A New Decade, A New Design (& Mad Props to Kat @ Novels and Waffles!)

Posted January 26, 2020 by Amber in Blogging / 16 Comments


I don’t know how many of you knew this, but my oldest post on The Literary Phoenix is from 2009.

Yes, lovelies, that’s from 11 years ago!

This blog has been around a long time, but my commitment to it has been flighty at best.  Flighty, until the second half of 2017, when I dove myself into this old hobby blog and decided this was going to be My Thing.  In the last decade, a lot of things have changed about this blog:

  • It went from a writing blog (with some reading) to a reading blog (with some writing).
  • The color scheme has changed.
  • The review style has changed.
  • I no longer share poetry on the blog.
  • I no longer share fiction on the blog.
  • Memes have come and gone.
  • I’ve gone self-hosted.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  In all that time, only two things have remained truly constant:  my love for the written word, and the name: The Literary Phoenix.  I’ve given this blog a lot of love over the years, and it has given me so much.  While I may not have 10,000 followers, I consider The Literary Phoenix a successful venture.  So many of you stop in with every new post, and whether you say hello, or just read and run, I am grateful for all of you.

The Literary Phoenix has given me a lot – blogging friends, great reads, and a place where I can escape.  So I decided it’s time to really look at my branding and give this blog some love.  On the inside, that means weeding out old posts that are no longer part of my brand – mostly old, outdated rambles about my writing experience.  Some of these may be resurrected someday in new, better thought out discussions.

And on the outside?

On the outside, I have struggled and struggled to create something that I loved.  Something that spoke to me as a person as well as to the subject matter I’ve been writing about.

Early version of The Literary Phoenix used a bookish header with a basic WordPress theme.  I focused on the words, but not my whole site.  My tagline has been with me for about a decade, and I still love it.  Otherwise, every time I changed my layout, it was strikingly different.  It wasn’t until 2018 that I struck on purple.

Have you guys noticed that there aren’t a lot of purple blogs?  I can think of only The Quiet Pond and Reader Voracious.  I love purple – it makes me happy.  Purple was a no-brainer for me once I went self-hosted and I had a little more freedom.  But purple isn’t a whole lot to go on, and there was that name….

The Literary Phoenix.

That phoenix has always given me trouble.

Phoenixes have been close to my heart since I was in high school.  They are my favorite mythological beast and someday I’ll do a whole post explaining why phoenixes are awesome.  But there are two problems with phoenixes and my blog.  First of all – phoenixes are firebirds and therefore they’re usually orange.  Purple and orange just don’t look great together – they’re too bold.  A bit of an eyesore.

Then, there’s the whole “fire” bit.  A fiery phoenix and stacks of books just wouldn’t go well together.  Yes yes, I know.  These are graphics, but it’s something that I couldn’t get out of my head as I was trying to design for my blog.

Eventually, I gave up on trying to brand with a phoenix.  I just couldn’t find a phoenix I loved, and I couldn’t sort the colors.  I kept the purple, because it had become one of the recognizable things about my blog.  I tried purple and gold.

For a while, I liked this layout.  I really did.

Unfortunately, SEO didn’t.  My main page was all images and Google had trouble picking up things from my blog, so from a technical perspective, it wasn’t going well.  Additionally, the gold skin I’d been using was a pain in the butt in CS6.  Anyone who knows design knows that Adobe’s Creative Suite 6 is outdated.  In fact, as of the Catalina update, CS6 is no longer a valid program.  So that’s fun.

Add to that the fact that the meme featured images were a bit annoying and difficult to read, and I had a conundrum.  I needed to come up with a change to better serve anyone trying to read this blog – both readers and search engine crawlers – so I began playing around with it.

Want to know a secret?

The purple vintage update was a mistake.

I was messing around with the colors and I was previewing things… then I accidentally saved things and that was that!  I stayed up late into the night creating rush images to match the changed blog layout because I had been thinking about it anyway, so now that I’d accidentally saved over my current settings, I might as well go all the way.

Maybe, I thought, this could be my new brand.  Purple vintage.  I don’t follow many blogs with a vintage feel.  Not a bold, stamped vintage like this.  So I went with it.

Honestly, that was probably not my best choice.  The vintage update sucked too much out of my layout, going completely monochrome.  I’ve changed my writing-themed featured image 3 times trying to get something decently readable, and I’m just not happy with it.

Enter, Kat from Novels and Waffles!

Kat recently reopened her commissions for design, and I have been adoring her work for months.  I loved her work the first time I found her blog.  Later, that love was further cemented when I discovered Reader Voracious and when she redesigned Drizzle and Hurricane Books.  I’ve had my eye on her for a while and at the beginning of January, I connected with her about helping me rebrand The Literary Phoenix.

Not a full rebrand, mind you.  A small one.  Images and theming.  I’m still here as a book blogger with snippets about travel and writing.  But with Kat’s glorious help and mad skills, the blog has a new look. One that’s going to stick around, with a magical bookish witch at the lead, and her pet phoenix by her side.

Isn’t Kat’s work just amazing!?  I’m so glad she took me on, and if any of you have been on the fence about commissioning something from her, I highly recommend it.  The process was so smooth and easy and she is just delightful to work with.

