The best websites are both functional and beautiful at the same time – and is a prime example of both of these traits. Known as the “professional association for design”, AIGA called upon Happy Cog Studios, specifically Jason Santa Maria, to redesign their website in early 2007. includes an eclectic variety of typefaces, colors, and styles, but before I talk about the site’s typography, I’d like to point out some major features that really bring the site together.

First, and foremost, is the banner located near the top of every page on the site, which displays a random image from the AIGA Design Archives. This is a brilliant idea for both functionality and aesthetics. First, it helps separate the two different menus (one above and one below), and it literally makes every single page unique to the visitor.

Second is the navigation and the home page presentation. When you first visit, you’re presented with two menus: the first consisting of specific links that most visitors want to see on every page (About and News come to mind). The second menu, located below the Design Archives banner, consists of the site’s six main sections. These menu items are important in holding the site together through the apparent 6-column grid.

Located on the sidebar of the home page is a short but insightful description of the AIGA, with a link to finding out more about the organization. This in addition to the usable navigation makes the homepage extremely easy to digest.

Now on to the typography: Three main fonts are used throughout the site. Interstate (which is used for the navigation and also for headings through the use of sIFR); Georgia, used mainly for headlines, bylines, and body text; and Verdana, which is used throughout the site to separate the important content from the less important.

Along with this wide variety of typefaces is a wide variety of type styles and colors. On the homepage I counted at least seven different types of combinations of type styles and at least five different colors. I’m usually one to criticize designs that utilize so many different styles and colors in one layout, but for some reason this is the exact reason why I love this website so much. It’s spontaneous, random and fun, but at the same time organized.

Some have argued that the AIGA website is too hectic, but I disagree. The website is eccentric in its use of typography, styles, and colors; and what better representation of an organization that represents so many different areas of the design spectrum.

  1. Sacha

    As much as I don’t want to, I find myself agreeing with Andy Rutledge on this one. I don’t like the design, but it might also be because the random header feature served me up with a blue and white grid that makes the page even more confusing.

  2. Guido

    hm.. the random header isn’t working here and in my opinion it’s kind of hectic.. the 6 gridded design is a nice idea but I wouldn’t see it if you didn’t told me :)

  3. Leon Paternoster

    I love JSM’s work and his writing is superb too. But for me, this is a mess. There are too many things competing for my attention - two navbars, an ad, some intro text, a banner, a logo and a link to an archive entry all in the top part of the page.

    As ever, the heading/meta info is superbly handled, but there’s too much variation; for some reason, the events section looks like a google text ad.

    The organisation I work for is currently using random content on the home page. I personally think it’s a cop out: it abrogates our editorial duties.

    Any chance of seeing your blog up and running, Joey? It looked quite promising.

  4. Tor

    I have to agree with Andy too, the site is to hectic. I don’t see how using seven different styles on the front page is a good thing.

  5. Joey Pfeifer

    I can understand how some might think it’s too busy. In fact I don’t necessarily disagree… but I still think it is appropriate for the website. There is/was obviously a ton of content that needed to be organized when it was originally designed, so I’m curious as to ways in which you guys might improve upon the current site.

    @Leon: I have a serious case of indecision when it comes to designing my own sites, so that has certainly got in the way along with school and work taking up most of my time. But I am working on it!

  6. Leon P

    @Joey: well, the organisation says it wants:

    to discover it [design], discuss it, understand it, appreciate it, be inspired by it

    Which would suit a showcase/blog style site (i.e. post a picture/article and invite comments). It also serves some other functions. How about a simple top navbar along the lines of: Home/Showcase/Articles/Publications and Resources/Events/Jobs/About (7 sections is the max, I reckon).

    Make the search box more prominent — there’s a lot on the site, so it’ll probably get some use.

    The home page has too much on it, IMO. Trust readers to click through to information, making sure it’s accessible from the home page.

    Instead of the current design, use a banner to link to an important article/publication/event etc. For example, if AIGA is holding its annual conference and visitors are likely to be interested in that, make it the most prominent thing on the page. Use a sidebar to provide examples of, and links to, other parts of the site (an article excerpt, a showcase graphic, an excerpt from a publication etc.).

    Once the visitor has clicked through to a particular item, use a breadcrumb or other technique to help establish his/her position within the site structure (e.g. Home » Articles » Toothbrushes are great).