Recently, we created a masthead for a freelance editor’s website. Nothing fancy, she requested, just something understated and professional. The project didn’t start with Doodler, our Art Director, diving into a library of fonts. It began with the client and I identifying her core ‘products’.
You normally have four types of products: the star performer, the profit maker, the traffic builder and the waste of space. She told me what her star products, or core editorial services, are. Doodler came up with several versions of typography: ITC Franklin, ITC Cheltenham, Adobe Garamond Pro and Hoefler Text. The client chose Franklin Gothic, and asked us to change the baby blue shaded box that we proposed to grey.
The client decided to stick to the most pragmatic-looking masthead. Nothing fancy. There is nothing wrong with being understated. In fact, when I was rebranding the masthead for Animal Pharm website for an e-newsletter called Pharm Fresh some years ago, I decided not to drop the Arial font and the cross symbol (+). Doodler said the cross made the masthead, and she was right. She also gave me a good advice: “Why do you have to have farm animals in the masthead of ‘Pharm Fresh’? Why not have grass and dew drops instead? It’s about freshness”. So I came up with the masthead below. No animals were hurt in the rebranding:
Doodler recently did some rebranding of the SWXX masthead, as well as the one of Story of Books. “I think the SWXX is tacky,” she said as she eyed the italicised strap line ‘Compendium of Southwest Fulham’. “Nah, keep it, it looks great,” I countered, “It’s Arts and Craft.” She wanted to put rowing blades there, because I returned to coxing recently. Blades and looms? I’ll be curious to see how they look like.
And she did a real pretty job out of Story of Books. I won’t show you the old one. It was good looking, but I thought the masthead could do looking a bit more conservative, profound and have that feel as if it has been around forever. Like books. “Baskerville and William Blake” was my brief to Doodler. “Umm,” she pondered as she played with the O’s and the word “Of” in Adobe Illustrator, “Do you want this spread across the top of the website, or sit in the centre like that?”. “Centre, please,” I said.
Of course, I’ll spare the details of how I tidied up the cascading style sheet (CSS) around the goddamn things. Some WordPress platforms have this bad habit of replicating the declaration for #header twice when you upgrade to custom CSS. Why? I have no idea. As a result, you get a real crappy empty space about 70px thick sitting on top of your masthead. It drove Doodler nuts, so I spent time reading the style sheets and duly removed the offending repetition. It was time well spent, though. A masthead makes or breaks your website.