Been itchy for some reason to totally scrap the WordPress theme I’ve been using and start from scratch. Tweaking occasionally on versions of the previous theme (which I called “Cheap Thrills” but have never released) for about five years, came across this Darkwater template a few weeks ago and it’s been pecking away at my subconscious since. Made a few tweaks last night and put it up. Just a few more kinks to work out. I’m also going to gradually start using the tagging features built into the WP 2.3 core.

Funny, I’ve been wanting to simplify simplify simplify. Darkwater actually is less complicated visually than Cheap Thrills was, but isn’t exactly the stark white thing I thought I wanted. Ever since reading Joseph Campbell back in college I’ve thought of watery scenes as metaphor for the unconscious. Which is maybe why I found this one irresistible – kind of a dreamtime descent.

Let me know what you think – be honest.

Music: Miriam Makeba :: L’Enfant Et La Gazelle

10 Replies to “Darkwater”

  1. I think it looks great. It’s easily readable, the darkwater background image is evocative and handsome but doesn’t interfere with legibility or the layout. The layout is very clean and functional and behaves well while resizing a browser window (at least it does with Safari).

  2. Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, I’m pretty happy with it so far. Digging through the archives and tagging everything is going to take some time though (I’ve got most of 2007 done). Then I’ll make a perty little cloud :)

  3. I’m such a design buff that I want to pitch in my 2 cents. Some more detailed description, to clarify:

    (1) Somewhat “generic” —– I feel as if I’ve seen a light font on really dark background A LOT for blogs, done to differing degrees of success (yours is definitely the cleanest I’ve seen). But somehow they seem a little contrived and “trying too hard” to be cool, if that makes sense. And they really are hard on the eyes.

    (2) I particularly loved the all-lower caps and bolded fonts of your previous scheme (Cheap Thrills). And light-colored font on a medium-saturated colorful background, to me, always looks really elegant. One thing you could do to make Cheap Thrills seem more elegant and less “blocky,” as you say, would be to put the text blocks on very light gray background, instead of white, and then repeat the light gray somewhere in your sections text. But I also really like light green text against dark green background.

    (3) If you ever go back to Cheap Thrills, maybe make the green a little less apple-green and a little more chartreuse-y (throw in a little sickly yellow). I use chartreuse for my website because even though it is a super-strong color, it still somehow registers as “neutral” to me. (Fluorescent pink and burnt orange also have this effect). Of course, maybe you wouldn’t go quite as bold for a blog, but something in a similar color family. (I’ll put a link to my site below.) Or, alternatively, throw up that gorgeous pine tree shadow photograph as your permanent blog banner and design your background around that —– match your background ****exactly**** to that shade of greenish turquoise (and make the corresponding accents light gray and light turquoise).

    Thanks again for many enjoyable birdhouse moments over the past few years. It’s on my short list of daily haunts.

  4. It’s funny – I’ve rallied for years against light text on dark backgrounds from a usability / readability standpoint. And here I am suddenly adopting it, not sure why. Somehow it felt like I could get away with it. Apparently not :)

    And I felt good about using my own theme, rather than cribbing an open source one. But after a while, it just started to feel like time for a change. And once I had that chigger in my brain, it had to happen. Who knows, maybe Cheap Thrills will come back at some point. And if it does, I’ll take your suggestions to heart. But I’m going to live with this for a while and see what grows.

    I love the pine tree shadow too (I shot that up near Tahoe, hiking with Dad, Amy, and Miles, then filtered it in Photoshop) and will maybe try some ways to integrate it into this theme. Not sure that will work, but will have a try.

    But dang, I’m liking your suggestions on ways to integrate that banner into cheap thrills more fully.

    Thanks a ton for the feedback!

  5. Wow, this is… dark. It seems, I don’t know how to put it, “disconnected” from the themes you usually write about.
    I think I liked the previous theme better, but this is your blog of course, and I read it almost exclusively through the feed so I’m not complaining !

  6. Well, looks like the votes are stacking up against Darkwater. So much for my aesthetic judgment. But Larree likes it and I like Larree, so that means something.

    Tweaking themes is suprisingly fiddly work and I prob. won’t have time to fiddle again for a while, but maybe there will be some surprises in the not too distant future (and my time is probably best spent finding content rather than fiddling). Then again, fiddling is fun…

  7. Tweaking themes is definitely more time consuming than it oughtta be, as far as I’m concerned. Also very complicated by the struggle to balance straight-up information presentation/readability with visual appeal.

    That said — I love the way this theme looks, but I hate reading light text on dark. I always get strong after-images from reading that kind of thing. I think it might be worth considering a center box for your text that has a very lightened version of the background image. (Something similar to what’s going on here: http://www.halaka.org/index.php?disco is what I’m thinking.)

    Either way, I’ll keep reading quietly, after-image or not.

  8. Tweaking themes is definitely more time consuming than it oughtta be, as far as I’m concerned.

    True, though I’ve found that tweaking WP themes is easier than any other CMS I’ve worked with – they really do have an excellent theming system (though I wish they had total separation of logic and design, like you get with Django or Rails).

    I’m kind of pleased to learn I’m giving you after-images :)

  9. Tim – thanks for the feedback. Yes, I’m very conflicted about this, as I’ve consistently instructed students not to choose light-on-dark design themes. There was something about this one, though, that for some weird reason made me feel like it wasn’t as difficult to view (maybe the fact that some of the text appeared over lighter water and was therefore less contrasty?) But I think I’ve heard enough feedback now that the writing is on the wall. I’ll probably change it to something else before long… (maybe to a modified version of Cheap Thrills).

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