2014 Web Design Trends

February 10, 2014 § 3 Comments

I wrote this back in December, but still find it relevant as we look towards the growing trends of the year ahead.

Lately I’ve read a few articles online from design firms that are predicting the trends of 2014. First of all, let’s clarify the difference between a fad and a trend. A fad is a temporary manner of conduct, and not something that lasts for more than a few short months or weeks. A trend is “a prevailing tendency” and can last for several years. So some of these web trends are trends we’re already witnessing and simply will be seeing more of in the future. How does this apply to you? Make sure your business is keeping a clean, up-to-date web model that will appeal to your audience. You don’t want to appear outdated or behind-the-times when the message your company should communicate is that you’re not only knowledgeable about the latest, but you’re paving the way for the latest. Here they are, my top seven:

1. Responsive web design. I know, we hear this all of the time. But what does responsive web design really mean? It means your website is optimized to be easily viewed from any device with very little adjusting. We’ve all been browsing sites on our phones when we come across a website that is next to impossible to view. Images are trying to adjust, links are so small they’re hardly clickable, and windows (where some fancy flash would normally be) are completely empty. Moving with the times, it’s pertinent your site is optimized to be easily viewed on any handheld device. Well, now that that boring and glaringly obvious point is out of the way…


2. One page, scrolling websites. (This includes the increasingly popular parallax scrolling.) The homepage slider window is dying (if not already dead). Not only are they a nuisance with mobile design, but they’re just plain outdated, distracting, and for a lot of users- annoying. A web designer I work with has predicted that the slider window (most commonly on the PHP platform) will be a thing of the past possibly sooner rather than later. It’s faster, easier, and simpler to just scroll through your one page layout and find what you’re looking for. An alternative to this are drop downs or shortcuts that will send you spiraling through the page to the section you’re looking for. Here’s a cool example: http://www.hugeinc.com/


3. Photo manipulation. Having one, large, beautiful photo on your site is appealing- and a definite design “do.” But the trend, as seen in 2013, is to manipulate the photo stylistically. We already see this in the ever popular Instagram and Over apps. Now we want those filters, those different colors, those complex multiple photo overlays, those trendy font types, all on our websites. I’ll admit, I’m a huge fan of this trend. It allows you to match your photos to your brand- and if your audience can recognize your brand through your photos, well… score. Also, as a part of photo manipulation- geometric shapes are in. So overlay those interesting shapes!



4. Simplified colors and content. Two color web design appears classy and credible. It’s clean. It’s simple. It’s to the point. You have nothing to hide behind all those gaudy font types, textures, and rainbow of colors. You want to say: “This is us. Plain and simple. We know what we’re doing.”


5. Flat design. Thank you, Apple. Bevels, shadows, embossing… all of that used to be cool. It used to be cool for your app icons to look like real little buttons that nearly pop right off your screen. But (thankfully) that’s no longer cool. Once again, all about simple.


6. Mixed font types. It’s always been good to combine your serif and sans serif fonts (if done well) in a visually interesting typographical piece- but alas, the world is finally realizing it. And now it’s more drastic than ever. Keep doing what you’re doing, designer. It’s officially a trend. (Oh, and isn’t hand rendered absolutely the most beautiful?)




7. Animated GIFs. And I’m not talking about the Buzz Feed kind (though aren’t those completely entertaining? YES!). You’ve probably seen more GIFs than you’ve known you have. It can often look like a large window with a playable video in it (shiner.com) or can be as subtle as icons on a website to provide movement (breakitdown.ie). Finally, GIFs, it’s your turn to be on trend.

GIF background example



Thanks to the Cubicle Ninjas, Inspired Mag, and The Next Web for your awesome insight.


Sunlight and Mountains

February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Happy 2014 (okay, I’m only one month late… come on)! Oh, what a year 2013 was. While we didn’t take any exotic trips or stumble upon any large life altering events- it was a blessed year. We made such wonderful new friends, we had awesome family get togethers, and- we redecorated our home! (I might be a tad bit more enthusiastic about that than my husband… though he’s been quite the trooper.) While we were blessed to move into a home that didn’t require much work, my interior design style was screaming at me. I love minimalism. I love neutrals. I love gray and white. The dark wooden blinds were covering the best part of our home- the afternoon sunlight and the view of the mountains. So I started there. I stripped all the windows of their coverings. Then we purchased about five gallons of Rockport Gray Benjamin Moore paint, and before long… this happened:

Finicky Designer | Rockport Gray Living Room

Finicky Designer | Rockport Gray living room update

Finicky Designer | Rockport Gray dining room update

I find myself sitting on my couch, sighing with happiness. It feels so clean, so fresh. We don’t have anything on the walls yet, so it’s still a little cold. And this year we’ll be focusing on a few major projects that’ll make it even better- new wood floors, all updated hardware, hopefully new kitchen cabinets… but until then, I have sunlight. I have mountains. And I have a wonderfully peaceful place to sit and read my book.

Finicky Designer | My Mountains

The view from my living room windows.

