Designing Hundred Years Late

This project has allowed me to develop my skills in a number of areas. The project involved a lot of research, critical listening, sound engineering, musicianship, video production and writing. But today I want to talk about design. There are plenty of blogs that discuss style and design, but these are key elements of every blog and website. Every blogger is a web designer, like it or not. And we should take care with our efforts, knowing it may form the basis of an opinion about us (good or bad) before anyone even reads or engages with our ‘content’. Here I’m going to outline my approach to designing this project.

Font fetishism. It’s a thing. You may even be prone to it yourself. Given the vintage nature of the material being discussed on this blog, I browsed through hundreds of retro fonts before finding Pyriform Tones NF and Little Lord Fontleroy (of which Fontleroy Brown is the plain variation). These fonts were designed by Nick Curtis. Surely everyone can relate to my experience, seeing Hundred Years Late (or whatever’s in your bag) in all those different fonts, finally settling on the one that seemed to set the right tone, inexplicably looking proportionally perfect when all the others somehow didn’t. I put some thought and care into finding two fonts that didn’t just look good but complemented each other and looked good together. A slapdash ill-conceived logo can completely alienate the font fetishists, they’re a particularly discerning demographic (and I’m one of them).

These little inset boxes with supplemental information are a key design and layout feature of this blog. In HTML, they’re called DIVs. Since the Twitter Feed widget came in ‘light’ or ‘dark’, I decided to use the ‘dark’ colour as the background colour for my DIVs, it’s nice when things match. I also noticed the widget’s rounded corners, a neatly elegant and subtle little feature that I also decided to imitate. My enthusiasm for the ‘border-radius’ property of the ‘style’ attribute saw me going back and retro-coding it into DIVs and images in all my previous posts. It’s such an appropriate little idiosyncrasy to appear as a design feature in this blog, suggesting the softened edges of history following years of erosion.

Then there were the colours to consider. Again, a retro feel seemed so appropriate as to be inevitable, muted sepia tones were the natural choice. This WordPress theme, Coraline, only has a few colour schemes which made the choice extremely easy – this shade of brown, take it or leave it. Actually I quite like it. I decided to carry on the same colours in the graphics on the header and for the title of each blog post, camouflaging them in the theme’s colours. The colours used on the Twitter page and the Bandcamp page can afford to be a bit more exciting and extravagant, a bit more high-contrast retro. The muted colours on the blog are intentionally easy on the eye, such that if anyone were to sit down and read the whole thing in one sitting, their rods and cones wouldn’t be completely fried. Each post was given a title graphic, mostly to break up the blog entries in a more visual way when they all load on the main page, but it has the added bonus of reinforcing the visual character of the project, and revealing more letters in that charming font face – I don’t believe you’ve seen an ‘x’ yet, it’s quite lovely, I hope I will have cause to use it soon. In the meantime, you can admire how the ampersand looks like a treble clef. What could be more perfect for Hundred Years Late? Thanks, Nick.

When it came to designing individual pieces of album artwork for the songs I’ve recorded and uploaded on Bandcamp so far, I decided to break out of the ‘retro’ mould and explore another theme of this project – reinterpretation, reappropriation, remixing, mashing-up, public domain, open source, free-culture. I wanted a splash of colour and so I visited Wikimedia Commons to reappropriate and remix some of its crowdsourced resources, one of the world’s greatest gifts to itself.

Being happy with the fonts I’d chosen, I was confident that the thematic unity they lend would tie all the artwork together, no matter how disparate the images used. This set the scene for a kind of visual free association, using literal (and abstract) search terms and browsing to find public domain images that would satisfactorily represent each song. The Monotone, to complement the song, prompted quite a faded, desaturated, sepia edit of a picture of a church bell. I Want to Be Like Jesus features a Crucifixion statue photographed from below against a bright blue sky, bringing some colour to these pages and heralding this blog’s vibrant mission to rediscover, remix, re-edit, and reinterpret our history and shared culture across multiple media and, crucially, to encourage others to do so as well. I’ll leave you with a few other images. They contain spoilers – titles of songs I’ve yet to record! See if you can find them in the archives…

Click on any of the images in this post to view the original image and attribution on Wikimedia Commons. Thanks again to Nick Curtis for producing such wonderful fonts.

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2 responses to “Designing Hundred Years Late

  1. Embedded songs don’t work in Internet Explorer. Luckily no one uses that any more and it’s all good on Chrome and Safari.

  2. Pingback: Creation vs Destruction | Hundred Years Late

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