Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Branding Your Blog: Abby Madison of Home Sweet Townhome

We're so excited to have Abby of Sweet Home Townhome sharing her process of her most recent blog rebrand with us today! Rebranding can be a big undertaking, but also a huge step in the right direction when it comes to creating your own unique space online. We love what Abby's done, so we wanted to share her own process with all of you!

 When I began my blog last June, it was purely a fun side project. I wasn't sure how long it would last, since the premise of it was to turn our outdated rental into a cozy, attractive home. But it's survived the worst of my procrastination, and I've found my blogging groove as time went on. However, the branding itself was all over the place. There wasn't a solid focus, which made the designer in me cringe. I finally made myself take the time to sit down and figure out what Home Sweet Townhome was all about. This process was so important in narrowing down the branding for my blog, and also for taking that next step in my blog's growth. Below is the process I recommend working through when you're at that point with your own blog (or possibly considering a rebrand.)


Pictured above are a few different logos explorations I went through when working through the process of branding my blog. 

1. Research: Ask yourself... What is my blog all about, and does it need a stronger focus? Who is my audience (and or desired audience)? How do I want people to feel when they're reading my content (spiritual, happy, informed, inspired, etc)? Where do I want this blog to go in the future? What are other similar blogs doing with their branding that's successful or not working, and how can I set myself apart from them? -- Base every design decision on this research so you have a reason behind every choice you make. You'll thank yourself later when you're tempted to sway in a sea of trends. 
2. Edit: I compiled tons of images on a private board on Pinterest that reflected where I wanted my branding to be. I then edited that down to a mood board to inspire my next step. I looked at everything from logo designs to blog layouts to vintage book covers, and each offered something unique to my inspiration. 
3. Logo: If you aren't ready financially to hire a designer to create a logo for you, then remember these basic rules about logos. Logos are the singular mark of your brand. They should be simple but bold, and also flexible for a wide variety of situations. I designed my own logo with the intention of it being a recognizable mark on its own, sans wording. If you're a reader of my blog, you'll hopefully recognize the townhome graphic on its own after only a few visits because it's one of a kind. If you do know it, I know I'm doing something right in my branding. Logos should also be unique for that very reason. In a nutshell, well-designed logos are simple, bold, flexible, and memorable. It's a hard mark to hit, and a lot of brands go through logo refreshes over time, myself included! 
4. Color: In my own blog, the colors reside mostly in the photos. However, I wanted to add more graphic elements to my posts, and I needed a strict color guide to stick to. I chose light pastels because they show up often in my own home, and they're neutral enough that I can use them in a variety of situations. I don't want anything competing with the photos on my blog, so the colors needed to be both complimentary and quiet. Colors make a big impact on how people feel when they visit your blog. This article on color theory might give you some helpful insight there if you're interested! 

 5. Layout & Graphic Elements: I've been really happy with the layout I've been using recently. It's clean, and focuses the eye on the photography. Graphic elements, like the lamp icon in the final graphic of this post, will mostly peek through in my marketing materials and blog posts, while the layout leaves plenty of white space. Leaving things open right now also allows me a little wiggle room in the future should I decide to add to the sidebar. 

 6. Consistency: Make sure to keep your visuals consistent outside of your blog on every marketing material, social media platform, and ad. As tempting as it may be to experiment outside of the branding guide you've created, resist. This is so so so important. I know I've personally struggled in the past with wanting to completely revamp my entire blog after seeing another beautifully branded blog. This is exactly why I created the branding guide for HSTH. I needed something to hold me accountable to the informed decisions I've made about my blog. If eventually you feel an itch to rebrand, refer to the research you did in Step 1. Feelings on colors and styles may change, but if they're built on core decisions you've made for your blog's brand (that probably won't change), you'll think twice before jumping ship.


What I've come to realize is that branding a blog is like having a dinner party. The blog layout is like your kitchen table. It can come in a variety of different sizes, colors, styles, etc. and when you choose that table you'll need to think about the people who dine there, the food you place on it, and the table settings you'll put together. Choose a handcrafted farmhouse table with Indian food, pink polka-dot napkins and gold glittered plates, and people will be so very confused... And as a result, they won't know what to expect for the next meal. 

