Category Redesign

Comic Neue – A Designer’s Attempt At “Bettering” Comic Sans

Comic Neue - A Designer’s Attempt At "Bettering" Comic Sans

I never expected to seriously be writing about Comic Sans. The occasional reference for humor is a low hanging fruit to any typography writer but here we go. In all seriousness, let’s talk about the world’s most hated typeface because designer Craig Rozynski challenged himself to redesign it.

First, let’s look at the history of Comic Sans via Just My Type by Simon Garfield, because I believe that the world is too harsh on Vincent Connare. You might say he’s the person you curse under your breath when you see that passive aggressive note about cleaning the microwave at the office — but really he’s only partially to blame.

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The Academy Behind the Oscars Gets a New Identity

Academy-Rebrand-1With the Oscars around the corner, a new identity for the Academy that’s behind it all couldn’t have come at a better time. While the Academy might be synonymous with the film industry, they seriously lack a visual representation and often get lumped in with their iconic effigy. California based agency, 180LA, set about bringing the Academy from the shadows and literally into the spotlight, introducing a modern identity of pure class. A rebranding that manages to reach for the future without forgoing the decades of history under the Academy’s wings. Continue reading

Instapaper’s Fresh New Direction

Instapaper Redesign GIF

The app Instapaper‘s been around for a while. Its creator, Marco Arment, introduced it as the first read-it-later service back in 2008. As just a web product, users installed the Instapaper bookmarklet to save articles for reading in their browser. When the iPad came out in 2010, however, things changed and Instapaper became a product all about reading articles on the go. Eventually Arment’s many other projects became a hindrance to Instapaper, and he decided to sell it in hopes of keeping the product fresh.

That brings us to today. The company Arment sold it to, Betaworks, is fresh off their wonderful revamp of Digg; and has been steeping Instapaper in their labs for the past couple months. After a quick testing period, Betaworks released their redesigned web component to the public last week. Kind of like the service’s beginning, Instapaper‘s getting a fresh start in the browser. And taking a look at this redesign, it appears the future’s really shaping up well for the old favorite.

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Studio Small Rethink Meccano for Icon Magazine

Studio Small Rethinks Meccano

Studio Small Rethinks Meccano

It’s rare for me to get too excited over a brand redesign but when I saw Studio Small’s imagined Meccano rethink over on Collate I couldn’t help but be a little impressed. The redesign was created for Icon Magazine as part of their ongoing ‘Rethink’ feature, which asks a new designer each month to rethink an existing brand of their choice and look at ways to improve it.

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The Facebook homepage redesign: Will it work?

Facebook Homepage Redesign

The great thing about mocking up a website in Photoshop is the pixel perfection you achieve. An idealized version of a website manifested into spectacular glowing pixels that represents every minute detail your designer brain was able to dream up. The problem with mock-ups is that they aren’t real, and they’re immune to the influence of real life, to real users. This is one of the problems I see with Facebook’s beautiful new homepage redesign.

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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.


The Town of Rhyl Gets A Refreshed Identity from Proud Creative

The Town of Rhyl Gets A Refreshed Identity from Proud Creative

The Town of Rhyl Gets A Refreshed Identity from Proud Creative

The Town of Rhyl Gets A Refreshed Identity from Proud Creative

The Town of Rhyl Gets A Refreshed Identity from Proud Creative

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You know me, I love a good redesign, and this one from Proud Creative is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. Created for an issue of Icon Magazine, Proud Creative took on the challenge of creating a brand new identity for the seaside town of Rhyl, which for those of you (like me) who aren’t familiar, it’s on the northern coast of Wales.

They created a brand that’s filled with bright colors and interesting patterns which were inspired by the British seaside and a skewed rectangle, inspired by the angle of the Rhyl coastline. Seeing a project like this is so inspiring. Imagine if something like this were real? If the people and political heads of Rhyl took this project and enacted it, made it happen, and brightened their community?

Maybe instead of a Re-Covered Books project I should start a contest to rebrand your small town? Perhaps it could be the town you grow up in or a small town near you? Maybe there would even be a population limit?


Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air

Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air


Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air


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I thought I’d try my hand again at doing another unsolicited redesign of a site that I enjoy, but has fallen by the wayside over the years. Back when I first started Internet-ing in the late 90’s one of my favorite sites to visit was TreeHugger. At the time there was really nothing like it, exploring alternatives and helping to usher in a green mentality. Over the years though it’s started to fade, becoming a monster of banner features and skyscraper ads. Everything is currently screaming look at me and the features themselves seem to be of little to no importance. That’s why this is the perfect candidate for a redesign. To be clear, this wasn’t sanctioned, paid for, or endorsed by TreeHugger or the Discovery Channel, this is simply me having fun.

The Logo & Mark
The first thing I did was try a light handed redesign of the logo and mark. I don’t think either has changed in years, still maintaining the flavor of early 2000’s. The vibe of the site has always been a mix of environmentalism with a tech twist, but the pixelated tree and hard angled (but not) font wasn’t really working anymore. Neither is the ‘A Discovery Company’ lockup that’s way too tight, see how the A and D caress the first E in Treehugger? My idea was to simplify the Treehugger logo and refresh the mark… literally.

