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This day’s portion

On non-designing a blog

Simone recounts how he serendipititiously hit upon his blog design, which looks a bit like mine. Normal disclaimer: at the time of writing. This site’s appearance often changes, and I suspect that now Simone has found this design, his will too.

I am not a web designer, but that (as you may have noticed) hasn’t stopped me having opinions on its practice. Unlike most other design disciplines, it’s an unstructured and largely unacademic pursuit. Furthermore, the web designer works in an unpredictable world, where even the screen is a notional canvas and the number of devices, contexts and readers are infinite. Simone notes that until recently he’d always read my site in Feedbin, an (excellent) RSS reader, so he wouldn’t have even seen the surface design of This day’s portion.

Because of all these factors, web design can fail, and in many ways. I sometimes examine these failures, the often non-technical reasons behind them and how I think we could make better web texts and interfaces. And it would be remiss of me to not address these apparent failures on my own site, regardless of my lack of visual design skills.

I have this vague idea of a blog “non-design”. By which I mean: how do I build a blog that simply fulfills a set of requirements and stops there? What are those requirements? I could take a purely minimal approach, but I don’t want a design concept such as minimalism to influence what the blog does. To express this in a cliché: function before form.

This is why it’s satisfying to find another website that looks like mine. Obviously, it’s nice to get some validation, and there’s an element of pure chance in both sites pairing Seravek with Iowan Old Style at the same time. But it also shows that you can end up with a very similar design if you’re trying to achieve the same things, and making the same decisions. After all, Seravek and Iowan Old Style are native Macos typefaces, which suggests we’ve both decided to not use webfonts. A single column suggests we want to remove any distractions from the article text. Even a simple, coloured bar at the top of the page speaks of a similar approach to decoration.

I find that if the aims remain more or less the same, I’ll eventually end up with this single column (non)design. Within this, there’s a fair amount of freedom to experiment with the typography and even some limited decoration – to play around with the surface. I expect if you hit upon this design, you’ll end up tinkering too.