Monocle, a magazine started by Tyler Brülé (of Wallpaper fame) in early 2007, is comprised of articles ranging from international culture to design, fashion, business, and other related topics. Since its inception, Monocle has received praise for its outstanding design, especially its online presence, Monocle.com. The website makes use of an extremely well thought out grid, boasts exquisite typography, and most of all emulates its printed counterpart better than any other publication I know of.
Monocle online uses a six column grid, made most apparent at first glance by the main navigation, which is comprised of five different options: Sections, Programmes, Magazine, Services, and Search. Each menu option spans the length of one column, except for Search, which spans two columns as to include the necessary search bar.
Different types of content throughout the site are easily placed inside the six column grid in various different ways. The front page easily utilizes the grid by displaying various article headlines spanning two columns on the left, leaving room for corresponding photos and illustrations to be placed across the remaining four columns on the right. Specific articles display headlines and bylines across the left two columns as well, leaving the remaining four columns for the body of the article. To really see the grid in action, navigate to the Current Issue section, and you will see each column used for each section of the magazine.
The menu, along with headlines, use an approach many professional web designers usually steer away from: using images to display text. Plantin, a sophisticated serif typeface, is used throughout the print version and despite certain accessiblity problems, is also used throughout Monocle online. The end result is fantastic. I wonder, however, why they did not choose to use something like sIFR to produce the same results typographically. The designers most likely chose to use images as to perfect the kerning of each word, which is not possible with sIFR. The rest of the site is set in Arial, which complements the larger, serif headlines throughout the Site.
To best appreciate the design of the Monocle website, readers should pick up a copy of the printed magazine. The consistency is almost unbelievable. They both use an almost identical grid, use almost identical typography, and use similar colors. It is by far the best online companion to a printed publication available today.
Monocle online has hardly any flaws; it is beautifully designed. The only problem, which could easily be fixed, is the Subscription page. It lacks in elegance what every other page has. The text lacks the line-height used everywhere else, and the bulleted list seems out of place. The submit button, too, seems out of place. It simply doesn’t match anything used throughout the site. I imagine the subscription page is one of the more visited pages on Monocle online, therefore it should certainly look just as beautiful as the less viewed pages. This problem doesn’t seem too difficult to fix, which is why I hope it is updated sometime soon.
I honestly tried my best to find any problems with Monocle online, either typographically, layout, or usability wise, and with the exception of the Subscription page, I can’t find anything to complain about. In fact, I think Monocle is one of the most beautiful and engaging websites on the web.
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