Sometime over the past year, Sunset became my favorite magazine. It doesn’t really posit itself as a design publication — it’s a meta-regional mélange of cooking, travel, decorating, and gardening advice, none of which I have the drive to put into practice — but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t do so from a beautiful design voice. As a web guy, I’m hypersensitive to systems design, and it’s here that Sunset shows its brilliance. It’s a unique marriage of classicism (Sunset knows its own history), modernity (they’re squeezing more versatility out of Farnham than Farnham’s own designers probably thought possible), and structure. Scrutinize enough issues, and you’ll see patterns emerge, but always with playful twists: Futura bouncing off of Titling Gothic in new ways; images and pull-quotes breaking outside of their columns; glyphs, ornaments, flourishes, and arrows that only show up for one feature, never to be seen again, but which fit Sunset like a glove.
In sum: they’re doing exemplary editorial web design without realizing it. I decided to take three of its common paradigms (“Discover,” “Plant Now,” and “Steal This Look”), plus one recipe feature (“Beans: A Love Story”) — all taken from Sunset’s February 2016 issue — and gently nudge them to their logical conclusion. The ingredients are dead simple: hand-written HTML & CSS, a calculator, and a couple external font hosts. (Swashed Farnham looks great on a Retina screen.)