Font Love

For many designers and even some bloggers, buying fonts can be an obsession. I do not think I am obsessed with it, as I can go several months between purchasing one. I do love looking though. My one weakness is a realistic calligraphy looking font. If you have seen any of my work then you know I am not kidding. I do hand-letter some things, but a realistic font saves a lot of time and headaches. And if you really know your way around Photoshop or Illustrator, you can get these even more realistic looking.

Without further ado, I present my most recent calligraphic-like fonts. Of course, if they become overused then they lose their allure, but for now they are so new that I love them all!

favorite calligraphic fonts

1. Pretty Script (currently 50% off) / 2. Cereal Script (currently 25% off) / 3. Adorn Pomander – the whole Adorn family is awesome, but Pomander is my favorite / 4. Isabella / 5. Stringfellows

I’m pretty sure you will see several of these in my portfolio soon. Used sparingly, they can be really lovely.

Tips if you are new to purchasing fonts

When you buy from Myfonts.com, you only need the desktop font if you are only planning on using the font for basic functions like as part of your photos in blog posts, for example.

At times, a font may come with a multi-user license (when you go to purchase, it will tell you how many users are able to possess the font). If you find that a font has more than one user allowed, a good tip is to find a friend to go in with you and split the cost! Unfortunately on Creative Market, only one user per purchase is allowed, per SimpleLicense. You can use fonts from CM commercially, however!

Be sure to check license use and fine print of a font.

You can use fonts in any editing software however to access swashes and ligatures, you may need Adobe Illustrator. There are some other neat apps out there that will allow you to view the extras, but if you really want to use the font to its fullest, I recommend AI.

If any of this is confusing, leave me a comment and we’ll hash out the details!

Closing out one year and ringing in the next

To say that I would like to blog more often is an understatement. However, I do not tend to make resolutions because I do not tend to stick with them and I don’t like failing and I don’t like letting people down. So although I am not going to say that I resolve in 2015 to blog more often, I will say that I am going to try.

As this is a new year, I thought I would recap 2014 here.

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THE BUSINESS OF BEING IN BUSINESS

This past year has been my best year for business. I have come into my own as a designer and have created a name for myself. This year I did not do any  personal paid advertising. 100% of my clientele was word of mouth. That shows me that my work will speak for itself. While I am not opposed to advertising (every little bit helps, right?), I proved this year that it is not necessary in order for business to flourish.

MOST REQUESTED THEME

2014 was the year of Foodie and Foodie Pro Genesis themes.

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Foodie was released in 2013 by Genesis Developer Shay Bocks, but it took off running in 2014 with the update of Foodie Pro.  The theme was created to be a solid foundation on which your blog can be built and your website shine. The page templates on this beauty and the featured post widgets are second to none. It is a big deal to me because it was my #1 requested theme to customize and in some cases I used it as a basis for custom sites by adding additional templates for those who wanted additional indexes for their categories. Its minimalist design leaves room for unlimited creativity. In designer talk, that is a dream.  And honestly, it’s not something that as a blogger you should think that everyone has it so you should go for another theme. The reason I have a service to customize is so that a theme does stand out. I don’t just plug in a color and call it a day…that would be stealing your money. Just look how different these customizations are.

Foodie

So that was Foodie/Pro.

In the same light, 2014 was the year of the whisk. I can’t tell you how many requests I had for “a whisk or something like it”.

MOST INSPIRATIONAL SITE

Chelsea’s blog took the cake this year for most inspirational site. I don’t know what it was about Chelsea or her site but sometimes things just work well. Often, it is when I have the most creative freedom. I always say that the site is not about me, it’s about you. But let’s get real for a moment because when I can design something that I love too, everything just pops a little more.

2014 TRENDS

Design Trends
2014 was also the year of watercolor, hand-drawn logos, neutral colors and logos (as opposed to headers). Gone are the days of the elaborate banner designs. Last year, the trend was to brand with recognizable symbols.  And of course, visual category/archive grid indexes. Parallax sites, continuous scrolling and staged photos are all 2014 trends as well.

