Why Simplicity Is A Blogger’s Best Friend

Simplicity

Simplicity. It’s one of those things that seems easy to do, but is actually tougher to master than many people realise.

It can be really tempting to go wild on a new design project, believe me. In fact, I’ve been a victim of this myself; some of the earliest iterations of Rosarts have been over-complicated to say the least. When you launch a new brand or business idea, it can be incredibly easy to overdo things. Often, you’re so enthusiastic about your new project that throwing lots of different style combinations seems like a fun way to throw your work out there.

And yes, while launching a visual identity is really exciting, it’s also crucial that you do it correctly.

Slimming Things Down

That’s not to say that your initial concept has to be set in stone – far from it. I’ve evolved and adapted my own branding more times than I can remember, but I’ve always tried to stay true to my main themes and goals.

One of the main places I’ve seen excellent content fall foul of over-complicated design is on blog sites. Bloggers are skilled at creating interesting, relevant and easily consumable content, but so often the design and layout of their actual website can cause the opposite effect for the prospective reader.

Multiple pop-ups, fonts that are illegible, overpowering colour combinations and random audio players that the reader is unable to turn off are just a few of the most common issues I see on blogs every day. Things that you might find fun and quirky may be a lot more off-putting to your reader than you might thing. Less is more really does apply with website aesthetics.

Simplicity Is Key

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity, and ultimately, you may have the greatest posts in the world, but if your website design is annoying your audience then they won’t return to read any more.

I do a regular in-house declutter and pare-down of my websites every couple of months. I recommend an approach that involves a regular refresh of not just your blog’s tone and content but of its overall look, user-friendliness and style. Check your plugins and pop-ups and make sure that all of your crucial components are regularly updated.

Where To Start:

Here are some simple tips that you can work through right now if you’re keen to get started!

  • Check your font sizes – too small and people won’t make the effort to keep reading, too big and it’ll put people off the never-ending scrolling required to finish the post.
  • Look carefully at your colours – grey on white is a classic error; consider the accessibility of your text and make it easier on the eye for your audience.
  • Clear up the clutter – all those photos you’re not using but have stored in your media library will eat up space in your website and have an effect on its load time.
  • Mobile optimisation – how phone-friendly is your blog? Can you improve the navigation and mobile layout?

There are many subtle elements involved in creating a sleek but simple blog look, but it’s absolutely key that you stay on top of your game when it comes to blog interface. If not, you could be losing potential readers or customers. And nobody wants that to happen!

Blog design is so important; make sure yours looks as good as it reads.

If you’d like some support with your blog or website and would like to get in touch with me about making your blog look simply beautiful then you can drop me an email or catch me on Twitter.

Why Does Brand Identity Matter?

Brand Identity

Brand Identity

It’s one of those phrases that gets thrown around a lot these days, but what is  brand identity, and why exactly does it matter to you?

You may think that companies are the only people who need to think about their brand identity, but you’d be mistaken. In the era of the online marketplace, everything is a brand. People are fast becoming their own brands, and with that comes a need to evolve an identity that represents your messaging.

This isn’t as easy as you may think! Your brand identity needs to communicate the message you’re trying to convey at all times. It’s a visual representation of everything you stand for; everything you wish to communicate…but most importantly, everything you have to offer.

Brand Identity
What’s your style?

With that in mind, it’s time to take stock of what exactly that is. Are you a blogger, or are you a writer? Are you a business that only has one product to sell, or do you have a range of products on offer to the public? Who do you aim to work with? What do you care about? These are all big questions that you need to find the answers to before you even start thinking about your branding.

I love to work with people and companies on this aspect of their profile. Understanding your brand identity is so empowering as well as being crucial to your vision going forward. Working all of this out is an important part of the process – so many people think that having a pretty looking logo design is enough to drive their business forward.

It’s so much more than that.

If you don’t know your brand identity, how will the people you want to reach understand you? Without a strong sense of identity, a logo is just a pretty picture that doesn’t communicate your substance fully. Developing and actually committing your brand identity to paper is part of the design process, and should become your manifesto for taking your ambitions to the next level.

Where Do I Start?

I often start this process with a brand identity consultation, where a customer and I work together to lay out their goals and ambitions for their blog or business and then begin the design ideas session from there. You can find out more about this by dropping me a message, or you can check out some of my design services that are currently available over here. Developing a brand identity with a client is one of the most rewarding parts of what I do – I just love to see how happy they are when their visual identity starts to really connect with their business aspirations.

Three things that I’d suggest to anyone wondering where to start with developing their brand identity:

  • Do not rush – this is a process that takes a lot of exploring to come up with the right fit. Don’t just grab a colour chart from the internet and pick one or two you like best. You need to give this a lot of careful consideration as it’s something that will represent you for a long time to come.
  • Involve others in the consultation – don’t just try and put something together all by yourself. Do some research into what your target market responds well to and take the results into consideration when developing your brand identity.
  • Ask for creative support – if you’re not confident with the creative or visual aspects of your brand identity, ask for some support from a designer – as long as you know your aims and core messaging and have done some research into what you’re putting out there, the graphic support part should be fairly easy for a good designer to support you with.

