Armchair BEA: A Question of Aesthetics

ArmchairBEA-LogoExampleToday’s Armchair BEA topic is about aesthetics: what we think about the purely visual qualities of books, and also of our blogs. To what extent do looks matter to us? How do they affect our reading experience?

Although I can look past the drawbacks of an ugly or poorly designed book if the content is worthwhile, I am so much happier with a beautiful book package in my hands. I think it’s a fascinating challenge to match the visual and tactile qualities of physical books to the really quite different aural/literary experience of reading, and I so appreciate the work of designers, illustrators, and binders who do this important job. I’ve grown to value the convenience of e-books, too, but sometimes their lack of aesthetic quality grates on my nerves.

Pride and Prejudice Folio
Pride and Prejudice, Folio Society

I’ve written about some of my favorite “beautiful books” in these posts:


I’ve also had a lot of fun writing about good and bad cover art:


forest-words-pagesI find blog design to be if anything even more important than book design. There are blogs that I can’t follow or even look at because they are so cluttered, have too many clashing colors, or distract me with flashing things. Plain, unassuming blogs are fine, but I do really like to see a nice design that, as well as facilitating easy reading, also shows off something of the personality and style of the blog author. Here are some of my favorites:


It may be totally unfair, but when a blogger has a visual style that resonates with me, I’m more likely to pay attention to his or her words. I also started enjoying my own blog much more when I replaced my clunky self-made attempts with a custom design that I absolutely love.

This topic is endlessly fascinating to me, so I’d love to know your take on it. Please comment or share your own posts below!

What makes a great book blog design?

Graphic design is an art form that we don’t always think about because it surrounds us every day, yet I’m fascinated by how it subtly influences our experience of everything we read. I recently had my own blog redesigned to reflect my own preferences, and I’ve noticed both that it both gives me significantly more personal satisfaction, and appears to have led to increased traffic. When it looks good, more people want to visit, it seems.

Everyone has different tastes, though, and I wonder what your preferences are. Do you love dark backgrounds? Bright colors? Bare-bones designs? Do you not care at all about what a blog looks like, and just zoom in on the content? Please let me know in the comments!

Here are my top criteria for a book blog design, and some shout-outs for blog designs that I especially like.

Clean, simple, and easy to read
I prefer designs that don’t have too many elements, and that arrange them in a sensible way with plenty of breathing space. I have a hard time with light text on dark background, patterns behind text, busy sidebars, or flashing/animated things.

Something unique
A lot of bloggers rely on premade templates, and/or have gone to a very simple and streamlined look, and that’s fine. But I appreciate seeing some unique and creative element that highlights the blogger’s personal style, like a custom-made header or other image.

Fonts that work
I’m somewhat obsessed with typography, and I adore new and different fonts — but they should be used sparingly. An unusual display font can work for post titles or brief headings, but it should still be readable. And for longer stretches of text, it’s best to stick with classic serif or sans-serif fonts. Finding fonts that work together is another art, playing with similarity and contrast without creating a chaotic mess.

Harmonious colors
Color is an extremely personal choice, but my preference is for more subtle, non-clashing combinations.

A meaningful whole
Layout, images, fonts, and colors all provide opportunities to give non-verbal cues about your personality and interests, as reflected by your blog. When these all come together to express something about the content itself, that’s great design!

Here are a few blogs that have all of these qualities — and terrific content too. What are your favorites?

Posted for the 2015 Book Blog Discussion Challenge, hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight