is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
In its original form, Muxtape, the still-influential and, at the time, insufficiently legal music sharing site was a service for users to load and share playlists of their own music. Since its demise last year, it’s been greatly missed.
In its latest incarnation, launched last week, Muxtape has been re-imagined as a service for bands, allowing them to assemble and customize promotional pages (including their own playlists) from stock parts. (For now, bands can only participate if invited by other bands.) It’s a radical makeover, but if you were to overhaul the now-iconic Muxtape 1.0, this would be a very sensible way to do it.
Listening to Less
I’m so curious as to whether this will succeed. Muxtape’s stock parts are highly regimented, allowing bands to express themselves with freedom, though not completely freely. Every component is 300 pixels square, and there is virtually zero layout flexibility; you can have whatever arrangement you like, so long as it comes in rows of three. What’s more, for now there are no ‘social’ components to draw upon; no commenting, no friending, no favoriting, etc. The new Muxtape platform is nothing if not regimented.
In many ways you could think of this relaunch as a test case for extreme minimalism as a design strategy in the post-Web 2.0 world. In its chosen niche — the highly capricious, quirky and personal world of music fandom — eschewing the de rigeur social features and personalization is brazen.
In any case, what founder Justin Oulette and his new partner Luke Crawford have pulled off is impressive: a complete rethinking of the eye-gouging visual morass that is MySpace, their obvious competitive target. Thanks in large part to Muxtape’s highly disciplined, ascetic design approach, the band pages appear effortlessly beautiful, by and large. For an old fogey like myself, steeped as I am in Modernist fetishes, it’s a much more pleasurable, engaging experience. Let’s see if that’s a business model, too.+