Obama font’ Gotham, the classic Caslon, or my current favorite Harriet. We’re susceptible to trends, too. Proxima Nova and Lato get heavy use, two of the most popular typefaces on the web today (Proxima Nova is used for the headlines here on CharlestonArtsAlliance.org). From the dozen or so go-to typefaces, we’ll look for specific typefaces that best match the project.

I’ll say this, there’s a special moment when you find the perfect typeface for a project. There’s an art to selecting type, but it’s the gut feeling that wins every time.

On your website, you say that at Annex, “Our charge is to bring all of this together: technology, design, experience, knowledge. And when we add you, your story, and your goals to the mix, something magical happens.” Tell us about the magic.

We do our best work under these conditions: first, we let our client be the expert in their business. Second, the client lets us be the expert in our business. We expect to learn from our client, and to teach them. We expect the same in reverse. Time and again, we’ve found that if these conditions are met, the magic happens. Everyone is bringing their strengths to the table. It allows us to be the most creative, and it ensures the client gets a design solution to their business problem.

The magic might be a great piece of underlying technology, like CurtainTime, or four beautiful designs for fundraising loyalty cards, like the Alliance’s ArtsMatter Card. Those creative solutions are the output of a trusting, curious relationship between client and agency. And, because we develop all of our designs and technology in house, we’re able to stoke that creative fire.

The Annex team all went to the College of Charleston. How does that Charleston tie help you in your work?

Yes, the four partners, our part-time developer, and our intern are all College of Charleston folk. We learned how to design and write code while at the College, in this city. As a result, the city is a constant source of inspiration. We’ve looted the Charleston urban fabric for everything from color palettes to patterns and symbols. We’re even exploring creating an original typeface, our own, with inspiration drawn from old Charleston signage and printing.

We also love admiring, collaborating with, and drawing inspiration from the other creative firms and organizations in town. There’s a great sense of community here and whether it’s a tech happy hour, a new exhibition at City Gallery, or an artist lecture at the Halsey, there are a million ways we connect with Charleston to stretch our creativity. A peaceful lunch in the Cistern Yard on the campus can be a perfect recharge, too.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston, what would instantly happen?

Charleston has to further its support for artists and creative professionals. Our city’s vibrancy comes from its diversity of thought, and the city deeply needs to address the growing difficulties people like me and other artists of all kinds have in maintaining a presence in the urban core. Affordable housing, better transportation, and real incentives to be creative are needed. Not sure I have the solution, but we will not continue to be the destination we are for so much of the world if a growing number of the people that make the city what it is are not able to make a life here.

Interested in being featured in a Friday Fiver? Email mike@artscharleston.org.