Elliott Cost

Turning a Creative Publication into a Resource

I redesigned core aspects of The Creative Independent’s website to make it more aligned with its mission of being a resource for creatives.

The Creative Independent was originally designed to be more of a publication than a resource. Most of the website’s content was hidden under a section called “Archive,” which was hidden especially for new readers that were unfamiliar with the site.

Through user feedback and analytics, we identified the following issues:

  1. Readers often visited/bookmarked the website’s archive page instead of visiting the homepage.
  2. The site’s navigation used unfamiliar terms that were confusing to new readers.
  3. Subscription options (a main way that readers accessed the site) were hidden in the footer.

Making the navigation understandable to new readers

One of the key areas that I focused on was the site’s navigation. While I found TCI’s brick-like navigation a unique aspect of its identity, I saw an opportunity to make it more approachable and understandable. Through several iterations, I found that restructuring the nav around types of content (Interviews, Essays, and Guides) made it more understandable and encouraged exploring. I also moved content types that were experimental or underused to a dropdown menu to make the nav feel less overwhelming. Lastly, I visually distinguished the search button from the rest of the nav items.

Our updated navigation design.

Two modes of browsing

I designed a new global navigation toggle that allows users to browse the site through two distinct modes: Explore and People. The default Explore mode is useful to new and returning readers while the People mode is more of a rolodex or sitemap for readers that are searching for a creative person featured on the site.

Explore Mode
People Mode

One place to find all subscription options

The Creative Independent is more than just a website. Over 19,000 people receive TCI's email in their inbox daily. In redesigning the website, it was critical to highlight that the resource is available in many forms. In the past, the newsletter link was hidden in the site's footer. I designed and illustrated a new Subscribe page that lists all the formats you can consume TCI (from Instagram to email newsletters).

Designing dedicated pages for creatives

Over the years, The Creative Independent has become a vast directory of creative people. It was clear from analyzing search terms that contributors should have their own dedicated pages on the website. I designed a new profile view that displayed articles, quotes, and bios from each contributor. This redefined the website as more of a wiki-like resource for discovering new and established artists. We saw an increase in the number of visitors entering the site through these dedicated profiles and clicking-through to read interviews.

Discovering new creatives through quotes

My work on profiles lead me to consider how other content could help users explore the website and find creative advice. From user research we knew that readers usually wouldn’t engage with an interview if they didn’t recognize the interviewee. Quotes felt like a great opportunity to introduce readers to new creatives thus solving this problem. I designed a new module that collected quotes from various creatives into a slideshow view. This module also allowed readers to share their favorite quotes directly to social media.


By learning from and listening to our readers, we were able to align the site's design with its mission of being a resource for creatives. These improvements had immediate payoffs. We saw an increase in new subscribers to our newsletter, heard from users that found the site's navigation easier to use, and saw an increase in new readers who discovered the website through the new creative profile feature.