OLH unveils new website and brand design

Posted by Dr Caroline Edwards on 23 February 2024

Caroline Edwards

Welcome to our new website! We've spent the past year thoroughly revamping our online presence. This began with user experience research, which led to a site audit, brand refresh, and a rebuild of the entire site structure. The new design pays tribute to the OLH's political roots and showcases the vibrant humanities research we publish. 

When Martin Eve and I set up the first Open Library of Humanities website we were in a hurry. We had full-time academic jobs with heavy teaching workloads and crammed our exciting new project into the evenings – hammering away on our laptops on the commuter train. The first site was built using a WordPress template that had been designed for restaurants with takeaway menus. I thought the use of monochrome with yellow accents was eye-catching. It did the job. When we launched as a publisher in 2015, we were run off our feet setting up the first 7 journals to be published by the OLH. We’d built up an international library network and had to liaise with hundreds of stakeholders. In the years that followed, our staff grew from just the two of us into a dedicated team of ten full-time staff based at Birkbeck, University of London.

A lot has changed since the first restaurant-themed website. The OLH now publishes 30 leading humanities journals and has its own in-house publishing platform, Janeway, which is used by other publishers and university presses. We're no longer a small start-up – our diamond open access publishing model has been followed by other not-for-profit publishers and the OLH plays a leading role in international conversations about improving equity in open access.

I’m incredibly proud to be launching the new website. It’s taken the OLH team over a year to craft a new site architecture that conveys the elegance and personality of the OLH. We were inspired by early 20th-century avant-gardes, Constructivism and Expressionism in particular. We wanted a collage aesthetic, drawing together an eclectic mix of contemporary and historical people and objects to match our political vision – bringing together humanities scholars, librarians, and activists to return academic journals to the communities that founded them. Our design includes textures reminiscent of the materiality of print alongside dynamic geometric shapes.

Our designer Carly Murphy-Merrydew of Keeping The Wolves at Bay shared this political vision and brought to life the distinctive combination of playfulness and seriousness of vision that characterises the OLH. The visual style and colour palette of the new site, with its historical artefacts and contemporary design, conveys that we are grounded in scholarly tradition and yet open to experimentation, inclusion, and innovation.

It's been a team effort with everyone at the OLH pitching in, but special thanks go to Joe Muller, Senior Publishing Technologies Developer at the OLH, who built the new site and Dr Katherine Parker-Hay, OLH Publishing Development Officer, who designed the wireframes and undertook user experience research to inform the site rebuild.

For me personally, the energy of the new design captures the spirit of what we do. The OLH team have crafted a workplace unlike any other I’ve encountered – vibrant, exciting, supportive, and full of care – for the work we do and for each other. Although we work remotely from our homes, we are intimately connected through digital media. And this connection extends to include the journal editors and librarians we work closely with, as well as the scholarly associations that govern our journals and ground them in disciplinary communities. 

I hope you enjoy the new OLH look as much as we do. Who said open access couldn’t be as stylish, perhaps more stylish, than legacy publishing? Do have a look around our homepage, and Information for Editors, Information for Readers & Authors, and Information for Librarians & Consortia. We've built a new library membership calculator to make it easier to find out what OLH membership costs and added a brochure you can download to share with colleagues.