I find I’m often asked: “how did you grow Apartment 34??.” Besides the usual {blood, sweat and tears – regular tears}, one of the most important things I think a great blog requires is amazing graphic design. That’s why so many of my favorite bloggers are in fact, graphic designers by day! And I hate them for it, nicely of course. While I love graphic design, I never took it in school, never even really dabbled in it and quite honestly, have found that it doesn’t come as naturally to me as I wish it did.

So what’s a girl to do? Well, I thought those who can’t do, take a class of course!


As part of building Team Apartment 34, I promised to help everyone grow their professional skills and I thought graphic design was a perfect place – and in fact a quite necessary place – to start. So a few months ago we all sat down for a graphic design workshop! Taught by the fantabulously talented Emma Robertson of EmmaDime fame, we spent a Saturday morning getting schooled about graphic design basics. We also got treated to a few hours in Emma’s super sick Oakland-based studio so that alone made the day inspiring and great fun!


So with {photogenic!} snacks on hand to keep our creative juices flowing, we sat down to get to serious business. Our goal was simple. Get an idea of the basic tenants of good graphic design and learn some tricks we could employ on the blog on a daily basis. Everyone on the team walked in with slightly different levels of understanding about design, typography and such, but we all walked away with a new-found appreciation for design details, as well as some practical skills!


Everyone took away something slightly different so I thought you might find it interesting and helpful to hear directly from each team member about the most interesting thing they learned!

Jessica: “I came away more in awe of all the considerations (or components) that go into good design. It takes an incredible amount of work to make things look clean and simple. Now I always try to remember to give images space to breathe and be really thoughtful about how the text relates to the images. Just like accessorizing, I feel like it’s better to take things out than clutter the page!” 

Bianca: “I work on a lot of the roundups for the blog, so the biggest thing I took away was: white space, more white space, and a little more white space. Increasing spacing in between products makes each stand out and really helps them not get lost in the crowd. Like Erin said, you can ALWAYS tell a graphic designer’s blog – it’s visually SO clean because they know a thing or two about white space. A good tip from a blogging perspective is to remember that you always want readers to stay on your blog as long as possible, so don’t cram your roundup into a graphic that can be seen in one shot. Making something a little longer in size {a.k.a. increasing the white space!}, ensures people keep on scrollin’, baby.” 

Ashley: “Using the same fonts in your posts, three at the most, creates consistency and keeps your posts on brand. Also, taking time to find inspiration is key for creativity! Taking a step back from your day to day and scouring magazines, shops, and other design outlets -outside of other blogs – can help when in an inspiration rut.”

Erin: “I was really excited to learn general rules about layout balance and typography. I was intrigued by the concept of Leading (space between text on a page – turns out more space is better) and Kerning (space between letters in a word). I also learned that unless you are in fact a graphic designer, it takes a lot of trial and error to really learn what works and what doesn’t. At least it’s a fun learning process!”


Emma also shared some great general rules of thumb as well as sources for additional graphic design inspiration with us that I thought you might find useful too. You can thank me anytime! 😉

Top Graphic Design To-Do’s

> White space is your best friend. It adds a feeling of sophistication and luxury and gives elements their own area to live, to be recognized and easily read or interacted with!

> Negative space increases readability

> Challenge every single item within the post – Are they crucial to communicating your message?

>  Make your type selections mean something to give your site character & tone

> If you’re working in Photoshop, save files as PNGs instead of JPGs to avoid pixilation

Where to Go for Design Inspiration

> Designspiration.net

> Dribbble.com

> TheBestDesign.com

> SireInspire.com

We want to thank Emma for inviting us into her studio and sharing some of her amazing knowledge and skills with Team Apartment 34. If you’re serious about growing your blog, investing in what will help you stand out from the crowd is critical. As I always say, if you want your blog to be your business, you have to treat it like one.

Still curious about the business of blogging? Head here for more discussion on the topic!


original photography for apartment 34 by Ashley Batz 

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  1. Definitely a nice refresher!

    PS- That gallery wall is to-die-for. Who could not feel creative juices flowing looking at that all day. Might be time to revamp my own!

  2. I’m graduating from a Graphic Design course this year and what I learnt has definitely helped me with my blog! Although I’m using blogger and I’m finding it a little difficult to fully customise my blog, eek!