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Congratulations, Chess SE community! We’re going to be creating a custom site design for you that we hope will represent your subject and we want you all to really love it. You’ve been waiting three years and we really want to do this well. To facilitate this, we’re reaching out now to ask you for what you’d really love to see in the design and logo.

My name is Chloe, and I’m one of the designers at Stack Exchange. I’m a frequent and enthusiastic chess player, and I’m so excited to create something special for you that truly represents this community.

A quick history lesson about site theming

Originally, site designs were part of the site graduation process. When a site left beta, they'd get their design. But, at the time we only had one designer who was working on designs and the designs were very specialized and often involved a lot of custom illustrations. We got into a situation where several sites were in queue for graduation but the designer didn't have the bandwidth to actually create the designs.

Before she worked here, one of our Community Managers, Catija, asked the question Can Beta sites slated for graduation get full-site abilities without site design upgrade? on MSE. This kicked off several discussions within the CM team of the time and community members and the eventual decision was to implement "Design-independent graduation" in September 2015. This meant that many sites were finally able to leave beta without waiting on a design.

At that time we also had much more strict guidelines for when a site could graduate - they had to consistently get 10 new questions per day. This level of volume made graduation impossible or very unlikely for many sites - meaning many would stay in beta forever. As such, the CM team considered another request Catija made - Let's break up with "Graduation" and remove a bunch of "Beta" labels - and that's what eventually happened, too. In 2019, we removed the beta label from 29 sites - including this one - and another 59 in December 2021.

We've also gone through several design systems changes, including launching Stacks version 1.0, which make creating and building in designs much simpler for both our design team and the developers. In fact, we showed off how flexible it could be in our April Fools prank this year "Filters for Stack Overflow".

What to expect

Over the next few weeks, we'll be communicating with you about your site design, so please help us out as much as you can. We know that you have great ideas about what you want this site to look like - so share them with us! You've got a week now to pool up your thoughts in answers to this question, at which point I'll start working on this site.

I’ll spend some time working on a design based on your guidance, and we'll be back when it's ready to show you what the design and logo look like. At that point, you all will have a week to make suggestions for adjustments to the design. Our hope is that there will be little that needs adjusting but, due to the size of our backlog, we can't allow more than one phase of feedback, so any changes will need to be recommended at this point.

We'll then consider the changes proposed and make any adjustments that we feel are beneficial. Changes that are too big or are out of scope likely won't be possible, but we'll make sure to explain why we opted against making a change should that happen. Please understand that design is often a subjective thing and we may end up with community members differing in their opinions, so we'll be taking that into account when deciding. Decisions about the final design will be made by the design team and CMs with the concerns of the community taken into account.

Also, it's worth keeping in mind that the goal of these designs is to make something topical, unique, and attractive, but we'll be designing within the scope of our newer site theming. We'll be able to create a logo, background colors, and textures in addition to your logo - but please don't expect illustrations like what you may have seen on some of the older site designs.

Process

Over the next month or so, we’ll be going through a few steps to get your site design up and running. This post is the first of those steps. I’ll also be using this post to track the phases in the table below.

Step Status
Information Gathering complete
Design V1 in progress
V1 Feedback
Design adjustments (if needed)
Developer cleanup and shipping of final design

What we need from you

As I've mentioned already, we need some inspiration from you so that we can get started on this design and create something you'll really be proud of. So far, I was able to find some older discussions about logos and site designs here on Meta, including this one from 2012. Feel free to reference them if there are ideas you like already - or give us new ones! We're really looking for design ideas rather than needing you to design anything for us.

When you're answering this question, think about:

  • What symbols or images are important to the subject of this site?
  • In addition to black and white, are there any colors you feel are tied to chess?
  • What tone/mood/feeling would you like your theme to emit? While this is subjective, it helps to set some design guardrails. So, when answering with your thoughts, some good axes to mention are where the theme might sit inside these spectra:
    • From fun to serious
    • From classic to modern
    • From simple to complex
  • How could a good logo represent your subject?
  • What are things to avoid?

