design

How To Write A Kickass To Do List

By Smack Bang Designs

My desk is a total disaster.

It looks like a crew of teenage girls converged for a fluoro party with post-it notes and artliner pens. And scraps of paper. And paperwork I should have dealt with ages ago. There is what appears to be a designated section for empty teacups and a graveyard of scrunched up notes. There are three items that I’m unable to identify and two empty lunch containers that should most definitely go in the bin rather than the dishwasher.

I think my current desk situation is accurately reflective of my life at present. Chaotic, crazy and full. I’m in the midst of fulfilling three roles at Smack Bang, negotiating a rather large deal at Urban Growers and doing the legwork to set up my next business baby.

Busy, yes. Happy, absolutely.

I’m a Type A personality and I thrive on being busy just as much as I thrive on having a colour-coordinated wardrobe and matching skin care products. Being busy is my jam.

Over the years I’ve toyed with becoming a more chilled out, zen-like person. The idea of lunchtime yoga and slow beach walks is awfully romantic. In fact, one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to slow down and learn how to do less in my two businesses. And in typical Tess style, on January 4th I thought of my next business idea and by January 5th I was knee deep in concept development. Four days Tess, kudos!

Being busy is bonkers, but somehow my brain has not yet flown the coop (this statement is most likely not supported by my boyfriend). I owe it to a great support network and epic team – oh, and by always writing a kick-ass to do list each day.

Without my to-do list I would probably be in hospital getting my limbs sewn back onto my torso from a classic case of trying to run in too many different directions at once. Without my to-do list I would likely be a nervous wreck trying to learn how to teleport so that I can be in two places at once. Without my to-do list I would absolutely be staring blankly at a white wall trying to slow my racing mind down to prevent one thought obliterating the next.

My to-do list is my bestie, and here’s the low down on how we keep sane together.

  1. KEEP IT REAL
    I know how it goes; you wake up, you smash a coffee and sit down at your desk feeling super pumped and ready to take on the world. With a never-ending landscape of time ahead of you, you fill your to-do list with a billion tasks knowing that you’ll easily finish them all by 2pm so that you can clock off and head to the local pond to feed bread to the ducks and ponder the meaning of life. Perrrrfect. Truth? That ain’t happenin’ anytime soon, my friend. Calm the hell down and be reasonable with yourself. If your to do-list isn’t realistic, you’ll end up finishing your day feeling like the kid that missed the Mr Whippy van – majorly bummed out.
     
  2. PRIORITISE THIS
    When you’ve got a long list of things to do in front of you, it can send you straight into paralysis mode. Prioritising your to-do list by order of urgency will show you what you need to concentrate on today and what can wait until tomorrow, allowing you to breathe easier in return. Start the list with at least two items that absolutely must get done today, so you don’t end up vacuuming under the couch instead of finishing a project report due tomorrow.
     
  3. ONE THING AT A TIME
    Easier said than done: pick one thing off your list and do it! Once that’s done, do another thing. Lather, rinse, repeat. If you try to juggle five tasks at the same time, chances are you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and outnumbered. Write things down as soon as you think of them so nothing slips through the cracks. Then pick one thing first and see it through. Reward yourself with cheese or a Jimmy Fallon YouTube clip. Just one! Okay, three.
     
  4. NIGHT WRITER
    On the occasion that I manage to write my list the night before, I wake up to singing birds and talking deer and coffee brewing and wafts of almond danishes through my door. Legit, writing your list the night before gives you the clarity and rational mind to not assume you can dust off 15 blog posts and teach yourself HTML coding all before noon. Writing your list in the morning can sometimes make you feel like you’re already one step behind, which is sort of depressing when the goal is winning.
     
  5. TORTURE-FREE ZONE
    And on that point, step away from the cliff in your mind telling you that you’re a failure because you didn’t get it all right, all the time. Don’t write an unrealistic list the length of Santa’s just to remind yourself that it’s not possible. Break the habit of martyrdom and set yourself up for more wins. Unrealistic expectations on yourself do nothing but drain energy and make you reach (again) for the Cadbury block. Eat that chocolate because you’re stoked, not miserable!
     
