A New Year, A New Direction, A New Look

You probably noticed our semi-absence over the last few weeks. Though we ran a fresh installment of Available Darkness each Friday, and our multi-part series looking back on our first year, we were ghostwriters in more ways than one. We wrote the entire series at once, then set each piece to schedule while Dave and I stepped back and started plotting where to take the Inkwell.

Like so many blogs, the Inkwell began as a brainstorm with a very loosely defined endgame. Looking back, I think we wanted to work together and that was enough. We knew we could write and handle some basic designs – nicely tailored clothes on the fit Thesis figure. But more than anything else, we knew there was extraordinary potential in our partnership.

The year was long and we’ve worked our asses to marrow. I’m proud to call Dave one of the best friends I’ve ever had and a remarkable partner; able to both absorb and expand upon my ambitions.

After more than a year of working together, we now know precisely what we want for our Collective.

Sometimes you have to dig around in the soil before you know what you really want to plant.

As the new header suggests, the Inkwell is now a site for authors. Dave and I are knee deep writing and publishing work for ourselves, as well as for our clients. It makes perfect sense that we balloon the experience.

I’ll talk more about that on Wednesday. In fact, I already have the post written. It was supposed to go out today.

But there was no way I could run it after I saw the work Dave did on this site. It’s gorgeous. It speaks volumes above the fold and I absolutely love it.

So thanks, Dave. For being an awesome partner and brilliant collaborator. You’ve built and rebuilt a staggering amount of sites for us this year and you’re only getting better.

And now, a word from the designer…

Thanks, Sean. Thank you to everyone who has been following Collective Inkwell. I never feel comfortable when people call me a designer. I’m not a code ninja like some of the great designers I admire. I’m a cartoonist by trade, who happens to utilize the best of WordPress and themes like Thesis and Frugal to create some great looking and super functional sites.

As an artist, I believe in using the best tools for the job. Right now there are no better web development tools that I know of than WordPress backed by a killer theme and killer customization.

So while Sean and I were dipping into the waters of publication with our own work and for our ghostwriting clients, we noticed a disturbing trend – a lot of authors have sucky sites. In this day of WordPress powered sites, there is no excuse for anyone to have a horrible static one page site on some freebie site.

There has never been a better time for a writer to craft a brand online.

Which brings us to this design, version 3.0 of Collective Inkwell.

In shifting our focus to serve writers, we want to showcase the creative possibilities of WordPress, a great theme and design. We decided to make over our own blog.

I’ve toyed with ink splotches since before Inkwell 1.0 went live. I must have come up with 40 different mockups involving ink or an inkwell, but I hated each of the concepts I came up with. They all seemed a bit too gothy. While gothy can look good, I felt it was a bit overused at the time of the Inkwell’s launch and didn’t capture what I was looking for.

I went back to the lab and thought about not just ink, but words. So our first design sported a typography-inspired look, with a focus on text. It was dark and it looked cool.

(click any of the images below to biggify them)

Inkwell 1.0 – Dark, moody, cool.


Unfortunately, it was a bit too dark according to some readers. While you can’t please everyone, I try to find some middle ground when it comes to one of the most important websites in our portfolio. While I thought the design looked nice, it was a bit too dark for me to look at day after day. So for Version 2, we went a bit lighter, with a so fresh and so clean clean white and black look.

Inkwell 2.0 – Uber clean; enough open space to plant a forest.


While I like this design and it looked especially good when we utilized colorful graphics in the content, I was never happy with the sidebar navigation. It seemed a waste of space – particularly at a site devoted to wide open space.

This design utilized a sketchy font and graphics, which was meant to show the nature of the site as something in the process of constant creation. We might have left this site up a while longer, but when we decided to shift the focus of Collective Inkwell, I felt a change in appearance was a must.

So, now we present you with Collective Inkwell 3.0.

I wanted to do something completely different, yet return to the roots of my first design concepts – ink. I also dipped into the past for color inspiration. The background color is just a shade off of Inkwell 1.0’s background. This version also utilizes a lot of black, just like the first. Yet, the use of softer warm tones balances the colder, dark colors for a unique experience. I also carried over some of the big type we used in 1.0, particularly in the sidebar graphics.


The header’s ocean of churning, roiling ink is in reference to both the collective nature of my partnership with Sean and the greater collective nature of the artistic community in which we exist. To us, stories hold a powerful magic. They help to transform not only our souls, but also help to shape the world around us.

