This quarter, I'm TAing CSE 457, and one of my jobs was to put together a tutorial page for one of the projects. By default, it's a pretty straightforward page. I wanted to convey a sense of simplicity and professionalism, and I thought that the conservative gray made it feel very academic. Of course, I couldn't depart from my sans-serif font fetish, and I threw in a few interesting (but conservative) heading styles.
Of course, the sense of academic professionalism could have easily been lost if a different style was used. One such style that I tried out was the kiddy style. The bright primary colors, large text, and casual font give the page a childish, almost whimsical feel. Additionally, I used interesting border styles on the headings that added playfulness.
This style makes the whole document feel a bit awkward; especially in an instructional setting, the tone of the text seems to change from academic to almost condescending (it didn't help that the text, in some sections, was intended to be condescending, but that's another story entirely). I get the feel that this style is almost saying "This project is child's play!" when actually it is a rather challenging project in a senior level computer science course.
Another style that I almost went for was the l33t style. This style is meant to give kind of an 80s computer hacker subculture kind of feel. The green on black text is reminiscent of the old monochrome monitors that used to be standard with many computers. The font in the heading (Terminal) scales incredibly poorly; the blockiness is apparent in the page. This is again reminiscent of the days of Pac Man, Apple IIc computers, BASIC, DOS, and so on and so forth. Especially entertaining in my opinion were the black boxes used to enclose the source code.
I intended for this to give the information presented a "behind the scenes" feel. It's definitely not an official or academic looking document, but the very technical feel of the headings and the general color scheme give it authority in a technical sense. I actually liked this style the best.
It's kind of shocking how effectively a simple stylesheet can effectively change the feel of a document. It's kind of like holding a conversation, I'd imagine ... you could be saying the same words, but it just isn't the same if you're wearing a propeller beanie or a navy blue sportcoat. Hmm. Just for reference, the document with no styles can be found here.