Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, Tribal Government
Indigenous Sentinels Network
A sophisticated application for gathering and organizing environmental data, with consistent branding reflective of the rich heritage of its primary users
Indigenous Sentinels Network needed to create and implement a technology platform among tribal and First Nations governments that empowered their communities to capture data about dramatic environmental changes observed in Alaskan communities. The ideal tool would give indigenous communities the means to advocate for priority initiatives more effectively. Initiatives included providing insights on environmental impacts that are important to tribal and First Nations communities, improving local management and governance, establishing the ownership of data, and improving policy at multiple levels. Additionally, the tool would augment tribal, academic, and agency research to better address the large-scale impacts of climate change.
We broke down the solution into three essential efforts: designing the app, creating a consistent and recognizable brand, and empowering users with well-organized, easy-to-access data. We designed the web and mobile applications to support data collection efforts in tribal communities and created a consistently branded experience that reflected the rich heritage of the communities it served. Finally, we created a dashboard that provided high-level and the functionality to deep dive for the variety of users it served.
Drawing inspiration from indigenous communities and the natural world
The base colors, highlights, logos, and imagery of the style guide reflect patterns of Native American art and the tradition of the Alouette people. Typography is organically curved, signifying the movement of the oceans, rivers, trees, the natural elements so important to those in the network. The style and tone speak to the evolution of the ecological systems the app was designed to document. Sophisticated variations of the topography convey expertise, networking, and training, all of which were central to the mission of the ISN.
The logo incorporates a subtle nod to basket art, paired with strong shapes that represent the guardianship the ISN’s technological tool provides. Brown, tan, green, and blue colors evoke more of the natural elements, creating a cohesive brand to evangelize the application and its creators’ innovative ideas, aiding in the procurement of additional funding for development.
A streamlined UI, with imagery as a driving force
The functionality of the app was essential. Seamless integration between the mobile and desktop versions was required, as were features like creating a community, administering surveys, maintaining quality control of the data, and conducting detailed reporting.
Ease-of-use and accuracy when gathering and sharing data was the priority, but it was essential to underscore this with a sense of humanness. Aesthetics were central to every decision. We sought to evoke community and nature rather than cold sophistication. A streamlined UI, supported with tan coloration instead of gray for the background, ensured that the app feels one with the practice of ecological conservation and not something separate.
Prototyping the dashboard
Creating an application that collects and synthesizes data submitted by users was the functional priority. We needed to provide consistent features across the mobile and desktop versions that allowed users to see high-level trends, assign imagery to observations, and explore information about the various species being documented. Safety and security were essential as well.
The challenge lay in accounting for things as specific as vantage point coordinates and species information while also ensuring that the branding was consistent. We also provided consultation on how to set up payments and what payments to require in order to compensate indigenous peoples for their contributions. It was a holistic effort, one where the app was much more than the sum of its parts: a tool of empowerment with the potential to enact substantive change.