As you may have noticed, things are a little different around here. Shady Characters is a little over five years old now, and the original design was starting to fray around the edges: it was not especially readable on mobile devices; PC and Mac users were presented with different fonts; and the underlying code had grown a little stale, leading to ugly citations and unpredictably-sized images.
This new design is my response to all that. Here’s what it entails.
Firstly, all users will now see text set in Sindre Bremnes’ excellent Satyr, with headings set in its “unfaithful companion” Faunus.* Sindre is one of the principals of Norwegian type design studio Monokrom (along with Frode Bo Helland, who helped me greatly in sorting out the minutiae of webfont usage), and he writes of Satyr:1
Curves are hard. Even harder, I think, is making curves and straight lines work well together. And hardest of all is making the transition from line to curve look good. So one day, after a long period of trying to draw type with as few curves as possible, John Downer-style,2 I tried to go the other way, eliminating not the curve but the line. […] But there’s more to Satyr than the lack of straight lines. Although the proportions are vaguely Venetian and the contrast obviously renaissance-influenced, the typeface still can’t be put in any of these coarse categories. The ‘e’ and the ‘a’, most typically, show reversed contrast — the vertical thins seem to change their mind halfway.
In other words, zoom in for a good look! Satyr in particular rewards close examination; Faunus, being designed for larger type, wears its heart on its sleeve.
Aside from the new typefaces, I’ve tweaked the overall design with a view to making things a little more cohesive. The site now scales smoothly from smartphone screens to desktop monitors: font sizes are chosen responsively, images resize and reposition themselves accordingly, and a few other elements rearrange themselves to suit the current screen size. The presentation of references to web pages, newspaper articles, and other problematic article types has been tidied up.
Lastly, I’ve introduced some keyboard shortcuts to make it easier to get around the site. Press ‘j’ to view the next post or ‘k’ to view the previous one. (On list pages, such as the home page, ‘j’ will take you to newer posts and ‘k’ to older posts.) ‘h’ will take you to the home page, ‘/’ to the search box, and ‘c’ to the comments, if available. Try it out, and let me know what you think!
So: here it is, the new version of Shady Characters! There are some other changes under the hood,† and not everything will work perfectly at first, of course, but I hope that this is a decent starting point. I encourage you to have a nose around the site to ferret out any visual or functional bugs. Please leave a comment here with your impressions, whether good, bad or indifferent, or drop me a line privately via the Contact page.
Here’s to the next five years!
- Nina Stössinger assisted with spacing and kerning. ↩︎
- Shady Characters continues to be powered by WordPress, but the new theme is derived from Automattic’s Underscores starter theme and, for the first time, I’ve automated the creation of the final stylesheet with Sass, Grunt and postcss. None of this should matter to you, the reader, except that it will make maintaining the site a little easier in future. ↩︎