BlogHer Ads
Also, good-bye BlogHer campaigns. Well, more like BH took a backseat this year for my blogging clients. Google Ads won out with most of my clients with requests for “above the header” ad spaces. I have to admit, not having to make it so the MASSIVE BlogHer ad stayed above the fold was a big weight off of my shoulders. For those of you who still use it, it’s fine and I understand it…it’s a money maker and it might make sense for you. I just didn’t love working with those ads from a coding standpoint.

Photography sites
Flash (as in Adobe Flash) photography websites were on the out to be replaced by blogsites. The world of photography has changed immensely in the last 10 years. Actually, make that 5 years. Pinterest forced photographers to up their game. Competition is fierce and there is no room for poor social media gurus. I’m sure photographers are frustrated by it (it, meaning people like me who will email a photographer a Pinterest board full of idealistic pictures with props they don’t own and locations that do not exist in  a 50 mile radius). I mean, whatever happened to the laser backgrounds at school where if your eyes were closed or you were looking away, it is what it is? Now, high school seniors have outdoor portrait sessions wearing $200+ outfits.

amandamcmahon

Alas, 2014 was the year of photographers moving towards having a blog more prominent, thus allowing a conversation with old and new clients. Rather than simply posting a portfolio, the blog allows photogs to update more frequently and display more work.

2015 WEB DESIGN TRENDS

I think watercolor will remain a prominent trend in blog designs (remember we are talking about bloggers, not necessarily large business web designs).

You will see more minimalist designs with white backgrounds and clean lines. Functionality will grow as a need rather than a wish. Visual searches are not a trend. We are a visual society and it’s a vital piece of having a successful site.

I also think mobile responsiveness is going to change in the next few years. I do not know how exactly, but it’s just a prediction. There are too many opinions on what a mobile responsive site “should” look like. What is considered easy navigation to some is considered too different from the PC version.

MY 2015
Niche Bloggers
I will be working with more niche bloggers. Food bloggers and photographers are my most common clientele and I will continue this year.
Productivity
I am constantly improving my work ethic and process. I like things as streamlined as possible. It’s one of the reasons I have not changed my website in a while. I like it. It works well. I actually created a demo site for myself a few months ago, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Anyway, my 2015 will consist of continuing to work on my productivity and process from communication to development to launch.

Possible Growth
In the past I have considered developing premade themes, teaching more classes or growing my premade illustrations for sale. And while I will still probably explore these ideas, in 2014 I realized that I simply like what I will do. As my productivity and skills improve, prices will naturally rise, but for now, I really enjoy custom designing blogs for people. Sure, more passive income would be nice, but my productivity is at its best when I work one on one with someone. So while never say never, I like the services I offer now.

WHAT I’M COVETING

bloom

The newest theme from Restored316 Designs: Bloom

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Uh yeah, are you kidding? I *WILL* have this font in my font library. It is called Cereal Script and it just also happens to be 25% off right now so if I were you, I’d hurry and grab it while it’s discounted!

81hzFQlrdgL._SL1500_

Ugh, Tombow watercolor markers. Simply the best. I want all.the.things. They are these dual brush markers that just glide and are so beautiful on paper. And bonus, they scan really nicely. Obviously that is a huge set, but they do have smaller sets. I just need to decide whether it makes more sense to get the whole set since naturally I only really want a few shades from each of the smaller packs.

It’s just fun to change up the tools I use! These are high on my list.

So that about wraps it up. 2014 was amazing but I have this feeling that 2015 will be even better. I am excited to learn, grow and create. Thanks for being a part of it!

*There are some affiliate links in this post. I appreciate your support but please know I would never recommend a product or service that I do not trust or don’t believe in.

Starting a blog from scratch

So you want to start a blog? This post will cover the basics on how to start a self-hosted blog (or website) on your own. It is not intended to be a tutorial on how to design a blog, rather how to go from the idea that you are brewing in your head to having a self-hosted WordPress blog of your very own on the web (this is also not, unfortunately, a tutorial on migrating from Blogger to WordPress). Full disclosure, I will try not to spam you throughout this post, but I will tell you the way *I* do things and therefore I may include affiliate links throughout.

What do I mean by self-hosted?

By self-hosted, I mean that you are choosing to pay a company to host your WordPress site for you. This is opposed to having a free blog on a site such as Blogger. I’ve discussed the differences between Blogger and WordPress here before, but to keep things short and sweet, for the purpose of this post I’m going to argue that it is better to manage your own content and go self-hosted.