The mark is a simple combination of two things: The computer symbol for refresh and a leaf. I thought about using a recycling logo, but it felt contrived and bit too on the mark. I also feel like the idea of refreshing is more positive than recycling. A leaf is the most basic way to identify nature, and plays together well with the word treehugger. Together they embody the spirit of what the site has always been, nature meets tech.

For the logo I kept things simple, using the free font Miso by Omkrets Architects. The font is similar to the old one, but is a little bit softer and less trying to be tech related. The ‘A Discovery Company’ byline has been severely minimized and reduced down using Jason Kottke’s font Silkscreen. Together I think they form a nice combination and could also work easily on business cards, letterheads, etc.

The Website
When I started playing around with the design, the first thing I thought about was color. Okay, I get it, TreeHugger, it has to be green, right? All I see when I look at the current site is this deathly, moldy shade of green in the background that’s totally unappealing. So I decided to opt for a light blue instead, which I called a much needed breath of fresh air. When comparing the two side-by-side the results are… breath taking (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

Another huge hurdle I faced was trying to figure out what was important on the site. Currently there’s zero hierarchy on the page, everything is competing to be seen and it’s a huge mess, the web equivalent of a hoarder. I decided to break the site down into three main parts: a featured section, a main column, and a side column. The featured area is just what it sounds like, a simple carousel displaying popular or important stories. I see that TreeHugger is quite dependent on ads, I counted 7 ad units on one page, so I decided to determine the height of the featured unit by the height of a search box and a med rec.

The main column, which features all of the articles, is simplified and made larger to give it the respect it deserves. Currently on the site the articles seem like passing thoughts, squeezed between two columns of ads and click-me-nows. They’re also inundated with every sharing tool possible as well as recommendations for other stories. It was all too much. There are a few more things like tags or an Outbrain style of related articles that I could have added, but let’s not ruin the magic.

The sidebar was the last hurdle to jump, and I thought he best way to handle it was to do what Cool Hunting has done. Basically, they have a few ads in the sidebar, as well as some of their own pertinent information that could entice a reader. The genius part is that they allow for about five posts to go by, lazy load more posts, and then lazy load the sidebar again. This allows them to get a ton of ad impressions, even though a user hasn’t click a single story. I tried to get the folks at Myspace to do this, but it never clicked (yet again, I can’t help myself).

Overall, I think the site is a thousand times better and more easy to digest. It’s amazing how much crap can pile up on an established website over time. I’m not really sure if TreeHugger has a design staff, but hopefully my redesign gets someone in the right place thinking about changing things up. It’s also worth mentioning that they could benefit from an improved footer as well, but that’s a can of worms I didn’t want to open.

I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback and what you think about my little experiment. All critical feedback is accepted, but please keep it polite. If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep it to yourself.


Site Redesign: Giving The Netflix Homepage A Fresh Look

Netflix Redesign by The Fox Is Black

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I often complain about the design and look of websites. There’s a lot of sites out there that simply need some love and a few tweaks, and they’d instantly be much better off. There are also a lot of sites out there that have been around for so long that they’ve got digital junk laying around their site, like they could be on an episode of Hoarders. Instead of complaining endlessly about the matter I’ve decided to do something about it. So here’s my first try at redesigning an existing website to look and function better.

Let me be clear about my objective. I’m not trying to rethink or reinvigorate these websites, I’m simply giving them a facelift. Clearly these sites are popular for a reason, so I’ve made a list of simple suggestions on how they can improve their user experience. My version is meant as a critique of their current website, definitely not an attack on anyone in particular.

To start off my first redesign I chose a website which I use quite often… Netflix. I use Netflix quite often, and I love using it… on my television. The 10 foot experience is perfect for browsing movies on your couch. But when you use their website it looks like it hasn’t been updated in about 5 years. Is it functional? Yes. But could it look and function better? In my opinion, the answer is yes. I’m not here to make the whole damn site better, far from it, I simply have some ideas that I think would help. I should also make it clear that I have no relation to Netflix, this isn’t some kind of ad, I’m just doing this because I’m a weird-o. So what would I change? Read on to see my suggestions.

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Miller High Life Redesign

“The Champagne of Beers” is it’s tagline, and boy do I believe. Miller High Life, introduced to me by my buddy Michael, has in the last couple years become my usual standby. Last summer, in the midst of my freelancing (aka starving) the “champagne of beers” was my $1.46 refreshment that would get me through the sweltering days. Now this classic beer has been given a fresh face thanks to the team over at Landor. From a press release from Landor:

“Once the flagship brand for Miller Brewing Company, Miller High Life had over time been repositioned as a below-premium beer that belied both its product quality and rich 100+ year-old heritage. In order to improve consumer perception, we contemporized and better leveraged its revered and iconic brand elements—the Miller High Life Soft Cross and the Girl in the Moon. The new visual identity allows the brand to stretch beyond the below-premium category into a more premium territory that we think positions the brand to reclaim its iconic status.”

The dazzle is in the details on this redesign. The choice of fonts, the subtle patterns and textures, the blue, reen and reds that compliment the golds of the beer/cans… it’s all spot on. What’s kinda funny is that I already thought it was an amazing packaging design, but it’s rad that they’ve stepped up their game on such a low priced product.

Found through The Dieline