The Editors | Miscellaneous

Design Observer 3.0

When we launched Design Observer in November 2003, we envisioned a weblog focused on writings about design and visual culture — a simple site publishing a few essays a week by a short list of friends. We then started "blogging," recommending through our Observed column an eclectic mix of stories, news and surprises found around the web. This combination of features and links crystallized as our audience grew, and we eventually redesigned the site to its current look and structure in June 2006. New contributing writers were added, and numerous guest writers joined us from time to time — and the long-form essay became our specialty, even as other sites championed shorter and quicker. This commitment to the writing — and implicitly, to championing writers — has been rewarded with two recent Webby Award nominations for Best Writing on the web (where we've been honored to be the only blog in the company of The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, and Wired).

Today we begin a new chapter in this story and evolution — a vastly reconceived and expanded Design Observer.

The Design Observer Group will now house four channels at designobserver.com, and our homepage will surface the best and newest from these channels.

Observatory will include the essays and commentary previously published on Design Observer, with an archive of over 700 essays published between 2003-2009. The focus of this channel will remain the same — essays and commentary on design and visual culture, and the publishing cycle will still include 2-3 new essays a week, plus Gallery features (Today, Slideshows, Collections, etc.). Observatory will continue to be edited by Michael Bierut, William Drenttel, Jessica Helfand and Julie Lasky.

Change Observer is a new channel, devoted to the many dimensions of design for social innovation, developed by Winterhouse Institute with support from Rockefeller Foundation. It will provide timely information about design strategies aimed globally at improving health, education, housing, and the environment, and will feature reportage, interviews, opinion pieces, book and exhibition reviews, a photo gallery, and a resource center compiling information about key organizations and events. Change Observer will not only identify important people and projects related to design for social change, it will also assess their effectiveness through investigative reports by renowned journalists. Change Observer is edited by Julie Lasky and William Drenttel.

Places is not only a new channel, but an exciting new partnership between the Design Observer Group and the Design History Foundation. Since its founding in Spring 1983 by architecture faculty at MIT and Berkeley, Places: Forum of Design For the Public Realm has been a print journal, encompassing 69 issues and over 1250 articles — all now archived as a rich resource on Design Observer. We will be showcasing outstanding essays from the Places archive until October, when a new online journal, edited by Nancy Levinson, will be launched featuring a mix of topical essays, timely reviews, refereed scholarship and project portfolios.

Lastly, Observer Media will be our audio and video channel. We are pleased to announce a new partnership that brings the audio archives of "Design Matters with Debbie Millman" to our site — close to 100 hour-long podcast interviews with leading designers, artists and writers. In the Fall, we will be launching a new interview show with Debbie Millman, professionally produced by Curtis Fox with higher audio standards. We are also proud to include "We the Constitution," a series of short videos by Andrew Sloat designed to draw attention to the words of the United States Constitution. We will be adding new shows, as well as individual podcasts and videos, in the coming months.

Our Observed column of short links to news and items around the web will continue, but with many more editors and writers contributing. Items posted in Observed will be generally longer, with shorter items delivered via Twitter.

Design Observer also includes a greatly expanded Books + Store section, with over 600 books archived in a database constructed for easy sorting and browsing. So that our readers can keep up on new and noteworthy titles, we will include all books received, as well as noting books which we recommend — with short notes signed by our contributing writers. Over time we will expand our Store offerings to include more items for sale directly through Design Observer. We will also continue to feature small, selective ads from The Deck advertising network, as well as a Job Board developed in partnership with Coroflot. We encourage our readers (whether at design firms, universities, corporations or non-profits) to place job ads through Design Observer: the results are continually reported to be outstanding. Next month, we expect to launch sign-ups for Newsletters for those readers who wish to stay abreast of our new content by email.

In a separate post, we will also outline our new Comments Policy, which is going to encourage a more thoughtful and civilized tone to the discussions on our sites. We are also implementing new anti-spam procedures, including a captcha-type test for new commenters.

The expansion of Design Observer to include new channels, and so much new content, will not be flawless, and we anticipate some growing pains. We ask for your patience. Comments, corrections and suggestions are welcome and may be emailed to Jade-Snow Carroll, managing editor: jade [at] winterhouse.com.

We have appreciated the support and encouragement of our readers over the past six years. We hope to be a site you visit regularly in the years to come.

Comments [104]

Oh fancy!

but...does this mean new t-shirts???

Not liking the "design observer group" name - sounds very law office-y... the redesign is nice, much better organized and contemporary...