Maybe I’ll eventually put aside my laziness to take photos with something other than my phone…

Annual Child Stationery 2013

November 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Here’s a project I worked on this year for One Child Matters (my full time job). I designed a series of activity sheets for children all over the world in our projects. They fill out the activities, then we collect and send them to their sponsors. The theme this year was Education, so I gave the kids a rainy day homework lesson to send a little sunshine their sponsor’s way.


The most interesting piece of this project was that nearly each country had stationery written in its own language. While it took a lot of time emailing back and forth to make sure the translations were correct and finding the right fonts that represented each language correctly, I think it really made the piece. I suppose I also learned a little bit about my own sponsored child’s language. Ligama lami ngu Melody. Ngiwase America. Woo!

Finicky Designs | Stationery

Teal and yellow were the predominant colors and the design was driven by custom illustrations. I could show you a bunch of boring mockups, but instead I want to show you a photo of my stationery in the hands of a little girl from Ethiopia. (Photo credit: Ty VanRensburg)

One Child Matters- Stationery

To see the full project, visit my website. (Pst, the Arabic is REALLY cool!) There were 45 letters total- and as much as I enjoyed this project, it felt great to finally say they were all complete.


Dreaming of my home office

October 31, 2013 § 2 Comments

Revisiting an old post today as I dream of my office-to-be. 


There’s a room in our house that’s designated for me (at least for now, pre-children). Every time I walk past it (as messy as it is), I can’t help but see it as I one day want it to be and not what it is now. I’m so very inspired by colors and styles- if I didn’t view the rest of the house as more of a priority, this space would so already be transformed.

I’ve seen so many admirable office spaces over the last year, and each one seems to spark news ideas as to how I want my little artistic haven to be.

To see a compilation of all my favorite inspirations, visit my Pinterest board. And here’s an initial color scheme idea: (note: photo is not mine,  credit here)

Being Creative Under Pressure

October 29, 2013 § 3 Comments

Truth is, graphic design is problem solving. Every client has a problem: they have a message they want to communicate visually, be it their brand, an advertisement for their brand, or simply a printed piece that tells a story about their brand, and they can’t do it themselves. See? A problem. People are often confused when it comes to determining the problem that needs to be solved. A lot of people (and I will repeat- A LOT of people) think that the problem exists within their ability to use a computer program. “I know exactly what I want, even to the point of knowing exactly what it looks like- in my mind. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to use Photoshop. Can you help me?”

I LOVE it when a client has a clear direction and purposeful vision in their mind (I promise that’s not a sarcastic statement). Nothing pleases me more than a conversation with a client and hearing about how passionate they are about what they do. I love sitting down with a marketer or a communications manager who knows what they want for their start-up company and has a specific vision in mind. That being said- I also appreciate a client who can identify what I do. I don’t just aimlessly play around in Photoshop until I replicate what is in their mind’s eye. I research, I explore, I develop, I solve their problem and communicate their messages visually through my creative ability. And if I do all of that correctly, we become partners, cheering on the same cause and rolling out the same coherent, well designed vision together. Problem solved.

Now unfortunately, creativity isn’t breakfast. It isn’t something on-demand (though as a professional, you should strive for it to be). When I’m hungry, I make toast, and within five minutes have solved my hunger problem. When someone asks for a logo, I open Illustrator, and within five minutes have a logo designed to perfection, solving my visual communication problem. Ah, if only it worked like that…

One of the number one things I ask from my client when designing for them is TIME. While creativity is a vital part of what I do as a designer and needs to become something I can call upon at any waking (working) moment, there are most certainly times when my creativity is flowing more abundantly than other times. Those easy creative times are great, and in those times are when I solve problems to the very best of my ability. But this blog post isn’t going to be about those times. It’s going to be about those other times, the times when creativity is asked of me and it has to be on-demand, quick, now, and under PRESSURE. How do I handle it? What do I do to utilize those times? Taken that I’ve already done my research on who the company is, what they’re about, and have on hand all of my client’s detailed notes to help guide my way- here are some ways I handle being creative under pressure.

Being Creative Under Pressure | The Finicky Designer

1. Eliminate distractions. Close your web browser (unless it’s open to great design- we’ll get to that). Put on some music (Pandora might not be the best option in this case- you don’t want to concern yourself with thumbs up or thumbs down). Get out your sketchbook and pencil. Close your eyes. Breathe. And now accept the fact that your mind is going to actively search for distractions of all sorts during this time. (Didn’t care about the dust collecting on top of your monitor before? You will now.) Decide to do your best to eliminate those distractions and to focus on the task at hand.

2. Don’t think about it. Ever watch the clock, tapping your pencil on your empty sketchpad, knowing that in a mere few hours you told your client you’d be showing them something? The WORST thing you can do right now is panic- is stress over it- is FORCE it. Don’t worry about the clock. Don’t worry about the end result. Don’t worry about the one poor concept you have floating around in your mind right now. Don’t ask yourself- What if I don’t nail it? What if the client hates it? What if I don’t capture their vision? STOP filling your head with those thoughts! If it helps to revisit your past successes, then do that. If it helps to grab your biggest fan for a compliment or two, do it. But start focusing, be confident, and stop worrying. Your worry will stifle more than just your creativity.

