Mar. 12, 2010

A Facelift

This site has gotten a little makeover this week. Since I launched my blog last May, I have been fiddling with the design nonstop, trying to come up with something that suits me. I haven’t found the perfect fit yet, but this update moves me a little closer. Here is what I’m after.

To me, the best-looking blogs — Subtraction, AisleOne, Frank Chimero, Iain Claridge — are design blogs and they share a common philosophy: minimalist, modernist, grid-based. Those blogs were all created by respected graphic designers. You’ll see bits of all of them on this site.

A few common elements that I like:

  • The designs use mostly black text on a white background and a very few classic fonts, particularly Helvetica. Personally, I prefer a serif font for reading longer pieces, which is how I tend to write, so I’ve used Helvetica mostly for headers and sidebars. (Actually, what you are seeing here is mostly Arial, which will offend the Helvetica purists, but browsers render Arial better.)
  • My favorite designers use very little motion (Flash, Java, etc.). There are not a lot of menus dropping down, popping up, sliding out, or otherwise moving around. The designs are not all that different from a print piece. The material is organized with elegant layout and typography, not hidden behind buttons. That traditional philosophy suits a blog, which is essentially an online magazine. The screen here acts more like a printed page than a video monitor. It just … sits there. (I know: weird.)
  • The designs are flat and geometric. No glossy reflections or realistic shadows to create a trompe l’oeil three-dimensional effect. They are proudly 2D, again extending the traditional techniques of print design.

Khoi Vinh, the design director for whose Subtraction is one of the most admired (and ripped off) blog designs out there, sums it up here. If you’re interested in design, click through. Otherwise, the name of his blog, “Subtraction,” says it all: if it is unnecessary frill, out it goes. Simplify, minimize, reduce.

Let me know what you think. Yes, I do all the design and coding, so changes are easy enough. And don’t be shy. My wife doesn’t like this design, so I’ve heard it all before.

Also, note that I have finally begun a mailing list. You can sign up here. I am late getting this started, of course. Like all writers, I am still learning how to be my own P.R. man. Please do join so that, when my next book comes out in spring 2011, I can reach you to let you know. Thanks.

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