Slate, an online editorial, partnered with Gretel, a New York based design studio to redesign the way they work and buildmuch more than just a new look.
Launched in 1996, Slate is a general-interest online magazine offering analysis and commentary about politics, news, business, technology, and culture. It has also published podcasts since the beginning of that medium and now hosts more than fifteen different ones.
According to Slate’s Design Director, Jason Santa Maria, it was clear on the first appraisal that Slate had fallen into disrepair over the years, lacked a cohesive visual voice and was in dire need of a re-design/ rebranding. There was an absence of ‘Slateyness’, a term understood only by the internal team at Slate and this needed to be expressed visually, to the viewers, in a way that lived up to the tone and quality of the journalism.
The challenge wasn’t about just rebranding or re-designing the website. Slate wanted to re-design the way they worked, they wanted to build a process for working together that brought everyone to the same table-editorial, design, development, product and sales.
For a solution, Slate’s in-house design group collaborated with the New-York based design studio, Gretel and introduced a new identity and an online presence.
Slate defines itself as an editorial that is reliable and filled with wit and curiosity. Wanting to use these cues in their visual expression, they have adopted a variety of styles infused cohesively.
Gretel helped Slate establish a unified conceptual approach to their design work, in addition to all the needed artifacts like logos, colour, type palettes and a design tool-kit.
The Multi-faceted Existence
Slate exists in various places like their website, on social platform, as a podcast app and also at public spaces hosting live events.
The redesign process started from a small but an important part, a corner of their online journal. They rolled-out of a new article design unlike a typical Slate story. It had an airy layout that gave clarity to the text, with new typefaces and colours, and it was published entirely outside of their CMS.
The Re-thought Features
The rebranding/ re-design was based on the idea of layering and revealing, a visual strategy applied to the identity and website.
The new logo was designed as a bold, uppercase wordmark with the distinguishing mark of a cut-off “A”, a nod to the idea of discovery. This gesture of revealing and uncovering expands to the language of the family of Slate products.
A technique of layered ‘slates’ was devised bring structure to article layouts and reveal the story for the viewer as they scroll the page. Their visual research led to the creation of layers such as noise, microfiche, zoom-ins and handwritten scribbles.
To inject the wit and whimsy that’s so true to the voice, a photo-illustration style was created to replace stock photography and instantly bring ‘slateyness’ to an article.
New typographic styles were introduced that sought to represent different textures of news and piles of press clippings with fonts that could be both illustrative and functional assets. This was achieved by paring a Serif, Register, for headlines and a Sans-serif, Retina, for body text.
The only thing retained from the old Slate was the tone-of-voice and the maroon colour with a sight tweak. An additional palette of bright colours served as an aid to navigating sections.
The redesigned slate features elements that overlap and pile on top of one another, the editors’ hand scribbles emphasizing a point or creating marginalia and a stylised illustration method.
Slate’s story-making process was visualized with a language that feels like sifting through the news, looking for hidden clues and cracking the code that blows open the case, thus providing the viewers with the missing‘slateyness’.