  6. PICK A MEDIUM
    To-do lists come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s all about what works for the individual. Some research suggests writing information by hand helps us remember it better, but if you last picked up a pen in 1998, fear not: there’s a huge range of digital apps that help create personal to-do lists. Have a to do list that travels with you. I find that Google Docs are the bee’s knees.
     
  7. SCHEDULE SCHEDULING
    You know you need to make a list, so now comes the actual crux: you have to write it down. Schedule time to schedule – sounds a bit wacky but you will relax in the knowledge that there is time set aside to write a nice list and take back some small bit of control over your life. Take that, chaos!
     
  8. START FRESH
    Make a new list every day so the same old items don’t clog up the agenda. It’s also a useful way to make sure we actually get something done every 24 hours and don’t just spend time decorating the paper with colourful smelly pens. Don’t use your email inbox as your to-do list. It’s just too tough to prioritise the big to-do’s from the small annoying ones that clutter up your inbox. Start fresh and start strong.
     
  9. FROGS LEGS
    Eat the frog for breakfast, and the rest of your day will follow on nicely behind it. Once you tackle that monster task, you’ll feel in control and on top of the world! And maybe a little bit French. Tres bon! And on that note, effectively prioritising means only having one to-do list. Keep it simple, keep it real and keep hopping until you get into a solid to-do list rhythm. You’ll get there

This post originally appeared on Smack Bang Designs and has been republished here with permission. To check out more of their incredible design work visit their website.

Behind The Blog Scene // Alisha Johns of LISH Creative

I'm excited to be back this week spotlighting one of my fav ladies on social media - Alisha Johns of LISH Creative! I've never been shy about sharing my love of Instagram and I've been lucky through this journey of running Blog Society to get to meet some pretty talented #girlbosses both online and off.

Alisha is one of those ladies.

She is a whip smart marketer and creates one of the most vibrant and colourful feeds out there. I just had to sit down with her to find out what really happens behind the scenes of her biz and how she's using social media to kick MAJOR goals. Enjoy... x Jac

Tell us a little bit about Lish Creative and your background?
LISH Creative is a social media agency for fashion, lifestyle & hospitality brands. My clients appreciate design, want to be inspired, and know the value of creative content for their businesses. After I graduated from Virginia Tech, I held various social media and creative roles at advertising agencies in Pittsburgh and always freelanced on the side. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I also knew that it was important to gain industry experience first. But when I started to get burnt out, and had to turn down great freelance projects because of my day-job, that’s when I knew it was time to take the leap.

What is your creative business manifesto?
Beautiful & smart content can change the face of your brand. It provides the ultimate first impression. It attracts & retains a community.

Without social media, and a platform like Instagram to create content to share with the world, I personally would not be where I am today. That’s why I am so passionate about helping others to achieve the same.

What fellow #girlboss inspires you at the moment?
I’m so inspired by Kelly Mindell of Studio DIY. She’s been able to work with some incredible big brands (like Starbucks and Coca-Cola…!) yet she always stays true to her brand and offers a unique spin. Her dedication to incredible original content is an ideal that I am always striving for in my business.

We adore your colourful instagram feed - what role does social media play in your business?
I started to get serious about Instagram after college, as a way to differentiate myself when applying to creative jobs in the advertising industry. Employers kept wanting to push me into Account Management roles and I was trying to find ways to break out of that box. Not only did my imagery catch the attention of my former employers, but it also helped me to discover my love for styling and creating visual content. As my community continued to grow, my work began getting picked up by media outlets and brands started asking me to style their products. That’s when it really hit me that there’s a business here. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but Instagram literally changed the course of my career - it has opened so many doors. And now, It is my primary source for new clients and networking.

My biggest biz moment/milestone was....
I secured my first retainer client while I was still working full-time. That was really a turning point for me and led to me submitting my two weeks notice! It’s crazy how one client can give you so much confidence.

My dream collaboration would be?
This is a tough one! There are so many colorful brands out there that I adore, but I would love to style a campaign for Jcrew.

Best piece of advice to all the budding entrepreneurs out there…
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Developing an online and social presence is essential for networking and for building your credibility. Start creating amazing content to share with the world and tell people about, everyone!

Behind the scenes of running Lish Creative looks like…
Props, props everywhere! I’ve become quite the collector of little odds and ends for styled shoots and they’ve made their way all over my studio space.There’s also a daily dose of avocado toast for lunch and netflix watching after 7pm.

