Design dilemma -Judging a blog by its cover

19 May

They say we mustn’t judge a book by its cover. On that count I am guilty, as charged. As the name of my blog suggests, book covers, packaging, peripherals and visual effect mean a lot to me. I feel the design of a blog greatly affects the way people perceive its content. Non verbal content and design shows the personality and style of creator, distinguishing it from other blogs. It also reinforces the “niche” of the blog.

The day I started my blog I knew how I wanted it to look. I wanted it to emulate the strange comfort of (you know what I’m going to say) a “shiny pink book”. I wanted my readers to know that I appreciate the sanctity of the genre I blog about, and because imitation is the biggest form of flattery, I decided the design should look like a Chick lit book, as I wanted it to really “belong” to its niche.

While designing the look, I wanted my blog to say “I am a chick lit fan and though I am girly and fun, I also read and I’m intelligent.” Some would say that, such a combination is rare to get. There wasn’t a “the perfect chick lit” template out there, so I struggled for a while, tinkered and played with as many templates as possible till I found just “the one”( Beuno), just like the heroines of my favorite books find just “the one”(perfect match) for themselves. Though, the moment wasn’t defined by the ringing of bells or playing of violins, I knew that this was the theme I wanted. It was perfect for my niche. Light pink polka saying “I am girly” and a bold black title, saying “I also read”. All I needed was a customized header. I chose pink books and I was done. I feel customized headers make the blog unique and personal. This is critical especially on Word press blogs as everyone chooses from a limited set of templates. There’s only that much that much that a Chick lit lover with little knowledge of code can do.

Though I wanted my blog to be girly, I didn’t want it to be distasteful. The last thing I wanted was that my web page to look like a 13 year old’s myspace page from 2001. (Link courtesy Undiscovered Muse) or like this.

Though my blog is not conventionally minimalistic, I feel it has a “clean” feel to it. While designing my blog I looked at another chick lit blog “Chick lit teens “.

This one has a relatively strong, bright background and a girly header but the design is balanced by having the text in a plain white box. Mine I feel is similar, and though I have used a light feminine dotted background and a bold bright header, both of these concur with the genre of my blog. The text is simple and stands out. The clean white box makes it seem almost “serious” and “professional”.

Dissecting the status of “cool” on the internet, Alan Lui says that web design borrows from a modernist aesthetic with clear lines and a simplistic design. There seems to be a prevalence of adopting modernist lines and minimalist style in order to endorse and prioritize the efficiency and usability of information. My blog follows this. In contrast my blog’s alter ego, (picture above) has an overpovering background and strong text, which makes it seem amateurish.

This movement on the internet towards a “clean” minimalistic look is best understood in reference to a paper written by Dannah Boyd where she talks about viewing American class divisions through Face book and MySpace. Because of the design and themes Myspace was seen as gaudy, immature, and “so middle school.” The “clean” look of Face book, made it more mature and MySpace “so lame.” What hegemonic teens (face book users) call gaudy can also be labeled as “glitzy” or “bling” or “fly” by subaltern teens. (MySpace users) The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens.

According to Dannah Americans perceive the “modern” look of Face book as akin to West Elm while the flashier look of MySpace to Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year.

Alan Lui also talks about ‘cool’ anti design, as well as the presence of old school, amateur dirt style design on the web. It states that Anti-Design embraced the ephemerality of Pop consumerism, and the language of the mass media. Whereas the Modernist palette was generally muted with a prevalence of blacks, whites, and greys, Anti-Design explored the rich potential of colour. Where Modernism admired the integrity of material properties, Anti-Design embraced ornament and decoration.

Pink and black polka dot background is reminiscent of the 1950s which makes it ‘retro’ and ‘pop’ like. The customized header also has a bright, bold feel to it. Perhaps my design has ‘Anti design’ leanings.

Talking like technicalities like widgets and networking, though I haven’t really fiddled with this aspect of my blog yet, since my skill set doesn’t equips me to, I do have some very primary stuff, like an RSS feed and an archives listing all posts, as well as tag clouds. However I do promise to keep fiddling with that aspect till it achieves a ‘techno savvy’ feel.

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