I’m pleased to announce that we’ve made a couple of updates to Philosophy News. But before I get to those, I want to take a brief historical journey of the site to give a nod to the past that has helped inform our present.
Philosophy News through the years
Philosophy News was formed in the late 90s by a man named Richard Jones. Richard had a bold vision for Philosophy News back in the day when the internet was just starting to enter the mainstream and become an integral part of our lives. His goal was to create a list of current news and information for philosophers and anyone interested in topics related to philosophy (notably religion and psychology). His site was rich and included a listserv, a discussion board, a news feed, new publications, a jobs list, calls for papers, and a section called “WHiP” – What’s Happening in Philosophy. This feature was broken down by topical sections and he solicited articles by various writers. Richard also worked with an email provider and offered free “philosophynews.net” email addresses for anyone interested.
He called the site “Philosophy News Service” and it sported a logo that included the name of the site and an image of a stack of rolled up newspapers. Richard did a lot of work to broaden the reach of the site and by the turn of the new millennium, had hundreds of users and readers. I found Philosophy News using a search engine and discovered that Richard was looking for writers for his WHiP feature. Philosophy of religion was an topic area that needed a writer and having just graduated from grad school, I was interested in plugging in. I wrote roughly ten articles for WHiP and learned a lot from Richard about writing for a site like Philosophy News.
Philosophy News Service continue to grow during the year 2000 (yes, it miraculously survived Y2K) and even got a slight redesign towards the end of that year. The logo no longer included “Service” in the name (though the official name of the site included it) and the image of the newspapers disappeared. The logo transformed into a simpler blank and white format with the word “news” in red and italicized. It also included the full URL in the logo. I preferred the old design but I was pleased the site was getting some attention and updates.
Right after the redesign, I started to hear less and less from Richard. He wasn’t returning email or publishing new articles or news items. I and other WHiP writers became concerned and we tried our best to contact him. I was able to dig up a phone number through a then nascent search engine and gave him a call. I got his voicemail and left a message but he never replied. I kept an eye on Philosophy News Service but by February of 2001 I discovered to my dismay that the domain name was for sale by a company called DomainSource.com.
The site remained inoperative for roughly 3 years though I would occasionally check to see if anyone had started the service back up. In 2004 I started seriously thinking about Philosophy News again and in July of that year, I decided to buy the domain name. For $1500, it was mine and I began to rebuild the site. I had little resources to work with so I found and old computer and put some free blogging software on it, created a new look and began posting news and some articles. I wanted to go with a more natural look for the logo and the site so I chose a light green color to accent the page and created a simple logo with no image for the site. The font I chose had an organic “stick-like” look to it and I went with clean lines and an uncluttered layout.
I was a bit shocked to discover that instantly I had traffic. Apparently, Richard had done such a good job getting the original service in front of people that even after all those months, many partner sites still had links to philosophynews.com and people had been attempting to reach the site during the period that it was down. The old hardware and rough-and-ready way I had built out the software proved too much for the technology and the site suffered from frequent downtime and layout problems. But I continued to work on the site, adding news and articles.
In March of 2005, with the help of my design-savvy brother Bill, I redesigned the site once more. We worked on a more professional logo and came up with a three-color box design that contain the three letters PNS along with the URL under the boxes and no image. The design was simple, scaled well and allowed me to start to build the brand. I had a banner printed (for conferences I had planned on attending) and even created mugs with the PNS logo on them. The site was on a new server and I had upgraded the software. The site was more stable but still suffered outages and layout problems.
I had long known that my current setup wouldn’t allow Philosophy News to grow so I decided to move the site to a better hosting provider in 2007 and this addressed most of the stability issues though the site continued to have problems with layout and staying on top of software upgrades was challenging. By 2008, I had decided to stop using custom software and move the site to WordPress. The logo was all but gone and Philosophy News became a generic blog on WordPress. This entirely took care of the stability and layout problems and allowed me to focus on the content and to figure out what I wanted Philosophy News to be. I and another writer, Richard Pimentel (Rick had been writing articles for Philosophy News for some time) focused on content and worked to build a stronger reputation for the site.
While on WordPress, the site began to grow in readership though modestly. I realized that while WordPress was stable, it would not allow me to do the types of things I wanted to do to continue to build the site. So we moved again. This time we found a very strong hosting partner and solid, stable software that would allow us to make customizations yet build on a solid platform. Each move had costs associated with it and it was starting to show in terms of our user base and feature set so I wanted this final move to be well thought out and give us some stability for many years to come.
Our design was undergoing a transition as well. I needed to retain the three-box color logo and that continued to show up here and there. But I knew we needed a new look. The first design took the three-colors from the box design and replaced the shapes with “swooshes” that was intended to pick up the somewhat abstract nature of philosophy but still provide a strong, recognizable image that our readers could associate with Philosophy News. This design proved to be too abstract and appeared to some to be too “homegrown” it appearance. So we quickly replaced that design with our “armillary” logo. The armillary was supposed to portray the universality of philosophy in a simple, clean design. This has been our design for the past 6 months.
The armillary also proved problematic because it doesn’t scale well. The thin lines that make it up become pixelated when shrunk and so we had to continue to use the three-box logo for smaller icons (for example, the icons that appear in the title bar of your web browser). This inconsistency and the somewhat dated look of the logo prompted the need for more a more professional design resource. Again, I turned to my brother Bill for help. We’ve come up with something great.
A new look and name
With this latest redesign, we have a new, contemporary and professional look that I’m very excited about. First, we decided to drop the word “service” from the name of the site. We realized that the word really did not add anything to the essence of what Philosophy News provides and added complexity unnecessarily. Our new logo reflects this simplicity with a clean, san serif font and a simplified color palate. Our primary color—the light forest green—is picked up in the name and serves both as a division marker and a design element. We’re also adding a graphic to our logo.
The image, which we’re calling the “burst,” signifies the foundational nature of philosophy. All the individual elements begin at a focal point towards the bottom-right and grow outward portraying the meta-discipline that philosophy is. Philosophy examines ideas and provides a foundation that allows us to think about anything and everything. The image picks up the colors of the site with one element of the burst signifying the essential goal of Philosophy News to provide current news and articles on contemporary philosophical topics. You’ll also see the burst along with the letters “PN” as a more condensed version of the full logo.
You’ll see the new imagery and logo in all areas of the site as well as on our Twitter page, in Facebook and Google+, and our Podcast feed. Don’t forget too that you can pin Philosophy News to your Windows 7 taskbar if you’re using Internet Explorer 9. This will give you quick access to Philosophy News features and provide one-click access to the site. Soon, we’ll be including a notification button when new posts or comments have been added.