I met Suzanne at a Tuesdays Together meeting for our local chapter of The Rising Tide Society. If you are a creative who doesn’t know about these gatherings, you are really missing out. Check to see if there is a group in your area and make time to get there, stat. I really look forward to this monthly meetup with fellow creative business owners to share lots of laughs, helpful information and just get out of my own little bubble. Working at home alone can be isolating, and sometimes I forget that there is life outside of my home office and the two little people that like to fight over the same Barbie next to my chair. I have made several great new friends in this group that know exactly what it’s like to fumble through this crazy path of a creative entrepreneur.
Suzanne from Crazy Blonde Life blogs about all things fashion and food every single day. She came to me because she knew the quality content of her blog was on point but was having a hard time identifying and reaching her audience. We set to work to determine who her ideal audience was and created a positioning statement, tagline and overall look that sucked them right in. It became clear during our discovery session that the youth and busyness of her current brand design didn’t fit her more mature, high end market. For readers drawn to the likes of Tory Burch, Rebecca Taylor and Jimmy Choo, her visual brand was just too busy and youthful. Her new brand is minimal and clean with a classic look that incorporates bold and fun accents to complement her personality. Suzanne was so much fun and easy to work with and has made me take a second look at my wardrobe. On a good day, I bust out the yoga pants in lieu of pajamas for my work uniform, so it’s pretty clear to me that this client came to me by divine intervention!
Amy came to me with a serious challenge. She has had a dream for this business for a long time but hasn’t been able to bring all of the elements together to create a cohesive brand or even really wrap her head around creating one business out of so many elements that make it up. After taking a break from private practice as a professional counselor, she became really interested in a more holistic approach to mental health that includes counseling techniques paired with essential oils and nutrition and got her certification in aromatherapy. Amy is passionate about teaching people about self care without medication.
This frazzled, busy mama thinks it is no coincidence that Amy became a self care and holistic wellness expert after the birth of her twin girls. Twin. Girls. As in 2 babies at the same time. I’m pretty sure I would be hiding in my closet snorting lavender 24 hours a day. Just kidding Amy! 😉 This lady rocks her mom and business owner role equally, and I’m so proud that I got to help her build a solid foundation to this new venture.
The colors, typography and hand drawn elements all come together for this feminine, soft and organic look. Her business cards pack a punch with lots of hand drawn flowers and are full of texture and organic goodness.
First off, HELLO and welcome back! Having a second baby, especially one that had a “challenging” (i.e. she was sort of a jerk as a newborn) first four months out of the womb, has turned my blog into a ghost town. Thankfully, I now have a giggly, happy, seriously adorable 11 month old and am picking up the pieces of this blog that had to be pushed aside for a bit. Between taking care of my existing clients, bringing on new ones, taking some time to soak in these fleeting baby rolls and snuggles and juggling a huge rebranding of my own company (more to come about this later!), this space has been more than a bit neglected. It feels good to be back. Look forward to lots more activity here with revealing brands that have been created in the last several months as well as becoming more of a resource for small business owners on how to create and foster growth in their own brands.
The launch of my newest brand identity, Suzie Guerrant Photography, is worth bringing this blog out of retirement for. Suzie came to me for direction in launching her documentary wedding photography business. She has over 10 years of experience in the photo industry as an incredibly talented second shooter and photo editor but needed help finding her unique angle in an oversatured market. She jumped right into her brand workbook, and our discovery session together was full of details that helped me craft a brand positioning statement, tagline, logo and style guide that are completely her. Not to mention, she is local, so we got to do our discovery session in person at my favorite little coffee shop, Geeksboro, instead of the usual Skype session.
I knew that it would be important to incorporate her no frills, nature-loving personality into her visual look. Her brand is crisp, modern, unassuming and allows her photography to shine without overtaking it. Her beautiful images speak for themselves, and she didn’t need a visual brand that muffled their voice. Incorporating the S into the veins of her leaf is a subtle nod to her name that whispers instead of screams at you, which is exactly like her approach to photography and her easy-to-chat with personality.