We’ll talk more about our services and what’s ahead in the coming year. Those who have been reading along this far, even if you’re not writers, we hope to offer you useful tips, advice and information in the coming months. And, of course, Available Darkness will continue to run each Friday.

Thank you, as always, for reading. We look forward to this new incarnation of Collective Inkwell and sharing the collective experience with you all.


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26 responses to A New Year, A New Direction, A New Look

  1. Kimi

    The site looks great and I’m sure the new year will bring the same quality content as in previous years. I look forward to more great things from you guys! Keep up the great work! You are kicken’ butt and taken’ names 🙂

    • Sean

      Thanks Kimi!

      Yeah, we’re walking around with our notebooks, just looking for any old excuse to take a name!

      Thanks for the compliments! We are looking forward to stepping up our game and bringing it to you.

      Happy New Year!

  2. Michelle

    Congratulations Sean & David, The site looks amazing. Lot’s of work, I know, but I think you will be pleased with the feedback. I can’t wait to start reading “Available Darkness” again, and anything else you put pen to paper with.
    Talk soon,

    • Sean

      Aw shucks, Michelle. Thanks!

      I know we’re both excited to tap into the darkness again. It felt weird to be away from our favorite story for so long. We’ve got that, plus tons of other good stuff on tap for this year. Thanks so much for being such a constant part of the ride.

      Happy New Year!

    • Sean

      Thanks, Emily!

      Yeah, Dave knocked this one out of the park, no doubt.

      Thanks for visiting both my homes today!

  3. Lori Hoeck

    This. Design. ROCKS.

    I love the look, the feel, the creativity, the sense of what authors have always gone through to bring words to life, the blend of old and new designs — all of it!

    I look forward to your collaborations and wish you all the best.

    • Sean

      Yeah, it’s gotta be the best thing Dave’s designed thus far. Over the fence and into a bulls-eye perfect. Don’t know how he’ll possibly top it, though I’m quite sure he will.

    • Sean

      Big smiles, kim. I’m glad you like it. I loved the black and I loved the white – but this one would make Goldilocks jump for joy!

  4. Trina

    This big spill has resulted in a lovely look. Congrats, looking forward to your talented offerings over the year.

    • Sean

      Thanks, Trina!

      And thanks for being a part of everything. We can’t wait to spread some Darkness this Friday. Thanks for being patient. : )

    • Sean

      Awwww, like the two of us! I like that. Thanks.

      Happy New Year to you as well, Betsy. It’s gonna be marvelous.

  5. Selfish

    David and Sean,
    One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about my time on the web has been watching you evolve. I’ve been very interested to see the way you’ve overcome obstacles and forged a successful business.

  6. steph

    I totally love it! Really. This is the best design of all of them. It just makes me think: literary, books, and even fairy-tales. It makes me think publishers. Very, very cool.

    • Sean

      Thanks, Steph!

      Yeah, it hits all the right notes. It wasn’t the direction we were going at all. Then Dave got hit with some inspiration from a funny yet surprising place, and BAM! we had this new, jaw-dropping version.

  7. Carla

    I love the new look! Very inspiring. It makes me think of free writing in my Moleskine notebook.

    Happy New Year!

    • Sean

      Hi Carla,

      Yeah, it is a lot like writing in a fancy notebook, down to the comment section. Nice to write on and read.

  8. Annie Anderson

    Hi Guys,

    Popping out of lurkdom for a moment – I do like the new design! (What’s up with all the “Thesis” designs lately, though? Seriously, I am seeing them everywhere I turn!)

    But anyway, on my screen – widescreen MacBook Pro running Firefox 3.5 – the header doesn’t go all the way across. The image stops on the right side about the middle of the “We can help you . . .” box and it’s just whitespace in the corner. Looks a bit odd. Otherwise, it’s a great design. Nice, clean, calming.

    Good job!

    • Sean

      Hi Annie,

      How’s the weather in lurkdom? I hope it’s warm. : )

      You see Thesis designs everywhere because it’s SO customizable and the SEO under the hood is terrific.

      Let us know if it looks better. I’ll see if Dave’s aware.


  9. Rolling Portfolio | Ghostwriter Dad

    […] sites, the creative authors came together to make an old story new at the beginning of the week, relaunching the Inkwell into a site which helps authors get their books to print, just as both David and Sean will soon be […]

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