3. Quick! Find inspiration. I’m not going to solve any design problems staring at blank walls or poorly designed Facebook memes. One of the best ways to produce good design is to surround yourself with great design. I immediately get out my design magazines, open up a web browser to Behance and my Pinterest design board, and I fill my mind with great design. The intention isn’t to copy (obviously) or even use any sort of specific design element that I find- in fact, you’d probably never guess what I was looking at for inspiration when comparing it to my sketches. But looking through all of those designs puts my mind in a place of creativity, it gets me excited about the possibilities, and it reminds me of how beautiful the world can be (and how much more beautiful I’m about to make it).

4. Start with the basics. Are you struggling making that first mark on your paper? Try writing first. Yes, use words in your sketchbook. Write out what you think the color scheme might be, write out the shapes you’re drawn towards, write out the company’s core beliefs- don’t be afraid to WRITE. Then think about layout, page count, page size- all of the logistics. Sometimes the logistics need to get out of the way before creativity can make its appearance. Just don’t get so caught up in the logistics that they become a distraction.

5. SMILE. Yep, smile. If you’re miserable, you aren’t going to be great. So relax a little- and do what you do best. You’re creating a life-long partnership with someone, and you being the creative professional that you are, need to be a pleasant creative professional. If you’re not finding gratification in the work you do, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Well there you have it- just a few simple tips for being creative under pressure. It’s got to be one of the most difficult things I face every day. But the more I face it, the more I find out how to deal with it and what works for me as a designer. If you’re a designer or a creative, what works for you? How are you creative under pressure?

How to change photo colors in Photoshop

September 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Color changing in photoshop is powerful. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve changed the color of a person’s shirt to match my design exactly or the color of a wall to make the subject of the photograph stand out. Simply using your brush tool and painting over top of a photo with the layer blending mode set to “Color,” you can change any color in a photo- in as little as ten minutes.

The following tutorial will walk you through the changing of two colors in a particular photo. I did this in Adobe Photoshop CS6, however it can be done in any version of Photoshop.

Changing Colors in Photoshop- Step 1 | Finicky Designs

>Open your photo in Photoshop. Here’s my original photo (above). In all reality, the color composition of the photo is really nice. However, it doesn’t match our company brand, and being that we just went through a re-branding last year (and the girl’s shirt in the photo is the exact color of our OLD logo) I wanted to reinforce our brand through color composition.

>In the layers panel (F7), create a new layer just above the layer your photo is on. Select the new layer (it will be highlighted).

>In the layers panel, change the blending mode (located at the top of the panel) to “Color” from the drop down menu.

Color-Step-2Changing Colors in Photoshop- Step 2 | Finicky Designs

>Select the brush tool (B). Make sure your brush has soft edges- but not too soft so that it appears fuzzy. You’re going to want to be pretty precise, so play with the brush size and hardness until you’re satisfied.

>Select from your color swatches the color that you want to brush with. This is your NEW color. (Note: In color mode, your color won’t be exactly as it appears as a swatch. You’ll probably have to adjust it until you get just the right hue that you desire.)

>Using the brush tool, color over top of the old color at 100% opacity. It should look like this:

Changing Colors in Photoshop- Step 3 | Finicky Designs

You’ll need to do quite a bit of refined detail work here, making sure to keep the edges clean.

For every new color you decide to do, make sure you do it on its own layer. This way you can change the layer opacity to make it however vibrant you want it to appear.

Changing Colors in Photoshop- Step 4 | Finicky Designs

Not totally in love with the bright yellow floor, but I think it demonstrates well the change in color and just how drastically different you can make it. Make sure you lock all of your color layers to your photo layers so that if you move the photo, your colors will go along with it!

Changing Colors in Photoshop- Step 6 | Finicky Designs

And you’re done! This is probably as close as I get to being the designer who “colors with crayons” all day.

Changing Colors in Photoshop- Final | Finicky Designs

Before                                                                                                                After

Disappearing Act!

August 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m rather talented at disappearing, aren’t I?

So let me explain: I briefly wrote about the shifting of my blog a while back (okay, fine, a LONG while back) and coincidentally, around the same time that I decided I wanted to move my blog focus to that of design, my freelance work really picked up. So where have I been the past four months? WORK. I work all day, then come home and work all night. While I haven’t been pursuing clients, my awesome past clients have been passing along my name to people they know, generating a great amount of work. It’s been a rough ride, but one that I’m so thankful for.

From here on out, I’ll be feeding my blog into my portfolio site. That being said, there will be a huge shift from a lifestyle blog to a more design focused blog. I’ll still be including posts of my crafts and home projects along with my graphic design pursuit. Here are some things you can look forward to seeing over the course of the next few weeks:

  • A blog re-design to match my portfolio website
  • A Photoshop tutorial to kick off the how-to’s
  • A post on some of my most recent designs
  • An update on home projects and what I’m re-decorating this month

Thanks for sticking around regardless of my absence. I look forward to jumping back into writing and sharing with you snippets of my design world.

Instagram in a nutshell