Her new tagline, “the moments between” perfectly captures her approach. We talked a lot about how important it was for her to document raw emotion rather than posed smiles and how she preferred smaller, intimate ceremonies where she could really get to know the couple and capture the fleeting glances and moments that can escape other photographers. In a world of Pinterest-worthy detail shots of decorations, instead, Suzie focuses on capturing the heartfelt moments that will move their grandchildren as much as the couple. She has a laid back and quiet personality that soaks up the world around her.
I had so much fun working with Suzie to refine her brand voice and identity and can’t wait to see where it takes her.
Windows & Wishes is the exact reason I do what I do. I LOVE working with creative, solo entrepreneurs just like myself. Kim had the brilliant idea for an Advent-type calendar for the last 30 days of pregnancy while she was carrying her daughter and was savvy enough to make it come to life. She is now working on other lines of her calendars for other life-changing, exciting events…countdown to your wedding, anyone?
She contacted me after her product debuted with great success at the 2014 Atlanta Gift Market. She was already fielding calls from retailers and was quick to realize that her branding, website and print materials were lackluster in comparison with the actual product. We worked hard to create a look and feel that was fun, feminine, bold and bright. It needed that feminine touch for a product geared towards mothers, but we didn’t want to go too far in that direction so as to leave her brand open to the possibility of counting down to all kinds of events in the future rather than just childbirth.
I have to admit that this is one of my favorite logos of all time. The bright, bold colors just make me smile, and I love the font combinations. I didn’t think I could be any happier until I started working on her argyle pattern…then suddenly that became my favorite part. Once this board was created, her other pieces fell together easily. Items designed for this project were a website, notecards, letterhead, envelopes, business cards, point of purchase display, merchandising cards and stickers. Below are photos of just some of these items.
I’m hoping to see Windows & Wishes calendars in a boutique near me soon!
Rae Barnes is an amazing family photographer based out of Philadelphia, not to mention one of the sweetest people ever and a breeze to work with. We hit it off right away last year when she called me about working on her rebranding. Her logo had been designed way back when she was shooting mostly weddings. She has since had 3 children and gravitated away from weddings and toward families. Her old brand did not reflect her work or her personality, so we set out to create something that did.
She called me again this year when she was ready to really up the ante on her packaging design and website to reflect her new brand. After lots of brainstorming, we came up with letterpress business cards and notecards and a zillion little packaging components that would make her clients feel special when they first opened their orders from her. She really wanted her clients to feel the love and care she puts into each shoot when they open up their package. Coordinating every little detail of her packaging was so much fun…full of lots of research (pretty sure I know every brand of baker’s twine and crinkle paper on the market!). It was very important to Rae that all of her pieces fit snuggly into the shipping box so that the care that goes into putting the box together wouldn’t be lost when it was thrown around in the mail. I love how everything turned out, and her rich colors really make an impression when you open that stark white box!
As soon as we were done with the packaging pieces, we moved on to her new website. Her unique style and gorgeous images are so striking and really speak for themselves, so it was important that the design compliment them without stealing the show. Sometimes less really is more. We ended up with a minimal design that incorporates a Pinterest-style grid and huge images. I couldn’t love it any more. The other thing that I couldn’t love any more is the fact that her husband, Chris, is a super talented web programmer, so once I finished the design he handled bringing my vision it to life. And boy did he do a beautiful job!
I love the process of branding a new company because from that initial conversation, the wheels start to turn and the options are endless on where we could go with a new look. Exploring those ideas, seeing which ones live up to the idea in my head and which ones flop hard and get scrapped before first proofs are sent to the client is my favorite part of the process.
Sometimes it is amazing to me when I sit back and look through all of the failed logos I’ve created that didn’t make it to a final version. So many hours of work for something that never gets published. But it’s always such a good lesson in brainstorming, and very often an idea that gets trashed for one client has elements of it that are perfect for a future client. One of my favorite things about the branding process is how I can be so sure of what is successful in the first drafts, but then when the client and I look at them and put our brains together, we almost always end up coming with something unexpected and even better for the final version.
So, without further ado, here are just a few logos that were left on the cutting room floor that I’m still a little bit in love with. They are in good company with lots more, and the pile grows larger every day.
I love the whimsical lion illustration paired with the modern, clean font in this one. I also keep going back to the circle shape that would make a perfect stamp. I can’t say I like this any better than the final version of the Cuddle Sleep Dream logo, but it’s definitely a close second.
