Posts tagged " 31 days "

Day 9—Layout and Composition Part 8

October 9th, 2015 Posted by Design No Comment yet


Day 8—Layout and Composition Part 7

October 8th, 2015 Posted by Design No Comment yet

So yesterday was all about contrast and today we are going to be talking about positive/negative space in design.


Day 7—Layout and Composition Part 6

October 7th, 2015 Posted by Design 1 comment


Welcome back! Here we are in our layout and composition journey:

So yesterday was all about unity and today we are going to be talking about contrast in design.

Just for reference, here’s were we are in the “basics” posts:

  1. Layout and Composition: the grid, the rule of thirds, hierarchy, rhythm, unity, contrast and positive/negative space.
  2. Typography: fonts, using different fonts together, adjusting font (using kerning, tracking and leading), using type.
  3. Color: color theory, using a color story/palette, primary, secondary and tertiary colors
  4. Line and Shape
  5. Photography
  6. Illustration and texture

Contrast can be used to add energy to a layout. It can be contrast between type and image, light and dark, stillness and motion, or color. Contrast can stop readers in their tracks, so use it wisely. When you use a lot of contrast, you need to be really clear in your hierarchy so that readers don’t get confused. You could probably consider using contrast an “advanced” technique, but there are ways to use it effortlessly.

Let’s look at some examples!

The first person/blog I think of when it comes to contrast is Shutterbean! Tracy loves black and white and she uses that in her blog and her brand. She does a great job of creating a fun, energetic feeling in her blog with out it being too chaotic. Mainly she uses type size and treatments to create hierarchy.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 8.45.15 AM

Here’s one from A Brown Table. Nik uses beautiful contrast in his photos.

contrast eye flow

The first thing I noticed is that the contrast generally leads the eye down the photo, and then keeps the flow going to the text and right into the next photo:


And he uses color in the title to draw a little attention and give hierarchy (you are probably sick of that word by now, it’s arguably THE most important design principle you could learn!)

So what are some ways YOU can use contrast in a simple, effective way? You could make your columns or page have a little bit of a background. You could add a contrasted banner to the top of your page that highlights your blog header or logo. Or adding contrast to your post content, like when you add a list or subtitle/header. Just a word of caution… don’t go overboard, and keep your hierarchy in mind!

More in Layout + Composition tomorrow….

Blogs mentioned:

A Brown Table


Day 6—Layout and Composition Part 5

October 6th, 2015 Posted by Design 1 comment


So yesterday was all about rhythm and today we are going to be talking about Unity in design.

Just for reference, here’s were we are in the “basics” posts:

  1. Layout and Composition: the grid, the rule of thirds, hierarchy, rhythm, unity, contrast and positive/negative space.
  2. Typography: fonts, using different fonts together, adjusting font (using kerning, tracking and leading), using type.
  3. Color: color theory, using a color story/palette, primary, secondary and tertiary colors
  4. Line and Shape
  5. Photography
  6. Illustration and texture


Much like rhythm, unity can help to create a layout that is cohesive. Creating unity can be done in a lot of different ways, kind of like how creating hierarchy can be done in many ways. The trick is to pick one or more ways to create unity, yet allow for some diversity/contrast as well. So kind of like with hierarchy, we start by adding in one or two elements that create unity, and then take a step back (or have others look at the design) and then decide if it needs more, or if it’s good the way it is!

To see examples of unity, we need to take a step back too. Let’s look at the design of some sights as a whole. Screen shots don’t really work for this, so I’m going to provide a link for you to go check out, and I’ll give you some hints/point out some ways the designer of the site is using unity.

Here’s the first one, The Faux Martha. Melissa is a designer and blogger too! So I especially appreciate the details and the ways she created unity through the use of very simple colors and icons.

She uses little “title” flags at the top of each post to let you know what type of post it is. She also has clear colors and repeats them in the same places (certain titles, post publishing dates, ect). Through just a few simple (yet meaningful!) touches, The Faux Martha has created a sense of unity. Okay, so here’s one screenshot to show you what I mean exactly:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.00.56 AM

She also carries those fonts, colors and some graphic elements, like arrows and flags, into the sidebar design. It all looks like her, not a site with a bunch of ads on the side.

And here’s another example, Hummingbird High.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 7.54.44 AM

Michelle uses some simple tactics to achieve unity here. She uses Open Sans for all her fonts (using just size, color and weight to differentiate… that’s a lesson in hierarchy too!) and she also brings unity into her photos, with the same background, similar angle and similar props used throughout.