As usual with my redesign process, you’ll see the major changes first.  The overall layout will change, and featured images and internal elements will slowly follow.

And I want to thank each and every one of you for taking this journey with me.  I hope you all like the new design, and do check out some of Kat’s other work!

Have you ever redesigned or rebranded your blog?  There’s definitely a lot of work involved with updating all your blog content to match a new brand or new theme, but it can be incredibly rewarding as well!  If you have redesigned, I’d love to know how it went for you!  Let me know in the comments!

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16 responses to “A New Decade, A New Design (& Mad Props to Kat @ Novels and Waffles!)

    • Amber

      That’s exactly what I was hoping for! Joyful and colorful and happy. 🙂 She did such an excellent job – I’m glad you like it!

  1. Your new redesign is GORGEOUS! I slightly changed things up last year but mostly just changed up the colors of my blog, as I’m not really that skilled with design! I love how you kept purple in your new design but incorporated so many other colors as well!

    • Amber

      Purple was non-negotiable (it’s so me!) but I just wanted a bright and happy place on the web that seemed to exude joy. 🙂 I think Kat did an amazing job helping me achieve that feel… and the rest is history. I’m so excited you like it! Tbh, I was a little worried after I changed everything that it may be *too* bright, but people have said nothing but nice things. 🙂

  2. Purple is the BEST! I have subtle hints of purple in my blog. ? Honestly all of your headers are wonderful (I do admit your last one was probably my least fave), but I loved how well everything on your blog looked together! And if I’m being honest, I kind of love the purple and orange header ? BUT this new design is SO fabulous!!! ❤️

    • Amber

      Haha, the fiery purple header was fun but I could never get the other graphics to match it! ? I’m not sure what magic I performed to get the blending to work, but it NEVER looked as good on my featured images… which was why I dropped that design. ?

  3. I like the new look and the header is wonderful. Your icon is super cute. I also do not see a lot of blogs that are purple. It’s not a color I like but seeing it on your blog looks really nice.

    Though if I were to design your blog, I would place the header text lower down and closer to the bird a little. It just looks a bit not so together with the image. And maybe I would make the sidebar background color a little lighter or even white and divide it from the content with a vertical line because it’s a bit harder to read the text. I really like those potion bottles with the social media icons.

    For some odd reason, I’ve always find having the sidebar to the left side is more balance but that’s just me.

    I don’t like your image heads before each post. They all look the same even with the different title of the post. I have always dislike using the same kind of image style for each post. I would sometimes mistakenly think you haven’t updated. I know people often do this to make their blog more cohesive but to me, it’s a bit too boxed in.

    I think for the book review ones, you can maybe add a book cover image with the title/author or maybe no text, just the book cover. This is just my preference.

    Also, your comment background color is not so good for the eyes, well, my eyes, I would use a light green shades. On my screen, the green is too bright. Honestly, I just don’t think the green goes well with all the purples and blues of the sidebar.

    The footer background green color doesn’t work for me either. It just seems too dark compare to the rest of the blog. Perhaps a light purple or light yellow or white background? I do note that you are trying to match the colors from your header but a little deviation doesn’t hurt.

    You have really cool photos for your about page, I definitely like those.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to critique your blog but the graphic designer in me likes to nitpick designs. I hope you don’t mind. I’m always up to helping fellow bloggers with their blog designs so if you would like me to send you a mockup of what I mean, let me know.

    Have a lovely day.

    • Amber

      Hi Lissa!

      Thank you for your feedback! The images on my blog this time around were actually designed by a graphic designer and not by me, so I can definitely see some stylistic differences between your work and hers!

      I know other bloggers agree with your suggestions in regards to the featured images, particularly when it comes to book reviews. Some bloggers are so creative and even take their own photographs. I have so much respect for them – that takes skill and patience! I did use book images in my review headers for a little while, but ultimately with the volumes put out, it wasn’t feasible to continue. The current design will be the first time in over a year where I’ve put a book title in the image at all. It is my attempt to compromise with the need for visual differentiation and the time boundaries I need to set to make blogging, life, work, and my other responsibilities balance. 🙂

      I’m still messing around with the colors a little, and I’ll confess that I’m not set on the comments section! I pulled the hex code from the header image where it looks great, but it does feel a bit… vomit-esque down here.

      What you’ve mentioned about the sidebar is interesting, because my personal balance preference is the exact opposite! I always feel a bit lopsided when the sidebar is on the left! That one may just chalk up to personal preference. 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to carefully detail all your thoughts and concerns!

  4. Lovely! The header has a great mix of elements, and I adore the lil social media ‘potions’. I did a major overhaul when I migrated to WordPress from Blogger a few years ago, but I did that all myself and I’m definitely not a graphic designer. One big change I’m thinking of making is adding a nice ‘about me’ box in the sidebar like I see here and on a lot of blogs…I’d love to commission someone to design my avatar. I’m keeping an eye out for a style I really like.

    • Amber

      Thank you! I think the about me is a great idea – I resisted it for a while because I didn’t love putting a photo of myself in the sidebar… but the avatar was a good compromise and you’re right – it’s on so many blogs. ? I hope you find the right artist for yours! ?