Business by Design

Crushing on Great Design: Kelly Beall Writes About What Makes Her Swoon

Design Crush

Kelly Beall’s lifelong passion for art and design convinced her to take the leap and make design blogging a full-time career.

When Kelly Beall began the Design Crush blog in 2007, she never thought it would turn into a full-time job.

“I started Design Crush mainly just for me and to gather inspiration for my day job,” she says. “I was super surprised when people started reading it a few months in.”

Two and a half years ago, Kelly took the leap and transitioned from doing Design Crush as a second job in the evenings to making it her full-time work.

“I still do some design work on the side, but doing Design Crush has allowed me to be super picky about the projects that I take on,” she says. “I feel so lucky because it doesn’t feel like work.”

The Perfect Storm: How Design Crush Came To Be

Kelly graduated with a bachelor of arts in advertising, even though she had always wanted to be a graphic designer.

“I stuck with it because I liked the conceptual side of it, and I did like working with other people on projects,” she explains.

After a few years of being an agency art director, she fell into a graphic design position while she was looking for a new job.

“I took it because I didn’t want to wonder ‘what if?'”” she says. She says she learned more from her time as a designer than from her entire advertising career.

As far as transitioning to Design Crush full-time, she calls the experience the “perfect storm.”

“Everything kind of happened where I left my graphic design job,” she says. “I had this chunk of time before me, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to look for another design job, or if I was going to go freelance or what. I already had this foundation of Design Crush, and it would have been silly to not step on the ledge and see where it could go.”

Seeking and Living Design

Anything that Kelly posts on Design Crush is something that she’s inspired by. That includes a personalized family tree from Evajuliet, fiber tapestry art, as well as cheesecake.

“I like to be inspired by anything that I see,” she says. “From something at Target to an art exhibition at a museum or gallery.”

Even after doing Design Crush for more than half a decade, she doesn’t find staying inspired that difficult.

“I try to keep my eyes open for it everywhere,” she says. “It has become part of my day-to-day life.”

And this feeling guides what she chooses to post on Design Crush.

Whether she stumbles upon cool things on other sites or gets press releases or offers to review products, her only criterion is that the product in question makes her heart skip a beat.

“I have to get a feeling at the pit of my stomach,” she adds.

Being a design blogger makes Kelly extremely aware of just how affected she is by design. Design affects what she buys at the grocery store, what magazines she reads, what she’s drawn to online, and what she posts for her readers on Design Crush.

“Good design serves a bigger purpose than just looking pretty,” she adds. “It informs and it convinces people to bring things into their homes, their lives, and their minds.”

Your Art, Your Business

Running your own design business is no easy feat, but we believe the freedom and experience that come with it can be just as rewarding.

This is why Kelly’s greatest lesson thus far as an entrepreneur is so spot on.

“The worst thing that happens when working for yourself and owning your own business is still better than the best day of working for someone else,” she says.

She adds that working for yourself is a whole new ballgame where you’re faced with greater responsibilities.

“There’s nobody there to tell you that this project is due tomorrow,” she says. “It’s all on you. I’m not a controlling person, but I like having that kind of responsibility. It’s changed me as a designer, a blogger, and a person.”

She advises aspiring bloggers and entrepreneurs to put it all out there and to treat their art like a business.

“If you don’t believe in yourself and what you’re doing, nobody else is going to,” she says. “Go into it whole-heartedly and people will take you seriously.”

Staying On Top Of The Design Blogosphere

A key part of Kelly’s job as a full-time blogger is to see what other bloggers are doing.

Being aware of what’s going on in the industry and with her peers helps her stay ahead of the game and do things differently.

“Sometimes I take a concept that my peers are working with, put my own spin on it, if I feel it will be a great fit for my site,” she says. But Kelly has also learned to not jump on every idea or concept just because somebody else did.

“Something that works for DesignSponge isn’t going to necessarily be a great fit for Design Crush,” she says.

Giving Back

Kelly enjoys staying active and giving back to the blogging community. It’s her way of helping others gain a foothold in blogging, an opportunity she herself didn’t enjoy when she started out in 2007. At that time, there were no guidelines, no mentors, and nobody out there to help you with anything.

“I’ve learned so much over the past seven years, and I enjoy sharing it with people that are trying to get that knowledge now,” she says. “I like giving back to bloggers who are aspiring to make their sites something more.”

Additionally, participating in industry events has given Kelly the opportunity to nurture the relationships she’s created over the years.

Keeping It Simple and Real

Since starting Design Crush, Kelly has kept short-term goals.

Aside from tweaks that help her get better sponsors and better content for readers, she doesn’t have huge plans on tap for the year.

“I don’t look too far beyond what’s the next thing I can do to make my blog better as I feel like progress is more attainable this way,” she says. “We also don’t know what blogging is going to turn into, so I try to take that into account as well.”

Love Design Crush? Support Kelly by submitting cool stuff that you find online or in your life.

“You can also just read the site,” she says. “Design Crush wouldn’t exist without that kind of support. I’m always thankful to people who are just readers.”

To keep the design inspiration flowing, Kelly recommends Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas by Danielle Krysa. “She talks to fifty successful artists and she got advice from them on how they overcome their creative blocks. It was fascinating to see how people are able to shift their focus and overcome their blocked mindset.” Grab your copy at our DesignGood Book Store.