daniel mall

daniel mall

It’s a tough thing, reviewing sites designed and built by friends. But then, it’s also very easy, because my friends are great web designers! Well, you didn’t think I’d associate with bad designers, did you?

Joking aside, you’re about to read a review of Dan Mall’s site, which I can promise you is completely unbiased, for the simple reason that I fell in love with Dan’s site long before I met or got to know him. The site, I said! I fell in love with the site. Not Dan.

not afraid to be brave

So, typography. Bloody loads of it! In fact, here we have a site that’s made up almost exclusively by typography, with barely an image in sight. This reliance on typography for design is striking from the outset and it’s a brave move. But then, this site is all about brave moves, done in the simplest of ways. For a start, the entire site is squeezed into a tiny weeny little column, aligned to the left; except that to say ‘squeezed’ is to belie its beautiful design: there’s not a hint of any element wanting for more space. The grid, too, is extremely minimal: just three equally wide columns, with text spanning two columns where necessary.

The other brave move is staring you right in the face: the site is purely black and white, with the only colour appearing in the form of the orange links. Ok, there’s some grey for some of the link hovers, but that’s grey; not colour. Dan’s decision to style the links as small-caps is also a nice touch.

Example of the justified headlines

The site’s newspaper-like quality (suggested by the tall, narrow columns, black-and-white colour scheme, solid borders, and choice of serif for almost all copy) is nicely offset by Dan’s decision to use a sans-serif for the headline 3 tags. These image-replaced tags also employ the print design tradition of altering the font size on each line to create a justified style. And given their prominence, they’re rendered in grey, presumably so as not to eclipse the other text too much. What a nice, subtley executed consideration.

Speaking of image replacement, each headline 2 is an image, presumably so that a tighter control can be obtained over the typography. In his latest post, ‘Holy Matrimony’, about his marriage to Emily, Dan’s used the freedom of image-based text to replace the ‘O’ in the words with their wedding rings.

Creative use of image replacement


Me being me, I personally like to see lots of things ‘going on’ in a website, and so as much as I praise Dan’s minimalism, I can’t help but think the site would be improved if there were more little nuggets of design to ‘find’. My other criticism is a weird one: I happen to know that Dan has a rather gorgeous new version in the works, and I can’t wait to see that live. So my criticism is: get on with it, Dan! That aside, the left alignment makes things feel a bit odd at large monitor sizes, as the expanse of white-space to the right of the site becomes overbearing.

Danielmall.com has been around for a while, but it still looks nicer than most blogs out there today. It hasn’t aged, and there’s still loads to learn from its stripped-back minimalism. More than anything, it’s proof that one can rely almost exclusively on typography for web design.

  1. inspirationbit

    Now I too can’t wait to see Daniel Mall’s new version (will it be a complete opposite of the current style? will it use images?), though I’ll definitely miss this one of a kind site, that rules in the world of super minimalistic designs.

  2. Dan

    A good, to-the-point review for a wonderful site. Daniel’s simplicity in design is refreshing. Minimal imagery (makes it real special when he does use images!), wonderful typography, no gradients, no bevels, no bling. Looking forward to the next installment of the site!

  3. Kevin Zak

    I’ve always loved Daniel’s website. One little detail that I doubt anyone else cares about is the bullets. I really dig the small arrows for some reason. They just look cool and keep up with the minimalism.

    The borders are excellently done and the entire website is really impressive for as small as it is. It may be because I am used to the terrible font rendering of Windows and Linux, but the latest headline always looks a little blurry to me. Everything else is fairly sharp, but the text on “Holy Matrimony” just has this outer blur that makes the rounded parts (such as the o (on the version without the ring replacing it)) look jagged.

  4. kevadamson

    Great site. I like the left alignment. I don’t think it looks odd at all. In fact, it serves to double the amount of space available to put other window panes etc. than if it was set in the middle.

    I was also thinking, upon seeing the review, that it may be another site that only really looks its best in Safari, but it actually looks really great in the ‘un-anti-aliased’ browsers.

  5. Leon P

    Grrrrr Times not Georgia. I like the simplicity and the focus on text, though, and the fact that it doesn’t try to use all of the screen. It just uses what it needs. And it doesn’t try and use 16 columns.

    The colour scheme reminds me of Jon Tan’s site, as does the linkage in small caps. The orange doesn’t contrast with the background enough, though.

    I’m not a fan of replacing text with images - I like being able to copy and resize text.

    I see what you mean about it looking like a newspaper. I keep reading Daniel Mall as Daily Mail.

  6. Miiitch

    I love how Elliot uses the proper spelling of the word “colour”.
    Yes, it DOES have a ‘u’.

  7. Harley

    It’s just the Non-Imperial way of spelling it, that’s all.
    It’s a nice site… It’s kinda bland for my taste though. It was risky going all black and white with some orange, and I think that for some people it would do the job, but not for everybody.

  8. Tor Løvskogen Bollingmo

    Leon P, Times has it’s place and it’s own style, you can’t just switch it with Georiga, it’s like switching from Arial to Verdana. But I agree to a certain extent, TNR is very hard to use well.

  9. Leon P

    Tor - I think Times looks great at larger sizes on the screen. At smaller sizes it’s hard to read, especially when used as body copy. Or that could be my failing eyesight, of course. I can appreciate that it confers an old world, bookish feel to a site, or that it’s a tempting choice as it’s been rather neglected over the years, but I think readability should come before these considerations.