Randomization Within Reason

An article by David Brooks on June 26, 2007


I’ve started to get tired of the blog look. That doesn’t mean I’ll not be using it anymore or that it’s inherently evil, this isn’t Comic Sans we’re talking about here. Rather, it just seems that it’s the basic design out there, the thing that everyone is doing. I realize that everyone has their own spin and that a blog design is just the basic layout, the rest is up to the designer. I know that a good designer will make the blog layout do amazing things and really I’m not knocking that, the standard photo on top, multi-column blog design may be the best in a lot of circumstances. That being said, I went to work on something that I thought would be the exact opposite: I’m calling the idea Randomization Within Reason.

The concept is fairly simple, you give a basic set of elements in XHTML and then you tell CSS to style it. The catch is that you write the CSS dynamically with PHP so that you can use randomization within the display. My hope was to create something that make me think outside the box.

What this is and is not

There should probably be some clarification about the point of this experiment…

1. This is not a fully functional website. There aren’t multiple pages, links, images, etc.

2. It doesn’t work entirely in Internet Explorer, the layout randomization is there but the moving Flash background isn’t. You’ll at least get the basic idea of what I was pushing for.

3. This is not intended to show “the right way of doing things.” It’s really all about the concept of dynamic layout and displaying things in ways I wouldn’t have previously tried.

Executing the Concept

With that in mind, some of the designs this page can produce are very good, some of them are very bad. It all depends on a variety of things, mostly being luck. This also depends on your outlook. If you expect this design to be “all there is to it,” it’s not going to happen. Personally, when I look at this I’m looking for font sizes, unique layouts of the presented paragraphs and list items, and placement and size of the headline text. The floating circles are pretty useful as well, to me, because it breaks up the negative space in ways I wouldn’t have though of as well. (The circles are also randomly generated with different sizes, transparencies, colors, motion and position.)

Obviously there are things that could be expanded, I’m thinking specifically about the color scheme, XHTML elements, and maybe defining some more rules (more unique and in some cases more restraining). I thought about delaying the release of this article until I had done some more of that type of thing, but I think this gets the point across well enough for now. In the future I might expand on this concept, for now I’m content with the way this turned out, seeing as it’s a proof of concept.

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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