- personal portfolio site of digital designer Rich Dean.

Creative. Design. Technology.

I create beautiful design and engaging experiences to help brands flourish. I’m passionate about doing great work with great people: I’ve worked with big brands and one-man bands, designing websites, brand identity and print work to help them grow.

I run design agency Supersonic Playground.

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The Pet Show

Designing for a fun-filled family day out

The Pet Show is the UK's largest indoor and outdoor pet event, with over 17,000 visitors. So how do you create a brand and website experience that captures the energy and vibrancy of such a fun-filled family day out?

The Pet Show homepage in a computer display

Brand development

The Pet Show style tile 1

The Pet Show has a strong presence in it’s sector, being the largest indoor and outdoor event of it’s kind, but it’s branding was focused mainly around it’s logo and didn’t really have a strong system in place. One of my first tasks was to extend the logo and develop it to into full identity system.

The Pet Show is a really fun, family focused event, and so both the client and I had really strong ideas about how it should be brought to life, mainly with the use of bold, vibrant colours, but we also wanted to capture a sense of what the event really was. To bring the our ideas to life I produced three style tiles, each taking a different direction. The first was a sketchy, painterly option designed to show energy and vibrancy.

The Pet Show style tile 2

The second had a hand crafted/hand sewn feel and was designed to tie into the kinds of materials, toys and products that you would normally associate with pets.

The Pet Show style tile 3

The third had a deep ‘hyperreal’ feel and used cutout imagery and scenery to emphasise the countryside location. It was this third concept that proved to be the winner.

The Pet Show style choices

Producing style tiles enabled me to quickly establish various visual languages without spending a lot of time on full designs, and once we had chosen the final option, the branding system was ready to roll out to the designs. It was also an engaging process for the client, putting them in the driving seat.

Restructuring the website

The Pet Show old site map The Pet Show new site map

After the branding work was complete, I moved onto the structural design of the website. This included a full audit of their current site, which turned up some interesting insights. The majority of pages tended to all be on the root level, and each page contained quite a significant amount of linking. A good practice in website design is to try and achieve a balance between contextual linking (links that appear within the content) and structural linking (navigation). In this case, there was too much contextual linking and not enough structural, so my main aim was to redress this balance and reorganise the site so it was easier for the user to find their way around.

The new site needed to meet the client’s business objectives, with the primary aim of the site to drive sales through engaging content. My new site structure worked hard to do this. I focused on two main sections – Attractions and Show Zones. I wanted to clearly distinguish between the events and activities that visitors could attend (the Attractions), and the actual physical spaces they would be happening in (the Show Zones). But I also wanted the connection between the two to be obvious, so that a dog lover could clearly see what dog-related events were happening, and in which zones.

The Pet Show homepage wireframe

The homepage was designed with the client’s business objectives in mind. The page is clearly defined into three key sections and is designed to explain what the event is about, introduce the show zones, and then introduce the attractions.

The Pet Show attractions page wireframe

The Attractions landing page is also designed to present the content in an engaging way, and uses an irregular grid to create an eclectic layout. It also allows the client to raise the profile of certain key attractions that they may want to promote.

The Pet Show show zone wireframe

Both the individual Attractions and Show Zones share the same template, but each cross reference their relevant equivalent. So if a cat-based attraction is happening in the Cattery, the page for that attraction will link through to the Cattery and so on.

The Pet Show about page wireframe

Though the site is based around key templates, I also wanted the design of the pages to be as unique as possible. All are built on my versatile 1000px grid system, which turns pixels into percentages and is designed to make building responsive websites easier. Although this website isn’t responsive, it could be made so easily.

Applying the visual language

The Pet Show homepage

With the branding and structural work complete, it was easy to apply the visual language to the page designs, but in fact the modular style of the branding actually worked to inform the layouts, so it was important that the branding work was completed first.

The Pet Show kennels page

To continue with the ‘hyperreal’ feel from the branding, the sub pages are designed in a modular fashion, and the panels appear to be floating in the sky.

Although quite a graphical look and feel, the front end build of the site was actually very light and the site is comparatively fast to load. It’s built on WordPress, which is a very quick content management system, and allowed me to give the client almost full control over the content of the site. All of the technical aspects were undertaken by myself and the whole project was a pleasure to work on.

The Pet Show scenery artwork

About me

I believe that design should be available to everyone. It doesn’t matter what your company’s size, budget or business is: great design will help you tell your story better. Design isn’t just about visual style: it can change how your business works, and how your customers see you.

I run design agency Supersonic Playground, based in Lordswood, near Maidstone in Kent. I have 16 years’ experience in design, most recently as head of design for Zone, voted 2014’s number 1 independent agency in the UK by The Drum magazine. I relish working collaboratively, and put my utmost into every project.

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