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The Pros and Cons of Art-Directed Blogs

Inspiration, Resources, Web Design | Mar 21, 2011

Art-directed blogs (sometimes also referred to as “blogazines”) are making strides in the blogosphere.

Looking at them, it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon and start creating your own art-directed posts. But it’s not that straightforward.

There are a lot of pros and cons to designing each and every post on your blog.

Below, we’ve covered the most important advantages and disadvantages to creating custom designs for your blog posts and we also included a collection of some great examples.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about art directed blogs in the comments…

 

Pros of Art-Directed Blogs

Art-directed blogs are often beautiful and a lot more fun to read than your average, run-of-the-mill blogs.

A well-designed post adds so much to the reading experience that you can almost count on visitors spending more time on your blog, and browsing around to see what other creative masterpieces you’ve come up with. There are a lot of pros to creating an art-directed blog, not the least of which are these:

There’s More Room for Creativity

Marcel Uekermann: Vertical Farming

An art-directed blog gives you the option to create new designs whenever you write a new post. You can write posts based on the kinds of designs you want to create, or create designs based on the content you want to write. You have complete creative control.

Art-directed posts are a great way to exercise as much or as little creativity as you want. You can do basic things like changing fonts and backgrounds, or go all out and completely change the layout and format for each post.


Suitable for a Variety of Content

Kyle Fiedler: The Spelling of “ove”

One of the greatest things about art-directed posts is that they can adapt to whatever the content requires.

If you have a post that’s very image-heavy, you can design your post around that. If your post is more text-centered, then you can design for easy readability. And if you need charts, graphs, videos, or any other kind of content, you can adapt to fit those, too.

This is a big advantage to blogs that often post a variety of content. But even if your content is more consistent, being able to tailor post design can still help.

Maybe one post is very serious, and you want a more formal design. Another post might be light-hearted and fun, and the design should reflect that. In either case, having a design that can be tailored to what’s on the page adds to the user experience.


They Attract More Attention

Story Matters: Grand Things

This might change as art-directed blogs become more popular, but at present, a well-designed blog post can attract a lot of attention. There are only so many blogs out there that are using art-directed posts well, and they get attention for their innovation.

Again, as more blogs adapt to this, there’s likely going to be a shift in how much attention they get. But well-designed posts will still stand out in the sea of millions of blogs out there.


Can Serve as a Portfolio

Jason Santa Maria: Sugar Smack

For designers who don’t have a huge body of work yet, an art-directed blog can be a great way to show off your design skills. It’s also a good way to show clients that you can design to their needs, based on what will best showcase what they have to say.

Make sure that your art-directed posts, and the content they surround, is something you’d want to share with clients, though, as a bad impression can be hard to undo.


It’s Fun

Dustin Curtis: The Monkey and the Thought Neuron

If you like designing and coding (which, if you’re reading this, is pretty likely), then creating custom designs for each post on your blog is likely something you’ll enjoy doing. Designers generally like designing, and too often don’t get to work on their own projects enough.

An art-directed blog can solve that problem. Having a definite posting schedule can give designers the excuse they need to focus on their own work for awhile, instead of always putting client work first. While client work is obviously important, a designer who never takes time out to work on their own fun projects can get burnt out pretty quickly.

 

Cons of Art-Directed Blogs

Art-directed blogs are still a relatively small niche within the blogosphere. There are only a few dozen blogs out there that are seriously experimenting with custom post designs, though new ones are cropping up all the time. Out of the millions of blogs out there, that’s not even a drop in the bucket. So why aren’t more bloggers jumping on the art-directed bandwagon?

It Takes Longer to Create Each Post

Gregory Wood: Tales of San Francisco

With a regular blog, you write a post, proofread and/or edit it, find an image or two to go along with it, and publish it. A short post might only take you a few minutes to create, while a longer one might take a few days. But in either case, putting new content up on a daily or weekly basis isn’t a big deal.

Individually crafting not just the content, but also the design, for each post for your blog is much more time-consuming. Many art-directed blogs only publish new content once a month, to give themselves time to create the designs for each post. This works well if your blog strategy is based entirely around quality not quantity. But remember that quantity can have some definite benefits, too, not the least of which is that it tends to bring in more traffic (especially from search engines).

Consider carefully whether art-directing each post is something you really want to commit to, or if your blog and your content would be better-suited to a more traditional format.


It’s Harder to Post Timely Content

I Am Steve: NES Advantage

Building on the last item, an art-directed blog shouldn’t be based around current trends, pop culture, or any other topic that relies on timely posts.

When the design of a post can take you days or weeks in addition to the time it takes writing it, you can pretty much bet that whatever trending item you’re trying to post will be old-news by the time you get it posted.

One alternative here is to mix in regular blog posts for timely content with art-directed posts for “featured” content. This strategy overcomes a number of potential drawbacks to art-directed posts.


