What happened to creative theme designs?

I remember when themes were opinionated. And when I say opinionated, I don’t mean coding (because there’s certainly a lot of that happening). I mean in the design.

I remember themes with hand-drawn illustrations, splashes of colour, and other bold choices.

These days it seems most WordPress themes are just an arrangement of blocks. Usually grey.

Does anyone else miss the personal touch? Or am I being nostalgic over nothing?

According to this group of themes, you’re not being nostalgic over nothing. http://wplift.com/21-paper-textured-styled-wordpress-themes-2011 I’d like to see more WordPress themes with hand drawn elements.

As someone who designs these generic themes (for people to buy) - there’s a few reasons they are no longer commonplace.

  1. They don’t sell
  2. It’s not trendy. Flat design is all the rage these days
  3. If you’re buying a theme then you want to customise it to match your brand. If it’s got loads of texture and illustrations then it’s going to be a lot harder to make it look like your theme - and a lot easier to tell when other sites are using the same theme. If it’s flat then you can add a logo and change some colours and your site is unique.

I can imagine these types of themes being fun to create - but they are not commercially viable so would only be made as practice - but since it’s not a trendy thing to do I can’t imagine anyone doing it now.


I think you’ve hit on a big point here. When I look at the WordPress community these days I’m seeing less and less of the hobbyist “do it because it’s fun” ethos.

It ultimately boils down to commercial viability. Take the Matala theme, for example. It’s a work of art, but only has 2,000+ active installs.

Many theme users want to use something to make “their own” and there’s no way to do that with a theme like Matala without heavily customizing it. Ironically, losing the artistic value that was so appealing in the first place.

Then again, “just an arrangement of blocks. Usually grey,” sounds totally soulless and not very commercially viable either. I get what you’re saying, and don’t think this is the same as simply being “flat” or “minimalist.”

I believe the best themes are the ones that largely get out of the way design-wise, letting the user “customize” it naturally through their own content publishing.

This quote comes to mind: “Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.

It is difficult to balance great WordPress theme design with minimalism and customizability, but a few rare theme shops do pull it off with some consistency. Array, DevPress, Pro Theme Design, Elmastudio, The Theme Foundry, StudioPress, Foxland…just to name a few.

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Also Themetry - they’re good too.