Behind Cooper’s New Topic Page

The Cooper Journal has been a great source for design ideas, controversy and practical guidance over the years, so much so that we now have hundreds of posts. But even when a system works well, you start to see its breaking points. And with that, comes a need to reassess. Which is why we’re staging an experiment—and it involves you.

It all started with a simple question: How can we design a better Journal reading experience that takes advantage of the dynamic web platform? The first answer was remove stuff. Traditional blog layouts are bullied by their sidebars. So when you visit the experiment you’ll see we nixed the sidebar. We decided that a full column experience with more legible type would feel better. Not only that, but we could break the grid for images and pull quotes to create interest.

And why stop removing stuff there? There are posts that have sparked discussion, but it’s unfortunate to limit those conversations to our own site. We want interesting discussions to be open, rather than hidden deep within the blog hierarchy. Say goodbye to the comments and hello to a custom twitter feature.

Admittedly, during the exercise we had bit of an existential crisis. Are we reinventing the wheel? We wanted a new comments structure to allow for good conversation, but there’s Branch. We wanted a smooth reading and editing experience, and Medium already comes to mind. We wanted a simple way for Cooperistas to post quick bits of content…wouldn’t Twitter suffice?

Our answer channels Charles Eames:

“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”

Blog posts, comments, tweets, these are all interesting things, but we believe that the connection missing is the topic. By sectioning off our experiment from the main Journal, we’ve been able to play with the format. Having removed the noise, we can now add in signal. Say hello to the Curator’s Manifesto: Each topic we curate has thinking behind it and we have a unique perspective that we add. The manifesto is the place where we can be explicit about our point of view and spotlight featured posts. Since we’re focused on one topic, we can serve up the most interesting post of the moment.

Our debut topic feature centers on Design Tools. We’ve got a couple oldies but goodies and a couple posts fresh off the press. The Cooper Journal environment you are presently in will continue to stay the same with sidebars and comments as we collect your reactions to this new direction, and continue to develop it. We’d love for you to join us in this first topic, be inspired, share some inspiration, and get talking!

Patrick Keenan

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