Introducing the tuftesque blogdown theme

If you like the way our blog looks, you too can have your own blogdown driven site just like it! In this post I walk through how to set up an RMarkdown driven blog from scratch using blogdown and the tuftesque theme constructed for Live Free Or Dichotomize.

Nick Strayer


July 13, 2017

This post will serve as a quick tutorial getting you from nothing to a customized blogdown blog using the theme built for this blog: tuftesque.

The tuftesque theme gives your blog a …tufte-esque… style that eschews some of the choices of the original and which I’ve added a few splashes of my personal style. The main title page is a single column and has an easily customizable banner where as the article view is the two panel view (for large screens) to allow for sidenotes. In addition you can add little author bios at the end which is especially useful if you have more than one author on your blog.

It doesn’t cover the more standard details such as writing new posts as I feel those have been covered much better than I could here.

The Basics

Getting Blogdown

If you already have a blogdown site than you can skip to the next step. If you do not, open R inside a new fresh directory and run the following commands:

R Console

#downloads the blogdown package

#initialize a new blog

Boom, now you have your very own blog! Wouldn’t it be nice if everything in life was this easy?

Base Site

This is what your site should look like at this point.

Adding tuftesque

Now that you have your blogdown blog up and running switch back to your R console (you may have to press escape to kill the running blogdown server) and run the following command to download the tuftesque theme from github.

R Console


Assuming this successfully worked (if it didn’t file an issue here) now run the command blogdown::serve_site() to restart the blogdown server and you should have your fancy new blog working!

now with tuftesque

After installing the tuftesque theme your blog should now look like this.


It would be pretty lame if that was it, wouldn’t it? Fear not, you can tinker with it to make it your own.

Side Notes:

We all know why you’re here: the sidenotes. This is rather easy. Just make sure you have the tufte package installed and then, in an inline r chunk, wherever you want to put a side note call the following.

tufte::margin_note("This is a margin note")

The above produces the following: This is a margin note

You can place just about anything in this that you would normally put in markdown so go crazy.

Summary Text:

You can place a description of a post on the home page to give your readers a little bit more info on what a post is about. To do this just add the field excerpt to your posts header:

This is the header of this article. The except shows up on the home page.

title: "Introducing the tuftesque blogdown theme"
author: "Nick Strayer"
date: '2017-07-13'
categories: ["R"]
tags: ["Blogdown", "regression"]
excerpt: "Our blog's theme started as the theme hugo-tufte but has sense been modified a lot. I've been asked to put it up as a theme for other to use, here it is!"

Adding authors

If you want to have your very own custom bio at the bottom of your articles, go into your blog’s data/ directory and add a file titled authors.toml. Inside this file you can fill in some information about the authors on your blog. This info will then show up automatically at the end of any article they write.

In this include the following info (replacing in the obvious places).


If you don’t have all of the fields no worries, just don’t enter them and they will automatically be hidden from the bio.

["Party Parrot"]
  name =  "Mr. Parrot"
  bio = "This is my super awesome bio and stuff."
  website =  "http:/"
  thumbnail = ""
  twitter = ""
  github = ""

Make sure that the key ["Author Name"] is exactly as the name appears in the author field of your post’s header.

with a bio

Author bios automatically show up if the author’s info is in /data/authors.toml

Beyond the basics

If the limited options included in the theme are not flexible enough for you and you feel comfortable with html and css you can easily extend any part of this theme. For instance, you may notice on our blog we have an interactive animation that plays instead of a banner image. This is accomplished by simply adding a file called banner.html (this is what it looks like) into the /layouts/partials/ directory of our blog. This works because the tuftesque theme has a file in its own directory structure with the same name (/themes/tuftesque/layouts/partials/banner.html). Hugo uses that file to draw the header section of the page, but not before checking in our blog’s own layouts/ directory for the file first. Since we have our own version of this file, that one gets used instead of the default banner image.

So if you want to extend tuftesque (or any other Hugo theme) you never have to muck around in the themes/ directory, you simply need to investigate what part of the theme is responsible for the view you want to change by looking at its structure (poke around the github page to see how tuftesque is laid out) and then replicating that file’s path in your blogs personal layouts/ directory and make changes to your hearts desire! This is how tuftesque was slowly built out.


That’s pretty much it. The theme is rather minimal now but has the basics of what I look for in a theme. If any of the above was confusing to you or you have a suggestion for how I should improve the theme please don’t hesitate to submit an issue on the github or ping me on twitter.