Unsung Sundays is a digital-only music magazine that I started in 2013 as a way to share music with my friends. When I outgrew the small blog I started writing it on, I designed and developed an online platform for all the reviews and music commentary I’d worked on for years. The new version of Unsung Sundays launched to great success. I saw a 900% increase in monthly visitors right away, and got an acquisition offer within twelve months.

Today, Unsung Sundays is still under my purview. As of 2018, the website is on hiatus.

Visit the site →

A digital-first music mag
From “zine” to full-fledged magazine

Unsung Sundays is something I started doing when I was in university: every Sunday, I would write a few album reviews and share them on Tumblr. It was the easiest way to share what I was listening to with a small group of friends (who were always asking). I don’t know if you remember doing this when you were young, but when I was a kid, we used to make our own “zines.” Zines were basically little magazines we’d make at home with clippings, or print from our computers, and we’d pass them around to our friends. Unsung started as the evolution of that kind of idea.

The blog caught on and got a little traction. Before I knew it, I had been writing it for years, and had amassed a catalogue of over 500 album reviews. But they were impossible to find — Tumblr isn’t great for SEO — and it wasn’t a great reading or browsing experience.

When we went on our honeymoon, my wife and I talked about spending some time making a website that would do my little e-zine justice. With her blessing, I spent the next few months making a website that was flexible enough to hold all the reviews — and new content, like lists and interviews.

A design that sings
Using colours to denote meaning

The new website is based around a single idea: music is a colourful, often emotional experience. The website is extremely colourful, with a flexible colour scheme that instantly and programmatically adapts to each new colour I throw at it.

Colours have meaning on Unsung, though: every genre gets its own colour. Hip hop is blue, electronic is pink, jazz is a deep wine red, etc. This gives each album review a different flavour, and for me at the very least, the flavour of the colour matches the flavour of the genre.

Large, full-bleed images are meant to be immersive hooks wrapped in vibrant colours. Album art is given prominent display (and sometimes, the colour of the album art matches the colour of the page — which is magical when it happens).

Two reviews on the Unsung Sundays website side by side.

Finding something to read
By genre, or category, or artist, or year, or record label, or…

The overall reading experience was also important to me: I wanted people to enjoy reading the site. Special care was taken in selecting a typeface (I ended up using Whitney by Hoefler & Co., which is now one of my favourite faces of all time), and to the line length and padding. No matter what device you read the site on, you’ll have a phenomenal experience.

Browsing was also important. I wanted to make browsing music reviews, features, and lists fun — so I gave each category on the site its own design. This helps readers orient themselves and prevents confusion.

The home page and the browse page, side by side.

The results
From 0 to 900%

Since the beta launch in February and public launch in March, I’ve seen a 900% increase in month-over-month visits to the site. There have been acquisition talks and discussions about financial partnerships. It’s been an incredible journey, and again — it’s all been in a period of six months.

I think the ideas from the site have been fundamental to its success. Every week, I hear from multiple people who tell me Unsung has impacted on the way they discover music. The new website and branding has seen a several fold increase in engagement and also requests from musicians to be reviewed, featured, and interviewed.

Ultimately, I redesigned Unsung Sundays to look as professional as possible under the theory that a well-designed website would look more attractive and professional to musicians, publicists, and readers. Unsung is a small publication. Not many people write for it. Nobody is paid to do it. It’s entirely a labour of love.

What I learned is simple: good, clear, effective design can make an organization seem much bigger than it is. Good design creates opportunities.

Every week, I hear from multiple people who tell me Unsung has impacted on the way they discover music. The new website and branding has seen a several fold increase in engagement and also requests from musicians to be reviewed, featured, and interviewed.