At the end of the day, you want your brand to be the best, most complete experience of dining at that table. The food (your content), the table setting (design elements), and the table itself (layout) are all what make up the dinner, or... your brand. And most importantly, you'll gather a more focused community to the table as a result of a complete dining experience. Finally, remember that every detail matters, and consistency is key. The blogs that I love are consistent in their branding, and it makes me want to visit again and again. This is the goal of building your brand to begin with, of course!


I'm really pleased with the guide I've created for Home Sweet Townhome. My hope is that I can turn to it for inspiration and guidance to stay consistent with the brand I'm trying to build. 

Interested in info or rebranding your own site? Reach out to Abby at!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Techie Tuesdays: Difference Between Logo & Header

Developing your blog identity is essential to increasing readership and following; your website's look and feel contributes to the overall message of your brand. In the blogosphere, very often the words "logo" and "header" are used synonymously. When trying to brand yourself, it is importance to understand both, especially if you are working with a designer to create your over all look. Understand the difference between a logo and header will help you identify the long-term goals of your blog as well as increase your return on investment while working with a designer. 

What is a logo?
In the most basic sense, a logo is a graphic mark/emblem that conveys your brand as quickly as possible i.e. think of Apple, Starbucks, Nike. A logo should be able to work in black-white as well as in 4-colors. A logo is used on all print and digital publications. Most, if not nearly all companies have logos. Logos are simple, memorable, timeless and versatile. Below is the logo I designed for The Garden Apt. It uses on the "G" and "A" to play on an apartment building number. This TGA is used on my website, as a favicon, in my social media profiles, and on my business card. When I'm collaborating with other brands and bloggers, the logo can be used for different materials. It's simple and clean.

What is a header?
A header is a usually a rectangular shape design of your website title. It usually appears on every website. It is usually full of decorative text and less emblematic. Frequently, headers don't have the same functionality as logos, but people like to try to make them work. For example, ever try to resize your header to fit in as a square image for social media; you understand the issue.

Isn't a header just enough?
Most bloggers do not; bloggers have headers. If working with a designer to design and build your site, I always encourage my clients to go for a logo option. If you are going to spend the money, you might as well get a option that will give you the most longetivity. What if you do become insanely popular, a good logo will be able to translate to various print and digital publications designed by other third-parties. 

A header is not going to make the cut. BUT, if you think, this is just my blog, I might have a blog design and a business card with it, but that's it, then a header is your more affordable option depending on who you are working with.

Do you have tech or design questions you would like answered? "Techie Tuesdays" is a weekly series written by Lindsay Humes of White Oak Creative and The Garden Apt. In order to make this series as beneficial to Midwest Bloggers, you can email your specific questions to Lindsay at and she will answer them in her weekly series.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Behind the Bloggers: Brewed Together

Names: Marilyn and Kaleb Nimz
Blog Name: Brewed Together
Current City: Oklahoma City

When & why did you start blogging?

We started our blog on January 1st, 2013 as a new years resolution to document all of our creative interests together. We both had been dabbling in several different creative things separately and together, so we decided to create a blog to begin documenting everything. We work together on several things and value each others opinion on anything creative we do, so it makes sense for us to do this together.

What’s the greatest thing that’s come out of blogging? 

The greatest thing that's come from blogging is probably the friendships we've made. Through blogging, we've met and become close to so many people around the U.S that have something in common with us. While we don't always share the same creative passions, we share the same interest of blogging. And many of those other bloggers know what it's like to struggle with creating good content or finding people to read your blog. It's crazy to think that 50% of your time and energy actually goes into maintaining, taking photos, and writing for your blog. But nothing is more fulfilling than seeing your work laid out in the end on your blog. Having a blog is like sharing your most personal diary with the world and releasing it into the wild. You never know what's going to happen, but it's an adventure - and what would life be if you weren't risking anything?

 When you’re not blogging, what can you be found doing? 

Getting coffee and waffles together at our favorite place called Cafe Evoke. Also when we have a free weekend, we enjoy camping with friends. We also enjoy being active and love running, cycling and rowing. Being outside is a great way for us to find inspiration for our blog posts.

  What’s the one piece of advice you would share with bloggers just starting out? 

Don't be afraid to be completely yourself on your blog, but also be aware that your family will be reading every post (maybe even your grandmother). Be the best version of yourself and let it shine!

What’s your “can’t live without” piece in your closet, kitchen,  home etc? 