My tip for handling fear, envy or comparison is…
When you’re feeling afraid, remind yourself of all of your wins and the incredible things that you’ve had to accomplish to make it to where you are right now at this very second. For me, fear comes with overwhelm and with looking too far ahead into the future.I have to take a step back, reflect, and focus on the present day.

This year I've been most excited about...
My new freedom from the 9-5 and the ability to travel more! That was huge motivator for me in deciding to take the leap. I’ll be able to spend more time in Los Angeles, in particular, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to!

Top Image: Tracy Mele

Developing a consistent brand

By Jessica Romero

Overwhelm is often inevitable when it comes to developing a consistent brand.

Social media outlets, websites, ad copy, posters, merchandise, infographics, store design, business cards, email signatures, invoices, letterhead, oh my gosh there are a million things!

You have every right to be overwhelmed. The list of brand-able materials is nearly endless.

But here’s the deal. With a little work on the back end, you can eliminate that anxious hair-pulling and consistently create content that captures the emotion behind your business and works together to tell your unique, one-of-a-kind brand story.

So let’s get started first by setting the scene.

BUILD YOUR BRAND NARRATIVE     

Every business has a story to tell and a reader to tell it to. You need to dive deep and find your narrative before you can move forward on to any design or copy decisions. (I know, I know. You want to do the fun stuff. We will get there, I promise.)

Ask yourself:

  • What is my company mission?
  • Who is my perfect customer?
  • What do they think about my company? What do they like? What emotion do they feel?
  • How is my company different than my competitors?
  • Where am I reaching my customer?
  • What kind of lifestyle does my customer live? What do they do/wear/buy/talk about?
  • How do I want to fit into the lifestyle of my perfect customer?

Some of these questions may be tough to answer. You may feel compelled to say “my ideal customer is anyone who wants my service/product!” or “I am reaching my customers across every possible social media outlet in order to reach the highest amount of people possible!”

You need to be specific.

My ideal customer is ultra-feminine, social media savvy, up-to-date on lifestyle and fashion trends. She likes the unique, colorful, photogenic qualities of my store’s inventory. She browses my company’s Instagram feed and online store for style inspiration and one-of-a-kind gifts to give her girl tribe. She sees my company’s unique goods in photos across Pinterest and is compelled to shop for products to create the same atmosphere in her life. My company makes her feel understood as a working woman, looking to live an exciting, adventurous, stylish lifestyle that fits her budget and fulfills her needs in her home and closet.

Write down your answers to these questions, keep it nearby. [Bonus points if you turn it into a eye-catching graphic and hang it next to your computer.]

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

PLAN + SCHEDULE (for YOUR customer)

You know who you are talking to now, which means that with a little leg work you know:

How to talk to them. + Where to talk to them.

Once again, ask yourself a series of questions, now with your customer in mind.

  • What social media platforms make sense for me to use?
  • What advertising methods make sense for me to use? (Magazines, newspapers, radio, online ads, sponsored posts, etc.)
  • What types of content should I be sharing? (Videos, inspiration quotes, photos, text heavy content?)
  • What style of language should I use? (Are you wanting to follow trends in casual-slang or keep it more traditional?)

When you are asking yourself these questions don’t be afraid to dig around and look at what types of users are where.

Check out this article for some basic information on social media platforms to start.

Don’t be afraid of a little old-fashioned social media stalking. Look at brands you are inspired by. How are they talking to their customers? How are customers responding?

Now you know where you need to be and how you need to present yourself, so you can make a schedule (and stick to it).  In my experience I’ve been most successful working off of two types of schedules.

A Content Rotation: I create a schedule of what types of content I am posting where. This keeps a variety of content flowing through multiple channels. This is a resource that I typically don’t adjust unless I am looking to switch something out or test a new rotation.

For example:

  • Instagram: 1x photo a day – rotate between shared photos, inspirational quotes, client feature, landscape/wide angle image, product feature, person/people photo
  • Facebook: 2x a week – link to website content, featured content or Instagram
  • Newsletter – 1x a week
  • Pinterest – update unique content from website 1x a week

(Note that this does not include exactly what I am posting but rather what type of content I am posting. Also, please note that every business has a content rotation that works best for them. Do some research, decide what works for your company and test it out. Don’t be afraid to change it and test again!)