Like everything else, there is more than one way to do this, but I’m going to tell you the way I suggest to my clients.

Step 1: Choose your domain

You need to select a domain for your site. Your domain is the url for your site. A domain is something like: www.example.com

You can get a domain from a site such as Go Daddy* or you can choose to go with your host company (which may or may not be Go Daddy. I actually recommend other hosts for your site). For this tutorial, I will be showing you in step 2 how to use your host for your domain. The benefit of doing it “my way” is that your domain is free when you sign up for a hosting account.

Domains are generally inexpensive. Depending on the demand of the domain you’ve chosen they can range from a $0.99 sale to approx. $14.99/year. Granted, seriously in demand domains such as www.deluxedesigns.com can go for thousands (hence why I’m not the owner of that domain!).

This shouldn’t be a complicated step. Simply register to create an account and follow the prompts to choose your domain. Read on to get a new domain for free.

That link will get you 10% off at Go Daddy.

Step 2: Choose your host

Whether or not you are using the same host as your domain, you still need to purchase hosting for your site. Do not skip this step. A domain name does not mean you’ve also purchased the space for your site to be built on. WordPress, which you will install, is not a software and it is not downloaded onto your computer. The files are hosted by a third-party and this is your host.

You have many choices when it comes to hosts. If you have had a negative experience with a host, you’re bound to hold a grudge. Personally, I have never had an issue with my host, so I will base this next step on Dreamhost.

Starting here, create an account.

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Once you fill out your basic information, press continue and you will be prompted to enter your domain. You will be asked whether you own the domain already. If you did purchase the domain already, you will select that option. If you do not yet own your domain, select the option to register your chosen domain for free (*with a new account).

Next you will choose a plan. Whether you choose 1 or 2 years prepaid is totally up to you. On the next page, there will be a place you can enter a promo code. Entering code DELUXEDESIGNS will get you $25 off of your plan. Your first two weeks are considered a trial and they are free.

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If you chose to purchase your domain through another host, there may be additional steps including pointing the domain DNS to your web host. It is not complicated, but each host interface looks different. I rather explain based on one host so I can provide screenshots and make this real for you.

Step 3: Install WordPress

From a DIY perspective, a one-click installation is the easiest way to get WordPress up and running. This could not be easier on Dreamhost.

Once signed into your dashboard, you will see a highlighted toolbox on the top left side. Select One-Click Installs.

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You will be prompted with several options but keep a one track mind and stick with WordPress!

Here are my preferences for installation:

Select Custom Installation > Select your domain > Where it says / _______ , leave that space blank. That is if you wanted to install WordPress on a subdomain such as example.com/blog. As a general rule, I am assuming you do not have another website so leave this part blank unless you know what you’re doing (in which case you probably find this tutorial useless :) )

Keep “Automatically Create Database” and UNCHECK Deluxe Install unless you want a whole slew of themes loaded on your site. In my opinion, you want to keep the fewest number of extraneous files on your site.

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Within 10 minutes, you will receive an email from Dreamhost telling you that you’ve successfully installed WordPress to your site.

Step 4: Set up your site

Your email will prompt you to click on a link that follows this structure: http://www.example.com/wp-admin/install.php

Click on that link (in your email) and follow the simple prompts (for username, password, etc.).

You should now be able to log into your site! For future reference, you will log into your site here: http://www.example.com/wp-admin

Step 5: Make it pretty!

I am a designer so I can’t just stop at having your site set up. At this point, you have a very basic, generic looking site.

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See that? I think not! Sure, you can get a generic theme up there to brighten it up a bit. OR, I can introduce you to Genesis, the amazing framework by Studiopress. If you are not looking to hire a designer, I would highly recommend investing in the Genesis framework and a child theme. It’s packed with front-end aesthetic benefits and back-end benefits like SEO maximization.

A child theme is necessary because without it, if you are prompted to update Genesis in your WordPress dashboard, any changes you’ve made to your theme will be overridden. With a child theme, you essentially protect your theme from that. Plus… child themes are what makes your site pretty!!

So let’s do it. Go to Studiopress and choose a theme. The Foodie theme is a very popular one as of late.

