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.
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.
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.Want more? Check out the archives for previous reviews, and don’t forget to subscribe for future reviews, posted weekly.