The Kernel announces its new website today. Despite the inevitable fanfare elsewhere on the web, I thought I’d contribute my own thoughts on the reboot of the internet’s primary source of off-the-wall commentary on technology.
It feels like the designers are trying to bring technology journalism back to the nineteenth century.
The body font, Chaparral Pro, was designed by Carol Twombly to be evocative of the slab serif fonts most closely associated with Victorian England. The widened page is reminiscent of the broadsheets made popular to combat the scourge of the penny dreadful, which now exist in the form of trashy industry blogs. Contributors’ photos are line drawings, with a tip of the hat to the xylographic prints of early newspapers.
Like the drought-resistant brush that blooms on the arid coastal range near Twombly’s California home, Chaparral’s highly functional design is surprisingly beautiful.
In a highly controversial, food-forward move, the designers chose to utilise two different colours, “rusty pumpkin” and the new, darker “char-grilled satsuma” as opposed to using more traditional “deep carrot ” and “Persian orange”. These colour choices may point to The Kernel’s plans to head toward the United States and Asia, an obvious decision based on where technology will be used tomorrow.
The precise oranges on the site are “inspired by the practical terracotta roof tiles of a Pyrenean village in the relentless oppression of the ‘canicule’,” according to project creative lead James Atkins of Scheybeler+company, who explains why blue, traditionally associated with newspapers, was eschewed. “Blue is the most common corporate colour. Blue is the colour of average, blue is unchallenging, blue is nothingness. Orange is the complimentary colour to blue. Orange is associated with amusement, the unconventional, extroverts, fire, activity, danger.”
Atkins is as prolix in his explanation of the The Kernel’s headline hue. “Black. Fucking black. Ultimate black. Reinhardt black. Although I suggested knocking back the black a little, the team wanted to retain the reference to printed headlines. ‘Make it fucking black,’ they said. Can’t argue with that really. Sometimes the client is actually right.”
While focused on high-quality, long-form writing, the editors have thrown a bone to the “tl;dr” generation by offering a simple “why you should care” box on the right-hand side which moves along with the reader to explain briefly why you ought to invest time in this particular piece of journalism. The Kernel has also created an extremely simple rating system for reviews, incorporating the ancient Roman pollice verso, or turned thumb, as was used to convey the fate of the gladiator to the screaming masses.
Breaking from ink-stained nostalgia, though, is a renewed focus on well-written and bombastically produced video content, which will begin to appear over the next few weeks.
Instead of limiting itself to one motto like The New York Times’ “All the news that’s fit to print”, The Kernel now has constantly changing strap-lines from sources as diverse as Harry Potter and Star Wars, to constantly cause the reader to expand his or her imagination into what is possible. And to keep refreshing the page for ad impressions.
Coupled with the oversized black and white photography and those bold League Gothic headlines, it looks like The Kernel has returned to deliver an audacious message to the world all over again.