Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

I'm redesigning Smashing Magazine

Posted on 18 August 2011 69 comments

Article illustration for I'm redesigning Smashing Magazine

This post is part 1 in the series detailing the redesign of Smashing Magazine.

Like many web design professionals, Smashing Magazine has been a permanent fixture in my RSS feeds for a number of years. I’ve watched them grow from a fairly lowbrow list blog into a thorough, intelligent, truly valuable web design resource. Part of that has been seen partly from ‘the inside’, as I’m a member of the panel whose job it is to review content, and I’m happy to say that my involvement now runs even deeper: I’m currently in the midst of redesigning the website.

I applaud Smashing Magazine, because Vitaly and his team have always strived for continued improvement; something that is obvious when you compare the quality of today’s articles with those posted a couple of years ago. However, for a long time I’ve privately felt that the current SM design is holding the magazine back somewhat, nodding back to the days when it was a less well-respected blog. So when Vitaly asked me if I’d like to redesign the site, I jumped at the chance: in my mind, this could be the opportunity to for the visuals to more accurately reflect the quality of the content within.

For fun, I thought it might be nice to blog about the process as we go. Neither the SM team or I have any plans to ‘crowdsource’ feedback, but this is a rare opportunity to talk about some of the decision-making as we go, and I’m a big fan of transparency.

Right now, we’re nearing completion of the research / discovery phase and, in my head, I’m beginning to form loose ideas of a possible aesthetic, as well as tackle the somewhat complex issue of SM’s extensive navigation and how to create a responsive design around the necessary evil of advertising. Everyone loves ads, right? ;)

It’s going to be a challenge, but a thoroughly enjoyable one!


  1. Patrick Hamann

    Patrick Hamann

    18 August 2011 @ 03:19PM #

    Amazing news! Can’t wait to see the results.

  2. Tom Ross

    Tom Ross

    18 August 2011 @ 03:20PM #

    Wow, can’t wait to see this redesign Elliot. I agree that the site definitely needs a facelift and can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  3. Sergio


    18 August 2011 @ 03:21PM #

    Good luck! Really looking forward to seeing the process!

  4. Joel Helin

    Joel Helin

    18 August 2011 @ 03:21PM #

    Congratulations! Really looking forward to what you guys come up with!

  5. Stewart Curry

    Stewart Curry

    18 August 2011 @ 03:22PM #

    I’d given up on Smashing Magazine when it seemed to be full of those “7 awesome filters every designer must know right now” style posts – must go and give it another look.

  6. Jason Stanley

    Jason Stanley

    18 August 2011 @ 03:22PM #

    A great opportunity to put your talent to the test and thank you for making the decision to share your process, teaching and inspiring as you go!

  7. Wayne McManus

    Wayne McManus

    18 August 2011 @ 03:23PM #

    Looking forward to reading about your progress. Smashing Magazine is one of the true great websites.

  8. Chris Wharton

    Chris Wharton

    18 August 2011 @ 03:23PM #

    Congrats Elliot, looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Will there be dribbbles/previews or is it closed design/development?

  9. Jim Morrison

    Jim Morrison

    18 August 2011 @ 03:23PM #

    Look forward to seeing it! Best of luck & congrats etc..

  10. David


    18 August 2011 @ 03:22PM #

    Have always thought their design was thoroughly out-dated and aching for an update. Look forward to reading about your process along the way.

  11. Tom Muller

    Tom Muller

    18 August 2011 @ 03:24PM #

    Very interesting. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the magazine. Looking forward to see how you’re going to push it forward!

  12. James


    18 August 2011 @ 03:26PM #

    Congrats! They’ve really shown in the last couple of years what quality editorial can do in terms of the amazing articles they now post so it’s good to hear a top notch designer is going to take the look and feel up a notch too.


  13. Jason Gross

    Jason Gross

    18 August 2011 @ 03:26PM #

    This is very exciting! I can’t wait! It has been such a pleasure to be able to work with Vitaly and the great editors they have at SM for the few articles I have had the honor of submitting to them. This is one community that puts a lot of time and effort into making sure they get things right for the design and development community.

    It’s good to see they made another great decision in a fantastic designer. I am also looking forward to this “blogging about it as we go” deal and I would encourage you to share share share! I think there is a lot to be learned from a designer who is working through a challenging process and it’s something we don’t see as much of in blogs right now.

  14. Johannes Holmberg

    Johannes Holmberg

    18 August 2011 @ 03:27PM #

    Nice! It’s gonna be interesting to follow along in the progress. Really looking forward to it!

  15. ilithya


    18 August 2011 @ 03:27PM #

    Me too!! Can’t wait to see the new look you’ll create for them, as I do also think they need a redesign.
    I’m happy for you and SM, as I’ve been a long devoted reader since they started, and been also following you for quite a while now, since I discovered your amazing Starkers WP naked theme—Thanks!

