The Cabinet website, first launched in late 90’s, remained unchanged for many decades. Its robust database survived as editors and art directors came and went. Each had different ways of inserting content. Some matched the print publication exactly, others deviated. Almost every issue had different formatting conventions for scripts, glyphs, captions, and bylines. These inconsistencies crept over the site like vines across an ancient ziggurat, and so, anticipating many snakes and pitfalls in the subterranean vaults, we undertook the redesign of cabinetmagazine.org with much trepidation.
The first step was to rework all the articles, giving every entry a uniform treatment. It wasn’t the sort of task which could be outsourced to an army of interns because the content was finicky and diverse. Nothing could be automated, everything had to be finessed.
Motifs such as the orange accent color and the Palatino typeface were carried forward from the history of the magazine, but we didn’t feel beholden to the form of the previous site. Other than the grey background, we totally revised the aesthetic.
We wanted a design which emphasized certain qualities of the magazine’s content. In a typical editorial hierarchy articles take precedence over captions, but Cabinet captions are often long, baroque and amusing, and we wanted to stress their importance. We were fortunate enough to have access to many hi-res pictures used at 300 dpi in the printed version, so we also decided to give images a lot of space.
We played with responsive layouts. On the desktop version of the site, the text appears in white boxes with images and captions floating on the grey background — when the browser is shrunk to the size of a mobile device this relationship is reversed, with the white becoming the ground, the grey appearing as a border for the pictures.
Cabinet editors have a penchant for absurd detail. Look closely and you’ll see that the theme of each printed issue modifies the boring small print. In the colophon of the ‘Stones’ issue, the printer (Die Keure) is complimented as being as ‘solid as rock’ while in the ‘Death’ issue they are referred to as ‘the liveliest of colleagues’. These kinds of silly jokes are sprinkled throughout. We always respected this editorial eye for detail. It’s joyous, but also a little fanatical. When it came to the redesign of the site, it was our turn to labor obsessively over such minutiae. There’s a lot of love in these pages.