Notes on design trends for long-form and creative writing

My virtual meeting with Sam has prompted a meandering journey through a few websites dedicated to the stylish presentation of text. I thought I would note the links in one place: first, merely to note the trend; and second because it will aid discussions with colleagues over how to present our own literary content on the fantastic PEN Atlas.

First: Medium is a relatively new site created by Twitter founder Evan Williams. Writers can create beautiful looking stories and essays very quickly. The site has the clean and spacious aesthetic that has become fashionable recently. Design led by the need for readbility and usability on tablets, mobile phones, while also providing a reading experience on desktop and laptop monitors that is easy on the eye. I was delighted that my request for an early-bird account was granted by Medium’s Director of Content, Kate Lee, and I have just uploaded a story to the site to try out the composition features.

You can read ‘Northern Line Lovers‘ on Medium (and if you like the story, please hit the ‘recommend’ button below the text). I think I will post my other ‘Ficciones‘ there at some point.

Another story on Medium reminded me of the popular ‘Snow Fall‘ article produced by the New York Times last year. Developer Cody Brown is working on a tool that will allow anyone to create similarly immersive, full-screen stories.

Brown also links to another publishing platform, Marquee, that assists in the design of articles with a similar visual style. The Narrative.ly website uses the Marquee technology, and their long-form journalism is beautifully presented. It is of recognisably the same aesthetic as the ‘Snow Fall’ piece.

Do we need a name for this style in online design? Has someone coined an appropriate term? It seems to me to be an evolution of the Web 2.0 aesthetic we see deployed on web-pages for start-ups. But it the style sufficiently different that we can call it a new species?

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