Dazed launches new website to reflect “changing attitudes”

Dazed has launched a new website, with a new focus on politics and science and a greater emphasis on visuals. We spoke to editor Thomas Gorton, head of digital Bridget Mills-Powell and digital designer Holly Benwell about the thinking behind the redesign

Dazed & Confused has come a long way since it was founded by Jefferson Hack and photographer Rankin in 1991. Some of the most iconic fashion and culture titles launched in the 80s and 90s have long since gone out of print – such as The Face and Sleazenation – but Dazed has continued to grow. The Dazed Media group now includes a website (dazeddigital.com), an in-house creative studio that creates bespoke content for brands and sister titles AnOther, Nowness and AnOther Man.

Part of Dazed’s continued success lies in its desire to adapt – both to changes in its readers’ interests and in the way those readers consume content. In the past few years, it has launched Dazed Studio to create high quality advertising (a response to a desire for more sophisticated advertising content) and completely redesigned its print magazine following the arrival of new editor-in-chief Isabella Burley and creative director Robbie Spencer.

Now, Dazed has launched a new website with a stripped back design that places more emphasis on visuals. The site also includes new sections dedicated to Politics, Film & TV and Science & Tech and Dazed has brought in new editors-at-large to curate related content.

London musician GAIKA is political editor-at-large and is working with Dazed to imagine a “dystopian future world” in a project that will span print and digital content as well as live events.

Lauren Bowker (founder of The Unseen and one of CR’s Creative Leaders) will head up the science section and will work with Dazed to create experiments “in response to pop culture moments”. She is currently developing some Blade Runner-inspired contact lenses to mark the release of Blade Runner 2049 – a project that will be documented exclusively on the site.

Shon Faye is LGBTQ editor-at-large. The writer and lawyer has penned an article about her experience of transitioning for the site and will oversee articles on sexuality, gender and queer issues.

Dazed’s Science & Tech section

Editor Thomas Gorton says the redesign reflects the “changing attitudes” of Dazed’s “widening readership”. The decision to introduce a politics section was driven in part by the positive response to Dazed’s coverage of the UK election and reports highlighting the appalling treatment of gay people in Chechnya – as well as the fact that younger readers are becoming increasingly politically engaged.

“I think at a time when Donald Trump is President of the United States, it’s pretty hard to ignore,” he says. “In the past couple of years we’ve seen Brexit, we’ve seen a complete distrust of our current government … and I think our readers want us to have a stance on [political issues] and to care and inform them – not preach, but inform, and certainly have our own opinion.”

Dazed has also been working increasingly hard to champion diversity over the past few years and Gorton says the introduction of new editors-at-large will ensure that the site continues to represent a wide range of opinions and cover a broad range of issues. Bringing in Bowker and GAIKA – creatives with a particular interest in politics and science – ensures that these topics will be covered through a cultural or artistic lens (or as Gorton puts it, “the Dazed lens”).

The new site has a clean and minimal design: the homepage no longer features standfirsts underneath headlines and advertising appears in full-width banners in between blocks of editorial content. The site’s linear format has been replaced with a modular system that can be easily reconfigured by the editorial team.

This allows the team to change the layout of both the homepage and various landing pages – for example, to introduce a grid of shorter news stories (as seen on the Fashion page) or a trio of features highlighted with larger images in a portrait format (see Life & Culture and Music).

Gorton says this modular design will allow the editorial team to showcase important stories for longer. Previously, older stories would “drop off” down the page as new ones appeared throughout the day but the new design allows the team to place lead features at the top of landing pages for as long as they wish. It also creates a more dynamic design. Digital designer Holly Benwell says: “We wanted to get away from that black and white text with images in boxes feel … and really maximise the space and showcase imagery.”

Bridget Mills-Powell, head of digital, adds: “We wanted it to have real personality and identity, so that if you came to an article page through social media and you didn’t know it was Dazed, it would stand out.”

The site closely reflects the look and feel of the print magazine (redesigned in 2015 by art director Jamie Reid) and aims to better showcase creative content commissioned for the magazine. The banner image at the top of the current homepage is from an exclusive shoot with Björk for the cover of the Autumn 2017 issue.

“We wanted to show images as large as we could and really showcase them,” adds Benwell. “The print magazine and website [publish] these amazing articles and imagery so our focus was on highlighting that and bringing a lot more colour into the site. That header image gives the site a visual emphasis and that ability to put different features [in a prominent position].”

The design reflects readers’ changing habits: with most of Dazed’s audience now coming to the site from a mobile, the design team introduced mobile-specific features that mirror the way we interact with content on social media.

Readers visiting Dazed on a smartphone can swipe through a carousel of recent stories rather than having to scroll through a never-ending list of articles arranged in a single column. This feature is designed to make it easier to find content on the site and encourage people who come to articles through social media to spend more time browsing other features.

“A lot of people design sites mobile-first but we wanted to go a bit further and design it with mobile functionality,” says Mills-Powell. “We’re so used to browsing content on social now that we decided to take a bit of inspiration from social.”

Mills-Powell says the redesign also aims to offer a better advertising experience. Sponsored content is now better integrated with editorial (though still clearly marked) and the modular design allows for site ‘takeovers’ (for example a block of content from an advertising partner). She says Dazed will now be working with advertisers “to design nice creative together” and ensure native content “fits seamlessly with editorial”.

“We want to raise the bar in terms of what we can do with advertising [for advertisers] and still make it a lovely experience for users,” she adds.

The new site makes better use of great visual content and allows Dazed to put more emphasis on the stories that really matter. Over the next few months Dazed’s digital team will publish a ‘New York Day’ looking at the city’s cultural impact to promote New York Fashion Week and a campaign exploring shifting attitudes among Russian youth. The editorial team will also be working on more video content and collaborating with GAIKA to develop his vision of the future – a project that Gorton describes as “one of the boldest things I’ve ever published”.

Dazed has never been a brand to rest on its laurels – and with the new site and a range of exciting projects coming up, it seems there’s no chance of that happening in the near future.