Hey ya! The lovely/ever so sassy  Tomato Tart and I had the privilege to host a panel on design and branding this past month at the 2011 Foodbuzz Festival and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share our thoughts and recap the presentation to you darlings in the food blogging community. If you haven’t already, please check out part one and part two of our presentation which covers defining your voice, successfully targeting your audience as well as setting brand adjectives, and the importance of names and taglines. Today and later this week  we will focus on design, layout, alt photography, graphics and some essential resources that can bring it all together.

First off, let’s continue with the importance of color and how various hues can define your brand.

Choosing Color Palettes By Inspiration:

Choosing a color palette for your brand (be it logo or website) can seem a little intimidating. So many choices… and just because neon orange is your favorite color, it might not be the best choice to communicate the tone of your brand (or your undying love of hamburgers, for that matter). One of the easiest ways to come up with a color palette is to look at photos and images that inspire you. These images could be something you’ve taken yourself, or sourced from other websites. Heck, you could even base a color palette off one of your favorite shirts or a painting that you have in your home. At the end of the day, it should be something that speaks to you and also helps strengthen your brand based on the objectives you’ve already set into place ( a la your mission statement, writing voice, targeted audience, etc as covered in parts one and two).

Let’s take a look at three different photos and their color palettes.

Dramatic, modern, sophisticated and elegant: This first set is an excellent example that color inspiration can even be pulled from monochromatic or black and white images. Even the slightest shifts in tone and color can build a successful and striking palette. This image was taken using my smart phone, proving you don’t even need high tech equipment to capture inspirational images for your design archives.

Fresh, bright, spunky and fun: This color palette was pulled from a photo The Tomato Tart took at the farmer’s market and truly expresses the energy and hustle of that particular environment. It’s an unexpected color combination that breaks away from the traditional color association commonly given to all things “organic” and “green”.

Soft, airy, soothing and friendly: This color set exemplifies how cool and warm tones can be the best of buddies, especially when sourced from a perfectly staged photograph. This palette creates a well balanced mood where neutral tones curb the coldness often felt from an all blue icy-toned palette. I strangely feel like kicking up my heels with a cup of tea and going for a brisk walk on the beach…all at the same time.


Pulling Together Your Palette:

First steps to finding your brand’s color palette? Start snapping photos of things  you love and tagging images you’ve stumbled upon on your blog browsing. I visit Color Collective regularly to keep my design palettes fresh. This website is the perfect example how non-food related resources such as fashion, nature and graphic design are still applicable when setting up color stories in your area of expertise. Google image search can also be an easy way to source images if you’re looking for something specific…you’d be amazed at all the variations of blueberry and squid ink images out there. Some not all so good.

The key thing to remember is that any kind of image or object can inspire successful palettes that will strengthen the communication of your brand.

Once you’ve selected your palette, it’s good practice to assign the bolder, more vibrant colors as your accents. I agree that fuchsia is a gorgeous color, but set as your website’s background color could prove a little too jarring on the ol’ peepers. Experiment, play and have fun while developing your color sets. Selecting colors should never be stressful, especially when sourcing from an image you already love – there are so many different combinations to choose from. Get on it!


The Importance of Layout, Graphics, Photography & Your Brand:

We’ve addressed the individual bits and bops of tightening up your brand – but how do you pull it all together into one cohesive destination that will scream YOU! YOU! YOU!? Simple: Remember…YOU ARE YOUR BRAND! We’ve been saying this all along, but you must remind yourself and stick to it. Not only is this your mantra when re-designing your website, each and every single post you put together should be a check list meeting all the objectives you’ve set for yourself. Voice, vision, audience, colors and logos…design will fall into place, you’ve got the hard stuff covered!

Here are a few websites that we have major food crushes on…I mean like major. They know who they are and they’re sticking to it. Content plays center stage and they’re making the most of every 630 or so pixels of space they can fill with goodness. Mostly eye candy goodness, we’re talking HUGE photos.  No clutter to distract, only a spot light on content.

Most importantly, these sites stick to a voice and know who their audience is.

It’s okay, you can drool on your keyboards now…

Spoon Fork Bacon: Swoon! Stylist and Photographer friends Teri and Jenny joined forces to create one of the cutest new blogs (in my opinion) this year. Larger than life photos, simple design… They have made it very clear where you need to be looking on your visit: Front, center, {BAM!} at the food. Even when graphics are incorporated onto their photography, they are simple so not to distract from the gorgeous styling. The branding decision to use both a logo and a word mark is smart, since both are strong individually, they could potentially choose to use one of the other without any confusion to their readers. While the logo is on the smaller size and tucked into the upper left, it is still very successful due to the conscious choice to keep the background and side bars clean.

Running With Tweezers: A recent re-design, Tami has gone with a more editorial approach which organizes posts into footnote type snapshots. This type of layout allows readers to brows easily through content and pick which posts they want to read rather than scrolling through paragraph after paragraph. It’s also a lot friendlier for those newer visitors who might want to poke through the archives without feeling overwhelmed.  While we’re at it, let’s also take a peep at that masthead… The logo? The word mark? The adorable little tweezers!? They are all kinds of perfection. Everything is laid out to the 9s and there is no chance of anyone getting lost or disoriented with such impeccably structured and organized content. Winner!

Matt Bites:  I’ll try to keep my cool with this one. Ummm, but what’s not to love about this man?! I want to put him in my pocket… I digress.  Matt also has a very clean yet vibrant website. He is a visual man and he’s going to keep your eyes glued to each post with just one click. On top of that, he’s extremely personal. His voice is friendly, funny, and honest. A triple threat that will make you think you’re in the same knitting circle and then make you come back for more. The combination of graphics and typography on recipe posts is playful and in tune with his writing style. This site is also another effective use of a large masthead banner. It’s the first thing you notice on the site and immediately you know what kind of person is writing this blog through his use of  photography, colors and tag line.


Other Successful Site Design We Adore:

Shutterbeam: The use of graphics and photography make every post feel like a little dance party. You also feel like you’re just one of her girlfriends checking in.

Honey & Jam: Excellent balance of images and smaller blocks of text.  You’ll want to either jump straight into each post, or at least try sticking your hand through for a bite.

Tartelette: A cool color palette which harmonizes pitch perfectly with warm and inviting photography.

So that’s part three for today. Class dismissed! Check back Friday for the final installment which we’ll dive deeper into branding design via alternate photography, graphics, typography and we’ll provide you with some essential blogger resources that will get you going into full on re-branding and design mode pronto!

If you have any questions on part 3, please leave a comment and we’re happy to continue the conversation below.

Want More!? Head over to Part 4 now!

Missed Part One or Part Two? Head over there now!!