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But there are soooo many good ones.

Swank, as another example? Yeah baby.

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There are just so many to choose from!

When you purchase Genesis and a child theme of your choice, you also automatically get access to Studiopress support. You will receive a link to a tutorial on setting up your site to appear like the theme demo.

Step 5: Installing Genesis and your child theme

Since I do not know which child theme you are choosing, I cannot give specific installation instructions (nor would I, honestly. You will receive those once you purchase your theme. I provide that as a service if this is over your head).

In general, I recommend making any coding changes in an FTP such as FileZilla, but again, if that is not within your skill-set, you may follow these steps.

Once logged into your site, navigate to Appearance > Themes > Add New.

Be sure to install Genesis first. Then you may install your child theme. Once both are installed, you may activate your child theme. You do not need to activate Genesis. Just be sure that it is installed on your site. It is the backbone to your child theme functioning.

Navigate to Genesis > Theme Settings if you want to select a different color scheme that comes with your child theme.

Step 6: Plugins

Your child theme’s developer may suggest some plugins that will aid in the functioning of that particular theme. As a general rule, try to keep your plugins at a minimum. It is easy to want to add any and all plugins you can get your hands on, but keep in mind that fewer plugins will keep your site loading at a nice, quick speed. The framework is known to be lightweight in coding, so if your site is loading slowly, check with your host or minimize the number of plugins you have on your site. Not all plugins will “play nice” with one another either. Keep in mind plugins are developed by individuals who are not working together and they created them at different times when different versions of WordPress may have been out. Don’t let this scare you out of using plugins. Just keep it in the back of your head.

Here are just a handful of plugins to look into if you are just getting started:

  • Akismet, for example, is a great plugin (free, if you move the slider all the way to $0) that keeps spam down
  • Simple Social Icons
  • Snapwidget.com – a free instagram widget
  • Image Widget
  • Pin it for Pinterest Images

 

Step 7: Using WordPress and Genesis

I won’t walk you through using WordPress (although I do offer one on one sessions if you’re interested) because that would be recreating the wheel; however this is a great, great resource for using WordPress. Also, sites like WP101.com or http://wp.tutsplus.com/category/tutorials/wp101-training/ are good for general WordPress tutorials.

With a little playing around, you may be able to figure out how to add your own graphics and really make your site stand out. Of course, that is what I do.

All in all, doing this yourself will save you tons of money and will get you the good lookin’ site you desire!

 

 

Grandbaby Cakes // New Blogsite Design Launch

Enough time has passed since I have last written on the blog. I decided I would take my first post back to introduce the newest design launch: Jocelyn Delk Adam’s Grandbaby Cakes.

Jocelyn requested a logo update and a complete design makeover for her migration to WordPress.

We went through a few logo options…

rejects

 

Old Logo

Old Logo

header

New, updated photo

 

 
…and ultimately came up with a design that truly captured the updated look that Jocelyn wanted for Grandbaby Cakes.

 

 

 

Now for the website design!

screenshot

Grandbaby Cakes’ new homepage features a slideshow, a subscription bar, customized introduction area, featured post thumbnails and a truncated recent post section.

mockup

The site also features a visual recipe index that allows readers to find past recipes by image, category, archived post, or a simple search.

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I am really happy with how this site turned out. Now excuse me while I attempt to keep myself from trying out every.single.recipe on her site!

words

http://www.grandbaby-cakes.com

Attack on WordPress?!

WordPress friends: There is an attack on WP sites going on right now! Please don’t freak out but do check out your site and dashboard and make sure that it is not *very* slow or down and that there isn’t anything out of the ordinary going on. My understanding is that bots are searching for sites using the username ‘admin’. There are several recommendations to make sure that your site remains clean and free of hackers now and in the future. Here are some of my recommendations (although I can not take total credit as these are based on the rec’s of others, but I’ve read so many recent articles and talked to so many fellow designers, I can’t source everyone. This is just my summary of others’ thoughts! bahaha)

Keep WordPress Safe

Questions?!

Creating or Adding to a Navigation Bar

One of the most common questions I get is how you can add or edit a page on your menu bar. Barring a custom blog/web design where you – assuming you are a blog user and not a designer – probably should not touch the menu bar without consulting your designer, this is a really simple process. I walk you through it in the video below!

