This dating app for queer people is an antidote to “social media burnout”

Lex, an app inspired by traditional newspaper personal adverts, mixes “old technology with the new” in an attempt to create a “gentle” user experience.

A dating app for queer people, based on traditional newspaper personal ads, has been launched.

Lex aims to provide a platform for lesbian, bisexual, asexual and queer people, according to its founder Kelly Rakowski.

It was previously run as an Instagram account called @personals where users would submit a dating profile in the style of a newspaper personal ad. People could comment and start conversation.

Lex was inspired by newspaper personal ads

Personals was inspired by Rakowski’s research for her Instagram account, @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y, which shared images dedicated to lesbian culture to over 150,000 followers.

While running the account, Rakowski found vintages images of dating ads written by women.

“Writing a personal ad is a more deliberate and defined way to find deep, longer lasting connections — or just for one hot night,” she says.


“You’re not throwing up a selfie with an emoji attached”

Personals built a community of over 60,000 followers and posted around 10,000 ads over two years. The app aims to deal with an increase in user numbers while still retaining its community spirit.

Now users have an individual profile where they can post an ad with a title and longer post beneath. Other users can like that post and start a conversation in a private inbox. There are no photos featured on profiles.

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Rakowski says that the reading-based app is about “contemplating thoughtfully”. “Writing a personal ad — that process in itself slows one down,” she adds. “You’re not throwing up a selfie with an emoji attached just to be swiped and tossed away.


“Life is hard enough”

Rakowski says that during beta testing the app, there was concern about a ‘like’ feature on a dating app. Unlike Instagram, there is no publicly visible ‘like’ tallies for ads.

“People that might not receive so many ‘likes’ may feel bad and bummed out,” she says. “That’s not the experience we want our community to have — life is hard enough.”

It was part of an attempt to create a more community-based app. “It’s all about finding connections, in your neighbourhood and the world,” Rakowski says.

Users can post continuously throughout the day

The text-based, photo-free app goes against the design of most dating app trends. Rakowski says this is intentional: “People are having dating app and social media burnout.

“Lex is the perfect mix of old school and tech – just enough taste of each to make it successful.”


App features

Other features are more recognisable; for example, a filter function to narrow down searches. You can also link with your Instagram account.

You can also post ads continuously — whether they are a personal ad or a ‘missed connection’ which are aimed at chance encounters.


“Immediately recognisable”

The app was designed by Andrew LeClair and Anna Feng. LeClair, a New York-based graphic designer, says: “We wanted the look of the app to be immediately recognizable.

“If you took a screenshot of one of the personal ads and reposted it somewhere else, like Instagram, we wanted it to be obvious that it had come from Lex.”

The “immediately recognisable” look

The design process involved a lot of “visual research” and studying newspaper personal ads that Rakowski had collected. Because of their format and the “specific of language”, the team felt that “the identity of the app should be grounded in specific typographical choices”.

A study of ads for other apps and start-ups on the New York subway also influenced Lex’s appearance.

“There were certain visual trends – soft pastels and geometric sans-serifs – which had reached peak saturation and which we wanted to move away from,” LeClair says.


Resisting gender-based stereotypes

The serif typeface chosen, Portrait, was created by New York designer Berton Hasebe. This minimal typeface has classical flourishes and forms the foundation of the app’s look.

It was paired with a “subtly quirky san-serif’ typeface, Folio. This helps to “lighten the visual tone and works well at smaller scales,” according to LeClair.

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The colour chosen is a distinctive cyan, which LeClair calls “very digital”. It’s “bright and spunky and resists gender-based stereotypes around colour”, he adds.

“It’s a colour that can only be reproduced on screen where you have access to the wider gamut of colours that are possible in RGB colour spaces,” LeClair says.


“Slow down the user experience”

While the team thought about incorporating images into the app, the decision was ultimately made not to according to LeClair. And as so many dating apps focus on images, LeClair says that “the focus on text feels surprisingly radical”.

The ubiquitous swipe gesture is also missing. LeClair says: “The text of each ad is generous so that you can focus on one ad at a time.

“We wanted to slow down the user experience.”

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