From producing music and movies to designing clothing and furniture, Pharrell has a very diverse and expansive career. With so many projects under his belt—not the least of which includes his position as Cultural Director and Host Committee Chair at our very own upcoming ComplexCon—it would be a challenge for anyone to organize everything he’s worked on in a single portfolio. But in just under one year, the team at Five Hundred was able to create a concept and launch a new interactive website that does just that.
What the boutique workshop unveiled—exactly 364 days after beginning their project—was an interactive experience that not only includes his body of work, but reflects everything that is Pharrell—and it does all of this by focusing on you, the fan. Upon entering the site, visitors can create a card through Facebook that reflects their favorite Pharrell project in the categories of music, fashion, art and design, and TV and film. After the card is created, it lives on the homepage in the form of a colorful blob with the user’s photo and appears among a sea of cards created by fans from all over the world. We got to the bottom of how the site’s designers worked with Pharrell to make this mammoth project happen.
“I have a relationship with Mimi Valdes, who is Pharrell’s Chief Creative Office at i am OTHER,” Will Perkins, the co-creative director of Five Hundred, told Complex. “Literally a year ago yesterday, she hit me and said Pharrell is looking to finally do something with his website, more of place where people can see his work and the work he wants to do in the future.”
“The reason we ended up going with the blobs is because it helps indicate that each fan is unique,” Lillie Ferris, who worked on experience design, told Complex. “That is driven by the design and the way the animations work, so anytime someone downloads their card or saves their card, their form is unique to them, which is how we think and Pharrell thinks. Everyone is an ‘other’ and everyone is their own person with unique characteristics.”
The fan-driven site proved to be the perfect fit for Pharrell, a champion of individuality and someone who views himself more as a public servant than a celebrity.
“The challenge was: How do you reveal someone who in some ways doesn’t like to be revealed?” said Perkins. “Pharrell isn’t exactly celebratory about himself. He is very acknowledging of his fans and the people who have supported him over time. So that is kind of where it started for us, how do we add his fans to the process and give them some agency in telling the story. We had some workshops with the client and it came out that to get to Pharrell you had to get to his fans, and that is literally the concept we applied to the site. So then it was about how do we connect Pharrell to the design.”
Along with the blobs, which were inspired by his colorful i am OTHER logo, the site features tour updates, exclusive releases, and behind-the-scenes content. It also greets visitors with instrumental snippets of songs Pharrell helped create over the years.
“It is funny because for months the homepage didn’t have sound, but it didn’t feel right to come to a musician’s website and not have any music playing. It’s like the blobs were dancing to no music,” Perkins said. “When we think about connecting the design to Pharrell, it makes even more sense because he has Synesthesia, a condition where he sees colors as sounds. It just made sense for that moment to make another connection to Pharrell.”
The site also works two ways. Besides offering visitors a chance to scroll through the impressive array of his work, it also offers Pharrell a chance to learn about his fans and their interests. Perkins plans on keeping the data so that they can use it as a resource in the future. As for now, Pharrell and the Five Hundred team have just enjoyed reading the feedback.
“The response to Pharrell’s post on Facebook [about the site] has been really amazing for him to read,” said Ferris. “It is very emotional reading the responses because people are using it as an opportunity to thank Pharrell for all kinds of things, very personal things and funny things. That is the point of all of this.”