A Weekly Schedule: Using my content rotation as a reference, I schedule anywhere from 1 week to 10 days worth of content using my weekly content schedule. 

Personally, I keep things pretty traditional and go the pen-and-paper route, but you could easily use a spreadsheet or organization app of your choice.

For my clients who have a heavy Facebook or Twitter use, I schedule everything in advance to post automatically. You can do this with a media managing site like Hootsuite.

Once again. Make a plan, test it out and tweak as necessary. With some time, you’ll find your sweet spot.

So, now we know who we are talking to, how we are talking to them and where we are doing it. As promised, it’s time for the fun stuff – the visuals.

DESIGN YOUR MOOD BOARD

Drumroll please.

You did the dirty work. You made a plan. You wrote your narrative. Now you get to create you brand identity’s visual counterpart.

It’s time to dive into the world of Pinterest, color swatches, design magazines, font books, all the pretty things! You can shop for logos, business cards, packaging and super-stylish supplies for staging your Instagram-worthy photos.

Hold the phone.

You’ve made it this far with me. I know you know what’s coming.

Settle in, take a good look at your narrative from Step #1 and your Content Rotation from Step #2. Take a breath and ask yourself a few questions once again.

  • Who is my perfect customer?
  • What do they think about my company? What do they like? What emotion do they feel?
  • What kind of lifestyle does my customer live? What do they do/wear/buy/talk about?

Now it’s time to start looking for visuals that match this. What colors does this customer respond to? What fonts do they enjoy seeing? What textures match their personality?

That ultra-feminine, trendy, working gal I explained back in Step #1. What do you think she would like?

Berry and blush tones. Ivory and pops of black – for power and elegance. Friendly and feminine script font matched with a sharp, simple modern text. Photos that highlight the bold colors and patterns of products, showing personality and creativity. Playful pops of accent colors throughout promotional and printed materials. Fun conversational text and unique hashtags throughout. Nothing too powerful – she wants to relate and feel a sense of joy and friendship with the brand. Keep it casual.

Pull it all together. Like I mentioned before, I’m old school. I create my first mood board with a cork board and push pins (The original Pinterest, if you will.)  You can use Pinterest, create a graphic or whatever works for you creatively. Collect things that make you feel the emotion of your brand.

Take a look into the psychology behind colors and typography. Dig deeper into what exactly the brain is doing.

Once you compile everything, you can start making decisions. If you are working with a graphic designer, let them in on what you did. Convey the message to your team.

Now you can narrow it down. Opinions vary, and every business is different, but I’d say keep your final colors at no more than 3 main colors and 5 accents. For textures and patterns, no more than a few – and make sure they all look good together.

Think about throw pillows on your couch. Would you put every pattern and color you used to represent your business on one couch?

It’s time for the real deal. You’re creating your Facebook profile and cover photo, designing an ad for a publication or deciding what filter to use on your Instagram photos.

Look at your mood board. Look at what you are creating.

Did you stick to your guidelines? Does it look like it belongs?

That’s what makes your brand stick out. That’s what makes your customer stop in their tracks to look further. Everything fits. Everything belongs on that couch.

The road to a consistent, effective brand can be mind boggling, but it doesn’t have to be.

Take the steps to make a plan, do your due diligence and make guidelines for yourself and for your team to eliminate the overwhelm and bring the focus on to the exciting, creative stuff!

Your business is offering something unique that needs to be shared, now get out there and do just that. 

After 4 years of carefully developing her own successful small business in an even smaller town in the USA, Jessica Romero discovered a passion for branding and a love for the little guy (that's you!).  She found that a commitment to a thoughtful, stylish brand strategy can add that "WOW!" factor and create a buzz around a business. She believes every business needs a cohesive, concise, strategic and stylish identity and works with clients one-on-one to develop and maintain websites, social media sites, local event campaigns and more. Learn more at her website or connect on Instagram

Ready to learn how to market your biz like a boss? Our Digital Bravery Ecourse is open for enrolment now!

5 Tips for Creating Great Graphics

By Mariah Liszewski

First off, why do graphics matter?