Now that you have an empire, will anyone get paid for all these words?
Baron Heidelberg

Less is more.
Dale Nixon

I'm most excited about the new audio and video portion. It'll be great to have Debbie Millman on board. Will Andrew Sloat's pieces be new?

This is certainly a big change, and a big step. Time to poke around a bit more.
Tanner Woodford

Talk about textual overload on the front page. Give my eyes some breathing room! MB I love you but you're bringing me down :(

The main page is very overwhelming. I don't know where to go or what to look at. Just tons of clutter all over the place demanding my attention, but as a result i'm most likely to get frustrated and go someplace else. This website is part of my morning routine...there is no way I can handle something this cluttered and dense at 7 a.m.

I prefer the old site much better, I felt it was more interesting and to the point, but perhaps in time i'll get used to this completely new thing. Its too bad you guys threw a successful site away in the garbage for no clear reason at all.

Lastly, the type is too small on the left hand side navigation clutter thing. If i enlarge it enough to make it legible it breaks the design. (typical that a design website has the type too small huh?)

btw. this is the first time (i'm not really a internet posting type of person) i've ever posted on this site, but the change bugged me enough to chime in.



I go to a very prestigious art school in the united states and have learned quite a bit about typography since attending school. One of my type teachers (who helped design helvetica) said i was one of the strongest students in typography at school. I think the new website design is overall a bit boring and there a lot of issues with rags. Do you guys know about Hyphenate in indesign?

All The Best, Kernking 90

Hey KernKing! It's me Jonef!

Good to know there's a fellow Art Institute of Atlanta student reading Design Observer!

I think if you check PSDTuts you can find the answer. Come to think of it'd be nice if Michael Beirut could post some tutorials.

Always a fan, Typosexual

Hi Jonef,

I think Sean Adams has been a great addition to our Typography classes. All we need now is Debbie Milman and David Carson and we'd be the next SCAD!

Best, KernKing 90

Sorry bro, gone surfing
David Carson

Oh yeah,
I think you guys also stole the OBAMA font. I was looking for it on Dafont but it wasn't there, how'd you guys find it? Also Isn't CHANGE the logo of our great president Barack Obama (via Shepard Fairey via Sol Senders)?



2.0 was still more or less reflecting a balkanized design world (but in a good way)

3.0 moves from provincial to world-class.

"group" is right.

and to lead with lasky on andersen and rushkoff just about says it all.

those resistant to change will frown. darwin has something to say about this.

again, bravo.
Gong Szeto

The main nav is interesting, but as I didn't come in through the homepage I had absolutely no idea where I was. For people entering the site as likely first-time users through a google search of a particular topic, it would be extremely disorienting.

Assuming I get used to the site, I can't imagine a scenario where I would want to use the left nav. It's too small, too tight, and kind of a bother to look at. ...It also doesn't work.

I don't feel any contrast. Lots of same-sized type besides the page section and article headers. I want to look everywhere, and nowhere.

THAT SAID, I like the potential. There's a more esteemed, almost museum-like quality I really appreciate. With some work it could be superior to the previous version.

Congratulations Michael, William, Jessica and Julie on Design Observer 3.0!

For designers that like to read the Observatory on their iPhone, it would be great if you had a mobile switcher.
  • mobile switcher, the plug-in automatically suggests desktop or mobile presentation, but lets users switch to the other and remembers. Read more about "switching" on mobiForge
  • Thank you again for a great site.
Carl W. Smith

Congratulation guys!!

I think this 3.0 version suits the iphone as it is quite easy to navigate around it via tap. I can go around it without switching pages as I love the rich contents format you guys provided.
I don't think you need it like Fast Company. It's totally different.

Anyway, again congratulations! Love it!!

Muhamad Razif Nasruddin

The home page is too much. You've clearly not observed design. Signal to noise ratio – I won't be spending as much time here now you look like everyone else.

Seriously though, is there something wrong with the leading or am I just an old man who needs big easy to read type?

I do like the green and yellow.

On a 12" LCD it appears like some of the small print is below Safari’s anti-aliasing threshold. It’s fine on an old Tube, with same system/browser settings (fine in FF on both screens).

But I preferred the so much plainer look of the old designobserver, sorry.

The site doesn't appear to be rendering properly in Safari 4. I'm on a 24" iMac running Snow Leopard, 1920x1200 display
Here's a screenshot showing the issues:


Hope that helps!
Jonathan Baldwin

Is the redesign the reason for the avalanche of old posts in my RSS reader?

This redesign is a train wreck. There is a difference between interaction and overload. You present every possible damn option under the sun on every page.

Does anyone here understand current best practices on the web?