The key thing to remember that brand identity is just as important, if not more so, than personal identity. It’s something that you can redevelop over time as your aims evolve, but at it’s core it should always communicate your blog or business’ key qualities. Brand identity isn’t just another buzzword, it is something that deserves an investment of time, consideration and careful attention, to make sure you’re building a solid foundation for your business going forward.

Brand Identity

What do you think about your current brand identity? Is it as strong as you’d like it to be? What key ideas can you start to think about in order to build yourself a stronger one? Let me know in the comments or share your thoughts with me over on Twitter. Please don’t forget to share this article if you’ve found it useful as well!

 

Design Portfolio Update – Visit The Collection

design portfolio

It’s been a little while since my last update but that’s because I’ve been putting together a brand spanking new design portfolio! I’ll be adding to this visual collection as I create new and fresh designs for my customers but if you’d like to check it out up to now you can do so by visiting the front page of the site.

I’m loving creating header and logo designs for clients at the moment! Combining illustrations with graphic elements is fast becoming my new favourite thing, and some of the bloggers and businesses I’ve been working with seem to like this new style too.

 

Header And Logo
Header and Logo package design for Moving Scouse Blog.

 

The portfolio will contain examples of my design work, links to websites I’ve supported with design and building and a small selection of my videos. I’m planning to revisit my video catalogue very soon and add some shots of how I create my digital designs, as I’m really enjoying that process at the moment!

 

Header Design for Hamster McKenzie’s Blog

 

 

It’s early days for the design collection but some of my favourite new illustrations are going to be featuring there in a separate section in order to showcase the kind of visuals I love to create most. A lot of my design style is moving more towards graphic and digital work, although I’ll never fully abandon the pencils and paints, they’re my first love.

 

 

If you’d like to find out more about how I work with brands and bloggers to create their visual identities, check out how to contact me or drop me a message over on Twitter!

 

 

 

Ways To Find Creative Inspiration When You’re In A Rut

Ways To Find Inspiration

Ways To Find An Escape From The Creative Rut

I don’t know about you, but I think that creative people are especially susceptible to the pitfalls of getting ‘stuck in a rut’. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just cannot get the productivity level up to where it needs to be. Or even worse, the motivation and productivity level is there, but the ideas just aren’t coming through. So frustrating. We often need to find ways out of this rut, and fast.

If you’re self-employed like many of us are, it’s not as easy as simply ‘forcing’ yourself to create. Any designer or artist will tell you the same; it just doesn’t work like that for us. In fact it’s almost counterproductive to try and force creative work out of yourself, as whatever you produce during stints of enforced creation will invariably be of poorer quality to what you’re capable of. Or even if it’s a fair quality, you’ll hate it because it wasn’t something you created when you were in the right frame of mind.

The best creative work is almost always undertaken whilst in the ‘maker mindset’, and that’s not something that you can force.

However, to try and combat the problem of ‘the rut’, I’ve come up with a little list of ways to find creative inspiration and try and get yourself back on the productivity train. It’s not always easy, but its doable!

Ways To Find
Is there anything scarier than the prospect of a blank page?
  • Reading

The ultimate inspiration-giver, no? Whenever I’m feeling particularly uninspired or unable to draw, I throw myself into a book that’s so far removed from my own reality it allows my brain the space it needs to start imagining again. That’s the beauty of books, particularly ones with fantasy or science-fiction based settings; the escapism is like fresh air to a tired mind, and the creative brain really draws new life from it.

  • Surrealist Art

Ok, this isn’t for everyone, but it really works for me. Sometimes when I feel as though all my ideas have run aground, I like to look at the work of Salvador Dali. Similarly to the escapism of novels, the work of Dali almost always leaves me with food for thought. Admittedly, some of it is darker than I’d expect, but it helps my creative mind to start firing up new ideas, new patterns, new vibes. And that’s always a good thing.

  • Bullet Journaling

This is a relatively new effort of mine, but one that I’ve found has been working quite well. It’s a way of setting yourself small daily tasks, but in a very theraputic, artistic way. There are loads of online resources about bullet journals, but don’t be put off by all the Pinterest-worthy images you’ll find on Instagram. I’ve used an old sketchbook for mine and some coloured pencils. Just use whatever is to hand and you’ll soon find that your productivity level will rocket if you stick to small, achievable tasks each day.

  • Go Back To Basics

By this, I mean get the paints out and just start making colourful patterns. Don’t worry what it looks like. Get your pens and doodle. Sometimes, when we’re constantly creating for a purpose, we forget what it’s like to just create for the sheer joy of creating. Allow yourself some freedom and remember why you’re a creative person in the first place. Teach yourself to fall back in love with the art of creation.

