Shaping a Blog Design ...


Back in 2012 I posted plans to evolve the blog which included:

And I recognize the “look and feel” of the blog desperately needs help, another action on the 2012 to-do list.

Didn’t happen.

This exchange with Marsha Collier surfaced in 2013:

I’ve had friends tell me that once I bulldoze the wretched “look and feel” of the blog …

Didn’t happen.

My New Year’s resolutions in 2014 included:

Bulldoze the “Look and Feel” of the Blog: Friends, family members and complete strangers have asked why the design of my blog looks like a failed attempt at retro. As an evangelist for visual storytelling, 2014 is the year that I finally bring my blog into the 21st century (and put some shoes on this cobbler’s kid). I’m also keen to bring some of BusinessWeek’s treatments of typography into the blog.

Didn’t happen.

It took three years of cogitation to finally deliver Design 2.0.

Welcome to the new and improved Ishmael’s Corner.

At the risk of rationalizing, the task of redesigning the blog involved more than creating a “look” that didn’t repulse.
old_tornI wanted to push the boundaries of what a blog could be, finding inspiration in places ranging from Fast Company to Medium to the proverbial online nooks and crannies. That’s why it took some time. I knew to do it right would be a major undertaking.

So what do I mean by “do it right?”

More than creating a fresh façade,  I wanted to have the ability to package each post for maximum curb appeal. This gets into areas like greater control of typography — even using typography as a visual element — and flexibility to feature horizontal images, vertical images and even bleed photos across the width.


Here’s another example. We can highlight passages with access to a six-color palette. It’s the type of functionality that one associates with a branded online magazine. Of course, a branded online magazine benefits from an art department filled with people who read the Pantone guide for fun.

Which brings me to an equally important point. The new blog needed the tools in the WordPress console to support the unique functionality so that this quest for high-octane design in each post could be a repeatable process (not require design expertise and/or custom programming).

In the Agency’s use of storytelling techniques in content development, we talk about levity as a “killer app” to gain attention, especially for B2B clients. So too in the blog design, I wanted to bring touches of levity such as the use of bullet points … literally.

  • Bullet one
  • Bullet two
  • Bullet three

As we got deeper into the plan for the site structure and design, it became clear that the job called for custom programming. While today’s WordPress themes/templates can deliver Condé Nast-like sophistication, we needed more than a pretty face.

The blog has always probed this intersection where storytelling, digital, content marketing, paid media, journalism and branding as well as traditional PR all converge. Hopefully, between the new design and content architecture, the blog can also serve as industry resource. Yes, we’ve implemented industry best practices, bucketing over 600 posts into 37 categories. But the content architecture also pulls out stand-alone sections, again with a unique design such as one dedicated to visual storytelling.

All this and more did take some time.

Before closing the curtain on this post, a few bows are in order. Our extraordinary creative director, Chauncey Hill, tolerated my email pings — Hey, this is really cool. What do you think?  – somehow distilling my input into the design you see today. The contribution of Lars Faye at Chee Studio went far beyond the custom code. And the project’s SEO team of Chris De Sa and Melissa Lewelling did an amazing job in tuning the cobbler’s kids for the Google algorithm.

One final comment —

I’ve always viewed this blog as a laboratory for communication experiments. As our client campaigns increasingly integrate earned media and owned media, we can test stuff here. No doubt, what we’ve learned from this redesign will show up in future client campaigns.

In the meantime, we value your input. If something doesn’t work for you, please let us know. If a piece of functionality simply doesn’t work, let us know that too. While we tested the new blog design before going live, I’m sure we’ll still be squeezing bugs out of the platform for a week or two (or three).

With the heavy lifting done, we don’t plan to wait three years before conducting another design experiment.



  • Lydia Lau

    “Looking good”, “looking model” – just like my hair dresser told me last week when I tried a haircut in the mainland first time in my life – finally, more trendy! Congratulations!

    • Lou Hoffman

      And my hair dresser had good things to say about the new blog so the loop has been closed.

  • Raf Stevens

    Absolutely love the new look & feel, and story approach!
    Congrats Lou & Storytelling team.
    Raf Stevens

    • Lou Hoffman

      Thanks Raf and sorry for the delayed response. Still getting used to the new functionality. Look forward to collaborating with you.


Leave a Reply