The city of Toronto is near to the hearts of the Playground team. In 1848 the Toronto Standard was formed to bring news to the small trade village which grew into the city we love today. When the Standard was produced it was known for its high quality paper, style and content. Although only in circulation until 1850, the Toronto Standard set an early standard for journalism in this fair city. In 2011 the brand was resurrected to once again deliver high quality content to Toronto using the web as its new medium.

The Toronto Standard presented some interesting challenges. The brand is at one time both old and new. The logo, typography, and print setting comprise a rich heritage to live up to. In order to update it for the 21st century, the Toronto Standard needed to make the screen feel as warm as the printed page. This included screens on desktops, tablets, phones and mobile web devices. In 2011 Playground helped bring the Toronto Standard to life, becoming one of the world’s first responsive online publications.

Strategy

The Toronto Standard had an amazing heritage that needed to shine through in design and content. When we were approached to work on the Standard, there was a strong affinity for the original logo, the typographic layouts and the focus on the city. In addition, a new challenge was emerging. In 2011 smart phones and their software platforms were quickly emerging as the new primary content consumption medium. The team at the Toronto Standard wanted an experience for every platform and making apps for every single new device was not a feasible solution. Playground took up the task of creating one of the first fully responsive online publications.

Project Goals

  • Readable Everywhere

    The Toronto Standard wanted to be available to anyone who wanted to read it no matter where they were or what device they used. The site had to be readable, unique, and attractive on mobile, tablet and desktop, without compromise.

  • Preserve Heritage

    The Toronto Standard team had adopted a brand steeped in the heritage of our city. The design and branding of the website needed to preserve this heritage and feel like it’s been a part of our growing city all along.

  • Ease of Use

    The editorial team needed to focus on what they do best: creating content. The CMS had to be accessible and easy to use for their team of amazing writers. Images, text and interactive elements needed to automatically align for every screen without author intervention.

  • Content First

    The site design really needed to support the content, not hinder it. The tendency is to overdesign on publication projects. We wanted to preserve the print aesthetic that put content first and made a design that was focused on the reading experience.

The Brand

The newspaper had a distinctly classic feel and we wanted to maintain that through the entire site. The brand was developed by digitizing the logo and creating a typographic treatment indicative of the brand heritage. Classic typographic principles were utilized to create a timeless reading experience.

Responsive Design

A site for every screen

In 2011 responsive design was still a technology experiment. Very few sites had used responsive layouts, let alone using it to solve a problem for the online publishing industry. Producing multiple native applications would have added considerable scope to the project. We opted to use this emerging web technology to create a publication that was native to every size screen.

Technology

Responsive design was extremely new when we set out to develop the Toronto Standard. The immaturity of the technology and the limited number of examples meant we had to invent standards as we went along. From building responsive templates in a CMS environment to understanding the resolution of upcoming devices, the Standard was a challenging technical task.

WordPress

Using WordPress for a daily publication was an obvious choice. The editorial team had experience using the platform and we had previous experience working with the open source CMS.

jQuery

With no best practice established for implementation we used the latest jQuery libraries to make use of new browser functions like media queries. Additionally, the site needed to be optimized for all of the popular desktop platforms and new mobile browsers.

Recognition

Conclusion

Building the Toronto Standard was an incredible experience. In 2011, the tools and best practices were still being worked out when it came to responsive design and development. We have a motto at Playground, "we are only good at new things", and that really started with this project. The Toronto Standard was one of the first responsive publications and still stands today as an example the web points to when thinking about responsive design. Sometimes constraints end up making a project better and not having the resources to develop for every platform led to a solution which set the standard for years to come.