'Bluespace': The Unintended Creative Effect of Tumblr's Wider Posts

Blue is the color of all that you blog.


Something looks different on Tumblr. The blogging platform and social media network rolled out a new design Thursday for its dashboard—the homepage where users create posts, track engagement, and scroll through the seemingly endless content from users they follow.

The update featured, to borrow the wording of the site's staff, just "two li'l changes." The first is a sticky header that keeps the buttons for creating new posts locked at the top of your window. The second is the deletion of the white space around posts, making images on the dashboard wider and border-free:

Old Tumblr on the left, new Tumblr on the right (Tumblr)

The latter update isn't as useful as the former—sticky headers mean no more scrolling back to the top to add posts—but it's spawned a perfectly Tumblr-appropriate art project under the tag "bluespace."

Bluespace refers to the blank and, yes, very blue (#36465D, to be exact) canvas Tumblr has inadvertently created for users's desktop dashboards by widening posts and erasing the white borders. And what do you get when you give your hoards of Photoshop-savvy users a blank canvas to play with? This:

Not all bluespace pieces involve Tumblr favorite Benedict Cumberbatch. Some are optical illusions.

Most use the space to have images spookily peek up from the bottom or burst through the middle of a post.

The lack of borders has naturally led to infinite creative possibilities.

Which makes this a unique case study in user reaction to yet another redesign of a social networking platform. Sure, there are plenty of users griping about the new features, but there's also this massive group taking advantage of the design tweaks and transforming them into a collective art project away from what Tumblr intended.

Whether Tumblr intended the blue space to become an extension of each post's canvas, of course, is unclear. "We went ahead and did it," the staff wrote in a post introducing the widening. "There was no reason not to."

This rollout is casual compared to Tumblr's previous ones. When the site added a feature in August that allowed users to see blogs pop up on the right hand side of their dashboards instead of in a new tab, the announcement included instructions on what users should do. Perhaps the less serious presentation of the wider posts prompted users to get creative.

Most of the time, when social networking platforms introduce design changes, they're seen as constraints, not canvases. But it's not as if Tumblr has always gotten their new features right. In 2012, when Tumblr released a "pinned post" feature, users revolted. The microblog disabled the option less than six months after launching it. Other times, users treat the changes as a joke, pinning misleading tweets or uploading lo-res cover photos that defy the social network's intent. Most users on most networks, however, simply (if begrudgingly) accept the changes.

So the case of bluespace is a welcome sight. At its simplest, it's a knee-jerk reaction to a new feature. Dig deeper, and it's making Tumblr even more of a platform for creativity than before. Sites may dictate the way features appear to users, but users have the final say in figuring out just how they'll be used.