21 December 2015

Giving You // Creative Living

When I started planning this post, it was going to be about Christmas traditions for the family, but as I explored the idea, a lot of the suggestions were consumer-based, and it felt a little hollow. The act of giving always seems poignant at this time of year, when we take stock of what we have. So here are my top ideas for creating traditions in giving at Christmas.

While making festive biscuits to leave out for bin men and neighbours, and putting together a gift box for Operation Christmas Child can be a lovely thing to do with children, we can all take things a little further by supplying homeless people with winter essentials, and getting a little extra on our Christmas shop for the food bank. These are all very easy things to do, that can cost as much or as little as you like - every penny really does help when it comes to the less fortunate.

So in this true Christmas spirit, we wish you all a magical Christmas, filled with love and laughter.

*The studio is now closed for the festive period and will re-open on Monday 11th January 2016*

Image Sources: Biscuits The 36th Avenue, Christmas Child Garrett With Sim, Homeless (unknown source), Food Bank (unknown source)

14 December 2015

'Small' Books For Big Imaginations // Inspiring The Small

Quote from The Bear's Song (below).

Books are massive in our house - both of us being huge book worms, and eager to encourage the same passion in our small. We already have a modest collection of very special books, most of which were (gratefully) recommended by Lori, over on her blog Wild & Grizzly. Here, we are sharing 4 of our favourites that resonate with all 3 of us - not just from a plot perspective, but a creative one too.

The Encyclopedia of Pehistorica Dinosaurs (by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart) is a treasure trove of imagination and expert craft. Every page is packed with information, surrounding a 3D paper construction of a dinosaur that leaps out at you as you turn the page. It is a work of art as much as anything else, and this is why this book is such a success. It captivates, intrigues, draws you in, to rather a hands-on approach to learning about these incredible creatures. Our small is enthralled by this book - he enjoys role-play with these paper masterpieces as well as lifting the many hidden mini pop-ups that can be found throughout the book. As huge lovers of paper, this book is a massive hit in our household for not only our small, but us as well.

The Bear's Song (by Benjamin Chaud) is one of those rare books that combines a really comforting, beautiful tale of love between father and son, with magnificent illustrations. The large size of the book really celebrates the work of the artist, and the smell of the ink on the beautiful uncoated stock is just such a joy. Everything about this book sticks in your mind - from the soothing earthy palette and charming illustrations, to the attention to detail, the feel of the stock and the magical story - you just know this is one of those books that will remain in your child's memory forever.

In The Forest (by Anouck Boisrobert, Louis Rigaud and Sophie Strady) is such an important book for educating children on the impact of deforestation and the power of human actions - bad and good. With beautiful pop-up 3D paper constructions throughout, this vibrant, fun, yet poignant book leads us through nature and all it's beauty, teaching us about respect and the fragility of our world. Our small enjoys role-play with the diggers, and getting involved in the 'regrowth' of the forest that had been destroyed.

The Highstreet (by Alice Melvin) is like a record of our highstreets, as they once were, at a time when we are struggling to hold on to them. The book takes us on a colourful, playful journey down the highstreet, to tick off items on Sally's shopping list - presented with joyful illustration and printed on beautiful uncoated stock. Together, we come across all strange and wonderful things along the way, in this interactive book, which includes liftable flaps on every page, taking you into each shop. Not only does this book feel important to show our children the highstreet as it once was, and may never be again, but it also contains subtle lessons on consumerism, which we also feel is so important today.

07 December 2015

Anyone Can Design A Logo // In The Studio

I remember something my driving instructor told me 15 years ago, he said that anyone can drive, but not everyone can drive well. I guess that made me want to be part of the ‘can drive well’ group. It challenged me, and driving well is something I  still take pride in today (you know, indicating at roundabouts, headlights at dawn/dusk (but I can see!), not tailgating etc.)

Now logo design isn’t driving, and you can’t learn to do it in 10 hours. But it is something that can be done well, and not so well. Anyone can type a business name into a computer and add a piece of clipart next to it. Even websites themselves can now ‘design’ a logo for you, one website for instance took just seconds to design over 250 logos! Seeing what it generated was a fun game to play, but the chance that it would produce something of value is like the chance of the UK having a summer with wall-to-wall sunshine everyday, it’s just not going to happen.

