My Design Journey

This morning I sat down at my computer, cold for the first time in months. No more lightweight dresses with the fan running on high... I've got the leggings and socks on today! As I do most Mondays, I was filling out my calendar for the week with blog posts that I hope to create, amongst other things. I thought today I'd share my design journey with you. How did I get from being a little pre-teen discovering the internet for the first time, to building/running blogs and working in social media? Here's my short story...

 The first website I ever made was back in 2001 using a web builder called Matmice. I was 11 years old, still in primary school and I had no idea what I was doing. I found a picture of a gymnast in a pink sparkly leotard and pretended that was me. Eventually my teacher found out, then mum found out, then I got told off for pretending to be someone and was told to delete it. Woops :/

During the short amount of time I had my Matmice website, I found the “popular list” of the pages that were doing the best on the platform. I wanted to be on that list. I spent a lot of time going through each popular website, trying to figure out what they had that mine didn't, which is how I discovered HTML coding. If I wanted all the bells and whistles these other websites had, I needed to learn these codes to make it happen. So that's what I set out to do.

I found a website called Lissa Explains, designed especially for young people to learn HTML and CSS. The website still exists, but looks like it hasn’t been touched in over 10 years! It’s funny going back to it and seeing how little information it had, but how much I actually learned from it. I learned how to code a simple website using “frames” and I built on my skills to eventually learn the more complex “i-frames”. I was part of a popular web design forum at the time of females who were into creating all sorts of things - graphics, animations, Dollz (like pixelated Barbies) and more. This lead me to build my first real website called Rainbow Bright. 

Rainbow Bright offered an array of graphics that I designed myself. Majority of the graphics were used by people on forums or on Myspace - “blinkies” (flashing dot points and names), “sigs” (signatures), buttons and Dollz. Anything animated or pixelated, I made it. I started off with my computer's default Paint program, and later on bought a program very similar to Photoshop called Paint Shop Pro.
One day I turned on the computer to find my website was completely gone, and that someone had already repurchased the domain. The girl who had been hosting the website and domain name for me for free (I found her through the web design forum) had given up and deleted all of her web accounts. She forgot to tell myself and the other girls she was hosting that she was going to do it. I contacted the new owner of the domain (some random guy who bought expired popular domains) and he quoted me $400 to re-purchase it (which I refused). So I gave up on Rainbow Bright.

A few years into running Rainbow Bright, a friend from dancing (who I found out was interested in Dollz too) and I decided to build a website together. It was a Doll Maker website called "The Dollhouse". You could drag and drop outfits onto the Dollz and create little scenes as well. I have no idea how I learned the coding to put that together, but it took us many weeks of work, hours and hours of finding Dollz and outfits and coding it all. Through marketing the website on every Dollz related site (including Rainbow Bright) and adding it to every search engine, we became the second most popular Doll Maker website, had a crazy amount of traffic and made over $1000 from Google Ads in a couple of months. I was only about 15 years old at the time. 

Moving into my mid-late teens I got really into Bebo and slightly into MySpace. Facebook looked boring and weird for a while and when I did sign up to it, barely anyone I knew was on it (makes me feel old!)

In my last few years of high school I built and ran websites for the businesses of family friends. They were so colourful, so full on, so crazy... nothing like I'd ever do again! I did these websites either for free or for very little money. I always told myself that it was great practise to keep all the coding in my head. Now I realise how much of a good deal these lucky people got!

Once I had finished high school, I discovered fashion blogging in 2008 and created Flip And Style. I didn't really take it seriously until 2010. The first two years were just posting things I loved when I had time as a hobby. I would scan my favourite pages from magazines like Dolly and Girlfriend, uploaded the images to my blog and wrote a bit of commentary about what trends were in and what I loved about them. Kind of hilarious really.
When I realised it was making money and that I was planning to move out of my country home town, I started posting more, and have been posting/creating content ever since. 

I moved to Sydney, studied Fashion Marketing which luckily had a Graphic Design subject in the first year where I learned the basics of Photoshop. I took this knowledge into a blogging/social media job and pushed myself to learn Photoshop inside out, which wasn't difficult as I basically lived on it in this job. I loved this particular job to bits, and I'd not only work the hours at work but as soon as I got home every night my laptop would be open and I'd still be creating graphics for the business and posting on social media.

Social media for online businesses became my life... always coming up with different ways to promote products, learning the insides of and best practises for every social media platform. Constantly researching the ways of other businesses and making sure I could do it better.
I experienced a LOT of copying from other online stores which absolutely drove me crazy at the time. It's funny how they were always watching what I did and tried to replicate it. There was one store in particular that actually copied my blog posts word for word, and also how I worded copy for social media posts. I think if it weren't for this, I wouldn't have pushed myself as hard to do everything 10x better. I guess it was healthy (yet still crazy annoying) competition!

So there you go. I think all these things I've done along the way have lead me to where I am now, and I only recently realised that. My skill set in design (especially website and blogging design) has come from my interest in it over the years. Hours upon hours at the computer in pages and pages of coding. Consumed in every social media platform and scrolling through blog after blog. I'm self taught and the experience I have has developed from my passion for creating websites from the age of 11. I think that’s pretty special.

x Vanessa 


  1. Wow Vanessa this is so amazing! Shows that if you stick to something good things come from it! x

  2. Haha oh my goodness im pretty sure i used to visit your old dollz site at a young age! Great post hun, love that i'm not the only one who was introduced to coding through the dollz and myspace days hehe. xx

  3. That is amazing that you stuck to it! Great post.

  4. This is such a great post! I learnt about the basics of HTML when I was about the same age at you too! Unfortunately, I didn't continue to use it as I got older, but I did study Design at university, and even though I majored in Advertising, I had loads of Graphic Design units. It's going to help big time with my current re-design!

    PS. I had my own Dollz website too! What were we thinking?! Hahaha! I loved creating the looks pixel by pixel on the very old school version of Photoshop. Hilarious.

    Kiara xx //

  5. Hi miss vanessa, I've been stalking your blog lately. haha. I first saw you on one of your videos and then brought me to your website. I just started my blog just recently and I was very happy about sharing my passion. It's amazing how you started this blogging journey, something that I want to do with mine. Nurturing this talent and passion. Thanks by the way. You are one of my favorite female blogger.

  6. LOVE YOUR BLOG! The design was so mesmerizing and modern I didn't even realize how long I've been looking through your blog till now! Woops! ♥v♥