griffin & hoxie

griffin & hoxie

Some of you may be familiar with the verbal antics of A. Moses Griffin, and some of you may not. To be brief, he writes about a plethora of topics seemingly at random and does a damn good job with his prose, and he’s blunt. I like blunt. The design is blunt too, and that’s the magic.

For reference, it has been brought to my attention that the design is a modified version of a wordpress theme, but the critique is about the end result, not the means. Read on!

personality

There’s no frills or gradients or flair anywhere, but there’s definitely a personality that surrounds the site. Griffin stands behind his opinion and his type choices affirm that. When someone says something in a dull apathetic lower case typeface, it doesn’t have the strength and confidence of Rockwell. Bold. All caps. Yeah-I-said-it-design. This type of no-nonsense typography gives power to his opinion. It’s not a new technique, but one that seems to have fallen out of things lately. Having seen Helvetica recently I’m reminded of the ad Coke had ran in the 1950’s:

…it doesn’t have the strength and confidence of Rockwell. Bold. All caps.

Coke. The Real Thing.

Much the same as when the Coke ad appeared, the simple powerful headlines drive the point home while everyone else still frolicks with display typefaces.

layout

The layout consists of three equal-width columns on the index page, with the main content taking over two columns width of space on internal pages. The tabbed section at the top of the index is a great way of singling out and assigning focus to the information that is commonly the most relevant to visitors. The layout breaks away from what is typically expected of one man sites. And I hesitate to call it a blog because it feels more like a site dedicated to the opinion section of a newspaper.

The structure of the site is well defined and logical, with the most important content starting from the upper left and the least important sitting in the lower right. The subheadings allow for some witty banter while maintaining usable headlines that can be read while scanning the page.

Detail of subheadings design

criticism

As much as I like the logo type. I’m not a fan of the drop shadow, black text with a dark shadow just creates a blurry edge. In fact, at such a large size it may not need the shadow to make it pop and grab attention. In fact, if it was actually lighter in color it would draw more attention to itself and set a proper hierarchy with the navigation bar.

There’s a few white-space and alignment issues that catch my eye at times where things feel slightly too tight or too large. The image of the ‘quoted’ section above is a good example, the citation seems a little too close to the quote. Perhaps if it was aligned to the right and another size smaller it wouldn’t feel so claustrophobic.

There’s a few things that harken to Subtraction, but they fit in well here and their relative use with other elements that are more full of character change how you look at the Subtraction-esque areas. Sometimes it’s just been done the right way before and the design patterns fit here as well.

design change

It’s been brought to my attention that Griffin & Hoxie will be undergoing a theme change today, here are some further screenshots for when the design does change:

  1. Guy Leech

    I don’t like the main page of this site; it’s cramped, and could definitely benefit from some vertical rhythm. I also think that the top of the ‘Recent Entries’ and ‘Webnotes’ columns should really line up.

    On the entry pages, it does have a nice newspaper-ish feel about it. I also particularly like the illustrations / images that accompany the entries, without them the entries would be fairly boring plain text.

  2. Amos

    I appreciate this critique Kyle, and it came as something of a surprise to be sure. I’ll admit feeling a bit sheepish at your attention in light of the heavyweights that came before this one. Not sure how I feel coming after Jesús Velasco and Coudal Partners, but the attention does tickle the populist streak in me. Like, I hope you continue to target more little know places among the bigger names going forward, but, as I said, that’s the populist in me. Maybe one to many John Edward’s speeches.

    As for the post, I think you’re spot on in your critique. Liked the advice about the header, and I’m kinda uncomfortable with the spacing myself. Feels a bit too cramp, like Guy mentioned, and unbalanced. I normally gravitate towards a free range, rural, stripped down style. This was an attempt to go city because it seemed like a new avenue to explore. Not sure how it fits me, though I might not be the best judge of this so it was good to hear your take.

    So, again, appreciate the critique Kyle, and the thoughts it sparked. Look forward to other folk’s thoughts as well. I get a kick out of reading what did not work. There’s usually gold in there.

