Design and Digital Demise (Process Post #6)

Virginia to Vegas. Official Website. GO!

When thinking about a website who’s design elements I was to critique, the first thing that came to mind was the Virginia to Vegas Official Website. Virginia to Vegas (Derik John Baker) is a Canadian indie-pop music artist who, over the course of his career, has shaped and molded himself to fit a certain aesthetic. His color palette is mostly neutral and earthy tones, and feels very dreamy with a touch of melancholy. Most of his music is upbeat-sad breakup shit that all sounds the same, exempt from “Malibu” and maybe “betterman,” but my Virginia to Vegas music critique can be saved for another time. 

Visiting his site feels like stepping into a room where the walls and ceiling and floor are all painted white, and someone tells you to “GO.” Where am I going? What am I doing? What is my purpose? SOMEONE GIVE ME A SIGN?

See for yourself if you haven’t already: Virginia to Vegas Official Website

overall visuals

In terms of design, Virginia to Vegas doesn’t miss. It’s clear that his objective is that minimalist, quirky and artsy style. Very simple, nothing busy, all very balanced, using very basic symmetry to appeal to the eye. In terms of other design elements such as rhythm and unity, I think that opting for the simple minimalist style helps to check these boxes. The colors all go nicely together, and help to emphasize his sort of modern-indie aesthetic as an artist. That being said, I don’t think having such a small header was the best design choice in terms of proportion. Having it stand out more, or even in a different color could help to balance the page out some more as well as add some clarity to the site.
Scrolling down, you find multiple wide-set tabs that display a photo of Derik with links to his new album and newest lyric video. I think the way that these tabs don’t take up the whole screen and keep the homepage in the background is very visually satisfying. I’ve not seen anything quite like this done before, and reminded me a touch of the formatting in the Gertz (2015) reading. In which Gertz (2015) offers that “everything looks the same,” something I think Virginia to Vegas’ website managed to escape at least a little bit, while still keeping that standard simple modern look. That being said, I find that the way the image for the home page was shot having the guitar head out of the frame sort of cuts the balanced feel, but that’s if I’m being picky. It feels as though you should be able to scroll down and see the full image, or watch it morph into something new. On that note, that’s my main design issue.

to he** with the scroll

Initially, when you arrive at the site, you’re presented with Derik! You quite honestly can’t miss him. Right there, smack center of the page. But then what? There’s side widgets with small social media icons, suggesting links to all his social platforms, as well as a small chunky header on the top of the page. To begin with, this header is a light gray, which doesn’t contrast nicely against the light background, making it a little difficult to identify the images beneath the “Virginia to Vegas” title header. Eventually you realize that’s part of his brand logo and site icon, but that doesn’t really get you anywhere. Click the header? It’s not a link. Click Derik? He’s not a link. Click the widgets? Oh no! Suddenly you’re on his Instagram! You don’t want to be there, you’re trying to see things on his website.

Do you see where I’m going with this? The whole nature of the homepage image makes it feel as though you’re waiting for something to load, and it takes a moment before realizing what you need to do is scroll. Yet even when you do scroll, it doesn’t take you far. There’s only two external links on the wide-tabs, and a column of links to his social media. What about tour dates? Merch? A mailing list? Just general news and information about Virginia to Vegas? You’ve walked into a white room and been told “Go.” 

I’m inclined to believe that Derik’s own design could be his digital demise. But on the flip side…

is it all so bad?

With this critique in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a method to his madness. The slight lack of clarity is just enough to make you want to explore the site, and do some digging. It’s like a little adventure. In doing so, he also beats the very typical website layout, such as that of The Weeknd’s Official Website, which has your standard horizontal menu sitting atop an array of images and videos you can scroll through.
In comparison, I think the Bleachers Official Website does an excellent job of presenting a unique and fun page, while still ensuring clarity and interest. In fact, the Bleachers site has quite a funky homepage, that feels sort of busy and chaotic while still maintaining symmetry and balance, as well as a clear point of focus.

sorry for being so harsh, Derik

Overall, I think Virginia to Vegas’ website has great design aesthetics, but is slightly lacking on design functionality. From my experience, most times out of ten when I visit an artist’s page, I care to find tour dates and news – something which isn’t clearly expressed on Virginia to Vegas’ page. But! Perhaps his modern, minimalist, quirky, neutral-toned, modern hippie-esque, indie fanbase knows exactly where to go and what to find, and that is Derik’s public, and his dreamy design may not be his digital downfall, but rather his upswing.

Gertz, Travis. 2015. “Design Machines. How to survive in the digital Apocalypse.”

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