Figuring out where to eat and shop in your city should be easy in the Internet age. But anyone who has used sites like Yelp knows how frustrating the reviews and messy site designs can be. Local newspapers can be helpful, but they may not have the time or taste to make valuable suggestions. A group of New York designers is finding a better way: On The Grid, a new website that features a city’s coolest destinations, with each neighborhood’s picks curated by a discerning design studio.
The platform is the work of the design agency Hyperakt, which had worked out of the Brooklyn neighborhood Carroll Gardens for 12 years before moving south to the up-and-coming post-industrial area Gowanus. “There are a lot of amazing places in Gowanus that people don’t know about, because they’re not all in the same place,” Deroy Peraza*, Hyperakt’s creative director said over a phone call. “The more we found, the more special we realized the neighborhood was,” Senior UX/UI Designer Eric Fensterheim adds. Fensterheim came up with a plan to tell others about their discoveries: a platform that would show off the key Gowanus spots their team felt were worth checking out. Many of these are under the radar gems, like the Gowanus Print Lab, or occultist’s haven the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
On The Grid is designed to be simple and accessible. On the homepage, you’re greeted with the city’s name on the left and a list of neighborhoods on the right. Click on a neighborhood to pull up a grid of recommended spots. The suggestions can also be seen on a map, and a drop-down menu lets you sort by category so you can narrow down the results to just restaurants, parks or whatever else you’re looking for. Each neighborhood has 30 to 40 picks, from bars shilling $15 cocktails to hole-in-the-wall bubble tea shops.
At first, a guide to Gowanus was all Fensterheim had planned. But soon, he realized that On The Grid could easily be scaled to other neighborhoods and cities. So Hyperakt started recruiting other New York design agencies and asked them to curate a guide to the neighborhood where they worked. Barrel curated guides to Little Italy and Nolita, Wasabi Rabbit has a guide to South Street Seaport, and Original Champions of Design tackled the East Village. “What’s most exciting about it is that everyone gets to do it in their on way. [Each studio] has their own voice,” Peraza says. “Once you involve other studios it becomes this organically growing thing that can get bigger and bigger.”
On The Grid was launched a month ago, and the designers say that every day, studios around the world contact them about bringing the site to their city. They have 30 neighborhoods in the works, with one rolling out in New York every week, and Los Angeles launching in July. Currently, there are no plans to monetize the site.
Hyperakt’s designers say that the site’s value lies in the connections they’ve made to other design studios around the world, many of which they’d never heard of. And the tips they’ve received are invaluable, even in their own city. “Having that trusty guide is amazing,” Peraza said. “I’m in Flatiron right now, I really wish their site was curated already. Looking at Yelp takes forever.”
*In an earlier version of this article Deroy Peraza’s name was spelled incorrectly. We regret the error.