I’ve made the switch from Times New Roman to Garamond for my every day typing. There was something about Times New Roman that made the words seem intimidating as they appeared on the screen. As if each serif, each dark line was saying something about my soul. It got to a point where I almost didn’t want to write because I didn’t want to see any more Times New Roman on the screen before me. Now I feel reenergized. It’s hard to explain.
This has led aesthetics to dominate my recent thinking. I’m starting to realize how easily affected I am by the way things look. It’s as simple as the difference between a sunny day and a cloudy one. For many years I considered myself impervious to the effects of weather. Then I realized that my music tastes were totally affected by it. Now the same thing is happening with fonts, I guess. And it goes beyond my own writing. Aesthetics have a huge impact on how we consume sports.
Take a look at uniforms. Few subjects are less relevant from a tangible perspective. But few things affect the fan experience more. UniWatchBlog gets insanely high traffic (we know that because RBI once got a very brief mention that sent over approximately 17million visitors). In baseball, not even steroids get as much flack from fans as misplaced black trim on traditional jerseys.
But let’s take this even more inward. The readers of this blog are either well-meaning friends of Ted and I or people who consume multiple sports blogs on a regular basis. And your opinion of PnP is greatly affected by its design. For example, the giant picture of Fernando Valenzuela’s face on our header causes people to think this is a Dodger-focused blog. Regular readers know this not to be the case, but the image probably has the same skill for discouraging Giants fans from reading that Times New Roman does for discouraging me from writing stuff. The Rogue’s Baseball Index, looks old-timey — an aesthetic that carries its own baggage.
What do we look for with sports blog design? Should the visual feel of the site somehow match the tone of the content? Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods does this perfectly. It’s a slightly literary design with a classic-baseball feel. The content is the focus, framed in white amidst a background of dark grays and blues. Joe Posnanksi, meanwhile, opts for pure utilitarianism. His long, long posts are presented on a plain white screen, with plenty of space for his ample reader-polls on the side bar and his weird personal projects on the header.
But those are singular and powerful voices. Their draw is their exceptional content – bells and whistles be damned. What of sites whose appeal lies in humor or news or pictures? What of Deadspin? Deadspin leaves it in the hands of the reader. Here are 6,000 stories. Pick your favorite. Me? I think it looks cluttered. But then again, I like to pick and choose my stories. God knows I don’t want to end up looking at one of their regular slide-shows of nude male athlete self-portraits.
I suppose the goal of a blog design depends on the goals of the proprietors. Do you want to nurture your reader a-la Wilker into a bookish dream-state? Do you want to build traffic through various clicks and links and options? Is your most recent post key? Or is it about the big picture? This is just the first layer of questions. We can peel them back to reveal even more. Does the number of columns on the blog matter much? Do certain colors have certain impacts on the reader? What about the width of the text? Do you like to read a narrow column or a wider one? How does subject matter affect these things?
This all may seem vague and irrelevant. But I don’t think it is. All of our beliefs as baseball fans are colored by colors and indelible images and uncanny associations. Consider the way uniforms touch the way we remember eras: the classic 1950s and 60s, the colorful 70s, the unfortunate 80s, the surprisingly teal 90s. It goes into the design of our stadiums as well. They evoke the eras in which they are built and the teams they house. The difference between Cardboard Gods and Deadspin isn’t all that different from the difference between Fenway Park and New Yankee Stadium.
I’m curious as to what your thoughts are. Please share them in the comments. For what it’s worth, two of my favorite blogs, aesthetics-wise, are Beerleaguer and Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. What are yours?