There are lots of ways to bring unity to your blog design, and it’s something you should strive for because it’s part of having a cohesive brand. It’s like adding in your own little touches, sort of sprinkled here and there in your design, to remind the reader that they are on your site, and that this is part of who you are.


Brainstorm ways you add just a little more unity to your site. Maybe it’s just a color, or a consistent post format. Maybe you always use a certain angle in your photos.

More in Layout + Composition tomorrow….

Sites/Blogs mentioned:

The Faux Martha

Hummingbird High


Day 5—Layout and Composition Part 4

October 5th, 2015 Posted by Design 1 comment


So, again, just to recap where we are in the layout series:

So yesterday was all about Hierarchy and today we are going to be talking about rhythm! So fun, right?

Just for reference, here’s were we are in the “basics” posts:

  1. Layout and Composition: the grid, the rule of thirds, hierarchy, rhythm, unity, contrast and positive/negative space.
  2. Typography: fonts, using different fonts together, adjusting font (using kerning, tracking and leading), using type.
  3. Color: color theory, using a color story/palette, primary, secondary and tertiary colors
  4. Line and Shape
  5. Photography
  6. Illustration and texture


What exactly is rhythm in design? Well, similar to in music, rhythm is the use of repetition. When designing something complex, there needs to be some sort of repetitive elements to bring it into order, or give the reader a sense of what’s coming next, so that it’s easier to read.

Rhythm can also mean the “pace” of something. Like how often do you have a photo vs. copy? Is there a photo after every two lines, or after a large paragraph of text? Is there a lot of blank space (a.k.a. whitespace) between your elements in the sidebar? This also attributes to the rhythm and pace of your blog design.

I found a great article on rhythm that includes more definitions and fun vocabulary words.

A really clear example of rhythm is rooted in repetition. The best one I can think of is Tastespotting:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.37.09 AM

Talk about potential for chaos! Their site is run off of blogger/writer submissions (you should totally create an account and submit posts, btw, it brings me traffic when I do) and could be so chaotic—if it wasn’t for their already established rhythm and templates. Through the repetitive use of squares, they bring order to the chaos and allow the photos to shine through. And isn’t it easier to look at? Yummly has a similar set up.

Here’s another example from the food blogging world of rhythm.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.46.26 AM

Talk about a site that would need some serious structure! Food Network has a lot of stake holders, information, recipes, shows and stars, and they need to be organized in a way that makes sense for the reader (and helps promote their top stories.) So this site is a great example of repetition and rhythm.

Take a look at the use of type to create hierarchy and flow your eye down the page as well, and then the use of boxes (both with image and with gray background boxes) to add emphasis where needed.

Rhythm isn’t just about repeating elements, it’s about working together WITH hierarchy so that the reader flows down the page in a natural progression. And they both work together on the grid to give organization to your page. Is this making sense yet?

Here’s another example of rhythm in design, and perhaps a more subtle one… I think you need to read it to get the flow of it.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 8.15.42 AM

The rhythm is in the photo/text/photo/text interplay, but it’s also in the story and content. There’s a great story being told here, but it’s juxtaposed by the images on the page. It creates a rhythm and flow that draws the reader in and makes them keep reading! So rhythm can be created by your words as well.


Take a look at your blog with a critical eye. Is there a rhythm there? Is it the one you want? What about the other elements we’ve talked about so far (the rule of thirds, the grid, and hierarchy)? What things need some shaping up or tweaking? Start thinking or even writing down some things (feelings, energy, messages) you want your site to say about you and your content. Is your site saying those things now? What are some areas you want to change? Don’t worry too much if nothing seems right. We are going to get into how to use all this and start making design changes on your blog after we go through this “basics bootcamp” part. Please, hang in there with me! Don’t be discouraged, friend.

More in Layout + Composition tomorrow….

Resources for this post:

Vanseo Design on Rhythm

Sites/Blogs mentioned:



Food Network

Love, Cake




October 4th, 2015 Posted by Design 1 comment


So yesterday was all about The Rule of Thirds and today we are going to be talking about hierarchy.

Just for reference, here’s were we are in the “basics” posts:

  1. Layout and Composition: the grid, the rule of thirds, hierarchy, rhythm, unity, contrast and positive/negative space.
  2. Typography: fonts, using different fonts together, adjusting font (using kerning, tracking and leading), using type.
  3. Color: color theory, using a color story/palette, primary, secondary and tertiary colors
  4. Line and Shape
  5. Photography
  6. Illustration and texture


Hierarchy is all about being intentional with what your viewer sees first, and then second, third, and so on. It’s just like giving your page a title, then a sub title, then copy, then breaking up copy with a pull quote, using bullets or number for lists, ect.

