Input

A Brand New Destination About Technology in Our Lives

1

The Background

Our sixth publishing collaboration with Joshua Topolsky resulted in two of the coolest and most versatile storytelling sites on the internet right now.

Rewind to 2016, when Code and Theory partnered with Topolsky, former Editor in Chief of The Verge and Bloomberg to create The Outline, a deliberate alternative to conventional digital publishing at the time. The Outline’s unique visual design, navigation patterns and card-based storytelling system made waves when it launched—and continues to publish thought-provoking content.

Fast forward to 2019, here’s how it all came together:

  • Topolsky’s The Outline and its card system were acquired by Bustle Digital Group (BDG) in March 2019.
  • Topolsky had a vision to start Input Magazine, a new publication about technology.
  • Inverse — a science and entertainment site — was acquired by Bustle Digital Group in July 2019.

And so, iterating upon the card-based system we developed for The Outline, we created a new system that would house Input and Inverse, and serve as a model for the rest of the Bustle Digital Group properties.

2

The Challenge

How can this new site cut through the clutter? How can this new site make content more efficient and smarter for readers?

This project aimed to solve two of the major problems facing publishers today:

  • A sea of sameness: Almost all publishing sites look the same. Image, headline, dek and paragraphs of text. Rinse and repeat.
  • More money in more places: Publishers need new ad products to offer more value to their customers.

The primary goal was to arm reporters and sales teams with a robust and versatile toolkit to create new types of stories for an audience that's accustomed to quick, constant content.

How can we push storytelling conventions? Product reviews and entertainment news don’t always need to be 3,000 words. What are fresh, new visual ways to convey the same ideas to readers?

INPUT4
INPUT1

3

The Solution

The Stream and Rocks Model

To make content reach users faster and more efficiently, the site's navigation structure is centered around the feed, or the stream—an infinite scroll of cards that represents a story.

“Everybody’s brain now moves at Twitter speed...Here’s an opportunity to do stuff that’s faster, that’s a little bit more expedited in terms of its delivery.” –Joshua Topolsky

In a world where scrolling through feeds feels second-nature, we designed Input and Inverse without traditional homepages. Upon landing on inputmag.com or inverse.com, readers see an infinite scroll of stories. Each story offers a snippet—the headline, maybe a quote, or a key stat, along with some information. The reader can then expand that story in the feed to read more, or continue scrolling.

When one story finishes, users scroll right back into the infinite stream of stories.

The stream can also be interrupted by rocks—curated content modules, e-commerce breakers and other fun interactive moments for the reader.

INPUT3

Many Cards for Many Stories

While cards are a widely used mechanic around the web, the design approach we took to them is unique. We started with the editorial use cases. Here are some examples of the most commonly used card types:

  • Headline Card: The most used type; conveys a headline with a visual asset and a dek.
  • Quote Card: Draws out an interesting sound bite from the story.
  • Big Data Card: Features a key stat or number.

Next, we explored a toolkit of design elements, including different typographies, color schemes and image treatments.

We ended up with:

  • 6 card types
  • 3 layout variations per card
  • 4 image effects
  • 2 image treatments
  • 6 color palette schemes

That means over 800 permutations for how a single card can look.

Each card can effectively look art-directed and visually unique without any designer or developer. The card is the foundation of every story on the site and is highly flexible depending on the story it needs to tell.

Card Stories

A new storytelling format, card stories string together different cards into a sequence. The experience is very similar to tapping through Instagram or Snapchat stories, where each tap reveals a new visual element and builds onto the story.

The card stories can be entirely branded or sponsored by advertisers, or single branded or sponsored cards can be injected and interspersed throughout.

4

What's Next

Input Mag launched in December 2019, Inverse launched in January 2020, and this is just the beginning.

The modular approach to building cards means that we can easily add new card types or new image treatments with minimal development effort.

As editors experiment with new ways of telling stories, we can continue to build out their toolkit and create premium assets and products for monetization.

We are continuing to work with BDG to scale the card system and the CMS to its other properties.

Defining the Route of Fashion

We are shaping the digital transformation of the industry by creating strong connections between audiences and brands.

Gawker 2
Bustle Digital Group - Gawker

Gawker | Don't call it a comeback.

An entertaining and engaging experience, all while still bringing a touch of class and sophistication.

Read More

Evolving the Financial Services Model

We’re transforming an antiquated industry through cutting-edge design and driving the future of finance forward.

Spotify Feature
Spotify

Artists don't just make art. They make money too.

Building a bigger funnel to help artists grow on Spotify.

Read More
College Board| Positioning the College Board as an Integrated Partner for Students

Transfiguring an integrated student, parent and educator experience

<p><strong>Transfiguring an integrated</strong> student, parent and educator experience</p>

Transfiguring an integrated student, parent and educator experience.

Read More
Rally| Elevating The Site Experience For a Crypto Pioneer

Elevating The Site Experience For a Crypto Pioneer

<p><strong>Elevating The Site Experience</strong> For a Crypto Pioneer</p>

Elevating the site experience for a crypto pioneer.

Read More
Coned Additional
ConEd

Building a future vision for Clean Energy in New York

ConEd tapped us as AOR to lead an integrated, purpose-driven marketing partnership to educate a multitude of audiences

Read More
  • A new brand strategy that ties ConEd’s clean energy vision to its purpose
  • An integrated creative campaign to showcase ConEd’s clean energy vision to its customers
Award WebbyW3 0031Ad Age 0023

Recognition

  • Code and Theory

    Webby Awards

    2022 Best Magazine – Websites and Mobile Sites
  • Code and Theory

    W3 Awards

    2021 Best in Show General Websites-Associations
  • Code and Theory

    Ad Age

    2020 Agency A-List

All Work

Get in Touch

  • Find Us

    One World Trade Center,
    62nd Floor

    New York, NY 10007

    More Offices
  • Work With Us

  • Press

  • Careers

    See All Open Positions

Says a Lot —

Latest

News — 

Ad Age | Marketing In The Metaverse —What Science Fiction Can Teach Brands About Web3

News — 

Code and Theory’s Dan Gardner named Campaign US 40 Over 40 honoree

News — 

AIGA Eye on Design | The Era of Rebellious Web Design Is Here

News — 

Webby Awards | Code and Theory Named Webby Winner in 26th Annual Webby Awards

News — 

The Drum | Adland's reaction to Musk's $44bn Twitter deal: 'a major disruption to its ad business'

News — 

ESPN | Washington Commanders: Inside the NFL franchise's search for a new nickname and logo

News — 

The Washington Post | Becoming the Commanders: How Washington's NFL team found its new name

News — 

Ad Age | Washington Football Team Becomes the Washington Commanders

Get in Touch

  • Find Us

    One World Trade Center,
    62nd Floor

    New York, NY 10007

    More Offices
  • Work With Us

  • Press

  • Careers

    See All Open Positions