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Pitchfork's creative director discusses the design of Cover Stories

Neil Bennett | May 17, 2013
The creative process behind the music site's innovative, elegant layouts for in-depth interviews with the likes of Daft Punk, Bat for Lashes and Savages.

The creative process behind the music site's innovative, elegant layouts for in-depth interviews with the likes of Daft Punk, Bat for Lashes and Savages.

Hip music website Pitchfork has debuted a new type of article layout that eschews the everything-shouting-at-once approach of many editorial sites in favour of elegantly simple scrolling responsive layouts more in keeping with a Sunday supplement - although with video and animation used alongside photos and illustration. It's a form that feels more natural for reading longer features, especially on a tablet  and is a form that after the popularity of the similarly artfuly laid-out Snow Fall story on the New York Times site, many have predicted as the future of long-form journalism on the web

We caught up with the site's creative director Michael Renaud to find how these Cover Stories are designed.

We also discussed Advance, a way of presenting pre-launch album streams that aims to replicate the experience popular with previous generations of music fans of listening to an LP while staring at the sleeve artwork. Advance provides a series of abstract animations or still artworks on screen, so that listeners can focus on the music in similar fashion.

DA: What was it about traditional online layouts that you wanted to improve on?

MR: "The Cover Stories are how we explore the possibilities of presenting our features. Our editorial staff has been producing some amazing work, and we felt like it deserved to be highlighted.

"We're trying to build something that feels like you're a little more invested in the story. Most people are fully on board with consuming their media exclusively through digital means, which I think makes a 'print feel' even more special: like it's a luxury  which is funny when you consider how luxurious it is to be able to have what we have with the Internet.

"There's something about just sitting with a magazine that feels a little bit more special than it did five or 10 years ago  like you're treating yourself. Even though the tactile nature of a magazine is impossible to reproduce on screen, releasing the way people have been traditionally presented with sidebars of secondary content online while reading a long form piece is kind of an easy way to make that content feel more special."

DA: Is the aim to create a custom layout for each Cover Story or provide a template that content pours into from set fields in your CMS?

 

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