Canlis

Canlis Community College

Launching a night school with Seattle’s most iconic fine dining institution —in just four weeks.

Canlis is a Seattle institution. For 69 years, this restaurant clinging to the side of a cliff next to the Aurora bridge has been the premier dining experience in the city. Currently, on its third generation of owners—brothers Mark & Brain Canlis—Canlis has woven deep into the fabric of the Seattle community and holds a special place in the hearts of many.

In March, with the pandemic looming, Canlis closed their doors before the stay-at-home orders, asserting, “fine dining isn’t what Seattle needs right now.” Over the course of the next 6 months, they would try 7 new business concepts, and hold two fundraisers—pivoting and pivoting again to keep their staff employed, and provide a bright spot of energy and hope to the city.

As the summer came to a close and the notorious Seattle rains loomed large, so too, Canlis had to close their outdoor Crabshack, and—with no other options to create a dining experience that was both profitable and safe.

In an attempt to keep Canlis afloat, and weather the upcoming rain, the brothers dreamed up the idea for Canlis Community College. Described as “online learning, in-person fun” the Community College brought together an impressive cast of local organizations and individuals to create a mix of both online and offline experiences characterized by food, wine, and most importantly deeply Seattle experiences.

Canlis Community College, totally unaccredited

In just 4 weeks, we built an entirely from-scratch web experience that allowed students to enroll in the school for just 25 dollars. From there they could view any of the many available live courses, purchase field trips, and yes even order frozen TV dinners.

Most of the usual product development conventions went out the window and we had to move at an unprecedented pace. The epitome of an iterative and collaborative process, often sitting with Canlis in person. We imagined features as they were being coded, designed UX things often after we began a POC, and even worked with Canlis staff to pressure test the app before a public release.

Over the next 6 weeks, we and the team at Canlis will learn a lot about what it means to build a school while you fly it. We couldn’t be more excited about partnering with such an iconic brand and bringing the community together.

Courses at the Community College begin Tuesday 10/6.

Visual identity and illustration by Don Clark for Invisible Creature

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