Introducing the New Wallop

By Geoff Agnew
February 27, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen. Boys and Girls. It’s my pleasure to introduce the latest iteration of Certainly the greenest version to date (colour-wise of course, I can’t speak to its carbon footprint), the new is bringing some zizz and zazz to the internet like you’ve never seen before.

In the 24 months since our last site was launched, the face of online technology and communication has morphed dramatically (surprise surprise). The mobile web has moved from a position of marginal influence to undeniable consequence thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. Research suggests that tablets in particular (though still a relatively small share of the market) will continue to replace the desktop or laptop as the preferred device for consuming web content outside of 9 to 5. Though ashamed to admit it now, I was dismissive of the tablet when it was first introduced. That quickly changed once I got one myself. It immediately supplanted my laptop as the device of choice for content consumption. I rarely pick up the laptop anymore unless I’m making something. Everything else – movies, news, games, internet browsing – occurs on the tablet. Apparently I’m not alone in this change. More and more people are turning to non-computer devices for their digital media needs.

Trends in time specific device use are starting to emerge as tablets and mobile phones grow in popularity. Chart from

This fragmented digital landscape makes one thing abundantly clear: the tried-and-true methods of yesteryear need re-evaluating. Society is dealing with a colossal shift in how, where and what people consume via digital devices. As an agency we have a responsibility to embrace and incubate change that helps both ourselves, and our clients, thrive in this dynamic environment. This redesign is one step in that direction.

An Eye to the Future

Fundamentally, the creation of this site was driven by a desire to broadcast rich content in an optimized form regardless what device people visit on. In simpler – perhaps less jargony – terms we’re producing more content (projects, articles, blog posts) and presenting it in a flexible way that adapts to how you’re viewing it. Are you reading this on an iphone? a tablet? a 27″ desktop? The site will respond to the nature of your device and arrange itself to produce an improved experience. See for yourself by scaling the browser window to simulate different device resolutions (Sorry Internet Explorer users; anything below IE9 doesn’t support media queries natively. We’ve done our best to simulate the responsive behaviour with javascript but you won’t get the absolute true experience).

Naturally, adopting relatively new techniques such as responsive design comes with growing pains. The additional layers of complexity inherent to responsive design forces us to reassess the established production framework that has – up until now – served us so faithfully. No longer are we planning, designing and coding for just one user scenario (in most cases the desktop computer). Designing within a responsive framework demands a more iterative, open ended process that allows for flexibility and change throughout the build. Of course, ambiguity isn’t high on most clients list of ‘favourite qualities in a web project’. We recognize this and fully expect that as the technology matures, so too will the process. We suspect the design and approval process to gradually relax over time and allow for more deviation from the pixel perfect approach employed to date. While the loss of granular control makes the perfectionist in me dry heave, I realize it’s likely the only realistic way to build digital products that live comfortably across an ever increasing array of devices.

Beyond Arial

Responsive design isn’t the only story here. Typography has always been a fundamental part of good communication design. Though easily overlooked by many, good typography is often what makes an exceptional product stand out from the crowd. Until recently, those of us working in the digital world have been relegated to a pitiful selection of fonts for use in our work. Indeed, font replacement techniques like sIFR and Cufon helped ease the pain but they were not without drawbacks. Thankfully, in the past two years the shackles of web safe fonts have been broken (thanks to frontrunners Typekit and Google Fonts) allowing designers to finally bring the same typographic personality and vigour to online projects as those that exist in print. This not only reinforces brand continuity across different media but also amplifies visual diversification online.

Typography plays a large part in setting the tone in design. The Globe & Mail uses fonts that express sophistication while 24 Hours implies a more garden variety, gossipy tone of voice.

Some recent projects we’ve completed that make extensive use of new web fonts are Donnelly Group, Hotel 1000 and the site you’re on right now. Compare each side-by-side and it becomes clear how type can change the personality of the page and by extension, how the brand is perceived. Imagine now if each of these three was set in Arial and Times New Roman. Personality and individuality = obliterated.

The Times, They Be… Different

Responsive design is just one chapter in the book of digital communication. It’s not a panacea, nor should it be viewed as the definitive solution for brands trying to recalibrate to the changing digital landscape. It is however, one method that addresses the undeniable fact that how we consume content online has changed dramatically. The days of the desktop monopoly are long gone.

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