Art Directed Blogs Capture the Mind’s Eye
Flip through a magazine’s pages, or gaze at a billboard or concert poster and you will likely feel the power of art direction. It is all around us, and has been for centuries. In recent years, this notion of dressing up copy has migrated to the web.
“Art direction is bigger and better than a trend — it’s a change,” designer Tim Smith says. “It will shift the way we view the web and it will alter the way we design for the web.”
The number of art directed blogs is increasing as brands and bloggers seek to maximize the power of words and images to captivate visitors, relate a story and communicate their message with skilled precision.
Art direction has propelled print publications for decades. The extent to which a magazine invests in creative design sets the tone for the content, both fundamentally and visually. This impressed upon readers how vogue, edgy or invested a particular publication was.
Today, blogs face the same challenges. Quality of content is a main factor in how well a blog is received, but blogs that delight readers visually offer a new experience that can leave a powerful impression.
“It’s a push in the right direction,” Smith says of the increasing care with which graphic artists and directors are attending to blogs and websites. “It makes us reconsider the way content should be displayed on the web.”
Digital Art Direction
Art directed blogs, or “blogazines,” give designers and writers the opportunity to showcase talent and creativity, while providing the discipline necessary for crafting an exceptional literary work. The format is decidedly purposeful, each post requiring a measure of forethought, time and diligence. In this way, art-directed blogs instill an air of anticipation for readers eagerly awaiting the next article.
An exceptional art-directed blog post is one that could barely be discerned from its print counterpart. Successful blogazines deliver consistency via a not-so-magic formula comprised of these simple elements:
For designers like Trent Walton, art directed blogging is a medium for presenting thought and talent on one page. For writers, it is an escape from the rigid grid of traditional columns and square images. Brilliant art direction combines the distinct style of the publication’s brand and the article’s subject matter.
At one glance, a reader can understand the mood, topic and personality portrayed in the piece.
Type is the heart and soul of print, affording zero excuse for not carrying it over onto the screen. Art directed blogging goes one step beyond, choosing a nice and consistent typeface, and uses type for visual appeal, voice and emphasis.
Jason Santa Maria, one of the first print designers to begin producing art-directed blog posts, uses typography almost exclusively to create his distinct style.
Stunning magazine spreads feature illustrations that catch the eyes and moves them. Shapes, images and photos are used to support the text, create texture and tell the story as much as the words themselves. Blogazines strive to present visual content in a new an interesting way, using the full screen, layering with other elements or directing the reader towards key text.
Designer Gregory Wood‘s blog is a perfect example.
Like art directed print, art directed posts focus entirely on the content, finding new ways to integrate things like asides, comments and social sharing links. The space above the fold is almost always left clear of sidebars, links or other elements not having to do with the article, as as David Desandro demonstrates above.
The most prominent art-directed blogs use a minimal interface for navigation and personal branding, allowing the pages to speak for themselves.
Minimal doesn’t mean you must strip away all fun and functionality. There is still opportunity for integrating interactive content, as seen here on The Bold Italic.
A nudge in the right direction is never far away. The web is an endless source of visual stimulation, concepts and styles.
See these examples: Ammut Und Demut, The Bold Italic, Dustin Curtis, Travis Gertz, The Stray Muse, CraigMod, The Many Faces Of…, Tuhin Kumar, Scott Brown, Kota CepuPaddy, Donnelly, Uekermann, Story Matters
Your Magazine Rack
Your grandmother’s attic or the local vintage book store contains ideas and art forms waiting to be resurrected and re-tuned for a new audience. The local magazine rack vies for your attention more than ever before, offering a bouquet of design instruction. Esquire, Rolling Stone, Interview, Coilhouse, Complex and PlanB are just a handful of gorgeous publications to search for.
Art directed content is not for the time constrained or faint of heart. It is a process of focused conceptualization, preparation and execution that begs specialized stylesheets, graphic design and typography for each and every piece.
Even so, deciding how elaborate the technical aspects is a personal choice. Art directed blogs are possible with as little as a custom background, font and image, or as much as custom CSS, layout experiments and post-specific features.
Here are some resources to help you get started: