Assignment 3: Bring your Mind
Estimated time commitment: one hour
(for the love of all that is holy, turn off all your notifications!)
What do you know?
The reflection question for today, inspired by the Scarecrow, is: Do you show the full weight of your brilliant mind on your web site?
I mean, I know you have to keep it simple. But SIMPLE and FULL aren’t contradictory. Sometimes, we can mistake simplification and accessibility for a kind of “dumbing down” of who we are and what we know. And there are a million ways we are taught not to shine, stand out, toot our own horn, blah blah blah. Let’s not listen to those voices.
Chances are, you are in the business you are in because you have devoted substantial time, energy, studies (official or unofficial) and experiences to back up your thinking in your area of work. And, displaying our credentials and social proof can help people know we are legitimate in our claims - but beyond that, do you SHOW what you know, the unique way your mind works, on your web site?
Let’s take stock.
Your assignment: List what you know.
Start with the 5-10 things you know and understand that you think make the biggest difference to those around you. The stuff you take for granted but is in fact really important. What do you know and understand that makes a really big difference? There are all different kinds of knowledge that express themselves in all kinds of ways - physically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally to name just 4. So as you list what you know, let it be open. This isn’t a fact list or a test; this isn’t about the knowledge of the CANON or the authorities; this is YOUR knowledge in all its organized AND wild forms.
Now that you have made this list, how can you demonstrate that brilliant knowing/understanding on your site? Through words? Humor? Images? How do your unique ways of knowing and understanding the world SHOW?
Taking stock of your font choices.
Fonts: a MAGICAL place to notice that words are ALSO pictures. And the qualities of those pictures change the meaning of the words. See:
Two identical sentences, 2 totally different meanings. Our beautiful brains ascribe meaning, and perceive meaning, through completely formal abstract qualities. Swirly. Jagged. Spiraly. Scratchy. If you think you aren’t a visual person, or you can’t “think visually” - you just proved yourself wrong. The brain that sees the difference in the two sentences above can understand the world of typography!
We get overwhelmed by choices when faced with a gazillion font choices with every graphic you want to make. SO here are some nuts and bolts perspectives and tips:
One of the biggest mistakes many people make is to try to get their fonts to do everything, to express the full feeling of the brand. Hence the curly-cues, or the dripping blood.
Fonts are most powerful when they are much LESS packed full of story and specificity. When they can provide a simple structure that holds space for the more changeable and more emotional aspects of imagery, the language, and colors that tell your story. Think of them as a container for the big content - not as the content itself.
Think of many of the brands around you, for example the lettering and fonts used in stores we see often.
Hannaford’s, Stop and Shop, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi’s. Old Navy, J.Crew, Anthropology, Macy’s, Target.
Many of these brands have pretty basic fonts. The small details that differentiate them communicate a LOT, but they also don’t interfere with the meaning-making thats happening in all of the other design and marketing materials these companies employ. The fonts are FLEXIBLE in that they can show up across a variety of visual environments and not stick out like a sore thumb.
Are your fonts trying to do too much? Are they easy to read? Do they create a clear, clean, solid starting point for all the nuance and story that comes in with your images and colors and words and ideas?
Your job today is to think about the role of the fonts in your web site, and make some adjustments.
List your 5 favorite products or brands. This can be the coffee your drink in the morning, a brand of clothing you like, a makeup brand, a nonprofit organization you admire, a political campaign you support…you get the idea. Who is doing a great job?
Now go look at their web sites, and notice which sites feel the best to you. Looking at your favorites, notice the role the font plays in the overall whole. What is the font doing? What are the images doing? What are the words doing? Just notice. The things that resonate with you might have something to do with your own voice, and your own possibilities for selecting fonts for your site.
Go get cozy with Google Fonts! Once you are there, use the “categories” tabs to look first at “serif” fonts, and then at “sans serif” fonts. When you compare them, how do the different sets of fonts make you feel?
Notice also that narrow fonts feel more constricted. Wide fonts feel more spacious. Bold fonts feel…bolder! Light fonts feel LIGHTER! This is all obvious to say - but we are pointing out that the actual visual qualities of these fonts are ALSO personalities and emotional qualities of the fonts. Typewriter fonts feel old-timey. Square-is fonts seem more technological. Notice which font personalities feel more like yours, more like your work’s.
List a few fonts that you find in Google Fonts that you might want to try in your own web site. Then - go ahead! Replace your fonts - and sit with it. See how it feels! And of course, bring your questions and confusions and insights and explorations to the Tactical Imagination Club!
if you want to go further:
Our livestream Q&A’s today are at 10:30am (with Jenny) & 3pm (with Amy).
These times are Eastern Standard Time.