Art Directed Posts

When it comes to blogging, for a designer, the art can feel somewhat lacking in, well, art. So it is natural for the designer inside us to begin craving a new approach to this task, which can at times feel a bit tiresome and trying. Blogging can often feel this way for a designer, because we are not necessarily the best at expressing ourselves through our words. We tend to be much more visual creatures.

We are better at finding the right look than at finding the right words, so blogging can move us a bit out of our comfort zone, even though we tend to have a firm enough grasp on the topics that we tackle.

Art directed blog posts are posts that are designed individually to match the subject of the post, and they tend to break from the usual look and setup of your site. This allows you as a designer to keep a proverbial fresh coat of paint on your site, without having to take the time and make all of the considerations that come with a complete redesign.

Below is a look at some of the positive and negative aspects of this approach, followed by a few tips and examples so you can see for yourself if this is the next step for your blog. Or if you have already taken that step, this post can help you make sure you are solid ground as you proceed.

Pros

First off, using art directed posts tends to add an extra layer of originality and creativity to your site which will usually score big with your audience. You essentially get to spice things up through individual style sheets, expanding on the ideas and packaging them in a much more appetizing and digestible way.

And given that this can bring an originality to topics that they have been lacking, this can broaden the appeal of this discussion and find it new audiences too.

Speaking of which, another pro that you cannot ignore has to do with this broader appeal, which can often lead to increased traffic for your site. If done right, with enough thought and effort put into both the content and the design of the post, art directed posts have quite a draw and are popular among many of the online community so they can spell a bit of a spike in traffic. People love them, and respond to those that are executed with skill and precision.

Another pro that should be addressed is that the art directed posts give your site more of a magazine feel than having a uniformity of posts can, which can add an elegance or even relevance to your blog. This can help it to stand out from the numerous ranks that make up the blogosphere. This is also an interesting and stylish way to pay homage to the medium that some consider to have paved the way for this more modern free press reimagining of the mission.

Earlier I touched on the digestability of the information and that sort of feeds this next pro, and that is concerning the depth at which the reader sinks into the topic and discussion at hand. Having the post designed entirely around the topic can give the reader a fuller sense of integration into the topic. Submersing them fully into the ideas, connecting them to the topic in a whole new and possibly inspiring way. This can lead to more reader participation as they are more tapped and tuned in, which could be another pro unto itself, but I won’t get greedy.

Not only can this affect the depth to which your readers become involved in the topic, but it can also impact yours. Which is the final pro that I am going to discuss today. Art directed posts can change your perspective on the way you view and approach your topics too. As you have to develop both a verbal and visual way to come at your ideas, you have to naturally consider them in a much more comprehensive way than you have in the past.

Cons

First on the con list has to the be the time factor. Given that a good portion of the blogging populus does so on the side, as a second job persay, then you have to consider the amount of extra time that you are going to have to devote to these art directed efforts. This could mean that your frequency of posting may have to be compromised and slow down. Somewhat noticeably in fact. This could also mean that you simply have to make this an occasional occurence on your blog rather than a regular one.

Another con to consider comes from the idea that consistency is a good thing, and that blogging is not immune to this rule of thumb. With the art directed blog posts you sacrifice the uniformity of your site, and in doing so, you compromise the users ability instantly recognize their surroundings and discern their present online locale at a glance. Especially those who arrive at the post from an outside source. This can be remedied to some extent by making sure the branding in your header really stands out.

Speaking of consistency, where this can matter most is when it comes to trying to monetize your sites via ads. Most of the art directed blog posts that you see popping up across the landscape are not incorporating adspace into these individual styles, which may make advertisers unhappy. Or more than unhappy, it might just make them overall absent. Advertisers tend to like the idea of being included in the posts as that is where most users head, so visibility is higher in the posts.

The next con sort of fits hand-in-hand with the time factor, and that is an elevated risk of blogger burn out. Given that the posts require more time and so much more to pull off, this can add a higher level of stress to the task as a whole that just was not there before. These kinds of increases can become overwhelming when faced with such regularity, thus blowing out the spark driving the desire to continue producing content for your site.

The final con that we are going to look at concerns the depth to which this technique tends to beg you dive into a topic, and that brings about a more discerning eye for considering your topics. Not every topic is fit to be art directed, and you don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it. So this can unfortunately close the door on some areas that you might have wanted to skim across the surface of on your blog because they just do not fit this expanded format.

Some Tips When Doing Art Directed Posts

Below are a few tips to take with you if you are going to take on this challenge, so that you come at it from a more advantageous position.

  • If you are going to art direct a significant portion of your posts, I highly recommend you design your site accordingly. Having a simple header and footer that can easily be modified to match any style post is a must.
  • You may also want to set your RSS feed to only show post summaries so that your most loyal readers will not miss out on the posts design and be prompted to click through.
  • Alternately you could opt to set up your RSS feed to instead include image captures of the post so that your subscribers see that there is more to the post than they have in their readers.
  • Do not sacrifice the content for the look in any way, always remember that the content is still the reason people are coming to your site. You are merely dressing up its presentation.
  • Approach the post like an infographic, and allow the design to feed the topic and discussion rather than just decorate the page.

For an in-depth how to on using the Art Direction WordPress Plugin, check out the CSS-Tricks Screencast Styling an Individual Article

To learn how to art direct posts in TextPattern and WordPress without the aid of a plugin, check out Designing Individual Blog Posts

Showcase

And I thought I would end by giving you a few examples of outstanding art directed blog posts to inspire you to create your own.

The Bold Italic

The Bold Italic is an experiment in local discovery for San Fransisco CA. The site contains tons of fabulous art directed posts. This is always my first stop for art directed inspiration.

Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria is a graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York. He is the founder of the design studio Mighty, and the creative director for Typekit, and A List Apart. His entire site is an experiment in art direction.

Scott Brown

Scott Brown is a creative director from New Zealand who uses his personal blog to experiment with art direction and grow his creative skills.

Gregory Wood

Gregory Wood is a web designer using his site to experiment with bringing the kind of editorial design you see in magazines to the web.

What do you think of these posts? Ever tried an art directed post yourself? How did it go?

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