We are thrilled to share our recent success with NCX and the team’s well-deserved recognition as the #1 Favorite Natural Website of 2023 by HubSpot. As a group, we poured countless hours into NCX’s branding and website design, and it is an honor to see our hard work pay off. As we reflect on this project, we had the opportunity to sit down with our Co-Founder, Emily Nhaissi, and Lead Designer, Quen Estridge, to discuss their thoughts on it. In this interview, we delve into the inspiration behind the design, the challenges faced, and the strategies employed to create a visually stunning and mission-driven website. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and join us on this journey through creating NCX’s website.
What were the areas of difficulty experienced by NCX (formerly known as Silvia Terra) when they approached Craft and Root?
Quen: To start, their branding was middle of the road and wasn’t well differentiated from other players in the market. Pretty much everyone was using white and green as their colors. Their website also looked pretty outdated in terms of style and content. The storytelling on their site also didn’t encapsulate their really cool technology that was different from the competition.
Emily: Their name was also something they wanted to rethink. This is a newer industry, so to really try to create trust, there was a benefit to renaming and going with a name that felt very institutional. There were a lot of questions about the processes of how this all works, again, because it’s a new industry – how, what, why, etc. so it felt intangible to people. But their science is really legit! They are actually foresters from the Yale School of Forestry; they’re not just finance people. They’re both! So we needed to show that.
Quen: What came out of the naming process was the acronym NCX. They liked it because it felt competent and institutional, like IBM.
Could you elaborate on the branding choices made by your team for NCX, and explain how they were tackled?
Emily: Sure, yea- Something we found in our market research was everything, and every competitor was green with lots of focus on Greek and Roman mythological creatures, so because we saw that, we focused on the science and took the branding in a practical direction. There is always a balance to strike for colors- fitting in within the industry while still standing out. So we used green because it makes sense for this industry, but we also did not see a lot of companies using black. Talking about science and thinking about NASA, Apple, etc., black felt very cutting edge and like it reflected a future of technology.
Quen: Right, but also, within this sphere and talking about the environment, it’s easy to feel foreboding if there is too much black. That’s where we started bringing the blue, green, and orange. The orange was a nice call! Also, photos and videos were so important in balancing science with the really positive and alive feeling of our world.
Emily: Yea, so photos and videos were really huge for us in capturing the sort of majesty and magnitude of what the company is doing. Which was really important to balance out the more scientific feel. And this is true for both of their different target audiences. For landowners and stewards, people who are always in nature, it was important to us to capture that feeling that taking a walk in the woods is like going to church for some people. And make them feel like they see themselves represented within our site. For people who are heads of sustainability at large companies, it’s important to be able to point to something for validation and storytelling – essentially being able to provide a tangible component to the impact they’re making by engaging with the company, and this is true for the way we looked at the other aspects of what saving forests does for the environment – like, non-carbon related benefits, for example, saving wildlife.
We provided the photographers with a mood board for the kind of photography we needed for both micro and macro photography.
We wanted to capture what it looks like to be a human walking through the woods and interacting with the environment and the texture of moss and the dew on an acorn. Those precious details are the things we and NCX are trying to save.
We also thought a lot about how to present this to people; the oblong shapes and blur – that was something we discussed early on. Like when you’re looking through binoculars, and you have to focus them on something. At first, they are blurry, and then as you adjust, things begin to become sharp.
Quen: Basically, to summarize- We had a harder scientific color scheme, but we paired it with softer photo treatments. These felt appropriately contrasted with the colors and the typography on the site. Together, they created a soft and bold aesthetic.
It’s great to hear that you appreciate the attention to detail put into NCX’s branding and website design. As the site has been named HubSpot’s #1 Favorite Natural Website of 2023, could you elaborate on some key decisions made while creating the website?
Quen: When we started the project, one of the ways we were trying to address the pain points was by auditing the market, tone of voice, and audiences. It became clear NCX needed to strike a balance between talking to landowners and featuring their stories but also utilizing the data to target institutional decision-makers. The data was the buy-in for the larger institutions because it made financial sense, and the stories were the buy-in for the landowners because it made emotional sense.
Emily: How do you speak to both audiences in a way that still feels cohesive? Structurally you build the site in a way that each audience can peel off and see the information relevant to them. These are next-level pieces of the chess game, if you will. Making it easy for internal stakeholders to pitch and champion this investment.
NCX’s KPIs informed the structure of their site and the storytelling. Talking about their three major differentiators. We then went straight into the science and technology portion because it was their biggest barrier to sales. This was a way to show they were different and better than their competitors right off the bat.
One of the other things that were really important to us was scalability. Making smart choices and decisions with scalability in mind. So often, companies spend time and money on websites that they have to redo later when this isn’t considered.
Quen: We developed blocks they could use should they need to build out a page quickly in the future. Keeping in mind that companies need to change and evolve.
Out of all the NCX website’s unique features, which are your favorites?
Emily: The CTA buttons, for sure! They are all organic shapes based on tree rings. These buttons strike the balance of nature aspects against the black background, the more science-based portion of the brand. Also, the hover effect on the arrow makes the arrow turn into a tree.
Quen: Yea, NCX appreciated the creative part of the process and had opinions to share. It was refreshing to have co-founders and C-suite members passionate about the company’s vision, even down to small visual components. An example is, like Emily said, the button throughout the site that it’s an arrow that turns into a tree. It’s a small moment that we were all able to get excited about. They care, and they appreciate the planet for the smallest things in it, and they make a big impact.
Another one of my favorites was making the 404 page. A little graphic of this deer gets startled when the page gets pulled up. It was a fun little animation with a nod of humor that was tied to the very loading of the page itself. NCX also thought it was fun and was willing to spend the time to make it special, which I really appreciated!
As we end this discussion, we would love to hear your overall impressions of the NCX project and the company as a whole. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights and expertise with us.
Emily: One of the things I loved about NCX as a concept was feeling like, “Whoa, you guys are saving the world!” Companies need to behave ethically, but if you don’t monetize it for them, companies just won’t do it. So NCX’s concept is my favorite kind of concept because they are persuading companies to have an ethical and moral compass. It benefits everybody – not only do we have a planet to continue to save and exist on, but it’s necessary to heal our souls.
Quen: There is such a balance of reverence for nature and practicality. It’s really poetic. Because they were so engaged and trusted us, the creative process was awesome. They even trusted us to make choices we thought would help conversions which actually worked really well!