Working in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), our goal is to create a digital experience that supports and enhances the experience of the Appalachian Trail—without becoming a distraction.
We started by interviewing Appalachian Trail celebrities like Jennifer Pharr Davis, M.E. "Postcard" Hughes, and Laurie Potteiger (on staff at the ATC and mentioned in the infamous book A Walk In The Woods). We followed up with the team at an exploratory workshop in Harper's Ferry at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters. Along the way, we collected ideas from hikers as they passed through the visitors center.
After months of research, we identified an opportunity to create a tool for the Appalachian Trail community. It enables users to live and relive their experiences on the trail through capturing, sharing and viewing a collective tapestry of moments.
The trials, the triumphs, the joys and the community could be preserved and felt through an image, a sound, a drawing, a song, a video, a word or a sentence. Perhaps the most crucial element of this design is that Latch allows individuals to share these snapshots without interfering with the experience itself. The app’s simple and minimal interface lets users record and share these moments while still being in them.
Latch automatically populates an online tapestry and interactive map, giving a voice and window in on what’s happening on the Appalachian Trail. Additionally, Latch shares these moments through preselected social media channels —freeing users to stay connected with nature and not their digital tools.
We needed to create a name and build a brand that resonated with our audience—particularly the existing Appalachian Trail community. Throughout our interviews, we were struck by the different pronunciations of Appalachian (one being "app-a-LATCH-an" and the other "app-a-lay-shun”) and the responses to our own way of saying it. This is an ongoing source of debate and conversation with the ATC. The ways of hearing and sounding the name are as individual and varied as the ways of experiencing the trail. In homage to this, we phonetically extracted “latch” - a word that holds a lot of meaning and a story that resonates with this audience.
The Old English origins of the word "latch" go back to the idea of ‘taking hold of, to grasp (physically or mentally)’—similar to how we believe Latch will allow users to capture experiences that "take hold" of them as they walk on the trail.
From this, we created a mark that represents the playfulness of the word and the motion of moving along a path. Familiar yet timeless, it gives a nod to the visual language of outdoor gear (i.e. maps), while remaining accessible and appealing to a wider audience.
We are looking to build on the research we’ve done so far and refine the idea further through a co-design process with the Appalachian Trail community. The anticipation we feel about exploring this project mimics the delight we feel discovering the trail itself. If this feels exciting to you too, contact us so we can collaborate on ways to see the Appalachian Trail and Latch flourish.