  • Ease Up On Yourself

So you’re having a bit of a break. You know what, that’s not always a bad thing. Look at me, I’ve had a break from Rosarts for the thick end of a year! I needed it though, I know that now. Sometimes, you need to listen to your brain when it’s telling you to stop, regroup and refresh your focus. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find your way into the creative rut because it’ll only become harder when you’re trying to find ways out of it.

So there you have five quick ways to find an escape from the doldrums of the rut. It’s not always easy and I can only speak from my own experience, but just remember that there is a way out of it and one day, even though you may feel absolutely sickened by the idea of designing and making right now, one day you will want to get back to what you love.

It just takes time and a little bit of creative thinking – but you’re naturally good at that, aren’t you? Remember where your heart lies and you’ll be back to your creative best in no time, I promise.

Have you experienced a creative rut before? What did you do to try and find your way out of it? Let me know over on Twitter or you can pop a comment into the box below.

The Golden Rules – A Cautionary Tale

The Golden Rules

The Golden Rules – for working with design services

I recently got my fingers burnt with my drawing and design services. Already. I’m not going to go into the details too much because it’s still a bit raw and annoying, but essentially I found myself somewhat ripped off last week.

Artistically as well as financially, that was really hard for me. However, it’s taught me a valuable lesson about working online with people who want to make use of my design services. It’s my own fault that I learned this the hard way, but running your own business is full of peaks, troughs and extremely steep learning curves.

As a good friend reminded me, there are rules that I need to stick to when working for myself – and especially when I have the habit of helping people out, usually out of kindness or to try and give someone a hand (which I do way too often, and this time came back to bite me).

And so, to the following:

Golden Rules:

  1. Never work without a contract
  2. Always get a deposit
  3. Never give unwatermarked files to a client before they’ve paid

Lesson learned.

From now on, I’m going to be asking that all customers make sure they read and are happy with my new Design Policy. I have to have a way of protecting myself and my work going forward so that this doesn’t happen again. I hope those who choose to work with me will understand this; as much as we try to help and be flexible, there are people out there who think it’s OK to treat self-employed designers, makers and artists as if they’re disposable.

We’re not.

Just because people like us aren’t big businesses, that doesn’t mean we’re not people. Have a bit of professional courtesy towards us please.

I’ve seen this happen to friends of mine and never believed it would happen to me. As it turns out, no one is as safe as they think these days when it comes to design and other online services.

Anyhow, the long and short of it is that I’ll be making sure the Golden Rules apply when carrying out any design work from now on. Hopefully everyone will understand why.

Long Time No See

Long Time No See

Hello! I know, it’s been a while. A LONG while.

Not entirely sure where to start so I’ll just jump right in. As many of you will know from my updates (or distinct lack of) on social media, Rosarts has been on an extended hiatus. The reason for this, as you may or not be aware, was a huge technical malfunction that happened last April (2017) which resulted in me having to pretty much close shop overnight.

I can’t even begin to tell you how horrendous that was. To keep things brief, almost my entire product inventory found itself into the wasteland of accidentally-deleted work…and I was left with barely anything left to sell.

Gutted doesn’t even come close.

I cried. Real tears, for days. I’d stockpiled a good three years worth of art and design work into my computer and then suddenly it was just gone. I still don’t know how it happened, but it did, and ever since I’ve had the lid firmly closed on this little part of my world.

For the longest time I couldn’t bring myself to even look at Rosarts, never mind start drawing again. It just seemed like too huge of a mountain to climb. I started a new business, and focused my attention solely into that. It’s going well and I’m still working on it. But I’ve always loved what I started here, and it’s began to niggle away at me more and more of late.

So, with a massive deep breath and a hope for a new dawn, I’m bringing the shop back to life.

It’s going to be slow, make no mistake about it, but I’m going to do it. The vibe of the products is going to be slightly different as well. Lots of people loved the story prints, but they just weren’t ticking over enough to allow me to survive. A girl’s gotta eat, you know?

New directions

So with that in mind, I’ve been doing some research and chatting to lots of people about the kind of things that they’d like to see me create and sell. Funnily enough, quirky and humorous seemed to crop up a lot! So I’m going to give that a go and see how it goes down. I’ll still be rebuilding my stock of decorative and family-themed designs, but I’m going to try out some slightly more grown up stuff too. Let me know what you think about that in the box, it’ll really help me.

After doing a lot of design work with bloggers and brands over the last year or so I’ve decided to explore the digital side of my business a bit further. So along with a new product vibe you’ll also be able to order an array of  design services, for bloggers and businesses. I draw a mean header and I love to create graphics for my own business, so why not offer it up to others too?

I’m also offering Virtual Assistance services as something new for this year – I’ve supported many of my friends with their website layout, design and other fundamentals in their WordPress sites so I’ll be using some of the things I’ve learned to support others who may need it as well.

So – here we are at the start of 2018. I’m going to need your support in getting things back on track, and I really appreciate those of you who’ve stuck with me this far and helped guide me back to the land of Rosarts…there were a few times where I genuinely considered shutting up shop altogether.

Thank you for your patience, and let’s see where this new road takes us!