Several weeks ago, Designsensory proudly and excitedly played a crucial part in the launch of a new Tennessee statewide tourism initiative: Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Governor Phil Bredesen, along with the Commissioner of Tourist Development, Susan Whitaker, announced an initiative that will take Tennessee Tourism to the next level.  

The premise is simple: most travelers visit well-known cities within a state or region. Unfortunately, this often leaves so much left to be discovered begging the question: Is there an easy way to get people to leave the tried-and-true behind and explore new things. Tennessee's new tourism initiative answers that call.

The mandate from the State on this project could not have been more clear---create a wildly memorable website for people to engage a new ground-breaking, state-wide tourism initiative in Tennessee. We were simply told "Have fun and just run with this one." Well, we did!

This was one of those projects where we threw ourselves into an idea not exactly knowing how we would pull it off. Let me just say, I love the pressure and creative breakthroughs that come from this type of scenario. Creatively, my goals for the user experience were quite clear: meaningful movement, whimsical yet contextually-specific imagery, and visually something different from the conventional page and site structure. We wanted movement---not gimicky but something that made sense within the concept.

In surveying possible new ways to create movement without Flash I came across a jQuery plug-in called jParallax. As usual, our tech team and Josh, in particular, worked a miracle to get past the learning curve and make it work with everything else. The integration of this plug-in allowed us to implement the key conceptual element of the website---the left-to-right, east-to-west browsing action of the view-port area. Later, we would return to this code to deploy custom interactive trail maps based on the graphical print map found in the brochures.

It's quite incredible to think that the entire site, which when all the trails finish development and go live will include thousands of backroad finds and hidden gems all served up from essentially one "page". In the end, what is most experimental is not the visual or technical design but the organization and browsing behavior. This website could have easily evolved into a typical "menu, click-to list, click-to tertiary page with a sidebar" routine. Instead, as the emotional appeal of the initiative suggests, we left our comfort zone and explored new ground. Hopefully, the ends will be as satisfying as the means.

The early feedback could not have been more promising. Here is a videocast from a well-known online design resource (Thank you Unmatched Style): from Unmatched Style on Vimeo.

Anyway, give the website a go and see what you think. Better yet, travel to Tennessee and experience the trails firsthand. As the initiative blossoms over time, we hope the interactive experience leaves a memorable impression with the explorer in all of us compelling people to...hit the trail!


If you want to learn more about the website, visit our portfolio page. You can also interact with the initiatve on social platforms (courtesy the hard work of our partner agency Paramore|Redd). Participate in the development of the trails on Facebook, stay informed on Twitter and post images from the trail to Flickr.