For Marilyn: Probably my 50 dresses I have in every color in my closet. Not a week goes by that I don't wear at least one dress. For Kaleb: Probably my camera collection. I take one of my cameras with me wherever I go and it's become one of my greatest passions in the last year.

On a Friday night, what can you be found doing? 

When we were younger, we could always be found out and about at the latest social event and with people all the time. Nowadays, we are usually at home in our living room watching Netflix, working on something creative (like painting or drawing), cuddling with Evie, and eating popcorn.

How do you balance blogging with a work/social life? 

This has been one of the greatest challenges of blogging for us. We love the challenge of working on our blog together, but we also maintain day jobs that we are also passionate about. We definitely don't get as much sleep as we used to. But since we started our blog a year ago, we made the commitment to our blog and haven't looked back. And it has totally been worth it. As far as balancing everything, we find that we do best with focusing on our day jobs throughout the week and focusing on the blog on the weekends. Sometimes if we have a weekend completely free, we can get ahead in prepping posts and have some backlogged for a few weeks. And we always make time for a social life because we adore our friendships and we do need a break from the blog sometimes.

What’s your favorite “little thing” in life? 

Our favorite 'little thing' in life is traveling around to different coffee shops, trying new coffees, and hearing/experiencing the story of how that shop got it's start. This has been so much fun for us and something that just makes sense. Our first date was over coffee, so it's only natural that we carry on the tradition of making time for coffee dates. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Social Saturday 4/26/14

April 26th- Lush Cosmetics Grand Opening from Noon-5pm at Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines, IA

April 26thTaste of Park Place: Culinary adventure including tasty food samples at 13 restaurants at Park Place in Leawood - from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. in Kansas City. RSVP to

April 27thIowa Blogger Coffee Date from 10am-Noon at Smokey Row (RSVP: Katelyn at

April 27th- Martiza of Beauty For Bloggers is hosting a complimentary hair workshop that will be filmed for a fun promotional video on!  Space is limited {there are only 5 spots left!} & if you're interested, email Maritza for details at

Now Until May 2nd- Strut Your Style Pin & Win contest with & Ladies' Home Journal. Enter to win a $500 shopping spree. Enter here!

May 2ndMidwest Blogger Lindsay Humes of The Garden Apt will be co-hosting a spring party with Alapash Home & Terrariums and Maya Mueble Home Furnishings. Come sip cocktails while enjoying new products, giveaways, and discounts only for attendees! It's from 6pm - 10pm at Alapash Home & Terrariums in Chicago. RSVP: Lindsay at

Now Until May 6th- Eeny Meeny Miny Morgan is hosting a giveaway featuring Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint (perfect for any DIY!) Enter here!

May 16th5th Annual Rock the Block Fashion Show at the Kansas City Live Block! in the Kansas City Power & Light District at 8pm. More info here!

May 18thSpring Style Swap Party in Chicago from 3:00–6:00pm. For event details and ticket information, click here. 

Now Until May 31st- Kelly Elliott Creative is offering 25% off 100+ business cards. Email her at 

Now Until June 1st- Chelsea Photographie is offering 1-hour blogger photography sessions in Iowa for only $30. Contact her here!

February 22ndGo Blog Social - GBS "Workshop"! This event will take place February 22, 2015 at River Market Event Place! Save the date and stay tuned for more details.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Favorites link up, v.8

Cheers to the freakin weekend #MidwestBloggers! We're excited to bring you another edition of our Friday Favorites Link Up. We've selected four of the most pretty and inspiring images from the Midwest Bloggers network to share with you. Have a great link for next Friday send it to us at with the subject line "Friday Link Up" for a chance to be featured. 

Our Faves!

1) Liv of Love Always, Liz is striking in her black and white outfit. We're definitely still into the feminine peplum style. 

2) Merrissa, the voice behind the blog Rad Maverix is sharing an extremely cute and sparkly DIY to spruce up your home.

3) Few spotted a few gorgeous pictures from Rachael of Shore Society but these colorful macarons really caught our eye.

4) Dana, the blogger behind The Closet Confessional is rocking on of our favorite clothing item for spring and summer—a kimono!

Don't forget to share your favorite post of the week below!

Interested in hosting a Friday Favorites link up with us? Email us at!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

MadRunway Fashion Show

We couldn't be more excited to share the details of MadRunway- an event to help put fashion on the map for the Midwest! MadRunway is a free fashion show bringing together top fashion designers in Madison, WI and the surrounding Midwestern area for an evening showcasing creative design, craftsmanship, and the love for fashion! 

