Smithsonian Magazine

I have to admit that I am not a big news reader but I have always liked the “Smart News” section from The Smithsonian Magazine. This is a great magazine that has interesting news on history, science, in2000px-smithsonian_logo_color-svgnovation, arts & culture and travel. Besides the news, they also have a great variety of articles, images and videos that present us with cutting edge information and historical facts. This magazine aims to “place the Smithsonian lens on the world, looking at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution — science, history, art, popular culture and innovation — and chronicling them every day for our diverse readership.” (About I will talk about the site using the rhetorical awareness and user center design concepts presented on the Purdue OWL article.

Rhetorical Awareness: Looking at the different articles we can conclude that their writing is persuasive and has a clear definition of all the pieces of Rhetorical Awareness. An example of this is article that talks about the soft opening of a museum. We can see they have a clear purpose on each article, a title that allows us to clearly identify the reason why it’s being written and what they intend inform with it. They also take into account their audience and that is why they choose certain topics as well as certain language that will be attractive for their audience, in this case people who are interested in history and museums. I also really enjoy how they present us with the context of the story so that we can understand the point of view of the stakeholders as well as their environment. They take into account not only the background of the people telling the story but also of the situations they are describing.  I have to say that their narrative and visual components are the favorite things of this site. The writing is personable and “real” and the images illustrate what we are being told.

User Centered Design:

Visibility – Their design is pretty clean and intuitive. You are able to locate what you need at first sight and normally without too much advertising. Their contact information and social media info is pretty easy to find too. When it comes to each article the structure is really audience oriented and has some type of image that illustrates the topic

Credibility – The Smithsonian group is a very credible figure so overall they have this down, another thing to support their credibility is that they have active sites and social media accounts.The Smithsonian Institution is an American national educational facility with 19 museums, 9 research centers and more than 180 affiliates around the world.

Human factors – They show several human factor images and the ones that are of landscapes or animals have some sort of emotional component that appeals to the audience.

Accessibility – This site has a great deal of accessibility and is easily navigated. The have a color scheme that allows the audience to intuitively jump from one article to another or go back with minimal issues.

Legibility – This site can be scanned easily and uses the F pattern to read. I also has “bullet points” with images for each article. Some have the primary keyword or title in bold.

Language – Language is simple and straightforward. This allows for complicated topics to be read in a fast and understanding manner by a large range of readers.

It’s been really interesting to read this article and learn about all the important parts and pieces of a site that is intended to provide information to an audience. I had never considered things like the context or the human factor as part of the important things to have in mind. After this activity I will reconsider the way some of the websites I work with look from a Audience’s perspective.


3 thoughts on “Smithsonian Magazine

  1. Alesa,

    Thank you for your post! I was completely unaware of the fact that Smithsonian ran a magazine, I will for sure have to check it out. I like the fact that you went through aspects of user-centered design and talked about each and how the Smithsonian uses the design approach to form their magazine. This aspect of your post really showed me how Smithsonian applies user-centered design in many aspects of the design of the magazine. Thank you for sharing.

    – Andrew Doan

  2. Alesa,

    Thanks for sharing this. I also had no idea it existed, but appreciate the fact that it does. With how many news sources have popped up these days, I like the idea of an old-school approach to news that places the “Smithsonian lens” on the world. I just looked at the price of a subscription and its a fantastic deal; I think I’m going to go ahead and sign up. This was great post that showed me something new, so thanks again.


  3. Alesa,
    My favorite part about this website is the colors and all the shapes. The language I would have to agree with you is very easy to read and caters to a wide audience because of the simplicity of it. The bullet point make it a lot easier to follow the important parts of the article. Do you think using bullet points makes it easier and more easily read for a bigger audience? Also do you think the photos added in the articles bring in a bigger audience of readers as well?

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