  3. Kevin Zak

    That was a very thorough review. I agree with you on the matter of the drop-shadowed logo. It gives the text a blurry aspect whereas the rest of the site is formal and slick. I do not think that any drop-shadow is needed. The text, as you said, is large enough that it bring attention to itself without one.

    In article view format, I think that the page is very aesthetically-pleasing aside from the right-most sidebar. I don’t care for the separators between the links. It doesn’t do a good enough job of breaking down each line, in my opinion.

    I’m not a fan of the search form’s forced-styling. If I wanted to use Safari, I would do so, or I would use a Safari theme for Firefox. I prefer things on a page to collaborate with my browser’s theme. I realize that by using that particular search form, it adds additional functions, but a rather small PHP snippet could solve the issue by serving it only to specific browsers.

    It was a very nice review. I must say, you could not have picked a better site to critique. I had not heard of it until I read the review, but I love Amos’ prose. His edge is a very unique thing in today’s politically correct world, and I love his humorous comparisons.

  4. Benek

    I think this site is quite average in design, and there’s nothing extraordinary about any of the type. I’m surprised it was chosen to review. Quite a let-down after the first two excellent examples.

  5. Kyle Meyer

    @Amos We’re hoping to feature more lesser known sites in the future, as well as large ones.

    @Benek Sometimes typography ties in contextually and this is a great example using content to further add meaning to type choices. While from a purely artistic standpoint it may be more bland than Jesús Velasco for example, it does have some interesting concepts things to learn from.

    Speaking of learning, perhaps a discussion on how to spice up the site could be interesting?

  6. Nicola

    1.11.2008 // Kyle Meyer

    ^ You posted this a month ago eh, Kyle? :P
    Is it bad that I am ignoring the design somewhat and focusing on the funny comments dotted around the index page?
    Heh, not too fond of the ‘featured’ bit at the top. I think it’s the border colours of the tabs that’s throwing me off. It is impressive for what is virtually an imageless design.

  7. kristin

    This site is a very lightly customized version of a free wordpress theme called branfordmagazine…. which is a theme based on two other similar wordpress themes…

    not very unique if you ask me.

  8. Kyle Meyer

    @kristin Thank you for that piece of information, I was unaware of this. Even still, their are some specific decisions that were changed between the initial theme and Griffin & Hoxie, and both the original and modified version are useful for the critique.

    Here’s a link to the original theme.

  9. milo

    Actually is this Branford WordPress theme a copy of Darren Hoyt’s Mimbo theme…

  10. tzReadz

    Hey Kyle, great writeup, don’t let the critics of the critique and review deter you from what you would like to say.

    Hopefully this site will build a strong fan base, and not just attract those who want to say “this site isn’t all that”, too may people want people to stand up and notice their work, and to that end bash everybody else’s work.

    Find something you like about the sites that stand-out to you, and hope it inspires others, or not.

    The presentation of the content goes beyond whatever the wordpress theme started to be!

  11. Darren Hoyt

    Indeed the code and layout are Mimbo, but I like what Amos has done with the styling and typography.

  12. Amos

    Just to be clear for my own sake, and because I like to consider myself an honorable man, I am not passing this theme off as my own creation. No one’s accused me as much, so this is not in response to anyone, more my own need to be clear for the record. I downloaded the theme before the ensuing dust up, for lack of a better word, and after it come to my attention there was some concern over Brandford’s origins, I used Darren’s contact form to ask his advice about how to properly credit the theme, as I confuse easily and it seemed unclear to me.

    With that said, I did put some effort into styling the theme to my liking. The results of that effort are debatable of course, which is all in good fun. Personally what struck me about Kyle’s take on the design was his discussion of how the styling fits my personality, or voice. Can’t say I consciously set out to do this, but it’s an interesting thought. I would think the closer one hews to keeping the style and typography consistent with their tone of writing, the more impact a design might have, that creating what “looks cool” might not be the best approach if it deviates from the style in which you say it. I’d be curious to hear from some professionals if, and how, they factor these decisions into their work.