So, what should a logo be? I think that a logo needs to be three main things:

• Simple. This will help it to be instantly recognisable, which means that it is more likely to be memorable. If it’s not memorable in some way, it’s not doing it’s job.

• Appropriate. It must have a purposeful reason for it’s form, typography, and colour choices. This will help it to convey something unique about the business, or just simply help it target the right people.

• Unique. This helps your business to stand out from the crowd, so customers can easily tell you apart from other businesses. Similar to the way a person’s unique features, such as their eyes, help them to stand out.

Designing a logo is a process that asks questions. Some questions will be simple to answer, like what is it that the business does, and who are their target market? Others will be more difficult to answer as it involves more of a decision, a choice of direction has to be made, like what sort of personality does the business want to convey?

Research must be done into business competitors, this helps the designer to spot trends or potential similarities to avoid such as icons, typefaces, and colours used (after all, a logo should be unique, to help you stand out). The research should also extend into the industry itself, as ideas can often be triggered by anything from historical facts to the equipment used, or even the local geography.

The actual design process can only start after these initial stages, as without these stages all you can go on is a business name, which on it’s own can give very little away. Amazon for instance… rainforest management?  The logos would look a lot different if the designers hadn’t asked even the most obvious questions, or carried out the most basic research. For example, take a look at the recent 'rebrand' for Amazon, provided by an online logo design generator. I’ve made it look like a before and after slide from my favourite logo design blog Brand New, just to help highlight the difference between the original, and the ‘redesigned’ logo. The new logo is fairly simple, I'll give it that, but it certainly isn't appropriate (it was designed 'blind' after all), and unique is definitely not a word I'd use to describe it.

So, although anyone can design a logo, it does not mean that it is going to be good. Ultimately, the designers you choose to design your new logo must care about the end result, care enough to ask the right questions, and strive to craft something that leaves you, the client, happy. However, a logo cannot be called good simply because more money was spent on it, or bad because it was cheap. It is however, wise to invest in the design of your logo as it will become the cornerstone of your business, it’s most recognisable element, as your face is to you, your logo is to your business. As a general rule, you will get what you pay for, but getting a feel for a designer / studio before committing would be wise. Read about them, view past projects, see what they are saying on their social pages, and finally email or call them to double check that they live up to their perceived quality. You will then be able to sit back and enjoy the ride, as having your logo designed should be an enjoyable process to experience.

30 November 2015

Hemp Protein Bars // Good Food

Vegan, naturally sweet, chocolatey and moreish, these hemp bars have become a staple in our household for both us and our small to enjoy. Taken from our favourite recipe book The Green Kitchen, and modified to suit our tastes, these bars are an instant, nourishing energy hit on many a busy adventure.

Dry Ingredients

1 cup (160 g) pumpkin seeds

1 cup (100 g) dried shredded coconut

1/2 cup (80 g) hemp seeds

4 tbsp chia seeds

6 tbsp rolled oats

2 tbsp poppy seeds

Wet Ingredients

20 dates (pitted
6 tbsp coconut oil (room temperature)

4 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

Roughly chop the pumpkin seeds (or you can leave whole if preferred). Mash the dates with a fork until they are sticky and smooth as caramel.

Mix together all ingredients, adding one by one, and kneed by hand until well combined.
Spread the batter evenly into a 11 x 7-inch (28 x 18 cm) baking dish, pressing down to compact. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Will keep around a week.

Image and original recipe The Green Kitchen

23 November 2015

The 5 Senses Of Christmas // Creative Living

As we near the end of November, thoughts are turning to Christmas. It is such a sensory season isn't it? As the dull days and dark nights draw in, we have started thinking about what stirs our 5 senses at Christmas...

Sight - Traditional rainbow fairy lights clinch it for us. There is nothing more nostalgic at Christmas than the beautiful, warm lights that were so heavily featured in our childhood Christmases.  

Smell - Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, are spices that are so prominent at Christmas, and feature heavily in the scent of our home during the festive period - whether in our cooking or in our decor. Warming, comforting, calming and homely.

