• Opinion
Opinion

Do platforms that cover design need to be well-designed themselves?

Posted by Rob Alderson,

In light of our recent changes and the launch of the new-look Design Observer, Rob Alderson reflects on design websites’ redesigns. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below, and we’re particularly keen to hear what you’re making of our new look!

“We live in a world where you can’t even redesign a logo without a pile-on. But I’m grateful to live in a world where at least now people who are thoughtful will figure out why they hate it.” So said Michael Bierut, Pentagram partner and one of the most thoughtful design writers around when interviewed about the new-look Design Observer site.. “I’m sure we’ll be criticised for continuing to favour a design that is beholden to the legacy of print,” he told Fast Co.

Michael and his fellow Observer editors unveiled the new site on 1 July, and explained in the launch article: “We remain, as ever, deeply committed to thinking about and reacting to the visual world. With this relaunch, we renew our promise to becoming more timely. More dynamic. More critical and daring. More democratic in our reach. And more committed to international coverage.”

The first comment appeared within minutes, beginning witheringly: “This is such a missed opportunity…”

The relaunched Design Observer site came just a week or so after our own redesign. Ours is intended to be the first stage in a bigger overhaul, but we were keen to simplify our content stream, improve legibility on articles and tweak some of the navigation.

The feedback we got via social media was pretty positive on the whole, with several great bits of constructive criticism that we’ve very much folded into our thinking.

Redesigns are always complex, time-consuming and emotionally draining projects, and as a platform that covers design we felt the pressure was very much on us to get it right. We’re sure Michael and his colleagues knew their work would be similarly scrutinised; perhaps even more so than us given their position in the design blogosphere.

But I sometimes wonder if we overthink this kind of thing. There are some hugely successful design sites which, I would argue, aren’t that well designed. Does it detract from what they do? Does it matter? At the end of the day design journalism of every stripe is about showcasing, analysing and exploring design and arguably that can happen whatever the site (or the magazine) looks like. It might be argued that if we can’t get our own platforms right, are we really best placed to comment on the designs work of others. But this may be disingenuous. Would we expect a theatre critic to be able to write a great play, or a food writer to be a great cook?

comments powered by Disqus
Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Opinion View Archive

  1. Kingadz-autenticity-list

    In the branding and advertising world, authenticity seems to have become the Holy Grail. Seemingly melded to whatever people need it to convey, it’s become a buzzword whose significance has mushroomed while its meaning has all but vanished. With this in mind King Adz, aka Adam N. Stone – whose new book Unbrandable is out this summer – considers what authenticity really means in a contemporary creative context. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  2. Kinfolk_14.cover

    The latest issue of Gym Class magazine has an eye-catching cover; with bold block capitals on a black background spelling out: “Nobody cares about your oh-so-cool, Kickstarted, tactile, minimalist unoriginal magazine.” It’s intended as a “call to action,” Gym Class editor Steven Gregor told MagCulture, “make magazines, and make them exceptional.”

  3. Applewtach-list-int

    The Apple Watch was officially unveiled yesterday (as was a super-thin 13.1mm new MacBook) and as ever the internet is awash with run-downs and reactions slobbering over the new products. For Wolff Olins design director Jan Eumann though, the imminent arrival of the new timepiece got him thinking about logo design, and in particular how app buttons have rehabilitated the logo. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  4. Rod-hunt-int-hero

    Do you really need an agent? Why? What do they actually do? In a talk hosted by The Illustrator’s Guild of Ireland at this year’s Offset festival a panel featuring Peepshow Collective’s Andrew Rae and Chrissie Macdonald, illustrators Rod Hunt and Matthew Griffin and Bernstein & Andriulli agent Sam Summerskill, we heard about how best to go about finding an agent, what they look for and what they get up to. Here’s what we learnt…

  5. Opinion-int-list

    After visiting the Design Indaba conference in South Africa, Rob Alderson asks if the leading designers working today favour humility and modesty over the cloying over-confidence of their predecessors. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  6. Opinion-davidpearson-int-list

    Last week an interesting Twitter debate sprang up after a comment by graphic designer Andy Pressman who admitted that on a recent series he worked on it wasn’t always possible to read the books before designing the covers. So we decided to speak to a few other book cover designers and find out where they stand on this apparently quite divisive design issue; as ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  7. Marckremers-opinion-int-list

    As part of the digital design showcase we are running with Represent, we interviewed Marc Kremers and found him in an unflinching mood as he detailed some of the issues he felt were affecting the industry. Such was the reaction to Marc’s piece both on the microsite and social media, we have decided (with his permission) to republish an excerpt of his interview here. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below, and check out the dedicated digital design showcase here.

  8. Ije-nwokorie-indaba-sun

    As CEO of Wolff Olins, Ije Nwokorie is well-versed in the creative landscape; the forces that shape it and in turn how it shapes our world. Describing himself as “born in the US, bred in Nigeria and enlightened in England” he also has a global sensibility that sets him apart from many of his peers.

  9. Opinion-int-list

    A new survey has identified what clients see as the four worst types of design agency, and Rob Alderson suggests we should listen to what they had to say. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below..

  10. Robertbye-opinion-list

    The intern debate is still one of the most talked-about issues whenever we meet young designers. This week Robert Bye wrote an interesting article about why, after three months interning in a design consultancy, he believes doing crappy jobs did sometimes make sense.

  11. List

    Assistant editor Maisie Skidmore chimes in on the debate about the presence of full-frontal male nudity in Rick Owens’ AW15 collection which showed in Paris a few days ago. Do you think penises on the catwalk are a step too far? Leave your comments below!

  12. List

    Following this week’s news that plain cigarette packaging could be introduced in England as soon as next year, Studio Minerva co-founder and creative strategy lead Silas Amos tells us about the designs that made his relationship with smoking “always equally one with the branding.”

  13. Artsemergency-list

    Earlier this week James Blunt’s open letter to shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant went viral, in which the musician hit back at the MP’s assertion that the arts was dominated by those from privileged backgrounds. But Jonathan Wakeham of Arts Emergency and The London Comedy Film Festival believes James’ (admittedly amusing) letter missed the point. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comments thread below.