• 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. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.”

  4. 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.

  5. List

    Branding agency Morillas’ chief executive officer Marc Morillas considers the way advertising agencies commandeer symbols of protest for use in advertising campaigns and commercial branding. What do you think about the reappropriation of these symbols? As ever, you can add your comments in the discussion thread below.

  6. List

    It is now one week since the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed, including some of France’s best-known and best-loved cartoonists. We have already covered the immediate responses of the illustration community but in the past seven days so much has been said and written about satire, cartoons, free speech and the subversive magazine that it’s been tricky to try and make sense of it all.

  7. Unnamed-2

    Back to school, back to work – it’s not surprising everyone’s got anxious, upside down smiles at this time of the year. Most fresh starts are usually followed by fresh resolutions – and we’re no stranger to looking ahead and trying to predict what’s going to happen in our own lives, as well as that of the creative world. With that in mind, we’ve put our slightly mushy heads together and concocted a list of ten animators, designers, illustrators, magazines and artists who are about to spring from the perfectly acceptable “small time” to the much-lauded “big time.” Ready? Here they are in no particular order…

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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….

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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…