The Pitchfork Redesign: 3 Things I’d Change

The Pitchfork Redesign: 5 Things I'd Change (Before)

The Pitchfork Redesign: 5 Things I'd Change (After)

Yesterday morning, Kyle informed me that Pitchfork, the music site that everyone has an opinion on, had launched a brand new redesign and that I should check it out. As a lot fo you know I’m a sucker for a well executed redesign, so I was curious to see how it turned out. Overall I’d say that the site seems to have some good ideas, but it feels like a step backwards. The one thing they’ve improved is their global navigation, which was old, crowded and in need of a spring cleaning. Other then that the design seems claustrophobic and monochromatic, lacking any style or vibrancy of the past design. Here are three things I’d do to put some life back in the site.

Open Things Up
The new design features not only a grey background behind the content, but a super dark grey background behind all of the content. It really makes the content look squished, rather than large and beautiful. You end up with a bunch of boxes that look too compact and your eyes don’t have a natural place to land. I’d suggest doing two things: Increasing the size of the page width to 980px to allow for more room in the gutters, and getting rid of all that grey. As you can see in my tweaked version, the results are instantly noticeable, the page looks like a breath of fresh air.

Bring Back Color
The other big thing I noticed in their new redesign is the glaring absence of red, Pitchfork’s trademark color. Like Target, Pitchfork is known for it’s punches of red all across the site, which never bothered me, personally. Now the red has been relegated to hover states only and random section titles. I’d suggest bringing the red back and using it in the logo, as well as headlines and other key points of interest.

Fonts Give Style
When I look at Pitchfork now, all I see is a Helvetica wasteland, and that’s not a dig at Helvetica. Pre-redesign the site was all in Lucida Grand, which maybe isn’t my first choice, but it certainly gave it some character. Helvetica is fine for stuff like body copy but there needs to be some sort of hierarchy between sections, and substituting a font for the titles and navigation gives it a little spark. I subbed in some Franklin Gothic, a clean and timeless font that looks good in upper and lowercase.

I also made some other changes as well that weren’t as evident but still make an impact. I adjusted the navigation to make room for the search bar. By doing that I was able to move the sharing tools to the other side of the page, giving much more balance to the header. I also increased the size of the header fonts a bit too make them more legible, and I made the body text a dark grey rather than black to improve legibility there as well.

The one last thing that needs some love is their new logo. In a general sense I really like the new logo. I’m not sure what font it is, but it’s unique and has an interesting character to it. I hate the way they’ve mutilated it though, with awkward cuts in the P and F, and the way they’ve attempted to force the points pitchfork into the K. It looks cheesy at best and really adds no value to the logo. In my version I cleaned it up and I think it looks much nicer.

As you can see, I didn’t do a whole lot, but the small details of stuff like this is extremely important, and I think they may have been overlooked. The only good way to end this post is: The devil is in the details.


13 Comments The Pitchfork Redesign: 3 Things I’d Change

  1. Aaron August 30, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    Puts on Streetfight voice: ‘Bobby wins!’.

    Definitely prefer the red – gives it character and warmth.

  2. Joy August 30, 2011 at 12:49 AM

    It’s the little things that count.

  3. Kevin August 30, 2011 at 3:41 AM

    Oh that ‘k’ is really bad. Really liked the injection of red in the past design. Hopefully they bring it back like you did in yours.

  4. Jeff August 30, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    I’m not one to quickly to quickly dish out vitriol regarding redesigns op popular sites, but i’ve gotta agree with you here.

    The whole thing just seems half-assed and devoid of any of the character the previous design had.

  5. C.Swift August 30, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    Much better, it really is all about the details, details, details.

  6. Cam August 30, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    Well done, much improved…and easily improved.

  7. AW August 30, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    Your version of the logo is ten x better. Thumbs up.

  8. Orr August 30, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    Great point about moving the social media icons – now they’re fighting with the logo, while on the right they create so much balance. I feel like I can’t unsee it now…

  9. Alex B August 30, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    I have always respected the views and opinions of all the writers here, ever since the not so distant days of Kitsune-Noir. Even so, in this particular case, I must admit in my opinion you’re being a slight bit critical of the logo/font-choice. The writers here have much more experience in the traditions and fads of design, but don’t forget, this is still Art. In this sense there is no mutilation, just someone’s idea that they obviously liked enough to throw smack-dab on the top-center of a website. That is, unless you’re some type of crazed typography nut, which after reading these past years I know that Bobby is not.

  10. Bobby Solomon August 30, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    @Jeff – Yeah, this isn’t meant to be vitriolic, but I thought it deserved a proper crit. I would absolutely say all of this to the face the designer who did this. Feedback is good for all of us.

    @Alex B – One of my favorite sayings is “Opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one.” That said, I’m not quiet alone on my opinion:

  11. Marshall August 31, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    Looks like they heard you on the red; they’ve already added it back into their icon. There’s also a bit more red on the inside pages than on the home page, so it’s not that bad.

    The one trend in web design I’m troubled by is that links are more and more only being indicated by convention (home page headlines are always linked) and hover states, rather than any kind of normal state that differentiates them from section headers or body text. But there are no hover states on touch devices, so if you’re browsing pitchfork on a phone or tablet, you see even less red than you do on a pc.

    I don’t know that Pitchfork would say that “punches of red” are central to their brand or user experience, but if I remember correctly, their previous site also had not-completely-desaturated background colors and maybe a bit of brown, so the overall feel was pretty warm and this redesign definitely loses that to its own detriment.

  12. reese August 31, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    I really can’t say enough bad things about the redesign from an aesthetic standpoint. It’s just horrendously bland, uninviting, and far too cluttered to be useful. Your take on their design is major step in the right direction.

  13. Corey Thompson September 1, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Like Marshall said they added some small details of red, and I dig it. Glad they added the red in the logo, and not the headline, think it looks better that way.

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