200% growth in organic traffic from a unified site and learning center.
Raising the bar
Unusual Ventures is a venture capital firm specializing in raising the bar on what founders can expect from investors. They’re laser focused on the early stage years of founders and provide unparalleled support and guidance throughout.
Every founder has to beat common hurdles before launching a startup and Unusual Ventures wanted an unusual website to reflect the stages of this journey. A learning center would become a core pillar of the site. It would help demonstrate their unusual level of support and stand out from competitors.
Unusual story meets strategy
Unusual Ventures had clear positioning and knew their audience well, but valued high quality storytelling and needed our help to do it. They knew they wanted to use some kind of hero’s journey, but should it come across as a physical journey? Joseph Campbell’s hero journey? The evolution of a superhero? Or a rocketship to outer space?
We needed one metaphor to rule them all. And with a name like Unusual Ventures, it had to feel unique. It needed to resonate with the complexity and effort of their own founder’s journey across the site.
Choosing the right journey
To hone in on the right journey, we interviewed over ten people across the Unusual Ventures team and founders in their portfolio. In time, it became clear that the founders resonated with the idea of climbing a mountain. Each step of the journey representing a step towards raising the $1M in seed capital hit home for them.
Next, we studied Joseph Campbell’s hero journey. We printed out various versions of the journey and started mapping them to the steps of the founder’s journey as suggested by John.
Charting an Unusual path.
After struggling to combine climbing a mountain with Joseph Campbell’s hero journey on a specific page of the site, we took a step back. The journey couldn’t be on a single page. We needed to carry it across the entire site and create a larger story.
We took our printed steps of the hero’s journey and started remapping them. Surprisingly, each webpage neatly matched to a step in the hero’s journey. A ‘Call to Adventure’ mapped to the homepage, ‘Finding a mentor’ to the ‘Team’ page, and so on across the site. Each ‘Unusual’ page could stand on its own and have its own journey.
We decided to keep the mountain journey exclusively on the Field Guide because that page maps most closely to the founder’s own journey. Every other page would feature their own unique journey (The Get Ahead Platform page would feature a river rafting journey with guides to represent the Unusual Venture team and their hands on support. The Academy would appear in a rock amphitheatre to show their unique learning program etc.) Together, each journey would tie together on the homepage to tell the broader hero’s journey.
Illustration gave Unusual Ventures the flexibility to customize characters across the site. For example, the founders all had high tech gear in their scenes because they are a tech savvy audience. Likewise, the Unusual team is always featured to show their support along the way in Unusual Blue. With the number of unique scenes and characters, our team stepped in as models. How do you think we did?
And to keep things moving fast we had to be intentional about the illustration process. When each illustration has the level of detail and integration with the rest of the website, we had to get approval at every step: concept, storyboard, 80% illustration and then locked at 100%.
The Unusual site gave us some interesting UX challenges and inspired some unorthodox solutions. We paid careful attention to how the user might flow through the site. Brutalist design was used on the homepage so that it would act as a giant menu. The initial field guide originally featured heavy illustration, but due to user feedback we also streamlined to get to the content faster.
Always be optimizing
subscriptions in the first 2 months
pages per session
time per session
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
A storyworld with legs
The storyworld we created resonated with their audience upon launch because we listened. Not just to what their founders said, but to their underlying needs and preferences.
And because the underlying concept was so well integrated, it became easy to expand their storyworld after launch. It easily expanded into PowerPoint templates, sales presentations, whitepapers, social media templates, stickers, email templates and more graphic design assets.
It’s never just a website for us. It’s deeper than that. It’s a visual identity with meaning built for a specific audience. And when you discover design that elicits the right emotional response, it becomes easy and natural to build out further collateral.
“Absolute first class work and it’s clear you’ve built a team of very talented people committed to doing premier work. Thank you.”
John Vrionis, Co-Founder at Unusual Ventures