COLLINS’ refresh of Medium keeps one eye on the future and the other on their editorial origins

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Harry Bennett
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COLLINS’ refresh of Medium keeps one eye on the future and the other on their editorial origins
COLLINS’ refresh of Medium keeps one eye on the future and the other on their editorial origins
COLLINS’ refresh of Medium keeps one eye on the future and the other on their editorial origins
COLLINS’ refresh of Medium keeps one eye on the future and the other on their editorial origins
COLLINS’ refresh of Medium keeps one eye on the future and the other on their editorial origins

Open writing platform Medium aims to be the model for contemporary digital publishing, already drawing 170 million readers, with authors ranging from Chrissy Teigen to The Atlantic and topics from climate change to JavaScript and AOC to Kim K.

With this in mind, the expectations for a refresh of Medium’s identity and digital presence were always going to be high – but given the task, has proved no problem for New York and San Francisco-based design company COLLINS. “Our teams’ ambition, both Medium and COLLINS, was to craft an evolution for Medium, not a complete departure from the more familiar elements of their existing identity,” George Lavender, Senior Designer at COLLINS explains.

Designing with the ever-growing audience in mind due to Medium’s VP of Marketing Karene Tropen excelling in her role, it was necessary to develop a more adaptive and compelling identity and website to cope with the audience expansion. “For where they’re now going,” Lavender explains, “they required a system that will be far more flexible and dynamic on one hand, yet constant and evergreen on the other,” noting that their progression needed to “represent Medium right now and as it evolves into the future.”

Intending to both assist the evolution of Medium’s brand as well as operating within the editorial origins of the site, the team selected GT Super for the headline typeface, explaining that it is “a contemporary reimagining of serif display typefaces from the 70s and 80s,” whilst also technically operating with great functionality. “It captures the movement of writing in a refined modern form,” Lavender tells us, adding that “the exaggerated x-height makes it inviting and uncommonly readable, especially on smaller screens,” making it the perfect choice to consistently work across the mediums (pun intended) that Medium operates within. “Prior to our involvement, the typeface Söhne had already been established with the Medium brand system,” Lavender recalls in discussing the use of Söhne as their chosen supporting typeface. “We saw immediate value in keeping it, in its flexibility and clarity,” notably when paired with the more ornately constructed GT Super. In further pushing the existing components of the brand, Söhne became the groundwork for COLLINS’ animated typographic illustrations.

Adding a new, exciting dynamism to the website and identity, these typographic illustrations came from a desire to help further understand the mass variety of content on the site through the marrying of words and images. Lavender explains that this conceptual understanding was produced in “a way in which language is not only read and analysed but re-structured to amplify a thought, insight or opinion.” Inspired by 19th and 20th Century concrete poetry, citing “calligrammes illustrated by the French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire,” as a key influence, they hoped to capture a sense of honesty in the “simple, awkward, unfinished, work-in-progress quality to that work.” In designing the final illustrations, however, Lavender adds, “simple, as always, can be quite complicated to do.”

Part of COLLINS’ new expression for Medium is the introduction of iconography, specifically their new three-dot ellipsis logomark – used in grammatical reference to the ellipsis which indicates something imminent to follow, akin to the content on Medium driving new and exciting ideas. “We explored many iterations of symbols during our work with the Medium team,” Lavender tells us, “given that the rest of the design system is a more direct evolution of the brand – we knew any new symbol would carry great significance.” Engaging with language itself, the symbol intends to feel like “an intuitive extension of the brand, rather than depicting something completely new or completely abstract alone.” The introduction of this symbol also becomes a flexible graphic device to be applied across the website, such as contributor/author pages, whilst adding another easily recognisable element to the brand. This, therefore, allows the brand not to lose its denotation when becoming secondary to the work it’s trying to champion.

With another great project under their belt, COLLINS has made a long-lasting friendship with Medium. “I cannot overstate how this was a deep collaboration between our teams at Medium and at COLLINS, Lavender recalls, telling us that “by the end of the project we were finishing each other’s sentences… only good clients create that kind of possibility for good work.”

Medium

Graphic Design

COLLINS

Typography

GT Super by Grilli Type
Söhne by Klim Type Foundry

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