With your blog, you need to decide what it is you want the reader to see first. The recipe? Your header or logo? The other links on the page or the “About” section in the sidebar, for example? You determine the order of importance (to YOU and what you are trying to accomplish on that page or on your blog as a whole) and then design each element so that it naturally flows in that order of hierarchy.

And one more thing: usually you only need to change one thing at a time, meaning, start with scale to differentiate between elements. If that isn’t enough, add another design change, such as color, to further differentiate between each element. This keeps your design simple with out getting too visually confusing or crazy. If everything is bold, then nothing is bold. You’ll see more of what I mean in the examples.

How do we establish hierarchy?

Hierarchy is typically achieved by using one or more of the following:

  1. Size
  2. Color
  3. Weight or thickness (also italics or emphasis in fonts)
  4. Space
  5. Order on the page

And there are probably other ways too. When I was searching for good examples I came across this article: Achieving Visual Hierarchy

I have to agree with the article above:

Nail down the purpose of each page element, and then dress it up.

Now lets look at some examples from the food blog world:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 9.33.10 AM

JTB has a large emphasis on her header, and then my eye goes right to the photo or the round photo of her and the about link. So, knowing what I know about Joy The Baker (I’m a fan, I own her cookbooks and have been reading her for a long time!) I know that she cares a lot about her brand and works hard on her site and social media. Having her logo larger and prominent makes sense for her. And having photos be the next forerunner also makes sense, since she’s a stellar photographer and naturally her blog would show that off.

Here’s another example:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 4.57.44 PM

David Lebovitz has been blogging for awhile…. he has many books and it’s probably safe to say that he’s more author rather then blogger in this case. So it makes sense that his books would be up top, and with nice green buttons that say “Hey look at me!”

I also noticed that his menu bar has a grey background, which also draws the eye to it. David does so many things, that I can see why he would want you (the reader) to be aware of them and see everything he has going on.

Here’s one more and then I want to say something about these examples:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 5.01.08 PM

Now Budget Bytes is clearly more about the text, or the story rather then the photo. While the photos are nice, this blog is all about saving money, hence the title, and dollar amounts for each recipe are right up at the top. The date also has that green shape around it, giving it emphasis, intended or not. I also like how the tagline is right up under the logo. Because of its placement, it’s been given emphasis too. Right away, looking at the large, crisp logo, you go to next to the tagline and understand the purpose of the blog.

OKAY now, I want to point out something. Have you noticed that all my examples are kinda… squatty? I’m only doing screen shots of what you can see above the fold. This term is used in design and comes from newspaper printing. It basically means that all the important stuff goes first, before you have to scroll (or turn the newspaper over). There’s a little debate about this in the design world, some say the whole “above the fold” thing doesn’t really apply any more because people understand that you have to scroll down. Well I say that what you put first—above the fold—gets the most attention, not that people won’t scroll down and see other things, but they will see what is above the fold first.

So what do you want people to see first? Your photography, your book pre-order button, your words? Think about it, then design accordingly.

More in Layout + Composition tomorrow….

Resources for this post:

Achieving Visual Hierarchy

Blogs mentioned:

Joy The Baker

David Lebovitz

Budget Bytes

Day 3 — Layout and Composition Part 2

October 3rd, 2015 Posted by Design 2 comments

featured post_layout part 2

So yesterday was all about The Grid  and today we are going to be talking about The Rule of Thirds.

Just for reference, here’s were we are in the “basics” posts:

  1. Layout and Composition: the grid, the rule of thirds, hierarchy, rhythm, unity, contrast and positive/negative space.
  2. Typography: fonts, using different fonts together, adjusting font (using kerning, tracking and leading), using type.
  3. Color: color theory (oh how I love this topic), using a color story/palette,
  4. Line and Shape
  5. Photography
  6. Art, illustration and texture

Here we go.

The Rule of Thirds:

The rule of thirds is when your canvas is divided up into three columns across and three rows down. Here’s an example of a photo divided like you would for use of the rule of thirds (from my pico de gallo post):


So the idea is that for some reason (similar to the golden proportion) a perfectly symmetrical composition is less satisfying and aesthetically pleasing than one in which the proportions are slightly asymmetrical. So in a similar way, a photo with it’s subject directly in the center, is less pleasing to the eye then one that is is slightly off to one side.

With our lines of thirds in place, we draw little circles where each of the lines intersect, which is where our focal points should be:


But you may be saying: “But this is talking about my photos, not the design of my blog!” Well, honey, as a food blogger, your photos ARE your blog. Sorry to put so much pressure on it, but it’s true. We all like visually pleasing photos, and even if your recipe is award winning and the best thing I’ll ever eat, if the photo isn’t compelling enough, I’ll likely be pinning, printing or cooking the recipe of some other blog with better photos.

