Michael Heilemann & His Groundbreaking WordPress Kubrick Theme


The Secret History of Kubrick, the Blog Theme That Changed the Internet

Tina Daunt
HuffPost Contributing Editor
Posted: January 8, 2010 01:47 PM

Kubrick, the template that launched millions of beautiful blogs and helped transform the Internet, is expected to be retired mid-year as the default theme for the popular WordPress blogging platform.

The half-life of any innovation in the virtual world, no matter how important, is short — though in Kubrick’s case, it’s been a happy life.

It’s been the fallback theme on the rapidly growing WordPress since 2005, when young Danish technology whiz Michael Heilemann created the simple blue and white blog template at his family farmhouse north of Copenhagen.

“I wanted something with a nice aesthetic,” he said over lunch recently in Santa Monica. “I was drawn to simplicity.”

Michael Heilemann (Photo courtesy Rikke Andersen)

When Heilemann came to blogging, the Internet was studded with posts that were essentially diary entries, blocks of text with the occasional awkwardly situated photograph. The template he came up with was entirely different — at once elegant and open to innovation. Since its debut, Kubrick has helped change the face of cyberspace, which now is awash in a dizzying variety of blogs that meld moving images with text in innovative and continually evolving ways.

What once was the realm of the opinionated, the pensive and the merely self-absorbed now has become a place where a global community shares thoughts on design, fashion and pure aesthetics.

As with many game-changing innovations, this one has a little known — and fascinating — backstory:

A sci-fi buff, Heilemann — now 31 and working as a video game designer in Copenhagen — watched Kubrick’s 2001 on DVD during the months while he was configuring the new blog template. His design code started out like this:

*/ / * Begin Typography & Colors */ body { font-size: 62.5%; /* Resets 1 em to 10 px */ font_family: ‘Lucida Grande’….
With a clever and dry sense of humor, Heilemann ended the code with an invisible note that referenced Hal the computer’s final refrain in 2001: A Space Odyssey:

/* “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.” */

Heilemann’s blog design was striking (for its time) with a custom blue header and two white columns, a wide one for posts and slimmer one for a table of contents and other useful information. Heilemann set it off against a gray background. Within months of its debut on WordPress, Kubrick had become a standard-bearer in the blogging world.