Sound - Silence. The silence of snow. When we wake up and everything is so silent that we just know. Snow has fallen. As we peel back the curtain, the excitement bubbles up inside of us just the same as it did when we were children - it never goes. And the beauty - it never ceases to stagger.  

Touch - Warmth. The feel of warmth as we enter our home on a winters day. The feel of the flickers of heat, radiating from the licking flames. Pure bliss after a wintry walk.

Taste - Of all the tastes of Christmas, mulled wine is always the most prominent. It has the funny ability to soothe us at the same time as making us feel celebratory.

What stirs your senses at Christmas?

Christmas Lights (source unknown), Spices Half Baked Harvest, Snow (source unknown), Log Fire (source unknown), Mulled Wine Adeline and Lumiere

17 November 2015

Stocking Treasures // Inspiring The Small

Dinosaur Planter Ohh Deer, Woodland Nesting Dolls Tigerlilly Quinn, Another Night Before Christmas Rob Ryan, Knitted Scandinavian-Style Stockings Not On The High Street

There is nothing more exciting than finding unusual things to inspire our small with. These are a few of our purchases so far, all ready to be wrapped and tucked into that special stocking.

It feels great to buy from and support small independents when possible, and you really feel that sense of value - they are not things that you would necessarily find anywhere else.

We hope that these inspire you as you start to think about stocking ideas this Christmas.

09 November 2015

Books for Designers // In The Studio

At a time when we are looking to expand our studio book collection, we've been reflecting on our favourite reads on our shelf.


Impressive is a Printmaking, Letterpress and Graphic Design book, absolutely brimming with visual inspiration from creatives who are using old-fashioned techniques to create cutting-edge work. It is a topical exploration of the interplay between current trends in graphic design and traditional handiwork such as letterpress printing. This is an essential book for print-loving designers like us.

How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul

Written by Adrian Shaughnessy, this book is a practical and inspirational user's guide for designers. It offers guidance on employment options straight out of college, setting up as a freelance, establishing a firm, finding and keeping clients, pitching, and generally doing good work. It was a great purchase back when we were looking to start Leaff, and an easy reference point when we were on our feet, but it still serves as a good read even now.

Obey The Giant

This is a book by Rick Poynor - an acclaimed design writer. It is a really rich source of knowledge on the communication of design and branding, on every level - even levels that you hadn't perhaps considered before. It is in this way that Poynor exposes what is really beneath the surface of contemporary visual culture, which shows how designers and image-makers both collude with, and resist, corporate control of the image world.

Do you own any really inspiring books that you couldn't do without? We would love to hear about them - they may be just what we are looking for to expand our own collection.

02 November 2015

Super Granola // Good Food

Originally found in our amazing cookbook The Green Kitchen, this super-scrummy granola is a staple in our house. We have tweaked the original recipe to our own taste over the years, and tend to make this every fortnight. Packed full of super, raw ingredients, it is a breakfast that brings together superb taste with superb good-for-you ingredients. A match made in heaven!

Basic Ingredients
175g rolled oats
175g rolled rye or spelt
150g almonds (either whole or flaked)
40g coconut flakes
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon (or nutmeg)

Liquid Ingredients
2 tbspn maple syrup
2 tbspn melted coconut oil
1 tbspn water

Dried Superfood
80g dried cranberries

Special Extra

100g dark chocolate (broken into small pieces)


Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Combine all of the Basic Ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour in the Liquid Ingredients and use your hand to toss until everything is well combined.

Spread mixture out in the baking tray and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon a couple of times during cooking to keep it from getting burnt.

Remove from oven and leave to cool before adding the Dried Superfood (and the Special Extra if using). Store in a sealed glass jar at room temperature. Keeps for at least a month.

Goes particularly well with coconut yoghurt.

26 October 2015

Halloween DIY // Creative Living

Halloween is such a creative time of year in our household - we love to experiment with new ideas and craft projects each year. But there are a couple of projects that we did some years ago now, which remain our favourite to adorn our house with year after year - our 'spooky' bunting and our colony of bats.

Here, we are sharing them with you - follow the links below to get your free PDF downloads of the bunting and bat templates. The artwork is across a number of A4 pages, ready for you to print straight out and enjoy.

