Although I have been fiddling with web design for years, I of course have an ocean of things to learn. Being self taught in the early days, when people were just starting to build personal websites, I learned the basics using Dreamweaver, and I got thinking about organization, color palettes, typography, and the like.

Fast forward a decade and a few life catapults later, I found myself drawn to the challenge of figuring out how to weave a story into the thread of coding elements, to build authentic and unique websites. After all, life is not that interesting without a good story, so why should websites be any different.


In particular I have found inspiration in websites that include illustrations. Out of all the elements that you can put in a website, custom illustrations are probably the one thing that will make your story stand out. And they don’t have to be elaborate. In fact, I prefer simple illustrations, cartoon like creatures, or even abstract shapes. Consumers often move through websites quickly, so clear and simple illustrated elements might help the audience grasp your brand’s message as they scroll through a site. This online mortgage broker site uses only a handful of illustrations, along with a soft but playful color palette, to create the feeling that shopping for a mortgage doesn’t have to be too stressful.

This striking site for Jazz FM Romania does an incredible job of creating a vibe using illustrations. It’s a place where you just want to hang out for the fun of it, as if you are visiting a very cool jazz club. The colors are very in your face, but the simplicity of the shapes reminds me of a kid’s play space, and it doesn’t get overwhelming. The illustrated figures playing instruments add to the atmosphere, bent and abstract, much like jazz can be, way “out”, except distinct and fun.

Interactive Design

Subtle interaction as you scroll through a site is another way to engage your audience, and make them feel like they are a part of your story. Parallax scrolling is one technique used to accomplish this, perhaps overused at one point in the beginning days of it, causing motion sickness as you scrolled through a page. When well done it can really help emphasize the message you are trying to communicate. Take this one page site,, about water consumption in the UK, a normally dry subject, turned here into an engaging story.

The Year of Greta is a passion project that chronicles one year in the public life of Greta Thunberg. It is beautifully done with sound and dramatic interactive emotion, fitting of Greta’s urgent message of climate change. And this is certainly an artistic, emotional, and unique way to tell her story.


Building a website with a personality in mind can be extremely helpful. Mapping out the personal traits of the site gives you focus as you start your work, and can be a handy tool that leads you through the design process. Whether you are building a site for yourself, for a business, or if you are building a site on a certain topic or theme, you will benefit from going through the thoughtful steps that build a site’s persona, and in the process create the story that will keep your audience engaged.

One of the most fun projects I ever did, was to create an interactive poetry website for a class I took at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. My teacher, Fish McGill, wanted us to be really free and open with our ideas, and with that gift in hand I decided to go for something I had never tried before – to tell a story using my parents’ poems. The only requirement was that the website had to be interactive in some way. home page

Fish had us use a building tool to create a persona for the website. The time I put into thinking about my persona was so worth it, because it made the illustrating, designing, and building of the site more fun, focused, and meaningful. I created a persona inspired by the memory of my sister, and I had her carry my parents’ poems down the one page interactive site.

Creating the persona of Beggaki informed my illustration of her for sure, and helped me be unapologetically true to her character. Even though it was easy to feel passionate about this project, given I was designing a story around my family, I believe there is no reason you can’t look for a meaningful story in a made up persona.