As you may have noticed, here at Art Scatter we’ve been stressing out lately about the way we look. We were feeling – frumpy. We wanted something fresh, something new, and came up with three possible visual themes to replace Artsemerging, the theme we’ve been using since the blog began two years ago.
We asked for your advice, and a lot of you gave it. Thanks to Scatter friends and followers Charles Deemer, LaValle Linn, Charles Noble, Brett Campbell, Cynthia Kirk, Mighty Toy Cannon and others for chipping in with preferences and ideas. Each of the three candidates had its fans, and each had its detractors. I appreciate the energy that all of you put into this. And I appreciate that more than one of you noted that design isn’t why you visit Art Scatter, anyway: You come for the writing and the ideas. Special thanks to LaValle for her warning that Web designs can devour your time and sanity in the middle of the night if you let yourself get too deeply drawn into them: Perish that thought!
Still, we want the writing and ideas to be displayed well. The decision wasn’t easy. At least one of you listed the eventual choice as his least favorite.
And the winner is – Modern, designed by Ulf Pettersson, the design you’re looking at now.
It’s a clean, well-spaced, elegant design, a very professional-looking presentation, and that’s important. Its headlines are understated but big enough to stand out, and they look good running either one or two lines. Its serif type style moves serenely among bold, italic and roman type, making its point at each stop without leaping for your jugular. The type’s a little small in its pull quotes, but they still look good. The design handles splendidly such small but crucial matters as spacing and creating ample windows for inset illustrations: Nothing’s haphazard about it.
Is it too understated? We’ll see. If it turns out to be, we’ll switch again. Charles Noble touts the advantages of the premium design he chose for his blog Noble Viola, and it’s true that paying a little more can add a great deal more flexibility. I like the way that Charles’s blog can highlight several posts at once, for instance, and the way it can add “extras” such as promotional highlights and recent comments and still look crisp and inviting.
I’ve spent a lot of time inside these three designs, checking them out not just for looks but also for flexibility. When we began this journey I was drawn to the jazzy, stop-the-presses look of Copyblogger. (Mighty Toy Cannon points out its nice retro feel and homage to “legacy media,” meaning newspapers, the world from which both Mr. and Mrs. Scatter emerged). But although I liked its side panel perhaps the best of the lot, it had internal difficulties that made it hard to choose, including, but not limited to, poor spacing for its illustration windows, allowing type to bump right into the pictures.
In general I prefer serif types to sans serif types, although a good sans serif beats a bad serif. Veryplaintext 3.0 has my favorite typeface of any candidate, a distinctive and gorgeously assertive face. But it doesn’t like italic very much (what you see isn’t always what you get), and I consider italic type an integral tool in my presentational box. The real deal-buster, though, was its ragged, center-adjusted side panel, which to my eye (and LaValle’s, too!) looks haphazard and uncontained and, well, unprofessional. Too bad.
So that brings us back to Modern, which has an elegant look and seems the best compromise. Unfortunately, Mrs. Scatter hates it, and I understand her reasons. The blog title is small and pushed far to the right, and that bothers her. I’d prefer its type a little bigger, but its placement doesn’t bother me. She hates all gray boxes – that’s one of the reasons we defected from Artsemerging, which has a prominent gray screen – and Modern’s side panel is shaded gray. Plus, the panel’s wide, eating up a lot of space that could go instead to the relatively narrow main column. Like Mrs. Scatter, I’d like the side panel to include links to recent posts and possibly recent comments, and in general to be more flexible. Perhaps I can play around with it a bit and get some of those things to happen.
I deeply, sincerely hope this design grows on Mrs. Scatter – believe me, I deeply and sincerely hope this! – and I hope the design doesn’t prove to be too sedate. I’m convinced that it’s a stylish, visually pleasing design. Time will tell if it’s right for Art Scatter. For now, at least, it’s won the day.