Originally Posted on July 28, 2014
Earlier this month, the featured users section went live on the about section of Wanelo, which was later renamed Wanelo IRL cuz it's a cooler name. I'm finally writing a little bit about it now because I've just been busy watching keeping up with the kardashians, reading and visiting family in San Diego. I haven't talked much about projects I've worked on, or am currently working on, but I'm trying to get better at it and I think this project is a good place to start. I'm a huge fan of magazines, both new and old, so when I heard Wanelo wanted to produce some editorial content by featuring users, the headphones came off and my heart began to soar and I was totally ready to fight whoever was gonna take this project from me. Kidding? Hell no.
I was told we were going to be releasing four interviews at the same time, so people would be able to have more than one to read through, and the first four featured users were pretty top quality. The first to be featured was Michelle Lam the CEO of True & Co., then Veronica Gledhill from The Cut (sayyy whaaatt?!), Sara Combs, who runs Hexagon and who I had the pleasure of working with briefly, and lastly, freaking Dave Cuzner who runs Grain Edit. This project was definitely a group effort, for the featured users were selected mostly by the head of communications and the vp of product, then there were the hired photographers who took the beautiful photos, the content editors who helped interview each of the featured users and transcribed the given content to what currently is on the site today, and finally, another designer who coded the page I designed.
In true Wanelo fashion, all the details were up in the air and eventually pieces of content slowly began to fall from the sky and fall through the initial page I had designed, leaving very few original ipsums of the version left. But, this is all to be expected when you try to design a layout while waiting for any bits of draft content you can grasp. While trying to design the layout with paragraphs of filler text, I realized there are the people who think you can throw any text into any layout and design the interview for them, and those who need as much context and near final content as possible in order to dictate the layout. This is what separates marketing/communications from design. It's a fun game of give and take, for it's a lot of work to gather images and interviews from various users and editing them all and trying to push them out all at once, so of course it will get a bit chaotic, but we learned the balancing act quick.
Obviously various people will feel differently about this, but my favorite way to start a project is to read all the content I'll be working with (hopefully it will be close to final), lay out the type and then design around the content to really bolster it and make it shine. Type first, design second. This order makes complete sense and has been used since some of the earliest books created when it was the printers job to lay out the type as neatly as possible, with proper point size, leading, line length and of course the perfect typeface (Kelmscott Press was kind of the opposite though).
For this type of content, a serif would've been ideal in order to make it easy to digest, but I decided to stick with Helvetica in order to remain consistent with the brand. Helvetica, as ubiquitous as it may be, can sometimes be tricky to work with. So, by making sure the text is still large enough to read, the line length at a reasonable length, and having the right amount of leading to avoid reading the same line over and over again, I think I was able to make the most of it.
One of the great parts about being given the first pass at this project, was being able to help dictate some of the direction the interviews would be going, and create a general balance of type and images. Although I didn't select the headlines for each section, I was able to get the content editors to ask the featured users their favorite users to follow, favorite stores on Wanelo, and the favorite collections they've made. With this, the reader is able to interact with the subtle bits of Wanelo that will direct them back to the website, while linking them to the pages the featured user is discussing.
I really did enjoy working on this project, and even though each page is now a single solid template, they all offer different experiences because the content changes. I hope people will enjoy reading though all of the current featured users, and all of the ones to come in the future.