Introducing the New Design

Visual Design
If you’ve been reading Civilities through an RSS reader, as 79 Bloglines subscribers presumably are, you may be missing some of the design changes I’ve introduced today. I really wanted to make the front page more pleasing to read on its own, and also get ready (or rather, procrastinate) for the long-overdue Drupal upgrade.

The logo is sharper. The old Civilities logo was a crumbling mess. The new logo has more body, with a crisper serif font, Andalus. I had always wanted to do something with the four i’s in civilities logo, so I turned the second one around. The result is that it looks like it’s reaching out to the i to its right (but it also turns its back on the leading i; interpret that how you wish). I also wanted to emphasize the structural theme, so I connected the dots to their stems. In addition, the brick motif frames the title. I put a small picture of myself in the corner. There’s plenty room for more contributers.

The tagline makes sense. The old tagline “Constructing Informative Viewpoints” was a forced base for the acronym CIV, and it’s now gone. Whatever it communicated, it was presumptuous, and I never really liked it. It’s now “media structures research” which is a better approximation of what I’m trying to do here.

The colors are more familiar. The old color scheme was tan-and-maroon, echoing the executive-briefcase-style used by Slate and the Online Journalism Review (which simply reflects its school colors, USC Cardinal and USC Gold). I had always wanted to switch to blue, which is more common among software projects– particularly Drupal, which this software uses. I picked this teal on the PaintShop color wheel, and it looked nice, the color of a few shirts of mine.

The departments have been extended and given a little more personality. As noted in the launch of this site, the departments approach defines different story types, carrying forth the useful convention in the periodical trade of giving a sense to the reader what they should expect in a given article. Also it encourages the editorial process to produce a balance of writing styles. (The departments approach is continued by Slate and OJR, but rejected by the blogging approach).

Those at the bottom, showcasing the normative style of writing, have remained with the same direct names. The sections at top are the lighter pieces, in a more narrative style (see Normative and Narrative). The top three of these are meant to serve as jumping-off points for, or short reframing of, subsequent normative pieces.

We start off with Shoot First which is naturally followed by Ask Questions. The former is about quick thoughts which one would expect to see in a typical blog post. The second are questions that I’d love to have answered, but don’t have time to investigate. The third section, Out Sourcing, showcases excursions into the real world to make contact with sources and produce traditional reporting stories.

I’ve also re-classified some humor and poetry pieces into a department called Word Play. Announcements and corrections are placed under Course Corrections. I plan on enhancing the navigation to be able to see all stories of a given type.

New space for the graphic arts. The two-column layout at top forced wrapping of some of the longer headlines. I moved them all into one column, which gave me a bit of space at right. Seeing the space opened up, I thought I’d use it as an occasion to dig into my photo library, and start putting up seasonal pictures. Or I could use t as a pointer to stories from the archive that may be forgotten. I’d like to eventually set this on a random generation; I’m not sure how yet, or where even I’ll serve the photos from. For now it’s a picture of a tree in Arnold Arboretum in full fall bloom. Regrettably it’s two years old– an excursion to the Arboretum today revealed that the awful rainstorms have wrecked havoc on most of the fall foliage.