Background: The Graphic Design Archive was a collaboration between John Moore Williams of Webflow and designer Adam Ho of Zendesk. It’s the first of a series of experiments in collaboration with external designers and agencies to show the world what Webflow, the code-free visual design and development platform for the web, can do. Beyond demonstrating Webflow’s capabilities, we wanted to offer designers a glimpse into fascinating moments of design history that continue to shape the modern practice of design.
Highlights: The content. Much of the development time was dedicated to research and writing. We dove deep into each of these historical moments and learned a ton. That made it easy to see the value of the site, and to put us in the readers’ shoes to highlight takeaways they’d find valuable. Of course, Adam’s design work on this is truly something special. He did an amazing job synthesizing three highly idiosyncratic aesthetics—the ornate medieval manuscript style; the gritty, mid-’80s punk zine look; and the refined, neutral and grid-based Swiss style—into a cohesive style that paid homage to the source material without just echoing it.
Challenges: Creating a sense of consistency across the featured eras, without comprising Adam’s creative freedom or lessening the impact of the featured work. The content begged for a highly custom, but repeatable structure created with Webflow content management system (CMS). But a CMS can also limit a design’s expressiveness—which felt antithetical to our purpose of honoring these moments in design history and highlighting Webflow’s design flexibility.
So, instead of creating a single, unified content model, we approached each era differently, shaping the content to highlight its unique characteristics, while echoing certain patterns (like the tools of the trade section) across all exhibitions. With that freedom in hand, Adam was able to make each page feel distinctly different, with its own art direction, textures, colors and even typefaces, but also part of a cohesive system.
Time constraints: Time constraints ultimately limited the content we were able to include in the initial launch. We produced articles for at least two more exhibitions—the silver lining is, of course, that we’ll have more to publish as soon as time allows!