Longreads is a publisher and promoter of longform journalism. Mark Armstrong created it as a Twitter hashtag in 2009 as a way for people to share links to longform reading material. Around that time, apps like Instapaper and Pocket were finding their footing, and thousands of commuters (myself included) were hungry for meaningful things to read during their commutes.
Mark reached out and asked me to help create a website for Longreads in 2010. Our goal was to make the ever-growing collection of recommended Longreads stories searchable.
After launching the site, Longreads earned great press in The New York Times, TechCrunch, and elsewhere. From there, we spent nights and weekends growing Longreads. We expanded the website, won awards from AdAge and The Village Voice, launched ad campaigns for Virgin Atlantic and The Atlantic, and began publishing excerpts from books. In 2014, Longreads was acquired by Automattic, allowing us to quit our day jobs and work on Longreads full-time.
With additional time and resources, we grew Longreads into an acclaimed longform publisher of its own. Rather than just sharing links to the New Yorker or The Atlantic, we were nominated for awards alongside them.
I put almost a decade of work into Longreads. This involved design, UX, art direction, illustration, brand and product direction, development, and more. Below are just a few of my favorite achievements from this time.
Before I got involved, Mark created the original Longreads “L” for use as a Twitter avatar. Back in 2011, I made some small edits and we stuck with that version for years. In late 2017 I finally found some time to revise the logo — refining the mark, updating the logotype, and refreshing the typography on the site itself.
I published an article on Longreads about how I made the design decisions involved with this update.
As Longreads began morphing from a curator to a publisher, we had the need and ability to hire outside illustrators. I worked to source, hire, and art direct work from a diverse array of illustrators, and to establish Longreads as a well-respected (and easy to work with!) home for great illustration.
Here are a few examples of illustrations that I art directed:
I would have loved to hire out for every one of our stories. However, budgets are important! For a time, I served as Longreads’ in-house illustrator.
This enabled me to reconnect with my Communication Design background, and explore how to tell stories visually. Over time, I created somewhere around 100 original illustrations, and wrote an article about my process and experience.
Here are some favorites:
In 2018, we launched the Bundyville podcast in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting. Hosted by Leah Sotille, the podcast explores the rise and fall of the Bundy family, as well as other far-right extremism in the American West. Bundyville was named one of the best podcasts of 2018 by Apple, and was also a National Magazine Award finalist.
I took the lead for all art and design for the podcast. I hand-stamped the show logo using my wife’s rubber stamp collection, art directed the extremely great artwork by Zöe van Dijk, and designed and built the landing page.
Season two launched in 2019, shifting focus to the anti-government extremists that have grown around the fringes of the Bundy family. For this season, fellow art director Katie Kosma and I worked with Zöe to shift the visual language of the first season to a darker, more sinister ambiance. These illustrations were included in the Society of Illustrators Annual #61.
Article Header Layouts
Around the same time I began expanding and improving the artwork on Longreads, I set out to redesign a better frame for it all as well. The result provided editors with a wide range of story headers, allowing them to choose the best option for each individual story and illustration or photo.