Does anyone here understand User Experience?

Does anyone here understand the basics of legibility and usability? (this one is shameful for you guys)

The answer to all of these is a resounding No.

You are all fairly well-off designers, could you not have just sprung for a decent web design shop to send you down the right path? This redesign shows clearly that the web is still a big fat mystery to you all. And it's perfectly wrapped up by the allowed HTML above this form. They are HTML "elements" not "tags", and it's long since been a bad practice to use presentational markup like "b" instead of "strong" and "i" instead of "em", and "target" on a href.

You are thought leaders and makers of opinion. I don't actually care if you ever learn why the things you are doing is wrong, but it sucks that you are passing this off as a good way to do things for all your readers.

Larry, I must be on another train. I like it!
pat Taylor

@pat @larry

Sorry pat, I agree with Larry, the visual layout is poor in many areas most of which have been noted in other comments.

The code seems worse, lots of styles inline. It is interesting that safari is getting it's own stylesheet too.

Really disappointed.

PS. Do you want to make the submit button any smaller on this comment form.

Overall I like it, but I think your navigation bar items are cryptic. I know it only takes a click to find out what's behind something, but I feel like I should have a pretty good idea before doing so. What should I expect to find behind "Change Observer"? Also not a fan of "Design Observer Group", and agree that it sounds boring, legal and maybe blandly ominous (if that makes sense). I think the redesign is good, but could be dialed back/refined a bit. Most people are coming here for the writing or the links, both of which are luckily still front and center, but they seem to be surrounded by a lot of extraneous "look at me!" junk. Still a fan, but... You may also want to make your DO logo a link taking us back to the main page, which is the norm for almost any website in recent memory...

Congrats on the relaunch. I can imagine all the soul searching and hair pulling that lead to reconceiving what the site is about, what elements of content it needs in order to deliver that, and then technically and visually how to enable that. I'm sure you've gone from 3.0 to 3.0.1 since it went live and you'll probably go nuts getting to 3.0.7 before the weekend is up. And we won't know about it. And when it's time to process the strong feedback you've already got, maybe we'll see 3.1. That's the great thing about design for the web; try something, figure out what's working, figure out how you want to deal with feedback, and then evolve.
Steve Portigal

Clear, modular, beautifully-layered and uncompromising. Very nice indeed (though, echo the -ive response to the "group" in the title).

Even if there is a little more to take in at first glance (the site definitely seems to demand more time) ... I am sure within a few weeks I will have found my new bearings.

As an old fart, I might very well Ctrl/+ the whole thing up a few notches because on my monitor the default sizes are quite small, but the grid scales up and down quite beautifully. Nice touch.

So job well done. Congratulations.

so much for design equity
Martin Salazar

Good work on the redesign. I'm looking forward to the new kinds of content.

When something changes, there's an unfortunate initial impulse to go into attack mode, so I'm going to wait to form an opinion on the redesign. There's more to look at on the home page now, but then again there's a lot more content at DO than before. So I imagine that when I get acclimated to what the site offers and determine how I interact with it, the design will reveal itself to be pretty intuitive.

But I'll say this, though: the type in the left-hand nav is either too small or too light. Maybe both.

The old masthead was absolutely perfect. The elegance is gone.
Dave Bush

Congrats on the new site, besides the many suggestions and corrections that are mentioned above, many of which I agree with, I think that this is a smart move over all.

I have been waiting a while for the Change Observer from the Winterhouse Institute and am glad to see that it is part of the site now, also the video and audio section should prove to be interesting as more content is added.

Places is a great addition, I had picked up an issue from 1996 a couple months ago from a pile of old magazines and it seems to be a great journal. From what I remember their website didnt really have much, so I am looking forward to that.

The new structure with different channels seems like a strong concept. I enjoy the feel of the new design but the clutter needs to changed and the overall design seems to be in need of some adjustment and minor fixes to make it easier to navigate. Looking forward to continuing to reading insightful, interesting, well thought out writing here!
Ethan Bodnar

It's got potential for sure, but there is sure an overload of text on the front page.

Also, my initial instinct was to click on the text in the header, "The Design Observer Group," to get back to the homepage, not click the fourth little image in from the left.

A downgrad. I can't see anything.

Thanks for the new design, I like it: the top navigation is simple and original, and the disciplined use of the grid throughout ensures the content's legibility.
Justin Reynolds

I think it looks beautiful and it's working beautifully as well. I personally enjoy rediscovering where things are. There's clearly so much more content going on now and I'm excited to spend more time on the site! Well done.

