How we helped Pharrell Williams reimagine music education for students around the world
Help Tuniversity—launched by Grammy-winning producer Pharrell Williams, Brent Paschke, and Kiko Doran—combat dwindling public school budgets and reinvigorate their music education programs by using high-impact multimedia technology and the energy of today’s top hits.
Design and build a highly interactive iBook that advances the Tuniversity mission, and equip the Tuniversity team with a marketing website and tools to deliver their message and education curriculum.
A multi-year product strategy for a multi-platinum artist
Pharrell Williams is a 13-time Grammy-winning producer and recording artist who consistently attributes his meteoric rise to his public school music education. Years of playing in the marching band helped Pharrell learn how to capture and communicate his musical dreams.
But it’s no secret that public school music programs have been victims of shrinking budgets and competing priorities. To change that tune, Pharrell joined forces with Brent Paschke and Kiko Doran to launch Tuniversity, a company dedicated to bolstering school music education with high-impact technology.
Tuniversity’s first release was an iBook based on Pharrell’s song “Happy,” 2014’s best-seller and winner of two Grammys and an Oscar. Modern Tribe was hired to design and craft the book and, following Apple’s approval, build a website to accompany it and future releases. This was a large project that would span multiple calendar years, so we started by helping Tuniversity define their goals and produce a high-level product roadmap that broke the outcomes into manageable four- to six-week sprints.
Creating a new visual identity
We set out to craft a look that fits Pharell’s multi-faceted style, but would also be applicable to other artists. Our design concepts combined researched assets from web and print with original type and color explorations to create looks with varied aesthetic elements.
The end result was a concept rooted in classic blue note jazz record covers, with a focus on bold typography and black and white photography enhanced by eye-catching colors. Aside from the aesthetic fit, we focused on ensuring that the cover style could be replicated for multiple artists and photo layouts by following a few simple steps and techniques in production.
Coding for an interactive educational experience
Translating from iBook to website
Planning for heavy traffic surges
Pharrell and Apple’s marketing muscle would power the promotion of the iBook, which meant we had to be prepared for extremely heavy traffic on Tuniversity.com. Using WP Engine’s digital experience platforms, we built a site that can scale seamlessly as demand increases and decreases and is resilient enough to withstand the loss of one or more compute resources.
Developing multi-platform file delivery solutions
To deliver the ideal hands-on learning experience Tuniversity imagined, students following along in the iBook need to access large files from GarageBand that accompany the lessons. Our development leads set up an external Amazon Web Services server so that when a user submits a request, we ping the AWS server, validate a user’s iBook purchase and then deliver the GarageBand files directly to the user’s device.
Pages of bespoke design
Rating in the Apple Book Store
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