In essence, we set out to create a harmonious co-existence of two kinds of design writing that the AIGA, uniquely, can make possible. The first is familiar to the remarkably active community over at Speak Up and similar venues. It’s what might be called “chatter,” or spontaneous, timely, unedited postings about virtually any subject remotely connected to the art, practice and business of design. It’s also something that the AIGA wasn’t doing such a good job of generating at its Design Forum in its previous incarnation, and this shortcoming was one of the prime motivators behind an overhaul of the Forum.
What the AIGA has always been much more adept at generating is what might be called “conventional editorial content;” full-length feature articles written by notable design practitioners. This sort of content generally has a greater time-to-market (for lack of a better term) in which the ideas are shepherded through a traditional editorial process. In decades past, this content has had its most prominent showcase in the organization’s well-respected AIGA Design Journal, a much respected periodical that became too expensive and laborious to continue producing in the digital age. (And we’ve even tried to preserve that tradition by piggybacking a resurrected Journal on the Design Forums)
Above: Talk amongst yourselves. The new AIGA Design Forum is up!
Chocolate, Meet Peanut Butter
So we knew right away that we had to represent both these styles of writing on the new Design Forums. Take a quick look and you’ll see that the site is composed of articles, which represent the conventional editorial content, and discussions, which represent the chatter. The articles, by their nature, must be submitted to an editorial process, but anyone who registers on the site can go ahead and start a discussion with no editorial screening. Both articles and discussions are then organized into the AIGA’s main topics hierarchy, which breaks down the design field into broad categories that are moderated by experts in those fields.
In order to bridge these two worlds we enabled commenting, and not just on the discussions — everything is commentable. This is the principle that allows the two types of content to be bridged; in effect, the chatter can exist everywhere in the form of comments, which in turn, hopefully, can influence the discussions to be lengthier, more thoughtful and of a higher editorial quality — even if, or perhaps thanks to the fact that there are no editors involved. This is the theory, anyway. Hopefully it will bear out.
Anyway, that’s enough of the conceptual theory. I’ve got a whole lot of notes on the thoughts behind the visual design of the Forum — why it looks the way it looks — but I’m not so sure that it makes a lot of sense to throw those out there. Suffice it to say, we were looking to create something “beautifully neutral.” If we succeeded at all, it’s thanks — in no small way — to two parties: Flat, who provided the redesign of AIGA.org, and thereby the basic grid, type specifications and foundation aesthetic from which we began our designs, and especially to Naz at Weightshift, who worked with us through many, many rounds of conceptual comprehensives, trying to nail down the way this thing should look.