Depends who your visitors are. If they're bothered about DO's different channels then they'll get the new structure and enjoy investigating it.

I'm not and I find it…odd. And, regardless of your content, audience etc. not having an easy to find home link is poor design. As is making some of the text 8px. The grid is tight, but counter-productive: the measure is so short in some columns that the text becomes tiny. It's like the designer wanted to use a multi-column grid and then placed the content within that.

Inline CSS for some links. Why?

And what have you got against print style sheets?

Just seems strange for a website about design. Sort of undermines the message.
Leon Paternoster

The first time I visited the redesign, I left feeling offended that everything I loved about DO was gone. I may have even said that I hated the redesign. But I have been back and spent time here and there looking around at what has changed.

It has taken a few visits and some investigation but I realize that my initial impression was clouded by a resistance to change. What I love about DO is still there, it has just been reshuffled to the point of being unrecognizable at first glance. And although I don't feel comfortable in the redesign yet, I understand it and appreciate it.

The only thing that really bothers me about it at this point are the damn colors. So I've gone from hating it to not liking the colors in a few hours, I'll probably love everything again by the end of the day.

The site looks beautiful, but links from my RSS reader (google reader) all take me to the main page, not the individual article. This is incredibly frustrating. Please fix this!

Here's an easy way to validate your HTML code:

Your code is as atrocious as ever, and still, still, you don’t have a print stylesheet.

When are you going to hire somebody who knows what Web standards are to work on your site? Hint: You won’t find that person working at Pentagram.
Joe Clark

As an occasional but interested follower of DO, I'm truly disappointed. It's as if the design team at Design Observer hasn't observed the most positive, influential, and critical advancements in interface and Web design and development in the past ten years.

Some of these include clear typography, logical navigation, valid code, and semantic content. The new design breaks all of these ideas, standards and conventions and it does so with very little grace or elegance. I feel badly for your audiences and any future designers looking for inspiration here.
Andrew Boardman

I should very much like RSS feeds for each section, and for the links in the RSS feeds to take me to the articles, rather than to the main page. New design looks great; looking forward to exploring and watching it shift over the coming months.
Asa Hopkins

The one comment above took the words right out of my mouth:
"You are thought leaders and makers of opinion. I don't actually care if you ever learn why the things you are doing is wrong, but it sucks that you are passing this off as a good way to do things for all your readers."

I'm very surprised you didn't involve a web designer in this re-design. You must know someone who is versed in current web design practices and standards, right?

You all have great insights and opinions on design, but this site design is a glaring reminder that web design is not one of your areas of expertise. Honestly, even a free wordpress template would have used better web design practices than this site does.

Perhaps it's time to add a contributor who has some knowledge of web design or interaction design?

Thankfully, I have my RSS reader so I will rarely have to come to the actual site and feel like I'm living in the 90's again.


I have a few opinions on the website redesign.

But the one I want to vocalize: Please don't give Twitter any more clout by including a feed on your main page. It doesn't deserve it.

I have to side with the naysayers here.

Overall, I’ll echo a previous comment, that the site looks like it’s missed most of the genuine advances in web design of recent times. In this I’m not suggesting it should look more shiney or web 2.0.

Type size: I have quite good eyesight but this is too small. Modern web design typically has bigger body type than previously, first drawing users in, and then allowing for users to lean back, take a sip of coffee..

Type style: Verdana?? Yes it has great legibility but is massively over-used and fundamentally little grace. And Verdana bold very rarely ever works. It’s ok on your block headings but horrible on the “more by the editors” items.

Why has there been no use of the many webfont/replacement solutions now available? – at least for heading styles.

Alignment: Yes there is some discernable horizontal rhythm, but its sloppily broken at times. And although the web doesn’t lend itself to vertical rhythm, plenty of good designers do achieve this - at least to some extent – here there has been no effort, which means the page is harder to scan visually, and frankly, short of the beauty that we might expect on a sight like DO.

I find no joy in putting the boot in, but it’s a downgrade. Where have you guys been for the last five years? Under a rock?
Tim Gummer

well, there is a lot to look at. and i have to say I'm impressed. it'll take some getting used to but i think the tone, brevity and change are well-aligned. the Millman snag is perhaps most impressive. You can't have a redesign for no reason. Fingers crossed some of these lofty change goals aren't simply a facade.

One bit of criticism I have to agree with: the addition of "Group" in the heading sounds like a design or law firm. If a name change were indeed in order I would've gone with "Design Observatory" and spared the grammatical dressing.

Great job fellas. Er, and ladies.
felix sockwell


Seminars in Design can now be directed here. Read and devour
with pajamas and mocha - or skivvies and ale. Never too much content!