Spooky Bunting
Simply print onto white card, cut out, hole punch and thread with string or ribbon, to adorn your wall or fireplace. Download here.

Print onto white paper and draw over the outlines with pencil. Place this face-down on black card and retrace the outlines again from the reverse of the paper, which will transfer the pencil faintly onto the black card. Simply cut out, white tack and display in colonies! Download here.

We hope that you enjoy these fantastical craft DIY's - and do share your pictures with us over on Twitter or Facebook.

19 October 2015

Let's Go Outside // Inspiring The Small

With the Nature Nurtures approach in mind (and the fact that our small loves nothing more than to be outside), last spring we transformed our back garden into an adventure ground.

A mud track for his cars, a fully equipped mud kitchen (complete with 'plumbed' sink and hob details), a bee nesting pole and bird feeding table, decking for growing his own plants and tomatoes (complete with hedgehog feeding station underneath); a tepee to shelter in, a mini beast mansion and log pile to encourage bugs and mammals, and finally our latest addition - a fire pit to enjoy cocoa around before bed in these Autumn and Winter months.

We have already enjoyed watching the bees making nests during the summer months, exploring and escorting mini beasts to their mansion, feeding our array of garden birds and our resident hedgehogs too.

The scope for imaginative play is huge, messy play has been a huge hit with mud pie making and garden maintenance, and his connection and understanding of nature and wildlife has developed hugely.

Why not let your imagination run wild and get creative with your outdoor space, to inspire your small.

12 October 2015

New Brand Design // In The Studio

This week we have begun the first stage of work on a new and exciting brand design, for Stafford based paper-cutter Fennie Designs ('Fruity' cut by Fennie directly above). Fennie is bold, bright, warm and passionate; expert and high end, and needs a brand that reflects this.

The start of a project is always so exciting. It is the opportunity to get lost in our endless books of inspiration, to draw on colour and concepts, and let ideas roll out of all control - it is wide open and anything is possible. We really look forward to seeing where things lead us, and sharing the end result with you in due course.

Do you have a business in need of re-connection with it's brand? See what we can do for you... leaffdesign.co.uk.

05 October 2015

Vegan Coconut Shortbread // Good Food

(Makes approximately 12 biscuits)


150g coconut oil
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g plain flour


Preheat oven to 180°C / Gas mark 4.

Cream the coconut oil and sugar in a bowl with a wooden spoon until fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

Sieve in the flour and mix well until it starts to come together. It is best to then get your hands in there to knead it until it forms a ball of dough - this can take some time, so do keep at it, it will happen!

Roll out the dough to 1cm thickness - we found it easiest to roll it out between 2 pieces of baking parchment to avoid it sticking to the table / the rolling pin. It is quite a crumbly dough, so go carefully.

Cut out with biscuit cutters and place on oiled baking trays. Bake for 20 minutes.

Leave to completely cool before decorating (if desired) or serving.

28 September 2015

Autumn Splendor // Creative Living

This is what our Autumn looks like. Daily adventures with our little explorer always provide such a rich array of natural wonder, and no more so than in this magical season.

The colour adorns every tree - every pathway - where the low sun throws long dark shadows, in stark contrast to the vibrant leaves. Mini beasts, fungi, pumpkins are all to be discovered and enjoyed. And after a long day of adventuring in the cool fresh air, there is nothing better than our cold hands being greeted by our warm home, for a warm feast.

What does your Autumn look like?

21 September 2015

Whatever the Weather // Inspiring the Small

Interactive UK Weather Map Corby Tindersticks

Corby Tindersticks is an illustration led lifestyle brand based in London - it is a brand for people with a sense of humour and an appreciation of design.

We already have a few of their pieces dotted around the house - ever growing is our love affair with this fun, quirky brand. But when we clapped eyes on this exceptionally charming interactive weather map, it was clearly just the ticket for encouraging an interest in weather and capturing the imagination of our very own small.

You can attach and detach the 8 movable weather symbols, to whatever the desired positions are on the A3 felt print of the U.K (and Ireland). We love the depth of detail, fantastical colour pops, and wonderful texture, which inspires all sorts of learning on all kinds of levels.