Requires CSS and HTML Skills

Jason Santa Maria: The Candy Parenthesis

Some designers don’t bother much with CSS and HTML coding, and just outsource that part of their designs. That’s not going to work with art-directed posts (or it’s going to get very expensive). You’ll need to know how to code your posts to work properly within the blog platform you’ve chosen to use.

While there are plugins that can make it easier to art-direct your posts, they still require some coding knowledge in order to best utilize them. If you’re not into coding, you might want to skip the art direction entirely.


It Can Confuse Repeat Visitors

Scott Brown: We Are Anonymous

Think about how much people freak out when Facebook or Twitter gets a redesign.

It can be a bit jarring any time you frequent a website and they suddenly get a redesign. The same thing applies with your blog. If every page on your site looks entirely different from the last page, it can be disorienting.

The answer here is to make sure that some common thread is included on every page. This could be something like the same header or logo, or something else entirely. Get creative with it. But remember that visitors often need something to ground them in the experience, and offer them something.


Can Dilute Your Brand Identity

Dustin Curtis: Get Action

A lot of people work very hard to create a certain personal brand in their business dealings. They have a specific image they portray, and do everything they can to reinforce that image. An art-directed blog can either further reinforce that image, or tear it to shreds.

If you have a specific brand you’re trying to build, make sure that the designs you create for your blog posts reinforce that brand. It’s too easy to undo the hard work you’ve put in with a few designs that don’t quite fit. If your identity is very polished and professional, make sure all your art-directed posts are the same. If you’re casual, your posts should be, too.

If you haven’t built a brand identity, then this isn’t as vital. But consider using your blog posts as the starting point for creating an identity, as it can put you in a better position within your industry, and make you more memorable to those you encounter on a daily basis.

 

60 Great Examples of Art Directed Posts

Story Matters: Sweetness


Story Matters: So Happy Together


Kyle Fiedler: Keeping Curious


Kyle Fiedler: Hey Speedy, Slow Yourself Down


I Am Steve: The Art of Shaving, Part II


I Am Steve: The Death of the Optical Disc


Marcel Uekermann: Kickstart a Social Web Application


Marcel Uekermann: How We Apply 37signals Mechanics to Vacation


Paddy Donnelly: The Importance of Doodling


Paddy Donnelly: It Needs to ‘Pop’


Om Ipit: Koin Keadilan Untuk Prita Mulyasari


Om Ipit: Sejarah Wayang Kulit


Gregory Wood: Braincast


Gregory Wood: 13 Alternative Things to Do with the £429 You’re Going to Spend on an iPad


Jason Santa Maria: All For Me


Jason Santa Maria: Pixy Stix


Dustin Curtis: The Clear War


Dustin Curtis: How Mr. Q Manufactured Emotion


Scott Brown: Zen and the Ego


Scott Brown: Inked


The Bold Italic: Single Space


The Bold Italic: Cat Power


The Bold Italic: Design Within Reach


The Bold Italic: Lovers Are for San Francisco


The Bold Italic: Swing Sets


The Many Faces Of…The Goonies


The Bold Italic: Pride and Prejudice


The Bold Italic: Shine On


The Bold Italic: The Jean Genies


Marc Tonsings Vicionen: Alan Wake


Tuhin Kumar: Good Taste


Tuhin Kumar: Instagram


Tuhin Kumar: Screw Up


Tuhin Kumar: Rebbboundability


Tuhin Kumar: Iron Man 2


Codecandies: Alice in Wunderland


The Many Faces Of…Alan Rickman


Codecandies: TabletTimes


The Stray Muse: Voter Apathy


The Stray Muse: Tongue Worms


The Stray Muse: The Wrong Side


The Stray Muse: What’s the Measure


The Stray Muse: The Harm of Tasting


The Bold Italic: Fungus Amongus


Craig Mod: Woods of Wales: Do Lectures 2010


Craig Mod: Kickstartup


Anmut Und Demut: David Eugene Edwards – Straw Foot


Gregory Wood: Top 5 Zombie Films


Codecandies: Webseiten fur das iPad


The Bold Italic: Shop Class


Travis Gertz: Rekindled


Travis Gertz: Foundation


Anmut Und Demut: The Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer


Chris Coyier: The Safari Challenge


Trent Walton: CMS Breakdown


Dustin Curtis: Sleep (Or How to Hack Your Brain)


Trent Walton: Things I’ve Learned From Car Guys


Trent Walton: You Are What You Eat


Trent Walton: Don’t Make Me Wait


Trent Walton: Non Hover


Design Informer: To Sketch or Not to Sketch?


Design Informer: Designing for the Mind


Design Informer: Giving Users Some Credit


Written and compiled exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman.