How 'bout the icons for mast headers (R) would have no pix but reserve them for articles on L. Hierarchy. It would help clean the clutter and find my way better. ‘Change’ image is celebratory but duotone is not (for example). It doesn’t seem contemporary. How 'bout just type?

Currently I'm seeing Burtin, Sottsass in BW and Highline also in BW. I now perceive the Highline as the same time period as Burtin but it is quite NOW. Overall, the design looks too historical, less Observing because of icons. Always informative!
John Nordyke


The old design was quite easy on the eye and was clear where additions had been made.

The new site is going to need to be got used to. But the last half hour has given me lots to think about and taken me down avenues I wouldn't have thought about before.

I think I'm going to like the site even more and probably spend more time reading it than I did before. Sure that 's a good thing but my boss might not think so!
Mark Cotter

I am really excited to see DO stepping forward to embrace a larger mission and I too love (and will try to live up to) the new commenting guidelines. I also know that coming up with category names that are nuanced and flexible is difficult. But, although I can see from the description above why these nodes make sense internally, the terms Observatory, Change Observer, Places, and Observer Media seem pretty opaque. This puts a lot of weight on the right hand nav to identify topics of interest to the reader across channels. My advice is to keep an eye on how many users are moving laterally through the site--one of the real delights of DOs expanded reach should be tracking ideas across the expanded web of content.

I notice my note on clear terminology is a miracle of confusing terminology. By "category", "node", and "channel" I mean "Observatory, Change Observer, Places, Observer Media".
David Womack

DO just somehow lost the breathing space I used to love about it. Personally for me, text readability is a bit more difficult with the tighter linespacing.

But I'm sure you guys know what you're doing, and this is all probably intentional.
Dwight Co

RSS feed doesn't seem to work anymore. I think I'll wait for 4.0.
Dave Gaskarth

felling of reading a new kind of news

Its great! I felt a whole new different experience! The older aesthetic was indeed harder to navigate. I think it is harder for the people that read "the news" on the web, and aren't used to new ways of experimenting with web layout. I didn't think it was hard, but then again, I search for new ways of laying out something in the web all the time. It was fun to come across something different and analyze it.

I am looking forward to exploring and reading the Design Observer.
Catherine Wakim

I am honestly sad having to echo much of the criticism that has been brought up so far. In terms of web design and development this website is outdated at the time of its launch.

Interesting or at least legible typography (there are so many choices now), clean article urls (not ?entry=9707), working RSS feeds – all this and more should be considered standard for a site of this stature.

I seriously cannot understand how this has happened.


Yeah, I'm going to unsubscribe from this site, because the feed simply doesn't work.

There's no shame in just using wordpress :p

haters aside, a good plan. left side contents column is excellent, main body reads well, right column blocks are a bit odd but seem functional enough. i don't do the RSS feed so i can't comment, but surely those are solvable problems.

my only critique at this point is some ambiguity in the first 3 channels - both in name and designation - seems there will be some crossover, but it'll sort itself out after some good old test-driving.

best of luck and DO still rocks. hmmm.. perhaps i wrote too soon, having navigated directly to the article about 3.0 but not actually seeing the home page. it's a bit cluttered, but i'll get used to it. in general i like the evolution.

i do miss the reassuring olive green; the white bkg may be more universal but fels generic.

evolve we must.
chris harvey

Too complicated and disjointed. Navigation is all over the place. Hybridization of print and screen, mainly as columns, is not working in this type of site application.
Hierarchy is also not making any sense below the black bar.

I guess this just goes to show that good design writers are not always good designers. Or in this case, even competent designers.

Congratulations etc.

And yet, somehow, I will miss the good old simple Design Observer.

Constantin Boym

I miss the simplicity and immediacy of the old. It was great for the cursory look, check and leave, and maybe dally if my curiosity was suitably piqued.
I appreciate the complexity of interaction and information available. It makes you stop, think, contemplate. Maybe it is pushing information in another way. It feels more like a newspaper.
Maybe it means that I only visit when I have the inclination to spend time.
I like the links to archives, following the link to Highline photographs takes you to Places 2001- there I found a wonderful article by, until very recently, a long lost friend.
But it has ignited the ongoing dialogue on the complexity of these very expensive business cards, what is necessary, required, justified or just too much. Overwhelming? Hard work? So what.
Thank you for allowing me to find this amazing amount of information.
On the Highline, the Sternfield photos again raise the question has the wonderful design exercise recently completed really added value.

