This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly


3rd October 2007

For seven or eight months, we have been slogging our guts out on two or three vast projects, perhaps the biggest being a major rebuild and redesign for frieze Magazine - Europe’s #1 art magazine.

Frieze sites

For me this was a dream job, as I used to buy frieze every month back in my art days. The Frieze team are also responsible for the Frieze Art Fair (Europe’s #1 art event), and year-round commissioning through the Frieze Foundation. We have also produced brand new sites for these.

Specifically, this was a real challenge for our beloved ExpressionEngine, but as usual it passed with flying colours. In particular, using EE’s new Multiple Site Manager, we’re running all three sites from one control panel. This is combined with a bridging application to allow for paid membership subscriptions, interaction with Filemaker, a robust advert server, and a little load-balancing trickery.

Magazine index

Figure 1: Referencing the site content in the magazine.

I’m particularly excited to see how the link between paper and pixels will be strengthened. The latest issue of the magazine now includes details of extra web content on the mag’s contents page (above), and I really like this. For example, videos obviously cannot be viewed in the physical mag, but it is made clear that related content can be found on the website. The Frieze team understand how to use the web as extension (and not mirror) of the physical magazine, and I know this is something they are keen to exploit further as the site develops.

All in all, this job has been epic. Sixteen years of magazine archives, five years of art fair archives, and a client team of around forty people in three countries. A real treat was the opportunity to work with Paul Barnes, co-designer of the Guardian Egyptian typeface. All in all, there were too many workshops and design iterations to count, a hundred database problems, and oh so many late nights with little or no sleep. Still, we’re really proud of this one, and I have to say that personally, the challenge of translating physical magazine or newspaper content for online digestion is becoming a real dream gig. Murdoch, give us a call.

Frieze Magazine home page

Note to scrutinizers: Yep, we still have a lot to do, both in terms of content and style. Therefore, I’d appreciate a bit of leeway regarding validation, stray tags and some decidedly non-semantic classes etc. Trust me, when a job like this gets rolling, these lesser details fall by the wayside as one’s health and family take precedence. We’ll get there…


# Adam responded on 3rd October 2007 with...

Truly beautiful work. I don’t what’s more impressive to me - the translation of the design, or the fact that you did all this with EE. I’m more in awe of EE every day. Thanks for showing what it’s capable of.

# Geof Harries responded on 3rd October 2007 with...

I’m interested to learn more about the membership subscription system, as I’m building an EE-powered e-commerce site myself right now.

I’ve checked out e-junkie and of course, SimpleCommerce from EE, but in both cases I am hesitant about sending people over to PayPal to complete their purchase.

You’re using Subscribe Online, which is part of a larger company; is it affiliated with Frieze in any way or just a third party app? I dig how it looks so integrated with the Frieze website. That’s exactly what I’m after.

# Leslie responded on 3rd October 2007 with...

Wow. Outstanding work! Congrats to you and the Erskine team.

# Tom responded on 3rd October 2007 with...

I think it looks very nice. The interface really encourages me to go and have a good look around and subscribe to some of the content. And the neutral style is perfect for the nature of the organisation and the consistency between sections in my opinion.

I hear what you say about scrutinizing but my only issue isn’t with the validation etc. but rather where my eye falls first (frieze magazine page); on those thumbnails. Assuming this is the final design, I can’t help but wonder if there was a reason the thumbnails weren’t placed underneath the main image? I am in awe of the javascript wizardry here though.

It must be incredibly difficult to organise and bind such a large amount of content in such a pleasing way.

# Richard B responded on 3rd October 2007 with...

I stand by what I commented over at Flickr regarding this site.

Good work, I like it. Really like the effective layout. There is a fair amount
of content on the site and it’s really well organised. A fine use of the footer too.

The big thing has to be the design layout. It just lets the content flow so effortlessly and does not bombard the user with too much. Kudos must go to the Erskine team on this. It’s the best work I’ve seen you guys do. Must feel great.

Congratulations. Looks the balls, Colly!

# Stuart Colville responded on 3rd October 2007 with...

Really nice work. I like that the design is overall more typographically led; this lends itself to really showing off the content rather than being distracting.

The carousel is a nice touch and it’s great to see the use of a vertical movement rather than horizontal for once. One point to note is that the text on to the right dissappears on text-resize but that’s a minor issue easily resolved.

# Mark responded on 3rd October 2007 with...

Excellent job guys.  I love the design and implementation.

# Justin responded on 5th October 2007 with...

Very well done: particularly struck by the excellent typography and consistent use of the grid across all sites.

# Simon Collison responded on 5th October 2007 with...

I think the EE folks want me to do an interview about the site soon, so I’ll get the chance to elaborate there pretty soon. Quick responses (as I’m still busy tweaking the beast)...

Geoff: Well, we’re using Amember for the paid subscription packages. This software basically adopts your EE database and ensures any member activity (subscription start/end dates, and which member group each perosn belongs to) is automatically updated in EE. It is great, but tricky to configure, and requires Amember’s EE plugin which costs extra. This is all coupled with quite a lot of our own MySQL interventions.

As for the Subscribe Online stuff, that is out of our hands. Any major purchases, and current subscriptions for the physical mag, are handled by an external company for the next few months, and they have done their best to copy our templates. You know it isn’t us when you see an external URL basically.

Tom: Regarding the JavaScript slider, we put the thumbnails at the side to prevent pushing the main content even further down the page, and also in order to stick more rigorously to the grid layout we’d devised. I can’t tell you how many design iterations we went through to get this right! We also wanted to ensure that the main slider images adhered to a sensible aspect ratio (based upon standard photo sizes, so 450 x 300px).

Stuart: You ain’t wrong. In general, the whole thing handles text resizing quite badly. One or two steps up and it is mostly OK, but any more than that and it gets troubling. yeah, some overflow stuff will hide certain elements, which is not idea. Its on my list.

Everyone else: Thanks for the positive feedback. Means a lot. Still a hell of a lot to do!

# Ross Bruniges responded on 8th October 2007 with...

Nice work Simon; I’m sure you got the new recruits working all hours on this ;>

The really think that the gallery kicks ass - even after reading the comments here about it I didn’t expect it to behave as it did!

One thing that I think would be helpful is to include some sort of rollover, active or focus states for the anchors - when I was being lazy and using my keyboard I found it rather difficult to work out where I was….

But very very nice indeed, hope it gets the work coming in thick and fast for you!

# Shaal responded on 10th October 2007 with...

Shooot! The new frieze looks so awesome, but the favicon of the site, don’t you think resembles too much with the one facebook has for there logo even?

# Sam responded on 12th October 2007 with...

Very nice design, the gallery’s top notch and the site feels light and airy. I think the thumbs to the left of the lead image work well - users are pretty used to navigation on the left.

Did you do lots of testing on this project and how helpful was it?

The gallery reminds me a bit of the navigation on the new Apple Logic site, also using js:

I’ve just been thinking a lot about wider site layouts, and mentioned the Frieze site in this post:

I’d be really interested in any comments you might have.

All the best

# Katalog stron responded on 18th October 2007 with...

Nice article and very fantastic helpful site.

# Lynne responded on 31st October 2007 with...

Very nice design work there. A smooth, yet enjoyable look and feel. The pages a broken up nicely, which makes for easy scanning and reading.


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