Designer Interview: Stephanie from New Chapter Designs

New Chapter Designs

I’m very pleased to welcome Stephanie from New Chapter Designs today! She’s the next wonderful victim designer in the designer interview series.

Ashley Hiya Stephanie! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Stephanie Hi Ashley! Well, I blog about books, with my sister, at These Paper Hearts. I’m 21 years old and live in the wonderfully cold state of Michigan. I’ve loved reading young adult books since my sophomore year of high school and am now in my senior year of college. Other than reading, in my free time I like watching Netflix, cuddling with my cat, playing soccer, playing card games, and spending time with my family.

Ashley What kind of design services do you provide?

Stephanie I like to keep things simple, so I only offer Blogger and WordPress blog designs.

Ashley Do you design full time or on the side?

Stephanie Designing at New Chapter Designs is definitely not a full time job for me. I really just use any profit to fund my book and Etsy buying addictions :/ My job during school right now is working at the university library, which I of course enjoy 🙂

I do really enjoy designing, but I don’t foresee making this into a full time business for myself. Working for myself as a full time job would be disastrous anyways. My boss self would be much too lazy to get a lot of work done needed for a freelance business. I think I prefer coding websites to designing anyways because it’s less subjective.

Ashley I totally get that, Stephanie! I like designing websites for myself, but it can be stressful when you design for others. You have to worry about matching their vision. But coding is just straightforward: get the job done and make sure it works!

YA Contemporary Scavenger Hunt blog design by New Chapter Designs
YA Contemporary Scavenger Hunt blog design by New Chapter Designs

Ashley How long have you been designing for?

Stephanie I guess it all started back in middle school when I downloaded GIMP and designed forum signatures for fun. In high school I bought Photoshop CS2 and took two graphic design classes. My teacher wasn’t much help though, so it was mostly self-taught.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I started working on website designs. That’s actually one of the reasons why I started my blog. I wanted a place where I could practice web design on a live website. I didn’t even know about the book community then. I just enjoyed reading and thought that would be a good topic for posts.

Ashley How did you get started? Are you self-taught or did you go to school for design?

Stephanie I’d say I’m self-taught in design but not in coding. I’m currently a senior in college (will be graduating in December!!) finishing up a Bachelor of Science, Computer Information Systems degree. Since I’m graduating soon, I’ve been applying for web developer jobs. I think my ideal job after graduation would be to work primarily in ASP.NET web applications with c# programming.

Apocalypse Booked blog design
Apocalypse Booked blog design by New Chapter Designs

Ashley What’s your favorite kind of project or style? For example, do you love designing author sites? Or whimsical blogs? Or complex, graphic-heavy sites?

Stephanie My favorite kind of project is definitely a blog site and I especially love working with the book blogging community. Scrolling through my portfolio, I guess I tend to gravitate more towards soft colors when designing.

Ashley Do you code your designs, use a template, or outsource the development work?

Stephanie I created a base template for Blogger designs that I start from for each Blogger project. I actually use Ashley’s Tweak Me theme for all of my WordPress designs. Requiring the Tweak Me theme has worked out great for me! Tons of book bloggers already have it and those who don’t, don’t mind buying it. I can create pretty much any design I want with it and implement the design very quickly. Ashley provides great support when I have questions and clients can easily change aspects of the design later without my assistance 😀

Ashley You’ve done some awesome things with Tweak Me! I even featured some of my favourites (I do believe your work shows up in that list more than once!).

Ashley How long does a full blog design usually take you?

Stephanie That greatly depends from project to project. It really all depends on how quickly I can find stock to fit the blog design. I spend soooooo much time scrolling through graphics on sites like Shutterstock and Creative Market. Sometimes I can find something very quickly that fits what I’m looking for and sometimes it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack 😛

Once I have the stock that I need for the blog design, everything else usually goes much quicker.

Great Imaginations blog design
Great Imaginations blog design by New Chapter Designs

Ashley How do you begin a new design project? What’s the first step you take? Do you create a mood board with your client? Start with a colour palette? Start with a font? Walk us through your first design steps.

