Friday, May 29, 2009

I don't practice Santa Maria

I ain't got no crystal ball.

In my search for inspirations on web design, I came across the site of the graphic designer Jason Santa Maria.

Now, my computer art teacher is actually the one who showed me his site—she linked our class to one of his articles on website design, "What's Golden". When I started looking up web designs on my own, he cropped up all over the place, and now he's one of my favorite designers.

Let's start with his personal site:

It's nice and clean!
His header navigations point you toward his articles (I like that he calls them that instead of posts or entries), portfolio, oddities (random findings, like a tumblr), daily photo, and about page. Simple, clean, nice.

He also only displays one article entry per page.

Below each entry is another section (would it be right to call it a "footer"?) that is a preview to the content of the links displayed in the header: there's his about, recent projects (portfolio), bits of his oddities, and a few others like recommended reading and RSS feeds and such. You can see it.

He employed two things I said I'd never do with my own blog: display only one post per page and have a huge footer that partially serves as navigation.

And now that's exactly what I want!

Here's why:

Jason explained that his current site is experimental and partially based on print design aesthetics, where a page is designed around each article (there's that word again): the design contributes to the article, it's relevant, instead of being nudged into a set template. Just open up any magazine and you'll see it.

Each entry stands alone as a unique article, and without a sidebar, you're less likely to be distracted from the main article (which draws enough attention to itself through design anyway).

And once you're all done reading and you want more, the footer's right there to catch you with all sorts of links and goodies for you to follow.

It's great.
I love it, and I want it.

Although, in designer fashion, I started to wonder if such a design would appeal to my current audience, which consists mostly of family and friends, and even then, I don't think many of them bother to read most of my entries.

For one, you would need to click to get to each entry. This isn't good for people who want to skim, scroll and catch up quickly. Though, am I selling myself short here? In assuming that they'd do that, because my content isn't interesting enough? I'm not exactly featured in numerous blogs, I'm not Jason.

To reconcile, I could always
  • Put more than one post per page, but not too many... say, three
  • Place a "Recent Posts" section in the footer
I tend to make my entries REALLY LONG!
I also want the width of this main posting space to be larger, so it wouldn't appear as large.

Back to Jason
If you showed me Jason Santa Maria a few months ago I wouldn't have been impressed. It wasn't flashy or "Web 2.0." I feel like my design tastes have changed to fit more of what I appreciate in design, which is essentially self-containment: that every part of the design should support its essence, it should serve a purpose. Like a good plot, there shouldn't be any loose ends; like a good symphony, there shouldn't be any sour notes. I've always believed this, but I've only begun to put two and two together: design is more than how it looks, it's how it works.

And Jason's work is totally supportive of all that.

I admire that supremely, and although I don't feel like I have all the right tools and knowledge to implement that concept as well as he does, you can bet your sweet little face that I'm gonna do my homework and try. Needless to say, you'll find me a regular follower of Jason's work and updates. And if you're a fellow designer, I hope to find you there too.

Recommended JSM Articles:
Progress Report - On the experimental nature of his site and his continuation of it
Explain Yourself - On what it means to be a graphic designer, and all kinds of other designer labels.
Oh hell, just go through them all. That's what I'm doing.

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