I love the soft feminine, feel of this logo. The final version was a little more modern and a perfect for the brand, but I still come back to this one as a great option as well. It just makes me think of barefoot summer days.
This logo has such a different feel from most that I do, which is why I think I like it so much. Their final version was one of my favorites of all time, but this one was another fun option.
Angie Biggs is a business and life coach, and we ended up going in a less corporate direction for her brand, but I like the use of negative space in this one.
Maybe it comes from my sassy southern belle of a mother, but I have been a thank-you note addict since birth. When I became a business owner, I knew I wanted to leave an impression on people. Now, hopefully that impression has a lot to do with the great job I did designing, producing and delivering their project, but I also want people to remember me as warm, friendly, fun and chatty, and most of all, thankful. Because I really am. I am so thankful to have a job that I love, working for clients all over the country that are doing amazing things and letting me come along on the ride with them for a little while.
Not only does showing my gratitude to clients just feel like the right thing to do, it gives me one more opportunity for my brand to make an emotional connection with people (and look super cute in the process). Not to mention it gives me an excuse to do some tax-deductible shopping. Small business branding and marketing is all about relationships. Designers are a dime a dozen, but one who makes a client feel appreciated can stand out from the pack, and that is what I’ve always intended to do.
I don’t have an extravagant budget for client gifts, but I feel like it’s a really worthy piece of my business to invest in. The important thing to remember when sending gifts is that every interaction with a client is an opportunity for branding. I order lots of cute custom items that I can find in my brand colors and spend time customizing the packaging myself so that it reflects my design aesthetic. I can’t resist any opportunity to use washi tape and baker’s twine!
This also gives me a great opportunity to meet other small business owners and cross-network. One of my favorite items that I send out is small servings of loose leaf tea with an infuser. I met Sarah from Vida Pour Tea at a local small business event and knew her product was perfect for me. Connections like her have proven invaluable over and over in the networking process.
I love stocking up on items that I can use for lots of people, but I also try to remember who each gift is going to so that everything is not completely generic. A large portion of my clients are creative, female entrepreneurs and my gift choices reflect that with mostly loose leaf teas, chocolates and recycled pencils. For larger project launches, I have sent things like custom stamps and stamp pads with a newly-designed logo. This year I did some work for a company that was owned by a guy’s guy. I knew none of my usual choices would work for him, so I decided to wrap up some airplane bottles of Maker’s Mark and Jack Daniels….can’t say I don’t know my audience! It’s the thought that counts, but it’s important to customize as much as you can for things like this. After all, once a client has been through the process of creating a whole brand with me, I usually feel like I know them pretty well.
What I send clients is usually something small and sweet, but hopefully it lets them know how very thankful I am to have had the opportunity to cross paths with them. For me, there isn’t much more exciting than opening my mailbox and finding something unexpected and thoughtful, and I hope all of my clients agree.
Polliwogs Children’s Boutique is one of my long-term clients, not to mention my very favorite place to shop for amazing clothes and shoes for my daughter. I can get into serious trouble in this place! When the shop was sold to a new owner who wanted to offer more modern apparel as well as the traditional styles that had always been sold, it was clear that their current branding did not represent the store.
They sell high-end children’s clothing, but their logo did not represent that quality. In redesigning their logo it was important to preserve the history of the store and not stray so far that it alienated long-time customers but also appealed to the more modern eye of younger, trendier moms. They did not want to give the impression that it was a completely new store, but the same Polliwogs that customers had always known, with some great new brands they had never seen. New, trendier brands were introduced into the line, but the traditional brands that people loved were still being sold as well. Polliwogs has a very loyal base of customers that had been shopping there for years for their children and grandchildren. The look had to attract a younger set of moms while also appealing to grandmothers, since that was a large portion of their client base.
This was such a fun project to work on, and I love getting to work with local clients like Polliwogs that I can continue to help carry out the visual representation for the brand in ads, web banners and anything else that’s needed. Not to mention, having a 2 year old means my child outgrows her wardrobe at an alarming pace, so I get to drop in frequently!