What do you think of art directed blogs and their pros and cons? Feel free to leave your thoughts below!

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  • http://inspirationfeed.com/ inspirationfeed

    Honestly I feel that these type of blogs are more unique and will probably get more views, when people share the article. Rather than the same boring post with a few pictures, art directed blogs give you a brand new experience every single time.
    With this great article, you’ve got me wanting to start my very own haha.
    By the way the first image is liked to Uekermann.com/kickstart, just though I would let you know.

  • Sebastian

    Thanks, but the Marcel Uekermann links all lead to the same page.

  • Liam

    So the cons all boil down to one simple fact. Laziness.

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/ TrafficColeman

    In today’s blogging world we strive to look better then the next person, and the same goes for a site. So people are looking to get well designs so that they can stand out..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://www.sametomorrow.com/blog Adam

    Good post, I definitely find its hard for me to post timely content or on a consistent basis. One thing is, I try to post mostly projects that I have been involved in so that can take sometime. I do post things I find inspirational but I try not to flood my blog with that stuff.

  • Adam Jessop

    There was a brilliant post on this over at smashing magazine a while back that intself incorperated its own art-directed design, maybe include it in your examples?

    http://www.smashingmagazine.com/the-death-of-the-blog-post/

    • http://chamberlainwebsolution.dyndns.org/ Web Solution

      I love what i’ve read on the link that you posted saying “I’m never satisfied with my work. Invariably, two weeks after finishing a design, I feel like I can do better. When I originally tried to design my blog, I kept finishing a design, hating it and starting over.” i thought i have a problem mentally but there are also other people having same problem as me. thanks. i also love the content. short but definite!

  • http://anmutunddemut.de ben_

    Wow, thank you! I am deeply. flattered to find my rather simple uniquely designed articles among such stunning masterpieces of art directed blogging.

    And another thanks for collection all those! I hadn’t seen quite a lot of them. It’s so cool to see so much creativity from so many different people.

  • http://www.dessign.net Dessign

    If you want to be unique then you have to build custom blog, those are some nice examples
    Marios

  • http://www.berkemobilya.com.tr Koltuk Takımları

    good content in “Jason Santa Maria: Sugar Smack” i have read it before. it just lol!

  • http://www.berkemobilya.com.tr Koltuk Takımları

    i have seen it before “They Attract More Attention” it was very good. good content.;)

  • http://www.martiandesign.com David Platt

    Very bad post. I think you mean well designed blogs, not art directed blogs. And most of these are designed very poorly. What’s the point of this post? that well designed blogs are better than badly designed blogs?

  • http://wordpressapi.com Sony

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. As per my thought blogs are about quality content. Art directed blogs are always good to see but when this is coming to grabbing information from blog then we should keep minimum design and art for our blog. Heavy designs will distract user from the content. So we should keep in mind some points.
    1. Which Audion your site going to target.
    2. What is topic of your site.
    3. How you are presenting your site.
    4. Which designs you are using
    5. Which colors you are using
    6. Country wise color trends are changing

  • http://www.getlucid.net/blog Kim Phillips

    Hard to get paid for that much eye-candy.

  • http://www.webdesignmauritius.info Web Design Mauritius

    I personallysee these kind of blogs as full of resources. Thanks for posting this.

  • Helton

    Really like the “They Attract More Attention” part.

  • Willie

    Excellent article!

  • http://www.codemyconcept.com/ CodeMyConcept

    An image is worth a 1000 words! But you have to learn how to use them.

  • http://gauravmishra.com Gaurav Mishra

    Almost covered the industry people!
    Great one!!

  • http://anthonykarlharris.com AKH

    I’ve tried this with my blog. The Possibilities are great. Here’s my shot at a post/page dedicated to early 90s Mtv: http://anthonykarlharris.com/early-90s-mtv/

  • Scotty

    I’d love to see a follow-up article on easy methods to do this type of unique layout in popular CMS’s like WordPress, CMSMS & Drupal. Being a programmer/designer I can obviously do it no matter what it takes, but having a CMS set up for this type of high-customization for an editor without access to the script files, etc. is another challenge.

    Good article, thanks

    • http://vector.tutsplus.com/ Sean Hodge

      I would like to see a post that shows how to do this, or even points to some templates for sale that include layout options to take advantage of more diversity in blog post layouts.

  • http://ilovetoronto.com/ Heather

    I have been thinking about redesigning my web page recently and I think that this kind of web design is just what I want. Since all cons apply to lazy people only, so partially to me as well, but I am sure that I can fight it pretty effectively. Thanks for the tip. Your choice of art directed posts is great. I liked “Travis Gertz: Rekindled” very much.

  • http://www.art-a-designer.ru ART_A_DESIGNER

    In that case , what do you say about my blog?? Give us your opinion in the comments to posts on my site. Thank!