Introducing Northerly


As I’ve documented recently, I’ve been filling my non-working days with personal projects. Sharpen the ol’ skills, you know? Learn new tricks, etcetera.

I have to say, it’s difficult to be a talented, passionate designer and still be unable to find a good job that can put my skills to use. That’s been getting me down a lot. And then a couple weeks ago I was at REI to get Alan a (last minute, oops!) valentine’s gift (I got him socks and a S’well thermos because we sexy like that) and was browsing a shelf near the checkout that had a few stacks of pretty magazines with lots of photos of outdoor pursuits and travel adventures. As I was skimming through one of them, I had an idea to go home and just play around with some layouts using my own photos. Make a little magazine mockup for fun. So I did, and I had fun making a fake magazine cover, with a fake name, and trying all the different photo set ups, and doing character styles, and, and.

Before I knew it, I had decided that I was going to do this for real. The prospect didn’t even seem daunting. Start a magazine? How hard could it be? I already have a designer, ME, and I’ve worked on publications before, so I totally know exactly how to run one. If I dig into my own pockets, I can get them printed, and then I’ll find people to sell them. On the surface I believe it really is that simple, but since then I’ve realized just how many moving parts there are to something like this. To market it, I need to have a website, a place to sell it from, and an instagram, and facebook! I gotta get the word out if I want it to actually sell. All that stuff is kinda scary.

But I also know people, lots of writers, who I can go to for submissions or story suggestions. And Instagram is a hotbed of talented photographers all trying to get themselves out there (with varying degrees of success).


But I’m getting ahead of myself. I read articles like this and thisOne thing that was reassuring is that it didn’t seem as crazy as it sounded. I decided that the success of this venture would be determined by what I really wanted out of it, and really all I want is to create something beautiful and if a few people get enjoyment and satisfaction from it, then I’m happy. And I told Alan recently “I’m going to put my heart and soul into this. It’s going to be a print magazine. And if I only manage to put out a couple issues before I burn out or it becomes unsustainable, then that’s OK.” I thought of an angle, a journal for life in the North, and a name, Northerly. Not only could I capitalize on an ever-growing movement in Minnesota to rebrand as “The North”, but it’s also a topic I know about. I know about living up here, because I’ve done it my whole life.

I realized I was really sick of being disappointed in where my career was at, and I had to bring the work to myself. And I also realized that I may actually be well suited for this kind of undertaking. Sure, I’m not an editor, but I was raised by two journalists, and worked at a newspaper, on an “alt-weekly” (that’s not what we called it but that’s kind of what it was) so I have a feel for the editorial process. And editorial design is my passion, which sounds so dorky, but it’s super true.


I created a website through Squarespace and got an email set up. I took my outdoor photography instagram account, these__trees, which was dormant anyway, and deleted everything and made it the official IG account for Northerly. I went to work on a grid that looked professional and design-y (and stood out from other photos on peoples’ feeds), and threw in some hashtags and slowly people started following. I put the word out to my Socality pals, many of whom travel all over the place.

It’s slow building, but so far I’m stoked as hell that people are responding well to it. People are actually submitting pitches, which is *wild*. It’s all I ever could have hoped for. It’s got me thinking down the road a bit. I will probably need a marketing person at some point, maybe a co-editor, maybe even a social media designer. But, this is way down the road.

If you are reading this and want to write about what “northern living” means for you, well heck, get on it! The deadline for the fall (and first) issue is June 1st.

A Fun Branding Exercise!


I haven’t known what to blog about lately. I’ve been in kind of an occupational rut, an the theme of winter has been cold, and sick baby home from daycare. So I haven’t had a lot of time to center myself and get stuff done. This last week in particular I had baaaaaad depression so, yeah, I’ve been in a rut.

So on Monday morning, after a weekend of feeling miserable and useless I decided to do something different – to get the creative juices flowing, to teach myself some new things, to make something for my portfolio. I’ve long felt that design is design – the principles can be applied across all media, and you know what, my portfolio should just show potential employers/clients that, right??? Theoretically, yes? In practice – not really. I shouldn’t expect people to look at my website and think “yes, she’s good at this kind of design work, so she must be good at all other design work.” Now that I think of it, I mean, I literally was expecting people to have those thoughts.


So, I decided to go nuts and take on a packaging project – which turned into a full-on exercise in branding a product from start to finish. A line of skin care products appealed to me, and I brainstormed some names til I came up with “Boreal Botanicals” which allowed me to find inspiration in the cold, stark, beautiful landscape and geography of Iceland. Icelandic skin care seemed really natural from there. Volcanic ash, lush geothermal valleys – the blue lagoon? Totally made sense.


Obviously a project is 1000% more fun when you’re your own client, and you have zero constraints. It takes the pressure off for sure. And obviously this is not reflective of real-world design work. Still though.

I got a fantastic mockup bundle from CreativeMarket, my go-to for all my assets. Was pretty cool to come up with the names of products too (like “Glacial Facial”, and “Andlit” and “Líkami” which mean “face” and “body”, respectively, in Icelandic).

After I had started doing the packaging, and I was feeling energized and inspired, I thought to round this project out I ought to make a website design to go with it. I have only one experience with website design, and it was… Fine. But I’ve really wanted to do a COOL website design for a long time, but didn’t feel I had any opportunities. Welp!