I’m not getting into photography until later in this 31 days series, but for now you can look at the composition of your photo and know that having things a little off center is better then smack dab in the middle.

HOLD ON! Yes, there are exceptions to every rule. Minimalist Baker’s image below for example:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 11.47.38 PM

Clearly the image has the blender (two halves, but still) centered in the photo. But if you pay careful attention to where your eye goes:


Huh. My eyes went right to where the natural focal points were! Crazy! Did yours?

The rule of thirds can be applied to the grid and your column widths too… I think that’s another reason why I like my main content area to be larger then my sidebar, about a ration of two-thirds to one-third.

Here’s some more great photo inspiration sources: Learn Food Photography

See you tomorrow, for more 31 days of graphic design for food bloggers!

Resources for this post:

The Golden Proportion

The Rule of Thirds

Food Photography Inspiration

Blogs mentioned:

My pico de gallo post

Minimalist Baker


Day 2: Design Basics — Layout and Composition

October 2nd, 2015 Posted by Design 2 comments


I feel like this is the part where we all get out our freshly sharpened pencils and crack open those brand new notebooks. I’m a first day of school lover, what can I say?

So, today we are talking about Layout and Composition in the context of graphic design for your food blog. This is going to be a two parter—it’s THAT good! Actually, a couple of these “basics” posts will be two-parters, so we can really get in to some meaty stuff.

Layout is where I like to start because it sets the ground work for the other elements of design.

And here are those design “elements” (or areas, ideas, topics) by the way and what we will talk about specifically for each of them (schedule or number of posts per topic subject to change):

  1. Layout and Composition: this is a huge area… we are going to cover “the grid.” Part 2 will cover the rule of thirds will cover hierarchy, rhythm, unity, contrast and positive/negative space.
  2. Typography: fonts, using different fonts together, adjusting font (using kerning, tracking and leading), using type.
  3. Color: color theory (oh how I love this topic), using a color story/palette,
  4. Line and Shape
  5. Photography
  6. Art, illustration and texture

Other designers will probably break these things up in different ways, but this is the basic run down.

So let’s dive into Layout and Composition part 1:

The Grid.

The grid is an underlying structure (decided on by you, but usually somewhat dictated by your medium.) It’s a (you guessed it) grid of rows and columns at different widths. Here’s an example of a grid from Thinking With Type:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 12.19.25 AM

In web design, there is a grid that is often referred to called the 960 grid. It uses the common measurement of desktop site width and divides that up into columns. You can read more (and get templates) here: 960 grid system. Here’s an example of what a grid could look like. This was taken from one of my school projects in 2013:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 12.11.04 AM

Now, however, with mobile and tablet design I think the more important thing to keep in mind is the fact that we are working on a grid, and the reason we use one is that our pages on our site, and our site as a whole, needs structure. When we decide what the structure is, then we can break it if we want to, to draw attention to that area (like in the case of a special button, or call to action.)

So how should you create a grid? Remember that sharpened pencil you had earlier? Let’s take it out along with some paper. Draw a series of boxes that will serve as mock ups for your screen… so they can be phone sized, tablet, or desktop. Next, think about how you want copy to flow into your layout.

For food blogs, typically we like large images, and text to be large enough to easily read the recipe. We also like headers that show a little personality, and links to other posts in hopes that readers will stay awhile.

Now, I haven’t mentioned one thing yet… the text column issue. Web design typically doesn’t have two columns for text on a single page like a printed page or newspaper does. That’s because we just want to scroll down, right? Okay, so that is one constraint we know we are working with.

But what about those images? How big is big enough? Does copy flow around them, or break and go underneath? And what about all those links?

On a desktop site, there is room for a multi-column grid, with large images and links on the left or right side if we want them. If you are using a theme, you might see something like this in the theme or layout settings (from the Foodie Pro theme on the Genisis Framework)

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 12.43.48 AM

These are all examples of the grid, even though they are super simplified. My site grid is a two-coloumn with a primary sidebar. I want my content to live in the mostly left side of the page, and the “extras” (subscribe button, top posts, social links).

A huge trend right now is the “full width” site. Where the images go the whole length of the site window and then the text is over that, or under it. While these do have a full width image, the text still relies on a grid structure. Here’s one from i am a food blog: Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 9.42.34 AM

You can see how the image is full width, but the header (title) and the social icons still follow a basic grid. They are aligned either to the left or the right, they are evenly spaced, and they are vertically aligned. As we get even further down the post and scroll down, the grid becomes more apparent. To a web designer, the grid might start to appear like this (using the 960 grid as a base)

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 10.05.05 AM

Another example of a grid is still a two column but the width of the columns are almost equal.