14 September 2015

Leaff Re-Opens // In The Studio

Friends! It is with great elation that we announce that we have re-opened the studio this morning. Today is momentous!

Although the break from trading was for all the worst reasons, it provided us with much food for thought, and so we not only return with an abundance of creative energy, but with a more defined way of working.

You will notice some adjustments to the blog topics, with the addition of Inspiring the Small and Good Food. These are two areas that greatly interest us in our personal lives, as we continuously thrive to provide sources of inspiration for our own 'small', Charlie. We hope that it will bring more of a full and rounded account of our passions to the blog - not only from a design perspective, but from a generally creative one.

Lastly, for those of you looking to the future of your own businesses and mentally placing projects in the pipeline, we want to hear from you! We are scheduling work thick and fast, so do get in touch soon.

02 August 2015

Leaff Turns 5 // In the Studio

It is a belated Birthday announcement, but one that means perhaps more than it ever has before. On the 26th July 2015 we turned 5, and if I hadn't been licking my wounds after chemo for the last week, we would've been all over this! Alas, the light is back in my days now and this year we celebrated with a quiet yet profound chink of our bubble-filled glasses, and a deep appreciation of what we have, and what is ahead.

This time in 2 weeks I will be beginning my recovery at last, and so it is with great relief and excitement that we have plucked our 'paused trading' sign down from our homepage, and turned off our auto-responses. We are now very much taking bookings for our re-opening in September!

Hip, hip, hooray!

30 April 2015

A Quick Update

We thought that it was high time that we gave you all an update on things, but I have been waiting for my most recent scan in order to do that.

On Monday this week, I got the results from my mid-way scan, and it came up PET negative - I am officially in remission! As you can imagine, this was a ginormous relief, especially because I had been staged at Stage 4 with suspected bone marrow involvement. I still have to undergo the next 3 months of chemo, but there is now light.

All being well, my last treatment should be at the end of July, and then I will need to build myself back up again, which will take a couple of months, but the end is definitely in sight.

We really wanted to share this positive news with you all, and thank you for your continued support and encouragement - we cannot wait to get back into Leaff!

11 February 2015

Temporary Closure

It has been a while since we last posted, stating that we might be quiet for a while.

I (Kate) have been unwell since early December with a suspected nasty virus, but after a lot of investigating and testing, 3 weeks ago we received the devastating news that it is in fact Hodgkins Lymphoma (lymphatic cancer). As you can all imagine, it wasn't the news that we were expecting and our world has been turned upside down.

Having worked so hard to re-brand Leaff recently, it hasn't been easy to consider pausing things with the business, and we were really trying not to make any big decisions until we knew the full picture. However, having just met with my treatment team and gone through everything, unfortunately the treatment regime is to be very intensive and will see me quite poorly for the next 6-8 months, so we have been left with no choice but to pause trading until this is over and I'm in remission.

We can't stress enough how grateful we are for all of your support over the last 5 years, and we really want to make clear that this isn't the end of Leaff. If I feel able, I will continue to blog and post on the social pages, but I'm not going to put any pressure on myself to do this - it really depends on how I feel. We hope that you will all be able to support us throughout this break, and during our return at the end of the year.

12 January 2015

New Year Inspiration 2015 // Creative Living

January is a month that is overlooked - often thought of as a dull, dreary, depressing month, despite the sense of energy that we all seem to begin it with. Here, we are challenging that!

January is a joyful month - a time to appreciate the true depths of the winter season, to honour resolutions to look after ourselves, and to start the year as we mean to go on, doing more of the things we love.

You can find all of the above and more on our New Year Inspiration board over on Pinterest. So grab that brew, and get inspired.

On an entirely separate note, posts may be few and far between (maybe even non-existent) over the coming few weeks. We will update you on this more as soon as we can, but just so you know we haven't disappeared and we would really appreciate you just bearing with us - things will return to normal as soon as possible.

Winter door display (unknown source), winter arrangement Aesthetic Nest, calming sugar scrub Savy Naturalista, detox water Top Inspired, outdoor winter picnic (unknown source), memory jar (unknown source).
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