If you have any questions, let me know! We're really looking forward to hearing from you and getting your site design underway.

2 Answers 2

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Great news, I'm excited to hear this and can't wait to see the first drafts!

In addition to black and white, are there any colors you feel are tied to chess?

Many chess boards and pieces are dark and light brown. That would generally make for a softer and warmer theme than just black and white.

How could a good logo represent your subject?

IMHO, the current one works well, except that it's not really clear at smaller resolutions (e.g. in the site switcher or the Hot Network Questions sidebar widget).

As for artistic inspiration, I've always been a fan of the Metamorphosis series of M.C. Escher:

enter image description here

It would be nice if you could find a way to blend a chess board into a list of questions ... Oh, and I'm pretty sure the community can come up with a more iconic position than a smothered mate. That could make a nice side contest.

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  • "Many chess boards and pieces are dark and light brown. That would generally make for a softer and warmer theme than just black and white." → Another option would be the white-green combination used by those rollup chess "boards" found in chess clubs.
    – walen
    Oct 27 at 8:11
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What symbols or images are important to the subject of this site?

Obviously there are chess pieces ♙♘♗♖♕♔♚♛♜♝♞♟ there's also some chess notation which might also be usable:

Symbol Meaning
! a very good move
!! a brilliant—and usually surprising—move
? a bad move; a mistake
?? a blunder
!? an interesting move that may not be the best
?! a dubious move that is not easily refutable
= equal chances for both players
+/= ⩲ White has a slight plus
=/+ ⩱ Black has a slight plus
+/− ± White has a clear plus
−/+ ∓ Black has a clear plus
+− White has a winning advantage
−+ Black has a winning advantage

?! and !?

I'm especially fond of !? and ?! since it's a Q&A site.

Also iconic in chess, are the poses you make when thinking, like this one (credit: Lana Chess Photography):

Dinara Saduakassova

In addition to black and white, are there any colors you feel are tied to chess?

I feel like DGT boards are iconic, since they're often used for the top boards in tournaments:

DGT board

This might be a reasonable color scheme.

Other than this, a kind of "newspaper chess puzzle" feel might work (image source):

newspaper chess puzzle

What tone/mood/feeling would you like your theme to emit?

I suggest a theme that feels "intellectual", more on the serious side of the spectrum. Classic and modern are both acceptable. I favor simple over complex: chess is very simple to learn (very hard to master)---there's something elegant about chess.

How could a good logo represent your subject?

Many sites and chess clubs use a stylized pieces for logos:

LiChess logo Chess.com logo chess24 logo Internet Chess Club logo PlayChess.com logo FIDE logo

Maybe it's reasonable to also do so here (the LiChess logo is a masterpiece!), but it feels a bit overused.

What are things to avoid?

I feel like a logo used in London was a total disaster (ow, my eyes hurt):

World Chess Championship 'Kama Sutra' Logo

And the Chennai Olympiad logo was too complicated:

enter image description here

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  • 2
    Concur re: London and Chennai logos. Sep 28 at 18:52
  • The London logo reminds me a lot of Victor Vasarely's op art style. But those are supposed to grab and keep your attention which is probably not appropriate for a website.
    – qwr
    Oct 10 at 15:39
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    It would be funny to have ! and ? as upvote and downvote, but that might be confusing.
    – qwr
    Oct 13 at 18:14
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    1) The words "black" and "white" are used in chess, but chess pieces are seldom literally black and white, and the squares on the board are best when their contrast is a good deal less than the black/white contrast. Please, no big white areas in our site's design! 2) If our logo is to be a chess piece, I suggest sticking with the rook -- we already have "brand recognition" by a rook.
    – Rosie F
    Oct 24 at 16:03
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    @qwr: They don't do custom upvote/downvote buttons anymore, so that probably won't happen.
    – Kevin
    Oct 25 at 21:17

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