MadRunway is organized by the Madison Sewing Studio a non-profit, fashion-forward makerspace for textile, apparel and handbag design.

The runway show will be Friday, May 2nd 2014. Doors open at 7pm and show starts at 8pm. RSVP to the facebook event here. We hope to see you there Wisconsin fashionistas!

Four Pieces Four Ways - Easy Pickins

 Katelyn - Gold Snake Sandals | Maya - Gladiator Sandals | Lauren - Woven Strap Sandals | Samantha - Colorblock Jacket

We've teamed up with Easy Pickins to showcase a few of our favorite pieces for spring!  Our four founders each selected their favorite piece from the online boutique, it's finally a light jacket/sandal weather around the Midwest! To see their full looks, make sure to click over to their blogs.

 Katelyn at Katalina Girl // Maya at Charmingly Styled
Lauren at La Petite Fashionista // Samantha at The Brunette One 

For the past 30 years Easy Pickins has been providing high end fashion at affordable prices that can not only be found online but has grown into over 30 retail stores. Make sure to check out their boutique for their latest arrivals for spring and summer - now is the time to update your wardrobe for the warmer months ahead!

Make sure to check out their store and let us know your favorite pieces below!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Behind the Brand: Kelly Elliott Creative + Business Cards Discount

We're super excited to feature Kelly of Kelly Elliott Creative on the blog today. She's a talented graphic designer and photographer and we're super envious of all of her savvy skill. Kelly knows just how important first impressions are so the best surprise of today is the design discount she's offering exclusively to Midwest Bloggers. This is HUGE people!

Name: Kelly Elliott

Location: My office is based out of my home in Nevada, Iowa but I work with clients from all over the state. Actually, I have been fortunate enough to work with clients from all over the United States and even abroad. 

Occupation: Graphic Designer & Photographer

Hobbies: I try to travel with any free days I can manage to find, gardening, reading and finding unique home decor is also high on my list. Although nothing trumps spending time with my uber loveable mutt, Max. 

I couldn’t live without my…. Camera. I'm constantly thinking in "photo frames" almost every moment of everyday. 

What is Kelly Elliott Creative? 
I am a print graphic designer and offer any print design service that one could possibly need. From brand design to magazine layout to collaborating with brides over their perfect wedding invitation. I do definitely favor a boutique custom style in my design and could never say no to creating something as simple as a custom note card set. I also am a portrait photographer who works with everyone from brand new little babes to engaged couples. 

Of all the creative aspects of your job, which part is your favorite? 
When a client gives me full and unlimited creative control. That is when I do my best work and when a true custom piece is created. I love a good challenge and delivering that final product to a client. 

Are you a full-time, one-woman show? 
I am!  I am the designer, the photographer, the receipt keeper, the secretary, the lone drinker of unhealthy amounts of coffee, the sole creative force and the list could go on. While I often dream about having a partner who is crazy enough to take on this venture with me it's been really great for me to take the plunge of being a business owner and having to figure everything out from taxes to work flow all on my own. While it may not just be me forever, I'm embracing it for the time being and feel empowered by the obstacles I've navigated on my own. 

When & why did you start Kelly Elliott Creative? 
I softly started my business 5 years ago without really knowing if it would be what I would do full time or not. However, it quickly became 10 hour plus days so I made things official in 2011. I always pictured myself owning my own business - even in high school before I even knew what it would ever be. I've been a creative sole from the start and definitely dreamed of supporting myself by selling whatever I was creating, I just didn't know it would be as a graphic designer. I'm the type that puts my whole being into anything that I'm doing and have always had the feeling that if I'm going to pour myself into my work I wanted to be doing it for me. Working 15 hour days is a whole lot more rewarding (and bearable) when I'm doing it to make my own business a success rather than for the big man/woman who is never in his office. It's definitely not the easy way out but it's the only way for me to never feel like I really have to go to work because I absolutely love what I do.

