I've talked about writing up a creative brief. A working document that helps you define what you need from a design project and what you want representing your brand. Now, here are three tips to focusing your design elements. 1. Choose your colors wisely. Everyone knows the basics of what colors mean and represent different things. But there's more to it than "red" means sexy and "blue" means tranquil. Here's a site that categorizes colors by target markets which is pretty interesting. Did you know babies cry more in yellow rooms? Random.
2. Deciding on your brand's or website's typography. Like most of my counterparts, I watched Helvetica and thought I was a typography wizard. This can be a whole other post. Jessica Hische wrote up an awesome article about it. The main takeaway that you can think about? Start by sticking to two fonts. Make sure your "header" or logo font mesh well with your body font.
3. The most helpful thing you can do in laying the groundwork, is create a Pinterest board. You can make it secret too! After deciding on your blog's topic, target market and what you want your brand to represent, start pinning typography, images, color schemes that you like and eventually you'll have a board full of what you want your blog or brand design to look like.
You can get hung up deciding some of these. Coming up with your brand's design elements is fun. So just start pinning!