New Branding + 3.0

New Branding + 3.0
27 July 2015 Brandon
beautiful business cards


New Branding + 3.0


This is a momentous day.

It’s been a terribly long time since the Journal saw some fresh content. But today that ends. Because today is a really big day. Not only has the new branding and website landed, but an additional post has also found its way to the Journal! Two in one day? Wow, big pat on the back, self! You outdid!

So, I’d like to give you the skinny on why this branding project had to happen, and why I built a new website (for a third time). So sit back, kick off your kicks, and get ready for a semi-long post that isn’t too big of a doozie. I know that learning about other business owners’ and artists’ processes always helps me out, so maybe this post can be of some use to you.

Let’s dive right into it!

brandon smith novel hill

First of all, hi.

I know it’s been a while, and for that I apologize. Whether you know me already, or need to be reminded who I am, or have no idea who I am, well here’s a photo of me that you can’t avoid seeing because it’s stuck to this page.

The name’s Brandon. You can learn more about me on the snazzy, brand new About page. You can also connect with me on social media (that info is also available on the About page).

Okay, now we can head into the thick of it for real.


Meet Adam.

He’s the talented designer behind the Novel Hill logo, and has returned to fully flesh out the brand. He is available for freelance work, and is also the design guru at Color Me Inc. Follow him on Instagram at @adam_griffin.

Meet Alexis.

Alexis is an amazing person with a huge heart. I have loved her design work for a long time, and decided I needed her for this branding project. Not only does she do beautiful freelance work; she is also a designer at Rosetta. Follower her on Instagram at @aroundalexis.


  • I decide to move away from my unfortunate old business name, B.S. Smith Photography (yes, that was a real thing). Afraid that people might think my business is a bunch of bull shonkey, I come up with Novel Hill — because books and storytelling and nature are who I am.
  • I hire Adam Griffin to design the Novel Hill logo. His genius design has garnered countless compliments over the years. It is the best early decision I made for my business.
  • I design 1.0 off of the same WordPress theme that my old B.S. Smith Photography website was built on — a wonderful little theme called ProPhoto Blog.
  • That’s it — my branding is a brilliant logo (thanks to Adam) and a shade of green and gray that I pretty much randomly picked out. And it stayed that way for a couple of years.
  • Novel Hill launches January 1st, and I focus this whole year on growing the business — and working two other jobs.
  • Afraid that my website is starting to look just like every other photographer’s (the ProPhoto theme is extremely popular), I decide to move to a new WordPress theme.
  • I redesign the site in just two weeks, and people seem to like it, but after a couple of months the magic of having this 2.0 site wears off on me because I know that it doesn’t quite feel complete.
  • Even back in 2012, I knew that eventually I’d want to complete the look of the brand. Now I feel it’s time to do that.
  • June — I hire Adam back on to the Novel Hill project, with the insistence that Alexis must also be involved. I love both of their styles and design sense so much, I have to have both of them. I know that their aesthetics will mesh into something amazing. Thankfully, they are already good friends and are totally up to the task.
  • With Adam and Alexis on board, we dive right into developing a strong new aesthetic for the Novel Hill brand. Throughout this time, I also develop my design skills a lot more, in order to prepare myself for building a new website to match the new branding.
EARLY 2015
  • As this is now the third iteration of the Novel Hill website in three years (with no intention to do this again for a good long while), I decide to take a much more methodical approach with the design this time around. Using predetermined branding design rules, I get to work on the site in February.
  • From February through July I work on the new site while also delivering work to clients. It’s a crazy few months, to say the least. During this time I learn a lot more about CSS and HTML so that I can bend and craft the site exactly how I want it to look.
  • Meanwhile, Adam and Alexis are busy finishing up all the new icons, design rules, print materials, as well as the email design templates for Library Pass. Everything’s fresh and exciting and I’m giddy like a schoolboy.
  • I take the site’s design to the next level, and make carefully calculated decisions as to how I’m building it, so that there’s room to expand the site in the future.
  • I learn that actually investing time in the web design process really pays off, and I fall in love with the art form. I still can’t build one from the ground up, but I’m working on those skills—with the future in mind (I’ll just keep that really cryptic, because I’m uncertain myself).
  • The new branding launches.
  • 3.0 launches.
  • The fruits of Adam’s, Alexis’, and my labor finally see the light of day!
  • Dance party!
  • We need to have a seriously fun launch party, but none of us can because we’re so busy. So … someday?
  • #YES


Not everyone knows what branding is, so I’ll explain in my own words. I’m not consulting a dictionary here, so just take it with a salt grain. It’s the identity of a brand (a business). It’s the combined visual, emotional, spoken, written voice with which a company communicates.

The new Novel Hill branding consists of the following visual elements which, when combined with one another, create Novel Hill’s visual identity. The visual aspect of our brand works alongside everything we write, say, or do. All of it together makes Novel Hill what it is.

New logomark.

At the start of the project, I told Adam and Alexis that while I loved the older version of the logo, I never knew what text to pair with it, or how to arrange it. I also wanted a more human vibe coming from it. So, they added some handwritten love to the logo. And I can use the camera and the script separately in certain instances when needed.

New color palate.

The green and gray tones were kept, but beautifully refined, and other colors were added.

New fonts:

(Seriously in love with these. I’m a bit of a typography geek.)



New icon suite

These icons help to visually reference the different aspects of what we do. You’ll see them all around the site — including on their designated Journal posts. Just do some exploring on the site, and you’ll soon find out what each of them represents!









Eugene the Bookworm

The recently hired Novel Hill mascot. He’s in charge of Library Pass, and he’ll pop up here and there, as bookworms naturally do. His bowtie is pretty classy.

Some of our beautiful printed materials. is my preferred vendor for everything awesome. (Click images to enlarge)




Incorporating all the new colors and icons shown above with the brand design principles was the foremost reason to build a new site. Adam, Alexis, and I had decided early on that the brand design would be beautiful and poignant, yet understated. We wanted the imagery that I create as a photographer to shine front and center. So, with the new site, images are larger than ever, often spanning the entire width of the page. Now the photography can truly speak for itself.


A big part of redesigning the site was developing a more ideal experience for every visitor. This time around, I was able to dictate how each web page is rendered, so the experience on your phone will be different than on your computer or tablet. Previously, the website would dictate its mobile nature automatically, keeping all of the elements visible. But now, by tailoring each of the major pages to the type of device the visitor is viewing it with, I can tell the website which elements to load and which to hide. This simplifies the design on phones, and gives pages on laptops and desktops real room to shine.


I won’t go too into it, but at all times I have a bombardment of ideas on my mind. Sometimes that can be a bit maddening, but I’m glad the ideas are there. I knew that with the new site, there needed to be room for expansion. No definite timetable for any of this expansion is set yet, but I know that at some point it will happen. What excites me most is the fact that the capability exists, ready and waiting for when the time is right.



All I can really leave you with is to just have fun exploring the new site (there’s much to see!). If you have any questions about the design process or anything else I’ve written here, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post. And make sure you take a look at today’s other published post: Angela & Ren’s wedding story. Also, don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Look forward to seeing you around the interwebs!


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