It was very clear to me early on that I had to work with Breanna Rose of Rowan Made. Behind the Blog: Rowan Made Interview only scratches the surface of why.
When I came up with the idea of 24 East, I wanted a site that was refined, contemporary, and free of clutter. The more I made myself nauseous from scrolling through hundreds of site templates, the clearer it became that this project had to have a custom design. Though many templates were gorgeous, I envisioned something else. I gravitated towards specific design features like overlapping text and strong linear layouts. I felt that such elements echoed more of a magazine feel rather than a traditional blog, and for me, this is where 24 East had to go.
I learned more about Breanna’s work while attending the Blogcademy workshop when it was in SF, put on by three brilliant and somewhat crazy (in a good way!) bloggers/creatives: Kat Williams of Rock N Roll Bride, Shauna Haider of We are Branch and Nubby Twiglet, and Gala Darling. They highlighted her amazing blog, I Am Breanna Rose, for its clean, sophisticated and minimalist aesthetic. And in my opinion, they were beyond right to do so. She is a successful blogger with tons of experience, and she created her own design studio specializing in branding and websites, Rowan Made.
Breanna Rose, Designer at Rowan Made
I feel fortunate that we connected. She completed the project at warp speed. I had been gathering exciting content for months and wanted it to be timely, and there is no time like the present(!). The stars aligned and she flat out killed it. It is hard to choose, but my favorite design element of the site is the featured post when you first come to 24 East. It isn’t on the mobile version because the scaling would be off and it would look way too small, but see it on your computer here. A close second favorite is the footer, which has a lot of information yet is very easy to read and elegant.
As for the branding of 24 East, I wanted a contemporary and refined tone that would complement the more detailed and unique features of the site. Have I told you I adore our 24 East and The East Bay circular logo marks?! Keep reading below to learn the thoughts behind this unique design concept. And keep in touch on my social media for upcoming sneak peeks of the fabulous 24 East collateral she designed.
Throughout the design process, I was continually reminded of her remarkable creative talents and ability to quickly understand what I had in mind. She instinctively knew what I loved, which allowed me to feel at ease in our client-designer relationship. I trusted her.
And I loved when she nicely told me that some of my ideas were not the greatest. She was graceful and firm when I threw a last minute potential design change her way after we launched. I thought she would fire me. That was one of many instances in which I relied on my trust in her. I appreciated her honesty, and I am glad I listened.
I asked Bre some questions about her background, work, and experience creating the branding and site for 24 East. Here is what she said:
24 East: When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
Breanna Rose: I cared very deeply about how my Live Journal and Myspace profiles looked back in the day (ha), but later on, things got a little more “serious” once I started playing around in Photoshop, making collages and such. My friends and family noticed and kept telling me that I should go to school for graphic design, but apparently my younger self wasn’t having it. I kept telling them that it was a hobby and that I wanted to become a nurse instead. That is until about two weeks before college started, when I had an early life crisis and decided that not doing something creative was the absolute wrong choice for me. I quickly switched schools, roommates, majors, and haven’t looked back since.
Breanna Hard at Work
24E: What is your design philosophy?
BR: There’s a quote by Albert Einstein that sums up my design philosophy very well: “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
24E: What kind of design do you really not like?
BR: I would have to say that I have a hard time understanding (and navigating) chaotic design, which actually seems to be a trend right now. This kind of design features lots of overlapping, floating elements, randomness, etc. And when it’s done well, it works! But when things are placed for no rhyme or reason, the organized side of me starts to feel a bit anxious.
24E: Is it important for you to follow design trends?
BR: Absolutely not. I approach each and every project with a blank canvas and fresh mind. Each and every client has their own story to tell and market to reach, and together, we figure out what that is regardless of what’s trendy. Sometimes, what a project needs happens to be trendy. Other times, its not. Simply put, doing what’s right is better than doing what’s trendy.
24E: How has your work evolved in the past couple years? Are you doing anything new, sticking with things that are tried and true, etc?
BR: I think it’s natural for any creative to grow and evolve in their work over the years. I’ve personally noticed that although my tastes have always leaned towards modern simplicity, my approach and style have become refined over time. This is definitely apparent when I look back on work from 5 or even 3 years ago. But that’s what happens and I’m excited to experience how it grows or changes in the years to come as well!
24E: What are the best and worst things about having your own business?
BR: The best thing about owning my own business is definitely the ability to follow my own path without somebody above me dictating what I can and cannot do. It’s great for creative freedom; for saying yes to the right clients and no to the wrong ones. I love being able to set my days and take off when I need to. Basically, the freedom is great. But owning your business comes with a lot of responsibility as well. I’m not just a designer anymore. I’m a project manager, communicator, keeper of the books, etc., etc. There’s a lot of hats to wear and it can be quite overwhelming and exhausting at times. But if you have a good process (and good systems!), it’s really not so bad.
