Gray is the New White

Firstly, before you do anything else, check out Veerle's newly redesigned site. All beefed up on Expression Engine, this site has so many nice touches, I'm flabbergasted. Maybe more so because I wasn't a big fan of her old design. One of the things that I love about it is the typography. The font choice is superb and is used effectively on the site.

Veerle screenshot

My concern is that Expression Engine or her server isn't really able to handle heavy traffic. With the new design, I'm finding the site is going up and down from minute to minute.


The blog also becomes another in what is becoming a huge succession of light on gray designs. Here's just a few:

I'd even say it was inspired a little by Lealea with such creative typography.

LCD's to blame?

I suspect the influx of dark gray has much to do with LCD screens. These sites look nice and shiny on my LCD in comparison to the dull over-exposed look of CRT. Expect to see more like this. Personally, I'm on the edge of wanting to redesign this site with all of this fantastic inspiration. It's going to be hard to resist.

Published March 01, 2006 · Updated March 01, 2006
Categorized as Design
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Lea said on March 01, 2006

I'm guessing the up-and-down time is Veerle doing last minute tweaks -- the "site offline" message is when someone purposely turns the system "off" in the EE control panel while they do some troubleshooting or edits.

Either way, I don't know if I can take the credit for creative typography, but I'm always happy to see designers play with type. Hurray!

I have a really wonderful CRT monitor at the moment and the dark grey still looks great on my end, too.

adam said on March 01, 2006

I see what you mean about it going up and down :( I was browsing quite happily showed a freind and it was telling me it was offine.

I just wish I had design skills like that :(

Matthijs said on March 01, 2006

Although I am impressed by the design I'm not sure I like the light text on dark background (-trend). It looks good, I must admit. But for a realy content-rich website with great articles and tutorials, I find readability a lot more important then a first visual impression (or second, third, whatever). I will comment this on her site too if it's online again.
Maybe there should be some midway. like you did on this site Jonathan, using some dark background around the design but at the same time white as the background for the main content area.

Jeroen Mulder said on March 01, 2006

I like the shift to these darker backgrounds. I've been meaning to do the same in my next redesign (considering my current is basically just white), but I have yet to find the time .. maybe I need to hurry up before it'll be all 'sooo 2006' ;-)

Levi said on March 01, 2006

I agree w/ (Matthljs?). There's a reason that books have been printed with dark on white type for hundreds of years.

Lea said on March 01, 2006

Levi and Matthijs -- yes, generally speaking, dark text on light backgrounds can be the most readable, especially when dealing with large chunks of text. However, as usual, there are always exceptions.

Also, I think it's a bit unfair to use the printed medium as a defence for dark text on light background as we are playing with different visual fields here.

For example, have noticed how much faster your eyes get tired reading large blocks of text on screen versus reading it in a book or newspaper? It's because light is diffused and is not directly coming from the book, while a screen is made up of well... light. So, it can be argued -- and has been argued successfully -- that it may actually beneficial to have light tex on dark backgrounds as it's kinder to eyes looking on a screen. A predominantly white screen is akin to shining a dull flashlight to your eyes for an extended period time because it's so light and bright.

It's for that reason even that some coders decide to change the background colour of their text editor to black, as opposed to white, as they feel more comfortable looking at that combination for long periods of time than the other way around.

In the end, it's personal preference. I code with dark text on white bg, but I have light text on dark background on my website.

P.J. Onori said on March 02, 2006

The site design is definitely well done. I personally think it's due to the great visual and informational organization.

David said on March 02, 2006

I'm actually doing a 'relaunch' of my own site, shifting to a darker palette -- and I love the theme HERE, the particular multi-column approach, that I've tried to play off that style to my particular needs. Thanks Snook for having such creativity!

My old site is very white... I'm not a great web designer, though I've done my share of visual/graphics design stuff here and there. My new site will be trying to make things visually more interesting -- most of the classic blogs are scrunched blocks of black-on-white, and I'm trying to 'pull myself out' of the standard. To that end, the main column/block on a given page will be a cool, dark gray.

And I agree with much of what Lea says. I'm a coder, and spend many late nights in a dark office with green text on black background! ;)

Keep an eye out, as I'm putting the new site up on the new domain hopefully in the next few days -- would love feedback from some full-time designers. ;)

Jonathan Snook said on March 02, 2006

btw: just in regards to the whole light on dark, dark on light argument, I find the biggest issue with light on dark is when I go to dark on light, I'm practically blinded. Like in the movies when they have a really dark scene and then suddenly switch to a daytime scene. It's jarring.

Travo said on March 02, 2006

Dude, don't stress too hard about your own site. I just discovered this blog and love your style. Cheers.

Satya said on March 03, 2006

thanks for providing the similarly designed sites. i was looking for them when i saw veerle's.

Corey Csuhta said on March 03, 2006

I'm not totally a fan of the light text on dark background, mostly because after a while it becomes a headache to read large paragraphs of text unless you pull off the color contrast just right. What I do like, though, is a design like this site where the main readable content is on white, while the complimentary elements (like the forms and comment headers) are on black with light text. They pull off the cool look without sacrificing readability to the main content.

And the book argument does have a point; it's always been easier to focus on dark text on white backgrounds.

Manno said on March 03, 2006

dustin diaz applied also light on dark for text though webdeveloper-webdesigner
where the site owner of is webdesigner-webdeveloper simply better design touch

Manno said on March 03, 2006

>The blog also becomes another in what is becoming a huge succession of light on gray designs. Here's just a few:

+1 more

Mubashar Iqbal said on March 09, 2006

I'm totally a fan of light on dark, in fact a couple of months ago I started a showcase of sites that use a light on dark color scheme:

Garret Kane said on November 12, 2008


Cheryl Lancaster said on November 13, 2008


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