  16. Davor Tomic

    Davor Tomic

    18 August 2011 @ 03:32PM #

    Great news – not only is Smashing Magazine getting a redesign, but it’s also going to be done by such an artist as yourself. Can’t wait to see the end product! Good luck Elliot! :)

  17. Scott Riley

    Scott Riley

    18 August 2011 @ 03:35PM #

    Great news man.

    As much as I love 8faces and your presentations, I always look forward to seeing your design work above everything else.

    Really can’t wait to get a glimpse at the process of such a huge task.

  18. João


    18 August 2011 @ 03:44PM #

    Good luck with that, Elliot. With great design skills comes great responsibility!

  19. Mickey Mouse

    Mickey Mouse

    18 August 2011 @ 03:53PM #

    No ads. And Smashing Magazine is the type of website with articles made intentionally long.

  20. Justin DiMucci

    Justin DiMucci

    18 August 2011 @ 04:01PM #

    I have always felt the same way, the design of the site doesn’t match all the quality web design/development topics they produce. I’ve hoped they would get someone in there to redesign it for a while now, and am even more stoked that you’ll be sharing the process with us along the way. Can’t wait to see what’s to come.

  21. Casper


    18 August 2011 @ 04:34PM #

    Great news, congrats on the gig!
    I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on how you’ll tackle a responsive layout with fixed-width banner ads.

    Thanks for sharing.

  22. Hans Ov

    Hans Ov

    18 August 2011 @ 04:43PM #

    Yah, great stuff! Cannot wait to see what comes our of your backend. Quick grunge background and some crappy fonts will be just what Smashing Mag needs!

  23. Jera Batten

    Jera Batten

    18 August 2011 @ 04:47PM #

    Congratulations! Vitaly was wise to ask you to redesign Smashing Magazine. With high hopes and great expectations, I say I’m looking forward to the results.

  24. Mark Wallis

    Mark Wallis

    18 August 2011 @ 05:03PM #

    Good luck Elliot, first thing I thought of was the Ads and what a challenge that is going to be.

    The reading experience on the current site is not great. If I read anything at all off it goes to Readability. Very much looking forward to see what you can do with the site in this regard.

  25. Sanket


    18 August 2011 @ 05:10PM #

    Wao very good new, can’t wait.
    Good luck


  26. Kristine Remer

    Kristine Remer

    18 August 2011 @ 05:08PM #

    Glad to hear there is a discovery phase occurring right now. Would love to see the methodology and findings published as a future series of posts.

  27. Lisa Price

    Lisa Price

    18 August 2011 @ 04:20PM #

    How exciting! Congratulations. Look forward to seeing the goods :)

  28. Joaz Rivera

    Joaz Rivera

    18 August 2011 @ 05:13PM #

    Idea: Online community for designers, simple and clean, just for share our works with others ;)

  29. Reed Botwright

    Reed Botwright

    18 August 2011 @ 05:24PM #

    All I can say is: don’t rush it. You’re designing something that is immediately going to be judged by an entire community that is centred around design. And we are a fickle bunch!

    At any rate, enjoy the process and I am looking forward to following it the entire way!

  30. Phil Jones

    Phil Jones

    18 August 2011 @ 05:32PM #

    That is a sweet gig! Well deserved.

  31. CJ Spencer

    CJ Spencer

    18 August 2011 @ 05:35PM #

    Congratulations dude! Hope to see some of those lovely print styles come across :)

  32. mment


    18 August 2011 @ 05:51PM #

    Awesome News! Can’t wait for it

  33. Anas Kamtiyono

    Anas Kamtiyono

    18 August 2011 @ 06:01PM #

    Really want to see the new looks. I already feel (a little) boring with the current design that looks too plain simple.

  34. Julie Ng

    Julie Ng

    18 August 2011 @ 06:07PM #

    Brilliant Elliot! Great to know the next one will be from a designer we all know and respect. And props for being open and transparent about the redesign!

    Like everyone else, curious as to how you solve the ads problem, since scaling ads might look funny on smaller devices, that is small type becomes illegible. Or will you maybe go the Macrumors route – far less ads on the mobile version ;-)

  35. Andrew Osborne

    Andrew Osborne

    18 August 2011 @ 06:11PM #

    Sounds great! I’ve only followed Smashing Magazine over the past 8 months, but I’ve greatly benefited from it. I myself have thought the design was surprisingly lackluster for such a great blog. Looking forward to watching the process.

  36. Tomjcz


    18 August 2011 @ 06:22PM #

    Awesome News! Good luck!

  37. Daniel Avrella

    Daniel Avrella

    18 August 2011 @ 06:56PM #

    I just ordered the 3rd edition of 8 faces and can’t wait to get it in hands. But already downloaded the pdf version and it looks just… overwhelming. If Smashing is going to be this quality, it’ll be unbeatable. Good luck, looking forward to it!

  38. Bill Addison

    Bill Addison

    18 August 2011 @ 07:10PM #

    This is an awesome match. Can’t wait to see what you come up with for SM!

