Julie Harris and I met on Twitter sometime last year and although she is a relative newcomer to the scene, I have absolutely fallen in love with her generosity, amazing resources on her blog and her seriously mad design skills!
Today she’s talking with us about branding.
This post is part of the Meet the Blog Designer series, a series from the perspective of female blog designers.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you get started in web/blog design? How long have you been doing it for?
For anyone slightly familiar with me, they’ll know that I started out with Broadway on the mind. I dreamed of being a Musical Theatre performer on Broadway with a back-up plan of being a Disney Princess. (No joke, but then again, what little girl doesn’t want to be Ariel when she grows up?!) It wasn’t until I moved away to college that I really discovered my passion for branding and web design.
[Wouldn’t she make an awesome Ariel, guys!? – Marianne]
The performing arts are all about self promotion, marketing your skill sets, storytelling and designing a whole experience around yourself, a.k.a branding 101! You have to be so vigilant on what the current trends are in the entertainment world, constantly engaging your professional community, networking, marketing, socializing, and all on top of working and training to strengthen your triple threat! So once I decided that I no longer wanted to pursue the big stages of NY, I decided to pursue my passion for people and business on a digital stage, the world wide web.
So, with my education and training in branding, business, and event planning, I started studying web design and development. I read blog after blog after blog by designers and online entrepreneurs, I subscribed to Lynda.com and took as many classes on the Adobe suite,* coding, and user experience design that I could find. I took classes from Creativelive and watched every free webinar I could that related to web design and development.
So between my personal marketing and business experience and my DIY design education, I created a truly unique triple threat of my own: Branding, Business Development, and Design.
Do you have your own business or do you freelance on the side while working full time?
I am the owner and CEO of Julie Harris Design, a virtual creative studio specializing in brand development and design. About a year ago, I quit my day job and committed all my time and energy into building and launching my own branding and design business. I officially launched in January of this year, and it’s been such an incredible experience.
What blogging platforms do you prefer to work with?
As far as web and blog design goes, I specifically work with self hosted WordPress sites. WordPress is by far my favorite CMS (Content Management System) and the flexibility and customization of the platform make it ideal for most of the bloggers and small businesses I design for. As a web designer, I often partner with a web developer who builds the sites or customizes pre-designed themes with custom coding while I design and develop the visual branding materials and content copywriting that gets inputted into the site.
I also love designing branding elements for the various Social Media platforms and helping my clients infuse as much of their brand and business through their social engagements, creating a stronger personal experience for their followers beyond just their blog or website.
What type of clients do you look for? Do you specialize in a certain market? Any particular reason why?
I work with a somewhat wide variety of professionals. While I do design blogs, my target clientele are generally experienced industry professionals who are looking to expand and elevate their brand through digital and content marketing, meaning a fully integrated website and blog combination. They usually have established businesses that have been successful offline, but the are looking to create an online presence, making them look as professional and approachable online as they are in person.
Branding is a hugely undervalued process. Most businesses are so eager to get started that they are often willing to compromise the success of their brands by limiting their investments in the brand development process. By working with professionals with even a little bit of entrepreneurial experience, I find that they value the brand process more and are willing to invest more time and energy into creating an authentic experience that looks, feels, sounds, and acts just like them.
It’s these people that I believe I can be of most service to. They aren’t looking for a quick fix, but a long term investment into the success of their business. I believe that we are our brand, and in order to be successful, a clear, confident and focused brand identity are crucial so I strive to help other businesses achieve this creative clarity through my branding and design packages.
A few months ago you redesigned your own website/blog. Would you mind sharing with us your process: How you came upon the final decision for your design, what factors you took into consideration, etc?
When it came to redesigning my own blog and website, I knew how I wanted to be perceived online and I knew who I wanted to target my content towards. I knew I didn’t always want to be just a blogger, but a fully established online entrepreneur.
So that meant I needed a platform that could grow and expand with my business. I knew I wanted a way to market and sell my services directly on my website so I made sure to get a WooCommerce compatible platform, with a strong blogging background. I chose the hugely customizable and functional WordPress theme, Enfold.
Because I was so clear on what my blog and website goals were, selecting the color palette, stylistic elements, typography and visual branding materials followed smoothly. Since I believe that I am my business, it was important to infuse as much of me as possible into my design and that meant investing in branding photography. I hired a professional photographer to help style and shoot all the photos for my website, eliminating my need for stock photography and helping create a stronger personal identity into my brand.
Because I was so clear on what my blog and website goals were, selecting the color palette, stylistic elements, typography and visual branding materials followed smoothly.