What's some advice you can give to those who want to start their own business? 
To expect to work harder than you can ever imagine but at the same time you will be rewarded and surprised and what each day brings. There is nothing comparable to being contacted by new (and old) clients because of the work you do and the product you produce. Expect to have your fair share of days when you wonder what you go yourself into or think that it'd be much easier to have a big company name backing you up but, you'll quickly look back and realize that the worst days or experiences are what pushed you through to success. It certainly isn't easy and it's not for everyone but just one positive experience or client praise can put you on cloud nine and then all of those big obstacles or failed moments are quickly forgotten. Now matter how busy or behind you are it's easy to put yourself on the back burner as a business owner but, you really have to carve out time for yourself and get away from emails and deadlines for a bit each week just enjoy the small things and to still really have a life. Otherwise you won't ultimately be happy and you will lose your drive to make your business a success.  And remember, when all else fails a nap is usually the answer - I resort to this...more times than most adults would find acceptable. :) 

What kind of degree do you have? 
I have a BFA in Graphic Design from Iowa State University. I still miss long nights at the College of Design building, it was the best decision I could have made to apply to that program. 

What’s your favorite thing about Kelly Elliott Creative? 
That I get to put my creative stamp on so many pieces big and little. Getting to work with my clients and providing them with high quality, unique design and photography gives me the ultimate satisfaction.  I love people and getting to talk with them, collaborate with them and ultimately dream big with them, is the best part of any design job or photo session. 

When you’re not working on design, what can you be found doing? 
Flying on a plane somewhere near or far or researching about my next trip or... just staring at my computer screen drooling over travel images and blogs wondering how I'm ever going to go everywhere I want to in one lifetime. Finding time to meet over coffee or indulging in a long dinner with good conversation and ridiculous amounts of laughter with my dearest friends is always a top priority. Napping in the sunshine and planning my next interior decor redesign are things I love. Giving back or doing something to make someonelse's day are two things I don't ever have enough extra time for. 

What’s the best piece of design advice you can offer a blogger? 
To always stay current and ahead of the next trend. As a designer reading blogs is a part of my daily routine, they fill me full of inspiration and often motivate me to do something a little more unique or unexpected. The blogs I quickly lose interest in are those that don't have their own personality or that are filled with ideas, inspiration or design that I can find anywhere. I go to blogs to find vendors and new designs that I've never heard of before or to be inspired to think about an upcoming project just a little differently. 

What other tips + tricks do blogger need to know? 
To reach out and network all that you can. Small business owners especially love these kind of relationships and are often times willing to collaborate or help with styling sessions, creating a solid brand and promoting your blog to their clients, etc.  

What is the biggest mistake people make in design? How can they fix this? 
Making the the decision to work with a professional but not allowing them to really use their creative knowledge or full potential. A true designer doesn't just make something to have it be pretty. There is a reason for every little detail of a professionally designed piece. No matter the size of the project from the color palette to the font pairings to the page layout, everything is  carefully decided and executed based on principles and experience.

What’s your website? 
www.kellyelliottcreative.comit's currently down for some updates but almost ready for a relaunch within the next month.

What’s the best way to contact you? Emails are great - is where I can be reached almost any time of any day. However, a phone call is always welcomed too! 515-460-8899

We hear you’re offering one heck of a Midwest Blogger’s design deal…25% off business cards with an order of 100 cards. Offer ends May 31st, 2014.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Social Saturday 4/19/14

April 26th- Lush Cosmetics Grand Opening from Noon-5pm at Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines, IA

April 27thIowa Blogger Coffee Date from 10am-Noon at Smokey Row (RSVP: Katelyn at

April 27th- Martiza of Beauty For Bloggers is hosting a complimentary hair workshop that will be filmed for a fun promotional video on!  Space is limited {there are only 5 spots left!} & if you're interested, email Maritza for details at

Now Until May 2nd- Strut Your Style Pin & Win contest with & Ladies' Home Journal. Enter to win a $500 shopping spree. Enter here!

May 2ndMidwest Blogger Lindsay Humes of The Garden Apt will be co-hosting a spring party with Alapash Home & Terrariums and Maya Mueble Home Furnishings. Come sip cocktails while enjoying new products, giveaways, and discounts only for attendees! It's from 6pm - 10pm at Alapash Home & Terrariums in Chicago. RSVP: Lindsay at

May 16th5th Annual Rock the Block Fashion Show at the Kansas City Live Block! in the Kansas City Power & Light District at 8pm. More info here!

May 18thSpring Style Swap Party in Chicago from 3:00–6:00pm. For event details and ticket information, click here.