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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.

MR: "Right now we're creating a custom layout for each story. We do this so we can test out new ideas without too many guidelines and restrictions, but also so each story is art directed in a way that suits the band and story in tone.

"Editorially-driven websites today should be improving and changing on a regular basis. Gone are the days of redesigning a site and leaving it be for three years."

"There are so many interesting advancements being made in web technology and how we process them, and we want to be exploring those things as they happen. Although we try to be conscious of user fatigue with too many changes, and maintaining a consistent brand identity, we're also trying to be conscious of just doing the best we can to give our readers a good experience. A more robust and design-minded CMS is another issue."

DA: Tell us a bit about the design and layout process for Cover Stories

MR: "It usually starts with the pitch from the writer. Once we know we're doing one, we focus on the story's concept and decide on the visuals that will best complement it. While the writer works on the piece, we'll be scheduling photo/video shoots or having illustrators start on a brief.

"When the first draft comes in, we'll then give it a storyboard in InDesign, and then our development team begins working on it. Editorial will typically have a final look and make any necessary changes once it's about 80-90 per cent together on a staging site."

DA: Tell us about the concept behind Advance.

MR: "Advance is our platform for streaming albums before their release date. It was born from the idea of enjoying an album in real life and experiencing the packaging alongside it. So we provide a blank canvas in the browser as an opportunity for artists to submit whatever imagery they'd like as a companion to the album.

"Although we have links to buy the album, and pop-out modules for track listings and descriptions, the focus is on the images and videos submitted by the artist. This process is led by our technical director Matt Dennewitz and editor Brandon Stosuy.

"It's been fun watching what comes in  I think we all originally expected that most artists would be contributing just the album artwork, but most go the extra mile in creating custom GIFs, little notes to the readers, artwork form one of the band members, etc. It's really fun."

DA: What was the biggest technical challenge when creating these sections, and how did you overcome them?

MR: "Our biggest technical challenge has just been optimizing this for every screen size and browser type. In the end, we've conceded that this is meant to be experienced on a desktop or laptop. There are still limitations with tablets when it comes to the animation, but we're trying our best to optimize that environment as best we can with the resources we have.


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