A lot of the old galleries don't work any more, which is a bit tragic. Otherwise, I'm inclined to get used to it once all the technical errors are fixed.

Just lost another hour of my life reading articles that were highly entertaining and old. That's not a complaint. I kind of feel enriched but it's not what I came to the site for this morning (I'm in the UK).

Safari neatly tells me when a site has been updated but when clicking to the site, I can't immediately see what's new. Perhaps a section informing the visitor what is new would make life a bit easier.
Mark Cotter

I would have to agree with the statement by Dale, Less is more. Something about this design is a little too much for me.

This design is a huge step back and looks fairly terrible in Firefox. Too many columns, the design is cramped. I also don't care for the new name.

If it ain't broke..
Bethany Heck

Congrats on your success and growth. This change is understandable with all the content design observer has now. (Not sure if I'm a fan of the new name.) I'll get used to it, but the old layout will be missed...
Aaron Bloom

The Observed column overlaps the footer on the home page in IE 8.0.6001.18702 in both regular and compatibility view. Also, the vertical lines have about 5 pixels of space on the top and bottom.

The content doesn't overlap the footer in the most recent version of Opera, but the left vertical line doesn't extend down to where the right vertical line does.

It looks like the site was only tested in Firefox and even there the submenu topics like On Arranging Books by Color don't display right, they move to a second line like the width is constrained.

I like where your going with the site, but it still needs some work, especially in testing the site on various browsers.

The ideas for the new sections and features are great. Keep up the good work, I'm sure these bugs will be fixed in no time.


love the new design & organization of it all. I wasn't a huge fan of the last big redesign, but slowly got used to it. The new look/system seems more legible, organized, and thoroughly thought-through. (tongue twister! pun?)

Looking forward to delving into the categories and staying more closely tuned to new posts.

my only criticism (for now) is that while "change observer" seems so appropriate, and aptly titled considering the subject matter—the header tagline "design, culture, change" seems quite trendy. Fitting perhaps. Timely, for sure. But will it last beyond this current change-focused epidemic/trend?

overall though: strong work!

I've been reading from Day 1 -- the latest evolution is very exciting!
Josh Glenn

Love the expanded breadth of content. The general look of the design is an improvement - but can't you just apply a little bit of information architecture or usability to the design? Cryptic navigation and poor contrast in the tiny text sizes. (if coming to the home page for first time, how should I know what "Places" means).

Not to pile on - love the additional content overall, just hope you figure out how to present it in a good web experience eventually.

Chris Risdon

All I can notice is the little Monkey ad. haha!

But seriously, I think the evolution of the content/features was a good idea. On the internets, Content Is King.

Good job on style. Poor on navigation and usability.

1. Your masthead. It stretches across the site header and 3 lone words 'Design Culture Change' link to your homepage. Is that navigation? or tag line? or plain words that are sprinkled without any useful message? and if so, remove the link.

2. Graphic banners as primary navigation. Users are increasingly becoming banner blind. I think your navigation is on the edge there. User testing or metrics will clear that out, but you are dangerously close. Aside from that - Why do you have some graphics linkable, others not? Some text captions linkable, others not? Even if you wish to maintain this awkward disparity, try separate visual treatment for linked and regular text.

3. Main navigation says: Home, Observatory, Change Observatory, Places, Observer Media. Uhh? The labels are cryptic and barely tell user what lies under each. Chairs for Home? Why use such complex mechanism to organize your website for the user, who doesn't care much about labels and iconography?

4. Topics & left navigation. Small font size on left nav would be very difficult for users to read. I believe the website can do much better by kicking up font size for every element one notch by default.

5. Action buttons like SEND and SEARCH should be visible. It is not mandatory to have one style for all action items. If SEARCH in coulr at the top of site distracts the user, keep that subtle and change the rest.

6. Green colour for links and non-links. Your colour scheme for type is all over the board. Black and Green is used for links and non-linked text in an arbitrary fashion where as main navigation has yellow defining links.


I visited your weblogs and I was amazed by the writings created about visual culture and design. It is very informative. No wonder you got Webby Award nominations for Best Writing on the web. It is also nice to know that your group is rapidly growing. This shows how successful you are. Keep it up and I am looking forward to your future writings and works.

Oh yeah,
I think you guys also stole the OBAMA font. I was looking for it on Dafont but it wasn't there, how'd you guys find it? Also Isn't CHANGE the logo of our great president Barack Obama (via Shepard Fairey via Sol Senders)?



Kernking are you serious???

Maintain, and own, the authentic voice that DO has always stood for in your expanded scope. And let the rest of the marbles fall where they will.