Rae gave me a call this winter from chilly Philadelphia looking for a new logo. What started as just a logo morphed into a bigger inspection of her brand, and now we are working together on all-new packaging and a website. Rae’s brand was originally created as a wedding photographer. In only five years, her own family has grown to include three children. I am in complete awe of this busy lady! As her family grew, she moved farther away from weddings and into more family sessions. She wanted her new brand to still reflect the high end look and color scheme that her old brand had but have less of the formal, wedding feel. We had to find a way to infuse a little bit of playful casualness (but not cutesy) to her look while still keeping that high end feel that her clients were accustomed to. Most of her sessions revolve around the whole family, not just children, so she was wary that if her look became too playful it wouldn’t do justice to her images that portray the dynamics of a family.
Here is the exploration of a few of the options for her.
In the end, the capital monogram was the perfect embodiment of Rae and her brand. It was upscale and traditional, but we added just a hint of playfulness with the dotted lines and curve of the word photography. I can’t wait to see how her packaging and web design shapes up. Stay tuned!
Part of the joy of owning your own business is the flexibility of working when you want to, and even more importantly not working when you don’t feel particularly inspired. My 8-5 friends are always jealous of the freedom I have to work in my jammies and attend parties at my daughter’s daycare on a whim. This flexibility is a huge perk, and at the same time it’s the very thing that makes working for myself so hard.
When you have the flexibility to not work during traditional times of the day, it also gives you the flexibility to work way beyond the bounds of a healthy schedule. Most weeks I find myself rolling out of bed insanely early on a weekend to finish a project before my job of being a wife and mother begins and then staying up working well past the time my husband calls it a night and heads to bed.
Often times working for myself means I give myself to my family at spontaneous times of the day only to feel immensely guilty about it later and work extra hours to make up for it. The guilt doesn’t make any sense. I get my work done. I go above and beyond to make my clients happy. I love my job. So why do I feel like I’m cheating work when I spend time with my family?
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I am the biggest a-hole of a boss I’ve ever had.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a pretty common feeling among people (especially women) who own their own businesses. I think we put pressure on ourselves to be the best at everything and because our time is so fractured, we feel like we’re failing at everything. I feel like an inadequate mother when all my daughter wants to do is sit in the floor and play a board game when I have work I need to finish. And I feel like an inadequate business owner when it takes half an hour to chase Arrington around in the morning to get her clothes on and even longer to decide what she wants to eat for breakfast, and by the time I get her to daycare and sit down to delve into work it’s over an hour past my “schedule.”
What I am slowly learning and trying to ingrain into my head is that there is no right way to do the work/life balance thing, and at least for me, there is no hard line between the two. I’m passionate about my family and passionate about my business, so the lines are completely blurred, and that’s ok. I’m learning to throw my ideas of how much time I should be giving to each part of my life on particular days out the window and embrace the spontaneity of each day. The messiness of the overlap between my job and my life sometimes places me in front of my computer excitedly working up a brand for a new client at an ungodly hour or cuddling a sleepy, sick toddler in the middle of the day. I wouldn’t trade either of those moments for the opportunity to “turn off” at 5:00 like most people.
I gain a lot of inspiration for my creative projects through spending time with my husband and daughter, and in the same way, knocking out a really awesome project gives me the energy and excitement I need to be my fun self instead of the scary, cranky version of me. Some days I need one more than the other, and the weeks that I allow myself to embrace that overlap is when I find my happy place, which also results in satisfied clients and a well loved family.
Most people think I’m a crazy workaholic when I tell them that they can find me at 4:30am with a big cup of coffee working in my fuzzy slippers until Arrington wakes up. For a while I thought I should limit that urge because it wasn’t in line with what I thought work/life balance was supposed to look like. But here’s the thing…I LOVE my early morning work session. It’s my most productive time of day. The house is quiet, the coffee is steaming hot, and I’m happy with every part of my life. It gets me energized for the day, and it means I usually can make time to hit the gym later in the day.
In the same way, I always set aside Monday mornings to just spend with Arrington doing something fun. Errands, cleaning, work (and usually even my phone) can wait until nap time. It is one of the few times I truly resist multitasking and just focus on her. After two years, I’m finally starting to figure out what makes me tick and keeps me happy. I think everyone could benefit from shutting their ears and not listening to what the world says is the right balance of work and life and find what works for you.