Design Mode: A Free Portfolio Block Theme Designed for Freelancers and Agencies


The count for WordPress block themes has reached 137. It’s a far cry from the 500 block themes WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden-Chomphosy set as a goal for 2022, but the number is steadily climbing as theme authors find their footing and discover how quickly block themes can be created.

Brian Gardner is throwing his hat into the ring again with his latest release. Design Mode is a new block theme created for freelancers and agencies to showcase their services and work. After its release, several of Gardener’s contemporaries, fellow theme designers, remarked on how refreshing it is to see a block theme with “real world use cases,” as so many seem to be geared at bloggers.

Design Mode features Outfit, a geometric sans serif Google font, designed by Rodrigo Fuenzalida, a Venezuelan type designer based in Santiago de Chile. It is used for both headings and paragraph text throughout the theme.

The demo gives the best idea of what the theme looks like with a curated set of images, titles, captions, menus, and buttons all filled with content. Once installed and activated on a new site, the theme looks very similar to the demo but has a placeholder image instead of the photos used in the demo. This is because the photos did not have the right licensing for distribution on, but the way it ships has the advantage of giving users a visual blank slate for those featured sections.

Design Mode includes 10 different patterns, which are essentially all aspects of the design deconstructed into parts. There are multiple patterns for sections with cover, heading, text, and button, a query grid with three columns, a section with text and separators, a footer, and a header with site title and navigation perfectly spaced. The theme also conveniently includes a whole page pattern that will instantly reproduce the homepage in the demo.

Design Mode is an opinionated theme. Users can adjust colors for background, text, and links, and adjust various templates via full-site editing, but it does not come with additional style variations. Personal blogs may benefit from a kaleidoscope of style variations but a well-designed portfolio theme does not usually lend itself well to wide variations in style. In this case fewer options is a good thing that should preserve the simple palette the theme packages.

This is a very fast theme by itself. Gardner reports that Design Mode scores 99 and 100 on Google page speed for mobile/desktop. Depending on what plugins and optimizations a user has active, this theme could be a good choice for performance-conscious WordPress users.

Design Mode is Gardner’s third block theme in the directory. It bears some similarities to his black and white minimalist Avant-Garde theme but has more of a friendly showcase vibe that is suitable for personal portfolios, agencies, and any kind of service business that would benefit from an elegant, structured design.

Design Mode is available for free on or inside WordPress via the admin themes browser.