Stephanie I start off a new design project by asking the client a series of questions about what they want in their blog design. I ask what primary colors they want, any objects/images they would like included in the header, the theme (feeling they want their blog to have/style they are looking for), and any additional comments. Then I ask them to find 3 blog designs that they really like and to tell me what they like about them (ie font, colors, structure, etc). If the answers they give aren’t detailed enough, I’ll ask some clarifying questions.

Ashley Have you ever had any problems connecting with a client’s vision for their site? How did you handle it?

Stephanie Of course! Thinking over my past designs, I believe I’ve had 2 clients that didn’t like the initial mock-up design and I had to completely start over. I also had a client where we tried a lot of different stock images before one was finally chosen. If you’re really worried about this as a designer, don’t be. We’re not mind readers and it can happen to anyone. Sometimes the client themselves don’t know quite what they want until you show them what they don’t want. Other times I could misunderstand what a client wanted based on how they worded their request.

You handle it by asking clarifying questions about what they didn’t like in the initial mock-up and moving forward 🙂 Don’t worry too much. They picked you because they, most likely, love your blog designs, which means you have the skill to make them happy!

Ashley Do you have a blog? If so, how do you think it has helped or affected your design business? Do you think a lot of your clients find/hire you because of your blog?

Stephanie I do! As I said at the beginning, I blog with my sister at These Paper Hearts. I’d say quite a few of my clients hire me because of my book blog. I’d also say I get a lot of my clients from previous client referrals and the link to my design site at the bottom of a client’s blog.

These Paper Hearts blog design
These Paper Hearts blog design by New Chapter Designs

Ashley Do you do any design work outside the book blogging community?

Stephanie Not much. I recently volunteered at a small non-profit organization to oversee their social media sites, website, and any IT related decisions. I’ll be redesigning their website soon and attending monthly meetings.

Ashley Will you be offering any new services in 2015? Or will you be doing anything to expand/change your business?

Stephanie Since I don’t know how my free time will be affected by my new job(hopefully haha) after I graduate, I have no plans for new services. I do hope to create a lot of new premade templates though 🙂

Ashley Is there any advice you’d give to aspiring designers?

Stephanie Obviously to become really good at anything you need to practice. You’re not going to magically wake up one morning and design websites like a true professional without practice. Some people are more apt at designing than others, but it is still a skill that needs to be built up. I recommend reading tutorials and advice posts from professional designers. Scroll through sites like and to become inspired and see what is popular in web design.

Enticed by Books blog design
Enticed by Books blog design by New Chapter Designs

Ashley Is there any advice you’d give to someone looking to hire a designer?

Stephanie My number one advice would be to FULLY explore a designer’s site before contacting them for a blog design. Almost every designer has a services page. Find it! Do they offer what you are looking for? Look through their portfolio. Do you really like their designs? If you look through a designer’s portfolio and don’t like their designs, I would be doubtful that they could make you happy.

Connect with Stephanie!

What do you think of Stephanie’s work? Do you have any questions for her?

Check out her full portfolio

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. I love this interview series! The interviews have been really educational and inspiring. As someone who is aspiring to learn coding and website design, it has been really interesting to see designers talk about the two aspects and how they personally do things. And the posts show me more and more beautiful blogs 🙂 Thanks and keep them comin’ Ashley!

    1. I’m so glad you like them Jade! You’re going to have a lot of fun with coding and designing. 🙂

  2. Ahh, so in love with these interviews!! I ALWAYS alive learning more about the behind the scenes. It was especially cool to see a part time designer! I think it’s so cool, Stephanie, that you manage everything, especially with college. Your designs are gorgeous! <3 I love you talked about working with different clients, because you're right, a lot of people don't even know what they want until they don't see it, haha.

    Amazing interview! <3

    Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday (1): Most Awaited 2015 Books!
    1. I’m so glad you like them!! 😀 Even though I’m a designer myself I still love reading about other designers’ processes.

  3. I absolutely adore this new feature Ashley! 😀 It’s so interesting reading about how each designer has their own personal style and process that works for them.

    Stephanie – I am in awe of your talent. You have such an amazing imagination and the way you transfer those ideas into a website is just breath-taking. And the fact you can manage all this while in college just leaves me in awe! 😉

    Thank you for sharing! ♥

    Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf recently posted: This Shattered World

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