  39. Mr Dai

    Mr Dai

    18 August 2011 @ 07:40PM #

    Does this mean their might be an article about responsive design that includes how to handle banner advertising? http://twitter.com/mr_dai/status/102000710756999168

  40. Arif Riyanto

    Arif Riyanto

    18 August 2011 @ 10:45PM #

    It’s good sound! I’ll wait the result

  41. Westie


    19 August 2011 @ 08:36AM #

    Smashing News!

  42. Firas


    19 August 2011 @ 09:56AM #

    The shoemaker is bare footed; It’s been easy for them to inspire us, but now when it comes to their website, they need a real hard work :-)
    Good luck Elliot

  43. Patrick Kavanagh

    Patrick Kavanagh

    19 August 2011 @ 03:21PM #

    Congratulations! What great job to get! I’m looking forward to the resulting site! Getting an insight into how you go about your process during the course of the redesign will be fantastic,and no doubt inspiring! good luck with the project!

  44. Ramon Lapenta

    Ramon Lapenta

    20 August 2011 @ 03:43PM #

    That’s Great News!

    I love SM and I really would love to see the process of redesign of something as big as SM, I hope it becomes an learning experience for everybody.

  45. Craig Coles

    Craig Coles

    20 August 2011 @ 03:44PM #

    I look forward to seeing the processes and the decisions you make it the re-design and I am excited to see the end results!

  46. sanjay


    20 August 2011 @ 03:46PM #

    Looking forward to the design process and what kind of process you guys have or taken. It will be a great learning experience for all of us.

  47. Craig Coles

    Craig Coles

    20 August 2011 @ 03:45PM #

    I look forward to seeing the processes and the decisions you make it the re-design and I am excited to see the end results!

  48. Andrai


    20 August 2011 @ 04:13PM #

    Sounds good, just don’t pull a “gizmodo”, which I basically stopped visiting after they redesigned it.

  49. Andy


    20 August 2011 @ 04:17PM #

    Great news! Can definitely agree the site needs an update; can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  50. oolong


    20 August 2011 @ 04:58PM #

    You go, guys!

  51. kaniadona


    20 August 2011 @ 05:17PM #


  52. rené


    20 August 2011 @ 05:24PM #

    interesting news, can’t wait seeing the result.

  53. Thomas


    20 August 2011 @ 06:29PM #

    Great!, can’t wait to see.

  54. Abdullah Al Mamun

    Abdullah Al Mamun

    20 August 2011 @ 07:29PM #

    WOW! great news. Can’t wait to see the new design. Best of luck. :)

  55. Aen Tan

    Aen Tan

    21 August 2011 @ 01:01PM #

    I’ve always like the content but find the site lacking the professional image like that of AListApart. It felt like a beginner’s magazine. Can’t wait to see how you transform it.

  56. Gonzo the Great

    Gonzo the Great

    21 August 2011 @ 04:20PM #

    .. will it be a responsive webdesign? Hope so, cause the current mobile version s*cks quite a bit? Good luck, very impatient to see what you’ll come with ..?

  57. nyxko


    18 August 2011 @ 06:15PM #

    I can’t wait to see the new design!

    Keep us in informed with the progress!

  58. Julia


    20 August 2011 @ 05:59PM #

    Sounds great! Especially if print screens of all stages of redesigning are attached with descriptions – it’s very interesting, as for me, why you do make such decision about look and feel (color scheme, layout, etc.); anyway – good luck with it ))

  59. Signals Media Berlin

    Signals Media Berlin

    20 August 2011 @ 03:54PM #

    We are all very, very excited about how you will change the look & feel of one of the best web sites out there! Will definitely check back more often about updates and maybe sneak peaks :-) Good luck and lots of fun!

  60. Mark


    21 August 2011 @ 12:24PM #

    Following on from what others have said, I am truly looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Smashing Magazine has always been one of the first sites to visit every day, and to have your talent on board for a refresh can only mean good things.

    Nice one!

  61. Rana


    20 August 2011 @ 05:02PM #

    The world is changing everyday. It is good, if it is for better.

  62. scars


    18 August 2011 @ 06:02PM #


  63. Jann Howell

    Jann Howell

    21 August 2011 @ 09:04PM #


  64. Melvin Thambi

    Melvin Thambi

    22 August 2011 @ 04:59AM #

    Congrats Bro :)


  65. Priyank Sharma

    Priyank Sharma

    22 August 2011 @ 10:09AM #

    This is great news. Although the current design of SM isn’t bad either.

  66. h1brd


    22 August 2011 @ 03:27PM #

    Seriously looking forward to this one, unexpected surprise. Awesome, expectations are high ;)

  67. Martin Berglund

    Martin Berglund

    23 August 2011 @ 07:40AM #

    This is great! I am looking forward to reading more about the process. Good luck with the work ahead :)

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