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Frieze magazine

A major redesign for the leading art and culture magazine and art fair.

The relaunched Frieze magazine
The relaunched Frieze Art Fair and Foundation websites
This page is a work in progress
Project details
WhoErskine Design
WhatLeadership, management, design, front-end, information architecture, e-commerce.
The brief was certainly daunting: three interlinked websites that would comprise frieze magazine, Frieze Art Fair, and the non-profit Frieze Foundation. Simon and his team handled this major-scale task excellently, creating three sites that incorporate a large archive and various functionalities into an attractively minimal design that has drawn comparisons with, among others, the New Yorker, the Guardian, and Wired.
— Sam Thorne, Online Editor

I don’t think I will ever be more proud of a client project or invest more of my energy. In January 2007, my fledgeling agency won the pitch to completely rethink, redesign and redevelop the Frieze online presence across two existing websites and a third new site. All three sites were to share resources and be manageable from one panel. This web standards reset required we clean up, systemise and future-proof sixteen years of disorganised data. We also implemented a bespoke subscription and e-commerce system.

A selection of Frieze magazine covers

Leading the project and being hands-on with every detail was a huge challenge. I devised a rigorous project coordination process, managing a client team of around forty people in three countries. The scale of the task was daunting, with sixteen years of badly-formatted magazine archives, five years of art fair data and an existing subscriber database. Using our data and CMS experience, we soon established a flexible site structure, running all three sites from one control panel. We ensured visitors would be able to search across all three domains from any one site.

Collaborative sketch for Frieze magazine website
Collaborative sketch reviews.
Collaborative sketch for Frieze Art Fair website
Collaborative sketch for Frieze Foundation website

Visually, we quickly identified and championed a preferred design direction that felt distinct and excited the entire client team. Following the September 2007 relaunch, the core magazine website received widespread recognition for reigniting the Frieze online presence with its minimal design, striking typography and flexible layout grid.

High-level wireframing for Frieze magazine
High-level wireframing for Frieze magazine.
High-level wireframing for Frieze magazine
High-level wireframing for Frieze magazine

Content always came first, and the job offered lots of new opportunities at a time when established media was still trying to make sense of the shift to online. I was excited to explore how a physical magazine and website could operate in tandem. We devised an approach where each magazine’s content was expanded online with additional media and insight, and I requested online highlights feature in the printed magazine’s contents page and article footnotes.

Announcing the new site in the printed magazine
Announcing the relaunch.
Frieze online in the printed magazine contents
Online content highlighted in print.

Shop, subscriptions and advertising

We carefully combined the primary CMS with a bespoke e-commerce system designed and built for Frieze subscriptions. The new system could easily handle irregular issue dates, standard payment methods and also direct debits, with configurable reporting and exports. Frieze also used it to sell publications and art fair tickets.

Of particular interest to both ourselves and also the magazine team was the fostering of the online community. It’s not easy for readers to interact with a physical magazine, and the online space offers opportunities for comment, discussion and feedback. We implemented several user tools such as article bookmarking and access privileges based on magazine subscription and web-only registration.

We implemented a robust advert server to handle unique campaigns and collate detailed statistics for advertisers: standard and custom-sized advertising campaigns needed to be planned for and created as autonomous zones around the websites.

Other tasks included interaction with Filemaker databases, and the provision of audio/video tools, and podcast subscription via iTunes and traditional RSS.

It was quite a year.