In my previous article, we explored my portfolio’s visual narrative as a vehicle for expressing vulnerability and uncertainty. I wanted to use it to establish an honest, open way to connect with my audience.
This second part is a further descent into my dark inner— and now digital— world. Let’s analyze the aesthetic of my portfolio and social media channels: where it comes from and the reasons behind it.
The Basis of a Dark Theme
Oh, I know I’m hardly being original; if such a thing is even possible. Many people have used dark aesthetic choices in their lives for a wide variety of reasons: from the ideological to the superficial. (Black clothes do make you look slimmer, after all). Wearing all black has had many associations throughout the years depending on era and culture.
Nowadays, dark themes or dark modes is an aesthetic choice that many websites and apps offer. The way we perceive dark themes today deeply resonates with what I want my work to be: something that’s instantly recognizable and an alternative to what’s conventional — the dark on light scheme originally designed to simulate the appearance of ink on paper.
The end result is an aesthetic choice that’s sleeker, sharper, and friendlier to your eyes (dark mode enhances the legibility and readability of content).
See? Not everything comes down to personal whim, User Experience is important to me, too.
But… Why does it have to be so dark?
That’s a question I’ve heard my entire life. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to know me in person, you’ve probably seen me wearing nothing but dark colors. I’ve been privileged enough that, until now, I haven’t felt the need to defend my life choices as I’ll do in this article.
I believe that a writer’s role, above all things, is to be as true to themselves as they can be. This in itself is much harder than it seems.
When it comes to my personal portfolio, using any other aesthetic choice seemed like a digression to what’s been one of the few constants in my life.
After all, this is a place to showcase my work the way every artist does. And my work is personal. It may not seem so, given that it focuses on content marketing, and branding. These are words that we rarely link to writers and artists. Yet, they rest upon what every artist does:
Where does this obsession come from?
It’s a fascinating plunge, tracing how people began associating black clothing with creativity, artistry, a sense of mortality, and unconventional thinking — at least in western society. You can trace it back from Hot Topic stores and mainstream culture to gothic subculture icons like Robert Smith and Tim Burton, and fall down, down the rabbit hole.
For me, it began with a teenage resistance fighter during the German occupation that became the singing muse of bohemian postwar Paris: Juliette Greco.
Who is Juliette Gréco?
Juliette Gréco is simply Paris and grande dame of chanson française. I mean, just stop reading for a while and listen to her, I’ll wait.
Back already? Okay, let’s continue.
Juliette Grecó Greco was widely known within philosophical and writing circles. She was close friends with Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Jacques Prevert, and Boris Vian. Her circle of friends among the French post-war bohemian scene earned her the nickname “the muse of the existentialists.”
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gréco took to wearing her trademark black trousers and slender cashmere polo neck. It began as a stage costume, but then it became a personal style statement that spread among the artists, writers, intellectuals, and philosophers that made up the bohemian scene in post-liberation Paris.
These people had a profound impact on post-war thought in Western Civilization. They were often perceived as critics or rebels against tradition. Gréco’s style became an iconic representation of their subculture. From there, mainstream media almost always portrays existentialists, non-conformists, bohemians, or artists in Greco’s trademark monochromatic style.
Aesthetic choices like these are a symbol of non-conformity or allegiance to more esoteric values. We adopt them because we feel they fit with our residual self-image or what we want to project.
My Approach to Dark Aesthetic
So, thanks to dark themes websites and dark mode apps, monochrome is a trend that’s been increasingly adopted in the digital world, including digital marketing, web design, photography, and video.
Beyond quirk, I wanted to use this style in a visually cohesive design to encourage any readers of my website to focus on the content, the stories, the messaging; rather than the photos or design.
You’ll notice that the pages that break this consistency, the most colorful sections of my website, are those related to the people I want to put most upfront: past work, clients, and experiences.
A monochromatic color palette evokes a harmonious, peaceful feeling that I’ve always gravitated towards, whether it’s the serenity or the minimalism, I wanted my home online to feel quiet, a comforting oasis of silence among all the buzz and noise of the digital world.
Oh! And it makes keeping brand consistency (and laundry!) so much easier.
I can go on for pages about how dark themes are trending in the digital world, how and where they come from, and why big brands are offering their users the option to go dark.
At the end of the day (or night, for that matter), it comes down purely to personal preference, like so many things. There’s no better place to use an aesthetic that profoundly resonates with who I am than in the collection of all my work and experience.