Short Answer: Because design matters.

Long Answer: Graphic design is also known as communication design. As a blogger, how do you get your message across? How do you connect with your readers? By communicating.

How do you communicate?

  • You write blog posts.
  • You produce content.
  • You express your thoughts & experiences.

Graphic Design enhances all of that. Visually. Subconsciously. Imagery and design bring your content to life.

One of the biggest things that turn people away from blogs is bad graphics. Bad design is distracting and unsettling. Some people can’t focus on the content (regardless of how good it is) if their eyes are constantly trying decode the graphics surrounding it.

The bottom line: Bad design interrupts your user’s experience.

Your graphics should be there to enhance your message; to engage the user; to tell a story...not make your readers run the other way.

Here are 5 tips to help you create great graphics:

1. Brand Colours

It’s important to stick with your brand colours in your graphics so that your blog looks consistent. You want your readers to start recognising your brand on all platforms.

How does that happen? Visual consistency.

If one of your readers is scrolling on Pinterest and they come across one of your blog graphics...you want it to be COMPLETELY obvious that it’s your brand.

More brand recognition, means more trust. More trust, means more traffic.

Sticking with brand colours is also important so that your blogging graphics don’t stick out like a sore thumb on your website. You want everything to flow smoothly.

2. Typography

Along with branding colours, you probably have 2-3 fonts associated with your brand – Make sure these fonts are paired well together. If you have more than that, I would highly suggest reevaluating some of them.

Not sure what fonts go well together? Search “Google Font Pairings” and you’ll get a ton of font pairing examples!

Besides font faces, you can also play around with font sizes and weights to create visual hierarchy. The bigger sized font might be used for a title and the smaller size can be used for the content….play around with sizes and see what you come up with.

Just remember not to make your graphic too chaotic….when in doubt, subtract elements.

3. Images

The easiest way to ensure a good blog graphic...use a good photo. High quality images are very important. You don’t want your graphics to look all grainy and pixelated.

Where can you find high resolution images for your posts? All over the internet. You can find really nice ones for free, but they usually take some time to find, or you can buy stock images.

Besides the quality of the actual image, it’s important to keep your image relevant to your content. Blog images that don’t match the brand/message can become very confusing to readers. You want your graphics to drive the message home...not end up producing more questions.

4. Balance

No one likes graphics that are too busy. It hurts your eyes...literally. If you’re using a stock image, try to balance the design on the image with the text. Don’t make one area look heavier then the other.

Another part of balance is white space. What is white space? Exactly what it sounds like, blank space. It gives the readers eye somewhere to rest while still enhancing the users visual experience. Just remember, simple is better, especially when an image is being thrown into an already crowded sea of text.

Not sure if your graphic looks too busy, or unbalanced? Ask someone, get a second opinion on your design. Sometimes brains can be put into overload mode when designing. Take a break and come back to the image with a clear head. A fresh look never hurt anybody!

5. Inspiration

Don’t know where to even begin when it comes to designing your own blogging graphics? I have good news for you...you’re not the first one to start creating them.

Before you start bashing your head against the wall for ideas, spend some time taking a look at other blogger’s graphics, especially in your niche. It can help you get an idea of what your target audience is used to seeing.

Now, I’m not saying copy anything, but use it as inspiration. Maybe try to remix it, and add or subtract something from their design. Twist some colours and fonts. Combine a few ideas. Think outside the box without reinventing the wheel. Go on Pinterest and take a look at all of the different blog post graphics on your feed. Take note of things you like, things you don’t, things that work, and things that stand out. Try to figure out the feeling that image gives you. Graphics are ALL about emotion. You want your readers to FEEL what you’re saying. You want them to pick up what you’re puttin’ down.

After you have some ideas...go create something. You learn by doing. Practice makes perfect!

Did you know that visual information (like graphics) are processed 60,000 times quicker than written information?! Crazy. I know. So be strategic with your blogging graphics. Let it bring your content to life. 

Mariah is a freelance web designer/developer who specialises in WordPress. She used to focus on the fine arts, like drawing & painting...until she fell in love with the digital world of designing and coding. She blogs over at Mariah Magazine where her topics are geared towards helping bloggers and small business owners understand the internet a little better...one post at a time.

