December 6, 2016 Last Updated 9:19 am

Surface Media launches new website at

Publisher says that the new site offers ‘a reprieve from a digital sphere that’s full of clutter and clickbait’ and marks the evolution of Surface Media from a magazine operation to a tech-driven media company’

The press release below is a tad hyperbolic, but the new website for Surface magazine is pretty interesting, especially on the desktop. Most new sites are really mobile-first, and this one is, too. But its design for the desktop, which is limited to one screen on the home page, is unique.


On a smartphone, which you can see below, it is fairly standard, but also quite nice.

As for the press release, its original headline was “Surface Media Unveils Digital Platform That Sets New Benchmark For How Media Companies Publish Content” – I thought that was a bit too much, even for a press release. But, as they say, time will tell.

[Surface was founded in 1993 in San Francisco, then relocated to NYC in 2005. San Francisco was a pretty hot place for magazines in the late nineties, with The Industry Standard leading the way for a while. But the bursting of the tech bubble also burst the publishing bubble and things have not been the same since. I moved to Chicago just before the collapse – OK, it’s all my fault – and have searched for a way back ever since.]

Here is the announcement for the new

NEW YORK, NY – December 6, 2016 — Surface Media, publisher of Surface, the 23-year-old American magazine of global contemporary design, announced today that it has launched, a stunning new digital experience designed and developed by renowned firm King & Partners. The site debuts with an exclusive Kanye West interview that highlights the new design with a combination of video, photography, and text. The feature ties into the magazine’s Dec./Jan. Art Issue, with West on the cover.

surfacemag-iphoneThe launch of the new site marks the evolution of Surface Media from a magazine operation to a tech-driven media company under the leadership of CEO Marc Lotenberg, who took over the Surface title in 2012, and Surface editor-in-chief Spencer Bailey, who has been with the company since 2010. Lotenberg and Bailey made the company profitable with a substantial creative and editorial overhaul of the print magazine, and now are revamping digital to offer clients significant added value. Brands that have partnered with Surface Media for the launch include Adidas, American Express, JDS Development Group, Leica, Perrier Jouet, and Tumi.

“Traditional ways of organizing media are broken and messy,” says Lotenberg. “The media landscape is due for a massive collision in 2017. Many of the big media companies are using antiquated systems that are scotch-taped together, creating a lack of efficiency and synergy. Before redesigning our site, I looked at the digital landscape to see how Surface could do it better. I came to the conclusion that the models are terrible and that users don’t actually enjoy any website. They are basically stuck navigating through a sea of garbage, searching for the treasures they want. I had to continually close, move, swipe, ignore, and mute the experience to try and get to one solid piece of content. So I thought, let’s start over and build a product the user would enjoy.”

The new reflects a completely different content strategy for the company, one that leads with digital media and includes a holistic approach with a much greater focus on video, providing access into spaces and process of world’s best designers. The design accommodates zero banner or pop-up ads that can be distracting for users. It also reflects an integration between a comprehensive back-end system and front-end development that results in a platform that’s not only beautiful, but smart. This complete integration has transformed the content management as well as the sales and accounting sides of the business.

“I wanted a site that people could depend on for excellent journalism, not filler content just to meet some quota,” Lotenberg adds. “If it’s not good enough for print, it’s not on our site. A great user experience doesn’t include the leftover junk you just throw at people like cheap hotdogs. Surface is revolutionizing media today with this fundamental shift because we built a product that respects the valuable time of our audience and we took them into consideration first and foremost when building it.”

Bailey continues to lead editorial development across both platforms and has evolved the production cycle to meet demand for the quality content that Surface readers have come to expect in multiple formats. As part of this effort, he will take on the title of editorial director at Surface Media while continuing in his role as editor-in-chief of Surface.

“ will offer a reprieve from a digital sphere that’s full of clutter and clickbait. By focusing on quality, not quantity, and the who, not the how many, the site will be an accessible, yet in-depth showcase for the importance of design in the world, and a platform for expounding on why design impacts everything we touch, see, and do,” Bailey says.

William Hanley, Surface Media’s digital director, will oversee digital strategy and production for the site, including a new focus on video, which will leverage the access of Surface editors to the world’s best artists and designers to create high-quality process narratives.

“Most media sites look like messy blogs littered with network ads or sad imitations of print layouts,” says Hanley. “We’ve built an experience that feels focused, intentional, and as well-crafted as the objects that we write about. It gives us a beautiful platform for video, photography, daily stories, and all of the other ways we present the world through the lens of design.” Hanley added that the new site complements Surface‘s social media channels and soon-to-launch podcasts.

King & Partners, selected by Surface Media for the redesign after a competitive search, is known for working with luxury brands, including Bentley, Burberry, Edition Hotels, Faena, and Gucci. The creative strategy developed for the new site focuses on clean, simple design and ensures that the user experience is frictionless and guided as users move through content, which will be published daily.

“With the new Surface magazine site, we’ve created a new benchmark for online magazines,” says King & Partners CEO and chief creative officer Tony King. “It’s a beautiful, flexible, and effective design with navigation that allows for an organic flow and a connectivity between articles for easy browsing. With native and programmatic ads emerging as the most effective revenue generators, our unique approach to paid content allows for an integration that appeals to the sophisticated Surface audience. We made the choice to break content into meals, snacks, and bites in order to create a digital experience that allows the audience to choose how it’s consumed, both in terms of size of story but also by media type.”

The new is one of several major milestones for Surface Media over the last 18 months. The company introduced its first licensing venture in 2015 with, and in 2016 created a custom publishing division called Surface Studios. In 2016, the company also doubled its number of employees, to a total of 34, to accommodate new initiatives and Surface Media’s digital transformation.

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