Responses by Luke Hayman, partner; and Austin Maurer, designer, Pentagram.
Background: Tablet is an award-winning, online publication that explores Jewish life and culture. The redesign corresponds with the publication’s growth from a niche online journal with a focus on religion, politics, arts and culture into a wide-ranging, newspaper-like platform with an output that includes books, events and podcasts. Over time, the site has evolved into a place where people can connect with Judaism on a regular basis and build a sense of community. The new design emphasizes that role and surfaces more of the publication’s deep ten-year archive, much of which remains relevant today.
Design core: We envisioned the site as a useful guide to the incredibly varied experience of modern Jewish life. The look and feel of the redesign takes its inspiration from newspapers and temple newsletters that have traditionally been important to the community. We looked to the vernacular of historical American Jewish publications, including the original Yiddish Jewish Daily Forward, as well as Lower East Side theater posters.
As the article page is frequently the primary entry point for the site, we placed importance on having a strong identity for that page that readers would recognize immediately. Tablet’s articles feature headlines set into the text column—with pull-quotes and images treated similarly—subtly referencing Hebrew scripture and its interlocking columns of text.
Favorite details: The design is able to successfully reflect the richness of the stories. Each of the ten section pages can use their own combination of parts, enabling them to have distinct characters similar to section fronts of a Sunday newspaper. The design works hard to avoid being overly templated.
Navigation structure: The site is structured primarily around its ten (for now) editorial sections. To bring this to the fore and accentuate the newspaper feel, we created a feature we call “The Scroll”—a secondary navigation that, again, refers to the stack of sections in a Sunday newspaper. The Scroll allows readers to browse the section fronts before diving deeper, providing a sort of thumbing-through browsing experience.
Technology: We partnered with Sanctuary Computer to develop the site using a modern technology stack. The front-end app is powered by React and served via AWS. The content is managed with Sanity, providing a decoupled back end that can be leveraged to power mobile apps and other front-end clients in the future. Sanity also enables us to design and build custom CMS interfaces in support of the Tablet editorial team’s workflows—something we are actively working on.