I'm really excited that Beta sites waiting on site design are finally getting many of the graduation privileges without having to wait for a fully custom design. For simplicity, I'll be referring to the graduated sites without custom site designs as "interim" sites. If someone else has a better term, feel free to recommend it.
Right now, it seems that the design process for these "interim" sites will involve simply removing the "beta" designation from the sites' icons.
Info about this is noted here:
Hey @Catija the "beta" label will be dropped on newly graduated sites. We are not currently slated to give newly graduated sites an interim design because it would have caused delays in getting this thing underway, but I feel it may be a good future adjustment. If you a) think there's widespread confusion about when/whether the "beta" label is being dropped or b) would like to add another voice in support of an interim design, I encourage you to ask a new question. – Ana♦
This is certainly a great first step and, obviously, the sites are getting other benefits than simply removing the "beta" text.
What I would like to propose is that something additional be done to separate these sites from the sites that are still in Beta.
There are a few ideas I've seen floating around:
Change the color of the beta design for all "interim" sites.
This would be simply changing the base colors from blue to green (for example) but leaving the remainder of the layout the same. This is discussed very nicely in an answer by Monica Cellio on this question. I think, of all the possibilities I have seen, that it would be the least demanding on the designers.
Create a single new layout that will be used by all "interim" sites.
This would truly set all of the graduated sites apart from the beta sites but it would require yet another site design from the already-taxed design team. This is a good option but may take longer to implement and may delay the completion of custom site designs.
Create logos only for each "interim" site.
One idea that I'd like to spin off of this, maybe as a consideration, is instead of (or perhaps on top of) a mini-design, maybe we can look at having logos for the sites. I think that it helps not only distinguish the site from those still in "beta", but also gives the site a sense of uniqueness among the rest of the "no-design-graduates", a sense of individuality. We'd probably have to wrestle a bit though as to whether we want to have basically "preliminary" logos that are subject to change in the final design or not, though. It's tricky, maybe too tricky, but hmm...
This is a great option and would certainly make the sites feel unique and special… but the downside is that it would take some real work on the part of the design team to create the logos. Additionally, it's possible that the interim logo does not end up being the final site logo.
One big downside is the question "when would sites get this logo?" If graduation is supposed to be design-independent, this could clash with that concept unless we stipulate that the logo is delivered after graduation and is not part of the graduation process.
These were the solutions that I've seen around Meta and they all seem to have some level of popularity. I'd love to see what people think about these options and whether there are additional options that haven't been mentioned yet (or that I missed seeing).