I discuss:

  • How to create a navigation bar and add it to your site
  • How to create a page, category, and external or custom link and add them to your navigation bar (I’m using the terms “navigation” and “menu” interchangeably)

  • Editing the label of the menu item
  • Opening a menu item link in a new window

Feel free to leave your questions in the comments section!

Who knew I could draw thyme?!

I haven’t written a post in a while, so I thought that we should get things up to date around here!

Right around the new year I took an online class to learn some calligraphy. It’s honestly hit or miss and I’m still practicing, but the one thing I’ve been loving is the watercolor and hand painted look.

It seems that designs requests come in waves. Out of my last handful of designs, I had 2 recipe sites then 2 photography sites and then 2 requests for watercolor-esque designs that although different (one desert-related and one herb-related), were similar in that they were both green and leafy images after the same aesthetic (and one that I love).

Try finding a watercolor image of thyme or a watercolor image of a succulent in a terrarium. Try it. Dare ya. So you found one, right? But is it a stock image? Is it editable? Likely not (and if it is, well, you’re better than I am then – email me, we should chat!). I do not like having to rely on the availability of stock images so I’ve been taking that into my own hands (literally!).

Here is a sneak peek at the hand-painted elements that I am working on for one client. Notice the custom succulent in a terrarium? I kind of rock. I’m not saying it’s the best image ever created, but c’mon, it’s not bad. Better yet, my client loves it!
That is a subscribe bar in mustard yellow and just try to find that font anywhere online-ha! This design will also have hand-painted social media icons and we’ll just have to see what else.

sneak

A snapshot of hand-drawn elements for an upcoming launch.

My client requested specific font and color choices so my job for this custom header design (below) was really to make everything flow…and to find the right thyme.  Actually, I did find a stock image for thyme, but it was not easily editable and it wasn’t the right look anyway. So I went to it and created it myself. And I kind of like my design more than what was available on the Internet. Who knew I could draw thyme?! Hidden talents over here, folks.

header-1

Custom header with hand-drawn elements

And now for my latest design launch.

I have always believed that the design is half of the beauty to the site but the content makes up the other half. Lauren from Lauren Gay Photography contacted me to get her over from Blogger to WordPress and to redesign her site. I took just a quick glance at her photos and I instantly knew that together the design and content would make a beautiful site.

I think we rocked it.

Lauren-PE

Style board for Lauren Gay Photography

Style board for Lauren Gay Photography

So that’s just a bit of what I’ve been working on and there is lots more to come! Thank you for allowing me to create and have fun creating for you.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, DeluxeDesigns friends!

New Year's Eve Printable

Enjoy this free printable (be sure to click on the link to download rather than just print the image as it won’t fill the page otherwise). Thanks for such a great year & see you in 2013!

Limited Time Offer // Basic Theme Customization

Several new themes have become available for the Genesis framework in the last few months. When you get a custom design through DD, you receive many unique template changes that meet your functional and aesthetic needs and desires. In creating new packages for my new site which is slooooowly in the works, I have created a basic customization package of Genesis themes.

As I will not be unveiling my new site or packages for some time, I wanted to open up this opportunity to anyone interested. For a limited time I will be offering a BASIC THEME CUSTOMIZATION PACKAGE and this would not be enticing unless it is offered at a discounted rate, so that is what it will be!

For a limited time, for $205, you will receive:

  • Select your favorite Genesis child theme from Studiopress (includes Community themes)
  • Receive installation and customizations including:
    -Setup of template to achieve the same arrangement of the demo
    -Uniquely designed header or insertion of your existing logo
    -Colors
    -Navigation setup
    -Webfont installation
    -Background
  • Note: Your site will have the same functionality as the chosen theme’s demo, but will still be visually unique to you.
  • Turnaround time is much quicker than a custom design and no wait list.
  • The price of the theme is included in this package; however you may still want to purchase it for access to support.

Visit the themes here for demos or see some of my favorite themes (ok, I have many!) by some fabulous designers below! Just send an email to Julie@deluxe-designs.net if you are interested in this limited time offer. This rate will not last, so hurry!

mompreneur

This is an e-commerce ready theme!

craftiness

glitter

innov8tive

modernblogger

vintage