In the last year or so, ever since election and political coverage picked up, I have intentionally avoided the news. I have done this not because i think it is insignificant but because I find the 24 hour news cycle tedious and stressful. Instead, I find solace in simpler things: music.
At least once a day, I visit TheFader. It has become almost like meditation – a relieving break from the dreariness of social media and entertainment news. Each day, I go to listen, I go to learn, and most importantly I go there to escape.
TheFader just gets me. They understand their reader’s taste and sense of what is relevant and important. Each week, the “Songs You Need in Your Life this Week” showcase both underground talent and established acts, giving fans their fix of crate digging while still keeping them abreast on pop culture. Full disclosure, I am TheFader’s target demographic: Young, opinionated, and working in Music, but that does not mean that TheFader has a niche audience. Despite one’s musical preferences, TheFader caters to a wide variety of music from Country to R&B, to Rap an Folk singer/songwriter. If you like music, at all, chances are that you will find something up your alley on the infinite wall.
Rhetorical Awareness refers to the ways that design is centered around the expectations or characteristics of the audience –a skill at which TheFader excels. Today, young users expect for information to be streamlined and essentially endless, like on social media where users can just keep scrolling forever and never run out of content. TheFader’s design operates in a similar way. Instead of homepages and menus and links, TheFader is just one big, everlasting wall. This setup is ideal for a generation of compulsive scrollers, myself included, and keeps audiences engaged with the flow of content.
When most people look for music, they do not wish to spend hours digging aimlessly to find a few good tracks. The typical Fader reader wants a convenient experience, with a large selection of carefully curated content. TheFader is unique from other music blogs or trades in that it focuses on the user’s experience. The music content is updated nearly fanatically, meaning that you are sure to hear it there first. TheFader understands that it’s audience wants an immersive experience – something that allows fans to connect with the music and the artists beyond a superficial level.
The Fader’s Design
Unlike most businesses TheFader does not sell anything. Their primary objective is to gain readers so that they can sell maximize profits from ad revenue. Thus, the website has a more relaxed and casual visual presence that conveys TheFader’s organizational culture. The importance of Visual Rhetoric is not lost on the editors – as TheFader creates and curates all of it’s visual content personally. As Daniel T Richards explains in The Importance of “Importance” in Visual Rhetoric, “Images focus our attention on certain elements of the subject and insist that these are the important elements.” This is what TheFader does best. Each story or article is accompanied with a stylistic photo shoot that highlights both the artist’s persona and the website’s visual aesthetic. The resulting visual rhetoric is unmistakable and furthers TheFader’s reputation as an elegant and unique platform.
However, in this particular case, despite Richard’s assertions, TheFader is making an argument. They are making a value argument that the music they promote is important or interesting, they are making another value argument that they are trustworthy as authorities and taste-makers, and they are making a policy argument that readers should head their advice and support specific artists. Above all, TheFader is making a policy argument that you should keep reading TheFader.
Yet, these complex arguments are masked by the simplistic design of the website. In the video lecture Before and After by John McWade, McWade asserts that simplistic design maintains the audience’s focus. In essence, TheFader draws in readers with flashy visuals, but it keeps it’s audience by sticking to fundamentals: easy reads, good music, simple layout.
That’s why I read TheFader – because it’s easy, because it’s relaxing, because I know what I am getting every time I hit enter in the address bar.