24E: What/Who are some of your design inspirations?
BR: In the design world, I’m constantly inspired and challenged by the creative community that surrounds me, both locally and online. If you pop on Dribbble (a popular designer platform), you’ll find talent all across the globe that’s crazy good. But beyond that, I’m very inspired by women who are following their own path, whatever it may be, and rocking it.
24E: Let’s talk about this blog! How were you able to get a sense of what I was going for with this project?
BR: My process always begins with an in-depth questionnaire so that I can learn the ins and outs of each and every client. When I received your questionnaire, your passion for The East Bay and all of the good that’s happening over there was extremely clear. From there, it was all about figuring out who your target market was and creating a brand and website that they would be attracted to and want to explore. Our goal was to create something simple and modern, and I think that’s exactly where we ended. The pop of pink (used sparingly) adds an unexpected surprise, which is quite fun!
24 East Moodboard, Rowan Made
24E: I greatly appreciated that you were honest about certain requests of mine that you thought were bad ideas! What is one that stands out?
BR: I’m glad to hear that! A truly good collaboration stems from open communication and the ability for both parties to thoughtfully listen to one another. To be honest, I don’t remember anything that stood out because we communicated so quickly and respectfully. Because of that, I think we ended up with an awesome end product. 😉
24E: We have actually never talked on the phone! Everything has been over email, and I feel like we didn’t have any trouble being in sync. How does working this way work and not work when doing a project?
BR: I know, crazy right!? I actually work this way (most of the time) for a few reasons. The first is because of different timezones and schedules that occur between me and my clients, where emailing is usually the easiest. The second reason is because I love keeping a paper trail. And the third is honestly because getting on the phone isn’t my most favorite thing in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I get on when I need to! But for many things, I would rather carefully craft my response and have time to think rather than come up with spur of the moment responses that may not be quite right. Communication by email works great most of the time, but sometimes the phone is much more efficient, so I end up feeling it out along the way!
24 East Primary Logo by Rowan Made
24E: When did I stress you out with this project?
BR: We seemed to be on the same page most of the time, so you definitely didn’t stress me out. 😉 I would say the hardest part was our timeline, which we rushed for a few reasons. Basically, I squeezed a typical two month plus project into about three weeks, which can obviously bring on a little bit of stress. But! I think that it also kept the train moving and allowed things to fall into place fast and furiously, almost like magic. We were definitely on a roll and that certainly helped!
24E: What was your favorite feature that came out of designing this project?
BR: I think the client / design relationship established was one of my favorite things, and that wasn’t even design related. We just really had a good communication game / camaraderie going on, which isn’t always the case! Design wise, I absolutely love the conceptual mark we created for 24 East. There is a sun ray on the left and “The East Bay” on the right. I remember you telling me how The East Bay tends to be sunnier than San Francisco, so that’s why the sun ray became important. Then, the actual words were placed on the “east” side of the logo to round it off. The whole thing tells a story and I think that’s really cool! I also can’t wait to see all of the print pieces we created. I think they’re going to be killer pieces…
24E: How is the design of the 24 East web site particularly unique?
BR: Going into it, I knew that you wanted to have some overlapping elements, which are unique by nature. But we also wanted to make sure that the site remained easy to navigate and didn’t feel TOO chaotic or messy. So, the feature post section (at the top of the home page) ended up being the focal point of the website, where many elements overlap, some text flips 90 degrees, and not everything is where you’d expect it to be. I think that gives the site a certain edge without sacrificing usability.
24E: What do you want to know about the East Bay? I hear you like yoga and pizza!
BR: I’ve actually never been to San Francisco or the surrounding area, so visiting in general would be absolutely amazing. Whenever I visit a city, I really like experiencing it like a local. So! I’d want to learn more about neighborhoods, all of the best restaurants, and “un-touristy” activities. Anything yoga and pizza related would definitely be a plus. 😉
24E: When are you coming to visit?
BR: As soon as I can and I already CAN’T WAIT! My husband and I talk regularly about how a trip to Northern California and the Pacific Northwest would be fun and we’re even considering a road trip. So maybe this can happen sooner than later?
Rowan Made Office Space is Clean and Inspiring
Keep in touch on my Instagram for an upcoming post on 24 East’s amazingly talented web developer, Janine Isabelle. She brought the site to life and is also a graphic designer herself. I am inspired by women who code, women creatives and women who run their own businesses. Thank you to this talented team. Wait until you see what we do next!