Tasking leading interface designers including Scott Thomas, Pentagram and NYTimes.com with re-imagining one of the Internet's oldest stalwarts, Wired's latest in their Extreme Makeover series is a telling exercise on the state of design online today. On one hand, Thomas' minimalist take (above right) makes a pro-status quo argument, recognizing that the site functions perfectly well in its current form with only minor, mostly aesthetic tweaks. Designers from the NYTimes.com essentially do the same thing, adding a couple layers of hierarchy to make it more organized and easier to navigate (above left).
Studio8 Design came up with a more dramatically different-looking version, prioritizing the all-important photos to make rapid-fire browsing instantly gratifying.
While the others go to great lengths to keep the practical side at the forefront, Pentagram seems to all but dispense with the concern, playfully transforming the homepage's text links into an image of the man behind the curtain. The search function, however, moved to the bottom of the page, remains otherwise untouched. Maybe they're onto something.