Your Thoughts on Design and Redesigns
What is your favorite part about redesigning a blog or website?
Honestly, it’s the brand development process in the beginning. Getting the client to be honest about where they see their business growing in the next 5, 10, 15 years and helping design a platform that complements all those options. When my clients get to a place of clarity and confidence in their brand’s vision and mission, they just light up. It’s incredibly rewarding.
What do you feel is the most important thing to keep in mind when redesigning a blog?
Who you’re designing for. Who is your target audience? Why are they here? What do you provide, how do you provide it, and why is that important? Know who is coming to your blog/ website and what they are coming there for. Every step of your design process should be easily explained. You should be able to define why each section of your design is there and what purpose it serves to enhance the experience for your readers and clients.
What is your method for selecting a color palette?
I first ask my clients what type of tone or mood they want to set for their brand’s experience and then, using those key themes, I look for colors that complement them. I’ll refer my clients to Design Seeds or Pinterest to look up images that speak to them as visual inspiration for their brand’s tone and then pull colors from them that come up again and again throughout the images.
What is your method for selecting a font palette?
I have a questionnaire that starts my brand design packages where I ask specifically which styles of typography stand out to the client. Some people love the handwritten script fonts while others are looking for a more timeless vintage typeface. To me, the content is everything in a brand so making sure the content styling complements the brand’s goals is important.
What advice do you have for a blogger who wants to do a few small touches to their blog’s design to spruce it up?
Professional photos. There is nothing as powerful as really clean, clear, attractive, unique photos that you haven’t seen 100 times over on everyone else’s blogs. Stock photography has its purpose but with so many blogs and businesses popping up every day, Death to Stock Photo and Unsplash’s gorgeous stock images are so overused.
Some great examples of good photography are Regina’s byRegina.com, Maya Elious’s mayaelious.com, Elle & Co.’s elleandcompanydesign.com, and Keizra Tyson-Griffin’s vidaluxestudio.com. Gorgeous simple website designs with really attractive powerful branded images that make them stand out.
What are your favorite trends in blog design at the moment?
I love all the handwriting and script fonts. Everyone’s personal handwriting is so unique and I love seeing how people are integrating more of this free writing style into their blog designs.
What blog design trends do you wish would go away?
I don’t think I really have any specific blog trends that I wish would go away. I hate pop-ups but that’s an enduring trend that I know isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
What is your biggest pet peeve about the design of some blogs?
Poor navigation. If I can’t find that post I pinned on Pinterest because of bad links, or poor navigation, it’s super disappointing and I’ll probably avoid going to your site in the future. I want to see your content, but if it takes too long or is too confusing to navigate, then I’ll leave.
Is there anything you feel people spend too much time on (in terms of design) that is really not that important?
I believe that every decision we make as bloggers and small businesses is important, especially when it comes to the visual identity of our brands. But I see people constantly changing their designs, changing their images and not using the same profile photos across their networks, which creates inconsistency and makes it hard to build a loyal following.
People are so focused on making their blog “pretty” but if the colors, images, or style trends don’t personally mean anything to your brand, then you’ll never be satisfied by them and you’ll continue to change them. One of my all time favorite bloggers and boss ladies, Erika Madden of Olyvia Media once said in a post, “Pretty isn’t profitable,” and that’s always stuck with me.
Focus on your brand’s message. Your vision, mission, and brand promise. Once you have that down, it will bring consistency to your brand’s focus and you’ll be able to develop the other branding elements so much faster and you’ll create that experience you’ve been dreaming of.
Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us about design?
Design is not just about how it looks, but how it works. Everything about your blog or website’s design should complement your overall brand’s goals and promise. Create a space that looks, sounds, acts, and socializes just like you.
Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
For DIY designers who are looking for that second set of eyes or a professional review, I do offer one-on-one Brand Audits where I’ll go in and do a deep exploration of your online brand presence and write up a full review of the experience, complete with thoughts, compliments, and constructive suggestions on where to enhance your brand.
When we are DIYing our own blog or site, it’s easy to get distracted by certain elements or forget about others because we’re so used to looking at it. But by having someone else audit your brand’s design, you get the opportunity to get an unbiased review of your work, making sure all your vision is being successfully received. You can check out this service on my website.
Thanks Julie for taking the time to tell us about you, your business and your processes. It was fabulous to learn from such an amazing designer with so much knowledge in branding!
Got questions for Julie? The comment section below is the perfect place to ask!
And as always, please share this with your network if you found it useful.
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