I got a marketing email from Expedia yesterday touting their travel package specials entitled “Bright Lights, Big Cities”. … indicative of just how iconic Jay McInerney’s oeuvre, Bright Lights, Big City remains. When his publicist hired us to revamp his website, we knew we needed to capture a bit of the book’s 80’s NYC bar and club vibe; incorporate new technology to make sure that the site feels very modern… all while building a system so his take-charge publicist can update his speaking engagements and newly-printed words at will.
Our graphic designer, Tom Lewek, stumbled on a great photo of Jay by David Howells on the internet. With the photographer’s permission we grabbed the photo and let it inspire the site design … dictating the colors and the treatment of light and transparency throughout.
We wanted a platform that could, in a glance, show off the breadth of Jay’s work… his novels, short stories, copious magazine articles, and published reviews on other authors. We also wanted his readers and fans to be able to “hear” from the author himself — what he was thinking when he was writing a particular book, where he was in his life, his influences. But we had to really map this site out so that there was a consistency in all the content so that the site could be easily added to (Jay is already on the verge of publishing a new book).. and updated.
As a writer, Jay is not of the brooding, recluse variety … he is very socially-engaged and very much a public figure, playing a character written to mirror his own life on Gossip Girls delivering lectures; giving interviews with the likes of the New York Times; as well as being a fixture at social functions with his high-profile wife, Ann Hearst. So we wanted to make Jay’s site socially interactive. His twitter entries (tweets) appear, as they happen, on the home page of his site. And his blog features not only his posts about wine for the Wall Street Journal, but content he has written expressly for his site on a wide variety of topics.
We needed to take a site that was extremely textually heavy and make it look visually interesting and engaging so that the viewer wants to “turn” the pages. We also wanted to organize the content in a way that would look clean and modern on mobile devices as well as large screen desktops. (BTW, the iPhone version of Jay’s site will be live in a few weeks — in the meantime, check it out on an iPad, it looks great.) So we made his comments and insights on his books graphically interesting, appearing as voice “bubbles” over the book images. Instead of just straight up text for Jay’s biography, we created an interactive timeline including pop up images and commentary from the author relevant to each of the key events in his illustrious life.
We wanted the design of the site to be reflective of the grit and lights of a city that never sleeps, infused with the simplicity and straightforwardness of a man whose art form is the written word …on paper. So Tom designed the navigation to be an integral design element of the site… clean, large and translucent. The elements on the media page are designed to mirror magazine layouts and the user interface for the biography page includes graphic elements that resemble a manual typewriter’s keys placed there as an option if the user chooses to go through the timeline the “old fashioned way” …in sequence and one at a time. Even the 404 page (error page) makes a graphic reference to writing.
The Official Jay McInerney Site went live today, timed to happen in conjunction with Jay’s birthday …which is tomorrow. Happy birthday Jay and thank you so much for the note of “Thanks” you sent — very classy.