Here’s an example from Half Baked Harvest:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 9.44.38 AM

I tend to like either full-width or two column designs with the main column larger then the secondary column. This allows for a sense of hierarchy between the two columns; in other words, they aren’t fighting for my attention and I naturally read the post first and the “extras” second.

Here’s one of my favorite examples of a two column with a wider main column grid structure:

Joy The Baker: 

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 9.33.10 AM

Once you have your grid established, you can come up with interesting ways to “break it”. This should only be done after you have a solid idea of what your structure is and you’ve thought carefully about how you want to break it. I find sketching helps the most, with figuring out your grid and deciding if or when to break it.

Here’s some great grid templates you can sketch with. You can also print out or take a screen shot of your site and draw on it to make your grid lines, or create guides over a screen shot in photoshop. Grids for sketching.

Here’s an example from Spoon Fork Bacon of how they “broke” their grid, with that little cooking pot illustration. Funny how your eye goes right to it—because it breaks up the straight line of the margin in the columns.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 9.53.02 AM

I also want to share one more resource with you guys, which is a browser extension called Firebug. I use it with Firefox, and with it you can see the “back end” of sites. It’s pretty cool for finding out what font a site is using, or what colors they have on their site. I even use it to get the image sizes for my secondary column and featured images. It’s a great tool to have as you’re figuring out this wonderful world of digital design!

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 10.24.46 AM

More in Layout + Composition Part 2 tomorrow…

Resources for this post:

Studio Press; Genesis Framework

Foodie Pro wordpress theme

Thinking With Type: The grid

Grid Templates to sketch with

Blogs mentioned:

Half Baked Harvest, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Cupcakes

I Am A Food Blog: Miso Tuna Salad

Spoon Fork Bacon, Chai Banana Cake

Day 1: What is graphic design and why do I need it?

October 1st, 2015 Posted by Design No Comment yet

31 days graphic design for food bloggers

As we start this 31 days of graphic design for food bloggers, you may be wondering what exactly IS graphic design and why do I need it for a food blog?

Oh friend. I’m here to tell you. Design is that balance between function and beauty, between purpose and pretty, between decision and decoration. With design we inch people down a page, or we sweep them across a photograph. Design has the power to create movement, rhythm, calm, order or even chaos, if we so choose it to. Design is subtle, but can create a massive impact.

We can use all these tools design gives us to create a better blog, social media presence, and even improve our photography.

So here’s a brief overview of what the next 31 days brings:

  1. The basics of graphic design. We gotta start somewhere, right? And there are no stupid questions, so reach out to me through comments, facebook, instagram or wherever! I’m going to do a post that covers the basics of the basics, then more posts to dive into specific topics.
  2. Applying the basics to the blogging world (we’ll be covering this all along the way).
  3. How design speaks to your reader and what it tells your audience.
  4. How to use templates to create a streamlined design process for social media sharing, blog posts and featured images.
  5. Tools and programs (technology! We are going to embrace it!
  6. How design translates to photography.
  7. Creating digital things that add to your blog content – using design to add value.
  8. Fun stuff like colors, fonts and illustrations and how to make or find ones that you love.

And by now you’ve probably answered the “and why do I need this” question, but if not, let me explain. Design can translate into the way your blog looks, yes, but it also serves a bigger purpose.

The branding of our blogs and social media presence is achieved through design (and other things, but design is the visual part). So when someone lands on your page, through your use of color, font, white space (whoa! first designer vocab word!) they are gathering information about you. Yes, wether you like it or not, the way your blog looks is saying a lot about you, your content, and will play a role in gaining return visitors. We will dive into exactly WHAT these colors/fonts/use of space can say, so you’ll be able to fine-tune your message.

Design can play a large part in organization as well. Think about the last time you went to a site and you couldn’t find what you were looking for, like a contact button or an address for directions. Wasn’t that frustrating? Poor design. Or what about when you went to your phone to your new favorite blog or site and was disappointed when they didn’t have a scaled mobile version?

With all the food blogs out there, it’s tough to be seen and to gain followers. But good design can help, and it can make you stand out from the crowd and look totally legit as a food expert. Design can add SO much depth and information about your story, who you are and your food point of view.

We are going to talk about all this and probably a lot more. This is going to be fun!

See you tomorrow, for more 31 days of graphic design for food bloggers.

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