03. Apple AirPods Pro (created in-house)
Back in 2016, just when people thought Apple was losing its touch, it created another classic design. AirPods may have been widely ridiculed on their release, but Apple had the last laugh. The headphones quickly went on to become not just popular, but super-fashionable, with A-listers seen wearing them left, right and centre. So recently, when a new, higher-end version called the AirPods Pro was launched, the stakes couldn't have been higher.
Released in January, the AirPods Pro website was designed in-house by Apple and takes an original and premium-feeling approach to showcasing the new product. Rather than just stick up a photo and a bit of description, this site goes the extra mile, offering a sophisticated viewing experience. As you scroll through the site, the Bluetooth earpods are rotated, deconstructed and shown from every angle in a way that feels beautifully natural rather than forced, as so many scrolling effects do.
Along the way, you're treated to facts and figures that feel less like empty marketing speil (a typical experience on Apple websites) and more like a well-written magazine article. Overall, it's a fluid, natural experience for the visitor, just like using the AirPods themselves.
04. The Year of Greta by Super Hero Cheesecake
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg became one of the best-known people in the world in 2019, and The Year of Greta offers an illustrated timeline of how she rose from a solo campaigner to the leader of a global movement. A passion project from Dutch agency Superhero Cheesecake, this microsite stands out for its beautiful aesthetics (even the loading screen is artful) and its revolving carousel (yes, carousels can be cool and innvovative if done the right way!).
The central figure of a 3D rendered 'statue' of Greta is a genius idea that brings everything together. And whether you click on the news links or just take in the timeline itself it's a great example of how to convey a lot of information visually in a concise and engaging fashion.
05. Amanda Braga by Cappen
Amanda Braga is a Brazilian fashion designer based in Miami, whose rather marvellous website was crafted by compatriot agency Cappen. It's a great example of how creative you can get within the confines of a minimal, one-page portfolio.
First, the dramatic and imaginative use of colour, combine with sparing use of black and white photography transports what might otherwise look like quite standard web pages into something close to a work of art. Then start scrolling, and the site really comes to life, with a scrolling text effect that takes you completely by surprise.
Yes, we know you're probably bored about hearing about "eye-popping scrolling effects" but believe us, this one really is worth seeing. That plus the typography, which hits that perfect sweet spot between inviting and sophisticated, makes this one of the best design portfolios we've seen in a long, long time.
06. Alan Menkin by Hello Monday
Although you may not have heard of Alan Menken, you certainly know his music, which appears in classic Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, as well as Broadway shows like Sister Act and Little Shop of Horrors. In short, the eight-time Oscar-winner is a huge figure in the world of musicals. And the Alan Menken website, built by global creative studio Hello Monday, delivers a visual experience that more than lives up to his epic stature.
It starts with an intro movie: usually something you'd automatically skip past, but in this case it's a real treat that any fan of musicals will want to relish every second of. Once you're on the home screen, you're greeted by a video-based carousel like we've never seem before, which takes visual inspiration from a piano keyboard. It's a delightfully inventive device and meshes beautifully with the fun, upbeat and fantastical themes of his music, as does the dancing typography that pops up throughout the site. Just make sure you have the sound turned on!
07. ReadyMag Design Workout (created in-house)
While 2020 has been a great year for web design, it's been a pretty sucky one for most of us thanks to the global pandemic and resulting lockdown. Yes, we all told ourselves we've make most of all the extra time by starting a side project, learning a language or mastering a new skillset, but in truth most of us just ended up eating and drinking too much and watching too much bad TV.
One website that turned up to help was Readymag Design Workout, a collection of fun tasks intended to help designers stay creative and keep spirits high while stuck in isolation. Created by the folks behind design tool Readymag, these weird and wonderful challenges (each one unique) aim to help creative to act boldly, make their own decisions and develop essential skills for rapid designing. Try it: it's really rather fun!
08. Woburn Safari Park by Freestyle
Even though the world is slowly moving out of lockdown, physical attractions are still in the early stages of luring back visitors, and the threat of future lockdowns (local or otherwise) continue to lurk. With that in mind, many are using to digital to both encourage new bookings and maintain customer relationship even if the real-world location has to close again. And here's one of our favourites.
Built by digital product studio Freestyle, the new website for Woburn Safari Park in the UK coincides with the park reopening under strict social distancing rules, and includes 360 views of the park, highlights of the animals and details of their conservation status. It's beautifully designed, which means that despite packing in a lot of information, it never feels cluttered or confusing. Part of that is down to the fabulous typography, which manages to be child-like and friendly without ever appearing childish; a great balance to strike.