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May 10, 2022

Designing Ourselves out of a Job – How Motorsports is benefitting from a new wave of technically proficient designers who know no limits

by Samuel Pawlak

TLDR: Modern web and no-code tools are becoming so efficient that the time/monetary cost to maintain and advance marketing agendas via a legacy system is only going to increase. As a result, what previously required a developer, a UI/UX designer, and a marketing personnel is now being carried out at scale by passionate and highly invested individuals within the motorsports industry vs large outside generalist agencies. This compression of information paired with their ability to execute at speed is bringing more efficient and tailored solutions to motorsports…And I promise I’m not just saying that because Ikoniqa Motorsports Studio is one of those studios doing just that. It’s a trend we’re now seeing across the board in multiple business sectors. Using our recent project with the Formula Race Promotions Series, we discuss how motorsports as a whole will benefit from this new wave of tech and designers, and why we aimed to quite literally design a system that made us obsolete.

Almost none of what was performed for this project would have been possible for a designer alone to do just 5 years ago. The barrier to entry on the technical development side of marketing and design is falling fast. Modern web and no-code tools have come a seriously long way in bringing what was previously only executable by a developer with a deep understanding of UI/UX and branding (A trio of skills almost no one possesses) to someone who only focuses solely on the marketing and design side (People like me). That’s not to say the suite of products we use is easy to play with, as there’s still a massive learning curve. However, compared to learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and how to make API calls…well, it’s definitely a lot easier than that.  

In practice, what these tools have done is removed the need for us to consider the difficulty in execution, thus letting us as designers focus more so on solving real problems and building amazing solutions for businesses, teams, or in this case, an SCCA sanctioned pro racing series. This also touches on a point I made in a recent video “The Future of Motorsports Broadcasting”, where I spoke about how technology is an inherently deflationary market force. The latter is a prime example of this, and Formula Race Promotions as a series has thus become a recent beneficiary of this force.

Phase 1 – The FRP Brand

In our recent video on the topic, I gave a quick overview of how the FRP brand evolved, but I didn’t really touch on why. Why even bother creating brand elements, new logos, a new type face, new colorway, etc. The simple answer is, we needed to differentiate (from the typical racing series), communicate our value clearly, create a lasting brand identity that can be leveraged and identified for years to come, and provide the series’ participants and prospective participants with a much better and faster user experience. All in all, these positive advancements aim to grow the series through improved communication and marketability.  

To better understand this, let’s view the FRP Series through the lens of a product. Prior to our work, the series still offered a great product to drivers who wanted to compete in a wide array of open wheel championships. But this was never really communicated well, and the series’ own value proposition was buried in their FAQ page of all places. On top of that, all of their championships were disjointed, as each had their own separate website. The series also lacked a true brand identity that it could use to promote itself, and the brand assets it did have, such as its logo, were dated and scaled poorly. The rebrand addressed these issues directly, and you can learn more about this specific aspect via our project recap of the rebrand.  

Phase 2 – The Series New Website, What You See – A Pro Racing Series  

FRP’s new website is a vehicle for relevant user information wrapped in their new brand identity and served via a seamless user experience. In contrast, a lot of racing series tend to treat their websites like information repositories, with little focus on UI/UX, or brand. We saw this as a huge opportunity to leverage their new brand and elevate the status and legitimacy of their series. First impressions matter a lot in business, and people (for better or for worse) will naturally feel the quality, appearance, and experience with a brand is a direct reflection of the quality of the people, product, or service, itself. In the case of FRP, (speaking from experience myself) drivers and teams are very involved, supportive, and overall pleased with how the series is run and maintained. But this experience was never projected outward through any particular channel, whether explicitly or through their brand. It was something only an involved participant could understand. With their recent rebranding of the site, we aimed to convey a level of quality and professionalism outward to prospective drivers while providing a better UX to everyone who interacted with the brand. The ability to have complete freedom of design and control of the entire user experience down to the pixel is another example of something that only within the last 5 or so years designers without developers on hand could pull off.

Phase 3 – The Series New Website, What You Don’t See – Building a Marketing Machine that makes us obsolete.  

The complete migration of FRP’s old web system to what they have now took nearly a year to complete. Tons of data, documents, photos, and information dating back to 2006 had to be properly sorted and reinstated. This is typical of a company that’s been operating on a legacy system when it could easily be leveraging simpler modern systems. Once we had everything properly transitioned over, we had a seriously robust foundation of data that we could now do whatever we needed to with. So here’s what we built….

Behind the new FRP website is a custom content management system we designed. It encompasses all of their data (and I mean ALL of it), now neatly sorted into twelve folders where anything can be looked up and fetched. It works brilliantly, and nothing makes me happier than building a high efficiency system like this. It’s the motorsports equivalent of getting your engine rebuilt after a hard season of racing.

This design of such a system was not previously possible, let alone accessible not too long ago. All of this data is also tied directly into the website itself, powering all of the information users see. To anyone familiar with traditional web design, none of this is new or surprising (outside of the fact that we didn’t write any code to construct it). What was surprising to us though was just often we see people holding onto legacy systems that either make progression difficult, slow, or non-accessible to non-technical people. To build upon the aspect on how we used no-code tools (i.e. design tools that don’t require coding), what we’ve found thus far is that despite the limitations this can present, motorsports as an industry rarely requires something so technically advanced that we need to develop a truly custom piece of software or function. It’s not like the fintech industry where we’re building digital financial instruments with insanely high security standards (but hell, even that industry is going no-code). What we’re building are dynamic data systems, brands, brand identities, digital experiences, and seamlessly tying them all together to execute a given business strategy in a high efficiency manner.

The website is therefore a living product of sorts. It communicates the brand ethos and relevant information to users. And by cementing these two aspects upfront, the focus can be placed more heavily on content and messaging. But it gets even better. Because at the end of the day, we designed ourselves out of a job. What do I mean by this? FRP staff can easily login, make website changes via the content management system folders, and publish without us. The user interfaces that FRP staff would interact with is so easy to use, no technical skill whatsoever is required to run it. In essence, we built FRP a product, and now they can take this product and use it on their own. As we like to say, a truly well-designed system is a system which no longer requires the designer who built it… even if that means we no longer service that client.  

Why do we do this though? Because at the end of the day, technology will inevitably replace our entire studio, and it would be nothing but a disservice if we attempted to hold anyone back by trying to appear technically superior to someone who doesn’t know any better. In the same way new technology is allowing a single designer like myself to fill the role of a developer, a UI/UX designer, and a marketing personnel, designers will start to be replaced by core business strategists running highly efficient AI powered creative, development, and data analytics tools. It’s not as far off as you might think.

Until the next tech compression wave hits though, we’ll keep designing and building tailored solutions for motorsports for this current wave. It’s been an amazing wave to ride thus far.  

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