Turns out front-end web design is actually super easy if you know how to use a 16-column grid.Products1From start to finish this project took about a day. I’m so fond of it, and I’m so bummed that it’s already finished! I may do 5 or 6 explorations of this sort. Or I dunno, 9 or 10 or 20? This is the kind of stuff that made me want to become a designer.

Fonts: Gotham Bold + Light, Chloe


Motherhood Made Me a Better Artist

NORTHSHORE-49Life is uncertainty. For me, I’ve always tried to pretend I was a person who knew what I was about. Over the years people have asked me what kind of designer I want to be, what kind of job I ultimately want. I always had a different answer. “I want to do album covers”; “I want to be an Art Director of a Magazine”; “I just want to design.” Creativity has always come easily to me so I never really imagined putting in the work to focus on any one of these ambitions. I kind of went where my career took me, from poster designer to layout editor to quasi-Art Director to Social Media designer to nothing to Freelancer.

It’s the “nothing” period in my career that I think particularly shaped me. That would’ve been the time between when I ended my contract at General Mills and Alexander went to day care. For about 17 months I had no job, no income, and very few opportunities to create.

But it strengthened my creativity more than any other job could’ve. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, but in my case it also made it more skilled. It’s like something clicked in my brain, or maybe my batteries just needed to be recharged. I feel an artistic instinct moreso now than ever before. It’s more focused and the style is refined, but I’m also more disciplined and detail-oriented too. I’m even more principled, by being firm on pricing and passing on jobs that couldn’t pay enough. I’m at a stage now where I don’t have to work for exposure if I don’t want to.


Since coming back from “maternity leave” I’ve had a handful of really cool clients and done some work I would put up there as my best, and one of my goals this year is to blog more about design, so I’ll start by rounding up recent work:WG_covergifWG_inside7

I art directed this big printed winter guide for GoMN. I’d never made a style guide before, or design something of this magnitude totally from scratch, but it was an amazing rediscovery of skills and taught me about who I am and what I want from projects. Full autonomy and a really supportive and willing collaborator (in this case, the editor Reed Fischer).


I was approached by the wonderful jeremy messersmith to design a souvenir poster for a January residency at Icehouse here in Minneapolis. It sort of fulfilled another goal of mine, which was to be sought out because of work I’ve done, not just because I’m a designer. (There’s still one more show if you’re in Minneapolis).


Through a combination of networking and just dumb luck (which is how 90% of design jobs happen) I ended up doing a listicle graphic for the website Stereogum… And then asked if I would do 10 more graphics for year-end content… Which ultimately ended up at 15 pieces. The editors over there were super open and game for whatever. I tried out a few new styles and even snuck some of my own photography in. And, not only was it a really cool opportunity but it came at a time where I was desperate for work (and a paycheck). MOMMUSICVIDS1PROTEST1

And of course I’m still doing my Transmission gig, which I’ve been doing since before I graduated college, since before I met Alan! I’m usually able to stretch on these and figure out new ways of doing things; pick up skills for later on. BOWIE4NYE2



Holiday Cards


Our Christmas cards this year are from Artifact Uprising, a company I’ve loved and patronized for years now. I feel conflicted using design templates sometimes; I feel like I should use it as an opportunity to make my own. But they make it just so damn simple and convenient. Even easier is that we got real live family photos taken by my pal Cody KartarikIt was such a great shoot and I felt like I had to do one of these multi-photo cards.

2017CARDS-52017CARDS-1I love the Artifact Uprising designs because it feels like something I would do. They’re so simple and type-driven. They make it easy to give up control, and it takes like 5 minutes to put together. They’ll even address your envelopes if you’re so inclined. 2017CARDS-6

Bonus: Artifact Uprising is a cool company to make photo gifts for people. I’ve given my mom a little calendar the last few years. They have a big sale today and you should go check it out.

(p.s. it sure looks like this is a sponsored post, right? well, it’s not! I just think Artifact Uprising is neat).

My new design logo


A little while ago I was in the throes of obsessively updating my portfolio and creating some projects for myself while I get ready to go back to work, usually in the hours between Alex’s bedtime and mine. One night I was like “maybe I should make a new logo for myself.” Whoa! My old design logo was one I’d had since 2011, before I graduated from school:


It’s not bad, really, for how shoddy my illustrator skills were at the time, but it’s pretty far away from who I am as a designer now. Then I was an obsessive anglophile and I loved royal history and crowns. Didn’t have much to do with my design, though. Still, I hung onto this identity for a long long time.

While trying to devise something new, I wanted to make sure I went minimal, and probably more type focused. I searched around for the inspiration to hit, and I started thinking about trees. The kicker is that I used up a bunch of good ideas in my blog logo. I’m still not very good at saving my process so I don’t have any to show, but I eventually arrived at this super simple tree/chevron design:CRD_IDENTITY3CRD_IDENTITY4

I love that it’s very much “me”. It’s minimal, it’s bold, it conveys nature and design simultaneously, and it’s a standalone icon as well as part of a wordmark. I love when design can do double – or triple – duty.LOGO_2017

I’m mulling over the eventual consolidation of both my design and photography businesses into “Caroline Royce Creative” or something, but for now I think this bridges the gap nicely. CRD_IDENTITY

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