Brenda Sanderson

i am certainly surprised by this redesign, becoming a bigger outfit fine but then it should be better organized, i don't know where to look or even to begin to look, the ny times front page is clearer with much more info, sure it takes time to get used to a new page layout but the design should aid this not make it harder
this is starting to look like a dry medical journal. the colors maybe tasteful but with the rest of the layout they just seem to aid the confusion. twitter right up top, why, if i want to read your twitter i follow it there.

anyway, that said its a work in progress, i hope you get good feedback and "lighten - up".

good luck!

Calling it Design Observer 3.0 is deceiving. Web 2.0, for example, implies social, participatory, open platforms, open source, dynamic, relevant and responsive online experiences.

Leaving comments in blog-like posts is not "2.0" or "open" in any way. Let alone "3.0" - !!!
Michele Champagne

WOW, the responses here are just sad. Its amazing how little perspective this field has sometimes. Lets start with THANK YOU to all associated with DO for doing this AT ALL. If we want our clients to let go and let us do our job, we have to learn to do that ourselves.

Congratulations on the new version, whatever you call it.

Oh - and PLEASE tell me Art Institute of Atlanta isn't turning out students who put InDesign and web design in the same statement.
Kevin O'Neill

Somebody please tell me that KernKing90 is joking. About everything.
Rob Heat

Suggestion: if linking to an outside site, it would be nice if the default were "open in a new window" instead of "go to." Because for a site like DO, it's kind of like a home base. I want to check out what you link to but I want to easily come back to where I started. Thanks.
Anne C. Kerns

Anything that creates such dramatic expression (in these comments) must surely be measured as success. If only we could all have a blog following so devoted! And opinionated.

Great job. Thanks for continuing to bring us great stuff.

What could be more banal than Twitter?
A Twitter summary?
Mike Connealy

Speaking as a non-designer, the appeal of the site for me was that it helped to make design accessible. This new version seems to move away from that, toward a site more geared to the needs of professional designers. Partly, this impression is heightened by the kick-off article which deals with a meta-design issue. Perhaps I'll feel more comfortable with the new layout further down the road. I do think it is a mistake either way to deemphasize the little "observed" pieces which really make daily visits worthwhile.
Mike Connealy

One step forward, three steps back.
Paul Merrill

The new layout is terrible. It looks straight out of the late 90s and that is not good. I was doing this design style ages ago and it wasn't really good then. You're probably not going to be changing it now you've committed but this is not how I picture top quality Designer Observance.

Next Level Design

I hate to say this (because I've heard it too many times in my career) but despite my age (34) eyesight (20/20) and profession (editorial art director) I think the type is far too small. I presume it's just a temporary glitch. Other than that I think your site is an incredible and inspiring resource.
Matthew James Straker

Observatory, observer Media, the Deck...such beautiful, intuitive and simple thinking. Why is the design then not equally intuitive and simple. Why am I not finding these simple buttons that will take me to exciting destinations. Simple is good...simple and intuitive, with some playfulness (like all great design) would be even better!
sonia manchanda

To those who complain of too-small type: get a new monitor. CRTs (and many poor LCDs) can't handle type at these sizes very well. Also, assuming you're using a Mac, go into the Appearance sys pref pane and make sure your small fonts are anti-aliasing.

I personally think that the new layout is way more elegant and current, providing more information while actually making it easier for me to see it all. I never read anything in the whole right column of the other site because it was just a jumble. This is much cleaner. Fitting 4 columns in 960px is a challenge most people don't attempt, but I think you guys did it.

Kudos to the redesign team. Don't listen to these idiots. :)

@ Darwin

We'd would all be out of a job if our response to usability concerns was to simply encourage all prospective users to get a new monitor.

Critisism doesn't have to be taken as offence. As designers, we should be comfortable with it as part of the process.

The type size is not just an issue of legibility. It makes the the left hand navigation very difficult to use. For the average user this is an annoyance, for those with restricted mobility it could be a real hindrance in accessing the site.

I don't want to simply kick DO, as a designer I am proud to be represented and informed by such excellent writing. Accordingly I would hope/expect DO to be at the forefront of accessible, useable design.

In the words of so many clients "Could you make the text a bit bigger please."
John Skinner

Brutal. Obviously done by designers unaware of current web issues. I'd really encourage a quick move to a 3.1 that's driven by some serious consultation with experienced web experts (I vote for Khoi), and some humility from the (mostly) print-experienced DO editors. Any pretense of design cred is deeply undermined by this iteration.
Tom Dolan

I vote for KernKing!
John Skinner

I second the vote for assistance from Khoi. While I don't believe the new site needs to be scrapped entirely, it does need serious, thoughtful help.