Want more information on Blogging, Small Business, Web Tips/Tricks, Social Media and WordPress? Stop by and say hi on Facebook and Pinterest.

How to display your ebook in an iPad

By Michaela Latavanha

I'm sure you have created an awesome ebook you want to share with your tribe or use as an incentive for your newsletter. 

You’ve also probably seen on other websites the cool images of iPads displaying their ebooks (in the design world those are called mockups) above the newsletter sign­up form and wondered how they did that.

It's a lot easier than you might think, and you don't need a PhD in Photoshop. 

There are two ways of doing this, using handy sites like Place it, Dunnnk and Magic Mockups,  or using Photoshop. 

Using Photoshop means a few more steps but you have a bigger variety of options. If you don't have Photoshop, you can always download the 30­day free trial over here.

Before you start you will need to download your mockup. I've created a Pinterest board with a few iPad mockups to choose from. Alternatively you can search "iPad mockup PSD" or "styled iPad mockup". 

I recommend visiting sites like Creative Market, Etsy, QuaqlGraphic Burger and Freebies Bug to find great quality mockups. 

Look for the ones that say they use Smart Layers or Objects. Those are the ones you want to download.

You will also need your ebook cover image ready, saved as a JPEG or PNG and on hand. 

Let's start.

I’m using a free mockup from Tomodachi in this tutorial. You can download it here.  Once you have downloaded the mockup, open it in Photoshop. The first thing you want to do is look for the layers panel. It should be on your right, if it’s not there click Window > Layers

In the layers panel, you will see clearly marked layers. In this case, they have separate layers for each object, a folder layer for the iPad & background layers. 

Tip: If you are not sure what the layer is you can click on the eye icon to the left of the layer to switch it on and off. This way you can see what has disappeared and know what the layer is.

Placing your ebook cover image on the iPad

Step 1: Look for the layer where you need to place your cover image into. This layer is normally a smart object, is highlighted with a color and named something like "place your design here”. 

If the layers are in a folder, like in this case, click on the arrow between the eye and folder icon to open up the folder.

Step 2: Now that you have found the right layer, double click on it. Make sure you double click on the layer icon, it's in between the eye icon and the layer's name.

Step 3: It will then open up another Photoshop file. Hide any layers that are in that file by clicking on the eye icon next to the layer in the layers panel.

Step 4: Place your cover image inside this Photoshop file by clicking File > Place.

Your cover image will be placed on its own layer. You want to make sure that the image is covering the whole artboard (the white & grey checkered blocks area).

You will see there is a border around your image, this means we can resize it. Just hover over any corner until you cursor turns into an arrow. Hold down shift (to keep the proportions), click & drag until you are happy with the size & hit enter.  If you don’t need to resize the image, just hit enter.

If you've hit enter too soon and still need to resize your cover image click Edit > Free Transform to get the border around your image. 

To move the image around, click & drag the image after you have hit enter. 

Then click File > Save and close this Photoshop file. 

Go back to the original Photoshop file and you will see your cover image has been placed on the iPad. 

Advanced: Moving objects around

Step 5: Make sure your move tool in the toolbar is selected. 

Step 6: Make sure the layer of the object you want to move is selected. Then click & drag the objects around.

Step 7: If you don’t like a certain object you can hide the layer by clicking on the eye icon to the left of the layer.

Saving your image for the web

Step 8: Once you are all done and happy with the way the image looks click File > Save for web. Then select PNG, resize the image to your liking and click Save.

Now you are ready to upload the image to your website or a design.

If you want a high ­quality image click File > Save as and select JPEG or PNG from the drop down menu.

If you have any questions or need help, feel free to ask, I’m happy to help.

Michaela is a beach-­loving graphic designer living in Brazil. You can find her over at Bonfires & Ukuleles where she helps barefoot adventurers design their online businesses. Design that acts as their silent ambassador so it can help generate an income for them while they are off on an adventure. 

Every week she sends a design tutorial & resource newsletter that helps the non-­designer business owner design visuals for their Instagram, blog, website & more. She teaches them how to create designer-­made looking visuals & bend professional designer tools to their will without breaking a sweat.

You can also find her on Instagram

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo & Tomodachi