Santa Fe poet, Michael G. Smith has lived through a very interesting story. He worked for many years as a chemist at Los Alamos labs before a health crisis thrust him onto a path he never expected to take. After a serious stroke turned his world upside down, Michael found healing and refuge in the practice of writing poetry and Zen meditation.
Now, this in and of itself is a fascinating story, but encountering his poetry is even more touching. How many writers combine their passion for Zen meditation and science? How many scientists get excited about teaching the underlying mathematics in poetry? After knowing him for a few years, it’s interesting to watch him on an ongoing path of investigation, writing and teaching on the subject of how poetry and science are so similar.
If that’s not enough, he’s also an avid hiker, exploring the Grand Canyon on annual trips despite the limitations his condition has on his energy level. All of these interests compose a beautiful, truth-seeking mind, but I must say after getting to know him he is anything but complicated in his presentation or demeanor.
So how to design a website for him?
When Michael came to me inquiring about a WordPress web design to showcase his poems as well as a place to journal about nature, science and meditation in Santa Fe, I knew it had to be intelligent, creative and minimal in its design and architecture. After tinkering on a design in Photoshop for a couple of hours, I got up from my chair and walked across the room to obtain a different vantage point. Even though viewers would rarely look at a website from 6 or 7 feet away, standing up and stepping back allows me to see with fresh eyes from a new perspective. In this case, I knew immediately I was on the wrong track. The design looked like it could have belonged to any other writer with a focus on nature. The initial design didn’t feel personal enough, and lacked the balance and simplicity of the work he would be showcasing.
So I popped back into the chair, promptly trashed the photoshop file and started fresh. This design is what emerged shortly after.
The Web Design Tipping Point
Truth be told, this is one of my favorite website to date–my first WordPress web design for Santa Fe author. When I look at it I’m reminded of the tipping point in design–when adding one more thing ends up taking away from the client’s purpose, clouding their message.
With this tipping point in mind, the biggest challenge was how to present the poetry section, which is the site’s main focus. While we wanted it to have a look and feel that was a bit different from other areas of the site, we also didn’t want the design to distract the reader.
The solution, which is illustrated in the screen grabs above and below, blends a photograph from nature into the background paper texture, creating a soft visual echo of the words resting on each page. All of these muted background images were taken during my first year in New Mexico, reflecting the beauty of the environment Michael works in.Visit Michael Smith Poetry now!