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Our Work

Soft Skull Press is an independent publisher of books that engage art, culture, and current events in new and radical ways.

Soft Skull Press

Soft Skull Press is a former imprint of Counterpoint Press, but after being purchased by Catapult, it was spun out into an independent entity and, as such, needed an independent identity.

42 Solutions was engaged to implement that identity as well as handle infrastructure upgrades.

The Design

Unlike previous projects 42 Solutions has worked on, the design for Soft Skull Press was done by salu.io and presented to us for implementation. This presented a challenge in many ways, including the fact that the designer was not aware nor limited the feature set of WordPress which allowed the design to be both unique and unbounded by traditional theme concepts.

The design is “flat” compared to most web designs but unique and eye-catching because of it and 42 Solutions was up to the task of implementing it.

Technology Customization

The technology stack that Soft Skull was implemented on is the increasingly common WordPress content management system, a set of built in editorial and site management tools onto which custom front ends and additional features can be added. But, because Soft Skull was a legacy install, this also required a fair amount of customization to shoehorn exiting content into the new design pattern.

One example of this are the Author pages. Each Soft Skull author has their own page with biographical information and a headshot. However, the new design asked for each author to recommend another Soft Skull book from the library with a pull-quote for display. To implement this, because each Author page was a child page of a page title “Authors”, only pages that were children of this page had tools displayed to implement this design feature. These tools included a drop down box of all Soft Skull books in alphabetical order and a box in which an optional quote could be added.

Additionally, a new taxonomy was created to connect books to authors so that related products could easily be queried and returned, both on book pages and on author pages.

Lastly, review quotes on the previous site had been included statically within the body content of each product. But to make this data more flexible, custom fields were added for products so that review quotes could be added and ordered and marked as featured. This allowed for use of these quotes not just on the product page in a dynamic carousel but on other pages where the book might be featured.

An example of the Soft Skull Press book page

However, that is only some of the customization on the backend side. On the front end, custom and efficient queries were written to streamline the fetching of related authors and titles as well as search routines to keep the site both fast and responsive. Each page contains at least one custom query and most at least two to display the information required by the designs, including custom image fetching rules based on the associated content.

While not the largest WordPress implementations by 42 Solutions, it is a piece for which we are very proud for the number of unique and surprising elements that have been done.

Infrastructure Work

42 Solutions didn’t just implement that Soft Skull redesign. We were also responsible for the complete transition aware from a shared virtual host onto a standalone AWS stack. This included making the decisions about what level of service both Soft Skull and Counterpoint’s websites would require, spinning up an EC2 stack with an RDS backend, and transitioning the sites from the old server to the new ones. Lastly, installed an SSL certificate on softskull.com so the site could accept payment transactions through a custom Stripe widget we created.

Not only has this move seen increased uptime reliability but the available resources ensures that, even when a press release generates significant traffic, the sites never slow beyond a certain point before redundant servers come online. And, as the cherry on top, overall hosting and support costs have been reduced as well.


42 Solutions is extremely proud of the work we have done on Soft Skull Press and look forward to continuing our work in the future with additional features, including the streamlining of the book sales widget and more. Soft Skull has long been an important and edgy publisher and we’re thrilled to continue our relationship with them long into the future.

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42 Solutions

Working with 42 Solutions, you’ll find that it’s not the technology that’s important, it’s the idea. Regardless of whether your company is based on proprietary software or open source, we will find the right tools to get the job done.

Invite us to your office and we’ll send a pair of consultants armed with laptops and bright ideas, ready to solve your problem and offer solutions. We pride ourselves in getting to know how you do business and integrating into your process.