Some tasty brand inspiration!

I love making these brand boards, I’ve gotten tons of compliments on how beautiful they look (why, thank you!) but mostly on how much it helps people understand branding from a different perspective.

This week I wanted to showcase how different a brand can become by it’s surrounding elements.

The logo, a DELICIOUS clean and vintage feeling typographic mark, was sent over from a client for their inspiration. And while I will never blow the lid off of some freshly collected client inspiration, I thought to recombine it with other elements to create something totally unexpected, and very different from what the client is wanting. Logos and brands like the this one are so strong that they really can be combined with almost any other visual direction and still work. I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could pair this with some hand drawn doodles + other soft pretty things, but I chose to focus on the strength in the typography and work in some lush patterns featured both in the woman’s headscarf and graphic overlays, that are simply repeated in a different way in the quatrefoil pattern.  Texture, color, pattern and mood are all working together to push a specific tone that isn’t necessarily present in the logo per se- but when combined with these other elements  become a cohesive and beautiful brand.

Until next time!


The Nature of the Beast: Feedback!

When I first started working with Flosites, the miscommunications between designer and client were challenging to say the absolute least.  It took me a really long time to realize what I saw easily, and very separately, as typography, image treatment, illustration + layout; a photographer saw as calm, easy, and relaxed feeling, or modern, warm etc. Regardless- a completely different language, and a totally different way of processing images. Meaning there is no end to the amount of miscommunications that could result! What was originally a roadblock for me became a teaching moment to help both parties; explaining the differences in languages, and hopefully coming together to at least a common understanding to then build further feedback and direction from.

I thought that maybe pulling some of the ways I’ve been able to help clients could be a great way to help people understand feedback overall:

1) Focus on the positives
It’s true some people do find it easier to tell you what they dislike vs what they’d rather see, but having positive feedback on a design helps the designer create a set of boundaries for what could be, rather than what has to be. If all the designer has is a bunch of “don’t likes”, there’s hardly room for considering about how that could be changed. I’m not saying stray away from something that is clearly a no-no, but keeping things on the more productive, constructive criticism route, will always help bring new thoughts and ideas to the conversation, rather than just crossing off items on the list without anything to replace them.

2)Sifting through the pile!
I always tell clients NEVER EDIT! Yes I use capitals, it’s that important! Creating word lists, or filling out questionnaires for branding purposes, you always want to have more to work from info wise, rather than pulling at straws for bare minimums. Clients will always edit the FAQ and emails meticulously- they put a lot of time and energy into their business and want their brands to be equally strong as a result; my sole issue when it comes to extreme self editing, is that it sort of forces the client to take on my role as designer/interpreter as what is necessary, and what really isn’t going to help much in creating their brand. In the first stages of the process, the broadest strokes possible are needed to help set up an establishing foundation, and throughout the process, the client + designer work closely to fine tune the brand to the individual’s clients expectations. When things work against this process, it is a recipe for disaster! Trying to piece meal a brand together with elements from one thing pasted to another without building it from a concept, ground-up approach, will feel separate, disjointed, and inconsistent. Working broadest down to refined, will help catch any snags along the road if things are off style wise, and keeping things open and fluid will also strengthen any communication glitches along the way.

3) When to say WHEN.
If I’ve said it before, I’ve said it a hundred times; branding is painfully, scarily, horribly and wonderfully 100% subjective. There is no set way a logo should be, that a business should be run or represented, and no rule that I know of that says hot pink can’t be taken seriously. In the world of branding, all things are possible, it’s just all in how you work what you’ve got to make that happen. I know when I work on things, I pass them around a close circle of friends within the industry to get their opinions, so I absolutely understand and support client’s receiving feedback on their various comps for their own benefit. You need to love it, and you’re only going to really love it if your friends love it too- otherwise there’s that voice that nags you- I get that. I totally get it. Here’s where the designer in my comes in though- friends, husbands, facebook fans, lurker’s on your blog- whatever, their opinions? Awesome! Collect em up, and tell the designer overall your feelings and thoughts. I’ll be honest, sometimes it has helped to get an email forwarded from someone who knows the client better, but to me that’s just it- an easier way to get to know my client better, not to trust their judgement with the design of a separate client’s brand. I’m hired to work with a particular client on their individual business, and this is where my focus and attention will be spent.

