• 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. List

    Last week features editor Liv Siddall put out a call to arms to the illustration community, inviting practitioners young and old to push their discipline further and keep their work exciting and fresh. She cited in particular the regurgitation of the same established names at illustration fairs and events as a cynical way to flog tickets and boost sales instead of creating a platform for new, innovative work.

  2. Main

    This week, Features Editor Liv Siddall wonders whether the world of illustration, and the events that champion them, have perhaps become a bit stale. And maybe we should take steps to champion as many new and exciting artists as possible, as opposed to falling back on the same names time and time again.

  3. List

    This week Rob Alderson welcomes the excellent Dazed 100 list of defining creative pioneers but wonders why readers are being asked to help rank the entries. As ever you can join the debate using the comment thread below….

  4. Opinion-list-new

    This week It’s Nice That director Will Hudson talks about why he reckons the new Randall Wright-directed documentary Hockney is so brilliant. You can let us know your thoughts in the comment thread below.

  5. Opinion-list

    This week assistant editor Maisie Skidmore asks what it is about weekly podcast Serial that has got the whole world talking. As ever, we want to hear what you think! Add your two pennies in the comment thread below.

  6. List

    This week Rob Alderson examines Paper Magazine’s attempts to “break the internet” with their nude Kim Kardashian photoshoot. He asks if it’s actually a good cover, and what (if anything) it tells us about the magazine industry. As ever you can add your thoughts below…

  7. List

    Ahead of a panel discussion we’re hosting at London College of Communication next week we’re keen to explore whether the gap between design schools and the creative industries is a problem that needs addressing. You can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

  8. List

    In a special Opinion piece, Rob Alderson explains why the closure of London’s Kemistry Gallery is a cause for concern, but why its ambitious future plans need to be encouraged. You can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

  9. Lead

    This week online editor Emily Gosling looks at who can really claim authorship of artworks created using technology designed by someone else. Who can really take the credit for art that might not be possible without the tech know-how of others?

  10. List

    This week Rob Alderson reflects on an interesting blog by Chloe Markowicz which suggests that people are ashamed to call what they do advertising. As ever you can join the debate and add your comments using the discussion thread below.

  11. Main

    Wake up! Freshers’ Week is done – all that colourful IKEA kitchenware your mum got you is nowhere to be seen and you’ve gained 478 new friends on Facebook and an awkward conversation with your home friends about who you’re actually going to Glastonbury with next year. To be honest, being a fresher usually goes on for way longer than a week. After a month or so of partying and drinking Glenn’s Vodka and Robinson’s out of tupperware bowls you wake up with a whole load of briefs to tackle and studio space and equipment to fight over. This is the START of ART SCHOOL.

  12. List

    In recent months the question of so-called spec work has been raised with us over social media in light of various design competitions we have helped promote. Off the back of that we have spent a lot of time discussing this thorny issue with various people so as to formulate a consistent approach, although the nature of these things is that each is best analysed on a case by case basis.

  13. List

    This week Rob Alderson reflects on the launch of the new Design Museum website and the strange suggestion that the redesign should have been given to a British agency rather than Dutch studio Fabrique. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…