Year 2019
Project Description

The New QuarterlyTNQ, for short — is one of Canada’s most prestigious and longest-running literary journals, known for wit, warmth, and literary innovation. They publish short fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction, and they’re known for debuting fresh Canadian voices that later become critically acclaimed best-sellers. TNQ’s writers win and get nominated for literally all the literary awards.

TNQ plays a huge role in Kitchener and Waterloo’s local community, and holds an even larger role in Canada’s identity. I was delighted and honoured to work with them on their new website — one that gathers all their writing into one fantastic place. The stories they publish are fantastic, but more than that: they’re stories Canada needs. Having a small place in The New Quarterly’s story is a great honour.

Visit the site →

We’ve all got issues.
TNQ had over 140 of them. And they all needed to get online.

When The New Quarterly wanted to create a proper digital edition of their magazine, they decided it would make also sense to overhaul their entire online marketing approach. I worked with them to create one website that let people subscribe to the magazine, read it, and and buy swag. Our goals were to create a new revenue stream of digital-only subscriptions, with much of TNQ’s archive of award-winning writing freely available online for students and aspiring authors alike.

I can officially say we exceeded nearly all our goals. Traffic is up, mailing list is up, and much time has been saved. We have a lot more resources at our disposal to achieve our goals.

Sophie Blom, Managing Editor
An image of the featured reads on an iPad.
The New Quarterly on an iPad

My approach
Reading. A lot.

I began by reading the magazine. TNQ was kind enough to loan me every single print issue in their archive. (It was a heavy box.) I read through as many as time would allow, making notes about different story formats that the website would have to support.

It’s hard to understate how big a deal this was. When we started this project, TNQ had over 130 issues. Those issues represented thousands of poems and stories, and almost none of these were available online. I collaborated closely with TNQ to make sure that nearly every single story they’ve ever published could be made available on the web, and be readable on any device. Whether somebody was on a phone, laptop, or tablet, I wanted them to have a reading experience that would rival the print magazine.

A screenshot of a short fiction story on The New Quarterly's website
Nothing was more important than making stories as readable as possible.

I also spent a lot of time working with The New Quarterly to understand their audience. TNQ was on top of this, and had already completed several surveys and had years’ worth of analytics. They even did in-person research on their core readership at their annual events, and they knew exactly what made their readers tick.

These readers are often students, but they’re also authors — or, importantly, aspiring authors. It was important to make The New Quarterly’s digital edition and website both an inspirational read and a resource filled with insights on doing your best writing.

Read something new
Easy browsing, on the go or at your desk

I made browsing the website as easy as possible. Whether you’re searching for something specific, want to read each issue as it was printed, or want to browse by the genre of writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more), I made sure it was only one click away.

A dynamic home page changes with each new issue, displays fresh free reads every week, and includes a series of online exclusives called “The Writer’s Corner,” where TNQ has conversations about writing with the writers they publish.

Screenshots of The New Quarterly's mobile navigation and the home page on a desktop

Poetic license
Putting poetry online and managing a store

I went so far as to create my own architecture for poetry. There isn’t an HTML syntax for poetry, but a core part of The New Quarterly are its poems. With their new website, TNQ’s poetry feels right on phones, tablets, and desktops, and it’s a system that’s custom-built to their specific needs.

Finally, the website includes e-commerce systems for managing subscriptions and selling swag. The New Quarterly can even sell tickets for their big events and writing competitions. For visitors, the experience is seamless. They can order products, subscribe to the magazine, buy tickets to events, and even manage their subscriptions in one place.

This also helps TNQ cut back on their administration every week. All their subscribers can manage their own accounts, tickets sell themselves, and their product inventory is automatically managed by their website. They spend less time doing admin work and more time making a magazine.

Synchronized reading
A shared reading experience, whether you read on screen or in print

I took great pains to make sure that TNQ’s online edition felt synonymous with their print edition. The screen is a vastly different container than a printed page, but I wanted the two to have a certain synergy. Even the Table of Contents feels remarkably similar in style to the print issue. The website is dynamic and evolves as TNQ adds more content, but in everything from imagery and colours to typeface selection, it’s unmistakably like its magazine sibling.

Screenshots of two TNQ issues on their website, including the Table of Contens

The Results

Nearly every metric is up. Almost all of them TNQ’s numbers increased by 60% – 100% after launch, and have seen consistent growth in the year and a half since.

Within a month, visits to the site were so far beyond expectations that TNQ outgrew their hosting package. New visitors went up by 95%, and visitor sessions went up by 110%. These numbers continued for the first year after launch, and the past six months have seen continued YOY growth of 30%.

Digital subscriptions, which were possible before with a PDF system, have skyrocketed over the past two years. There are now thousands of people who subscribe to The New Quarterly online. Over fifty issues of the magazine are now available digitally.

Readers love the new site, and spend significantly more time on the new site than the old one for every visit. More people return to the website than ever did before. And finally, The New Quarterly was Typewolf’s Site of the Day on October 7th, 2016, less than a month after launch.

Please enjoy The New Quarterly’s fine collection of writing.

As a designer, working with a committee can be difficult: you took initiative while still being conscientious about our needs, and making us feel heard. In the end, the website is beautiful and something we can all be proud of, while meeting industry and design standards.

Sophie Blom, Managing Editor