Excellence by Design

These days, it almost seems wrong to be concerned about a furniture fair in Milan, Italy, or the ceramics of Picasso. The situation in the Middle East has not seemed this bleak in decades. Predictions of new terrorist threats pop up almost daily on the news section of my Yahoo home page. Just getting on an airplane requires a certain mustering of courage. Yes, these may not be the days to linger over a superellipse table by Piet Hein, but a Web site chock-full of design-oriented information (a real “chunky site,” in Solomon-speak) drew me in to the fabulously escapist world of modern design.

The site is designaddict.com. I chanced upon it thanks to a tip from Yahoo Internet Life’s “Sites We Love” round-up (May 2002). Now, I am not in any way a design junkie, addict, or even aficionado. In fact, until I was shaken to my senses just a short while ago, most of my furniture was purchased at IKEA. What I love about the site is that it pulls even casual visitors in, providing lots of places to wander. My visit was probably the first time in weeks I didn’t just go right to the search menu to grab the info I needed before making a quick exit.

What’s so great about the content here? Let’s take a closer look at what I consider to be a wonderfully “chunky” example of thoughtful content:

  • The home page’s clickable images with thoughtful links. Don’t you hate it when you click on an image and all you get is the very same image — only bigger? Here, I clicked on the image of a table and got a nice little bio on the table’s designer, Anna Castelli Ferrieri. I even got a link to a book by the designer of this little red table. Now that’s providing the visitor with plenty of background!

  • Essays. When was the last time a Web site invited you to ready an essay (ClickZ excluded, of course)? It seems if we didn’t have an opinion section in Sunday newspapers, the art of the think piece would have died by now.

  • A real newsstand. Most sites seem to have farmed out their newsstands to aggregators such as Moreover Technologies. This site appears to have collected its own information — another nice touch.

  • Forum area. If you’re dying to know what type of Barcelona chair to purchase, you can share your angst with others. I’m not in this league, so I have no idea whether these folks are for real. Reading the postings was still entertaining.

  • Classy classified section. I even found myself tooling around this area. It is well laid out and understated, and it shuns all suggestion of hype. To this day, I’m still wondering if “Tom” with the AOL address found his Sputnik lamp with silver balls. As for banners, the site has a few nicely placed ones that blend well with the overall look and feel. An invitation to “visit our sponsors” sits above banners, so there’s no confusing editorial with advertisement. After spending at least an hour on the site, I’m happy to report no interstitial blasted me in the face.

  • Extensive links. Even though the site’s authors must spend every waking moment gathering content, they have plenty of links to other design-related sites from all over the globe. Linked pages are as likely to be in Italian or German as in English.

  • Shopping. Speaking of links, I thought I’d mention a link to retromodern.com may prove addictive for anyone who’s ever yearned for a $189 designer-crafted tea kettle that whistles in the keys of E and B.

  • Virtual exhibitions. The site takes visitors through the works of modern designers. Since the visuals are more important than the text, I won’t quibble about the obvious fact the copywriter probably needs a few more English composition lessons (“Noble and discreet, these furniture combine metal and wood…”).

All in all, it’s nice to come across a site completely absorbed with and dedicated to becoming the be-all and end-all of design destinations. No hype. No big sell. No tawdry short cuts. Like a big chunky book, it invites one to curl up and learn a little something about a topic that may not be on everyone’s mind. It won’t solve the world’s problems, but it’s a nice place to visit for pointers on developing wonderful content.

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