What do influential publishers like Buzzfeed, New York Times, Pitchfork and The Guardian have in common? They all have instantly recognizable brands that start with the look and feel and voice of their publications.
These components are the foundation of “editorial design,” a notion growing in importance as the Internet floods with content and attention runs dry. Simply put, editorial design is what identifies you as a unique publisher worth visiting or at least being highly aware of.
In a word, it’s branding. With design and content. Which is why content marketers need to master its art sooner rather than later.
Here are eight businesses that excel in editorial design — from big brands to boutique shops.
We’ve embedded frames of their live sites in this post so you can more fully explore. If one of the frames appears broken, just right-click on it and select “Reload frame.”
1. Urban Outfitters
The occasional product controversy aside, Urban Outfitters has one of the best retail blogs around. Years of practice has made it the perfect embodiment of the Urban lifestyle, with trademark washed-out photography, weekly playlists, and feature stories laid out in a simple, colorful stream. Curation is the name of the game for the “yuccie” retailer, and it’s one they play as well as anybody.
2. Taste by Williams-Sonoma
Sure, you might expect a food blog to be chock-full of mouth-watering photography, but “Taste” by Williams-Sonoma takes art direction to a new level. The editorial team understands that the most effective way to entice someone to use your recipes and keep them coming back for more is to tease the most idealized version of the finished product. You actually feel like you’re entering a sophisticated test kitchen. Go on, click around and see what I mean.
As a trendy lifestyle brand renowned for its design sensibility, the Poketo team knows that just about everything it produces has to live up to a high standard of beauty. The blog is no exception. At a glance, a visitor can quickly ascertain the Poketo lifestyle, with its focus on the maker community and holistic living, and, perhaps mostly importantly for boutique businesses, navigate easily to product pages. A great model for any e-commerce blog.
You don’t have to be a B2C brand to showcase tasteful editorial design and make a lasting impression. The Percolate team knows that content for marketing professionals should look… well, professional. They subtlety allude to their brand throughout the experience without overwhelming it, and they produce informative content that modestly illustrates their expertise.
And if you’re going to use stock photography as a storytelling accent, use it the way Percolate does.
Allstate’s blog lives up to the promise of its “Everyday Piece of Mind” tagline with content focused on everyday problem-solving for the average consumer. Add to the mix a light touch that seamlessly infuses the site with its brand identity, and you have an insurance company that actually invests in your reassurance. Imagine that.
When you think of IBM, do you think of fun? This was a brand that used to produce black and white TV spots, after all. But in recent years, especially online, IBM has embraced content that reveals different shades of their brand. IBMlr takes another confident step down that path, designing an experience for the Tumblr audience that’s still focused on innovation — it’s just more fun now.
7. British Airways
British Airway’s “Highlife” is a bona fide travel magazine with a diverse array of alluring content and some bold design choices. The traditional in-flight mag this is not. In fact, it puts some of that ilk to shame with a (relatively) mobile-friendly site as well.
8. Red Bull
It’s no coincidence the mack daddies of content marketing have mastered editorial design. Redbull.com effortlessly evokes the Red Bull brand while providing a genuine magazine experience that, tellingly, doesn’t go by any other name or URL other than Redbull.com. As far as they’re concerned, it is the digital extension of the brand. You don’t have to drop someone from a space shuttle to get closer to the success Red Bull enjoys as content marketers. Just take a few cues from the editorial design of their site.
Interested in more? For further reading on the principles of editorial design:
“Designing the Editorial Experience” by Sue Apfelbaum & Juliette Cezzar
Cover image courtesy of Peter Van Lancker via Flickr.