The grid is nice.

As for the rest of it, Larry, Joe Clark and Harsh have all expressed what I wanted to say.

Personally - I'm 38, I've worked in print and now the web for a total of about 20 years, and this is quite probably some of the worst web typography I've seen in ages, and disappointing from people who ought to know better.

I have to zoom the page at least 3 times for it to be barely legible; the linespacing is practically set solid.

Worse, at these tiny type sizes, this goldenrod-ish colour you've chosen for links completely fades into the white background - there's simply not enough contrast. For people with aging eyes or colour vision issues it's VERY problematic.

Moreover, the lack of hover effects on links makes it hard to distinguish just what IS a link and what isn't.

I second Tom Dolan's thoughts -- call this an interim design and hire someone like Khoi Vinh, Mark Boulton, Happy Cog Studios... Oh and while I'm at it - your comment form is broken; it appends the commenter's URL to your own URL instead of linking it properly, with or without a leading "http://"
AJ Kandy

Need to preface this by saying, I have great respect and admiration for Jessica Helfand's enlightened writings.

That said, the results of this D.O's overhaul seems analogous to what will happen if the administration pass their legislations + mandates on Healthcare.

Bureaucratic. Complex. Not as accessible. Costly (time-wise) to maintain.

But unlike government mandates, I believe D.O is open to feedback and will adapt future iterations to the needs of its audience.

I switched to D.O. from the now defunct Speakup because its superior 2 column grid + writing (easy on the eye) won over the noisy feel of S.U.

In spite of my respect for this website and its founders, I agree that this redesign was a step back.

I have always felt DO to be a slightly alienating place. The new site only makes it worse.


The link contrast is better!

It's strange to omit the dates of posts in the main column on the home page. Today's post on Hiroshima is up for obvious reasons, but it's not at all obvious that this post is a year old. It's at least weird, if not actually disingenuous. That's my main substantive suggestion: please add some kind of "posted on" dates.

The Suggest a Link guidelines are about the most uninviting I've ever seen. It seems to me that the burden of suggestion moderation is on the blogger, not the visitor. It's the wages of blogging. Captcha is fine, but all the fields to fill out when one is essentially helping DO out -- sheesh. Why would I bother?

Anyway, good luck.
Sam Potts

Do not like this format at all. Previous one was so much more effective. This hurts my eyes and is way too bsuy. Hat the ads on the left.

What happened? The new website is hard to read (can't read small yellow type), difficult to navigate (no sense of hierarchy despite the use of heads and subheads) and looks like everything else out there. The previous incarnation was a place of calm amongst the usual visual noise—it was a joy to visit and clearly communicated your thoughts about the importance of clarity in design.

I enjoyed reading about the evolution of your website. It's inspiring to read you've been around for a relatively long time. Being a first-time reader, I enjoyed some of your subject points. I write a design blog myself but focused mainly on Packaging Design and Pop Culture (http://www.bernadettecapulong.com/Design_Blog/Design_Blog.html).
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Bernadette Capulong

I agree with AMK. While I thank you for providing us with a wonderful place of insight and inspiration, I find myself not looking around. Too much going on. I'll give it some time.

I think I preferred the old look, but most importantly, your new page lacks any sort of archive by month. I just want to see the posts I missed during a week of vacation, and I'm finding it impossible. "Archive" is hard to find, and just gives me a complicated search page with no by-date option.
But always enjoy the content nonetheless.
Notebook Stories

Overall impression: cluttered.

Trying to say too much, all at the same time.

Perhaps "hiding the complexity" would be a good start; start with a logical information architecture, let users dig through and reveal more content as they go.

Use show/hide functionality, for example, the 'Share' icons could be grouped under a simple dropdown - a 'hover and click' action is only slightly slower than a 'straight click' - and this would considerably reduce noise.

I echo the thoughts of other critics; it is disappointing to see such a prominent design blog seemingly ignore the last few years of web design progress.
Judd Madden

i'm glad to have visited your blog and good to know you! I find it interesting and informative
Custom T-shirts

I believe D.O is open to feedback and will adapt future iterations to the needs of its audience.

I switched to D.O. from the now defunct Speakup because its superior 2 column grid + writing (easy on the eye) won over the noisy feel of S.U.
Cirurgia plastica

Observer Media is a suberb resource. Many thanks for it, I've signed up for the e-mail news and look forward to expanding my design knowledge over the future months.
Colin Hall

Jobs | June 17