Although it is a challenging albeit necessary part of the designer’s life, for me feedback just makes me smile, and giggle to myself that everybody I work with is 100% different. I’ve had the entire scope of personality when I tell you that I’ve had clients that I’ve made cry with my rounds– both from gladness AND from horror, as well as a client who liked everything pretty much the same, and just rated the comps from highest to lowest. It’s why I love what I do, and I know it’s why I can write to 10 clients a day, all needing separate things, and all wanting the same end goal; an amazing brand that represents their business.

I realize that while everyone is different, there are quite a few topics that pop up across the board… What do you guys think? I’d love to be more interactive with clients and people going through the process to help out, so if there’s any questions or concerns you’re having, send them over!

I see a Q+A Post coming soon 🙂

Until next time!

Distractions: The bane of productivity’s existence

Over the weekend I read an incredible article about batching time, productivity, and the evil of working with the internet: distraction. (read the article here) I’ve been meaning to write about motivation + productivity for a while now, and this article just really articulated what I seem to do naturally without even realizing it.

When the workflow with Flosites is really crunchy and deadlines are so tight you feel like you’re reliving some spandex nightmare, I really have to crank it out. There is no Skype logged in, no iChat,–– and for the total love of productivity, no Facebook!

So how do I stay on track? The writer in the article uses strict guidelines and time slots to regiment his day– but I can’t go for that either. Instead I rely on my favorite system of time and project management… the list! At the end of every day I review the list of the tasks I set out to complete, and if I end up missing a few, those tasks were plopped over right on to the new task list of tomorrow morning.

Ah, tomorrow, the optimist’s paradise.

But seriously, keeping a list of tasks that need to get done is the only way I will guarantee I will even remember that certain things needed to be considered in the first place. My Calendar has 18 separate calendars inside of it, all with a wonderful names like  “Change that  cat litter” to “Blogposts you should probably write” and “jne does social networking”, which if you know me, you know I stink at keeping up with social networking. I guess I’m too busy making lists?

Along with my list (and obsessive collection of notebooks), there’s also a few routine-y type things I keep in my roster to help keep me focused and motivated.  These are usually comfort things to help my brain get right into work mode, keeping a warm comfy sweater at my desk, a solid hour long mashup from my favorite DJ (always inspiring when I need to get straight to design), or my favorite jazz album (this is best when I need to think, research, or write a fascinating blog post on motivation! Hey!), and I’m sure by now, my clients are used to the fact that I like morning meetings – it really helps me focus for the rest of the day, and it snaps me right out of morning mood time, but whatever it is , it really is personal to what will work best for you.

The thing about motivation is that it really centers on whatever it is you are most passionate about. I learned a loooooooooong time ago that people truly do whatever it is they want most to do. I love designing (and talking, writing, sewing, doodling….) so it’s super easy for me to get myself motivated to work everyday. I love what I do, and while it’s true that no one is lording over me micro-managing my life away in a cubicle, I still have to wake up early and face the issues of the day, and through the trials of figuring it out, I have found a really organic and workable solution for me to getting everything I need to get done, done.

So my advice? Keep on keeping on. A lot of the time motivation is more about momentum, the more you do something the easier it is to keep doing it. So with anything, be it designing the best logo you can, running a 5k in 6 weeks, whatever the thing is, keep on it. You’ll get there if you just keep on it… but maybe keep a notebook in your pocket just in case.

Until next time!

The amazing power of the word list

Recently, I was working on a client who came to the inspiration-collecting table with some solid stuff. I mean this client laid out a word doc complete with descriptions of what she liked and why, and when we spoke on the phone to clarify any questions either she or I had, there were no clarifications needed!

It seemed simply and cut and dry…or at least it did until I sent her what the inspiration had spoken to me.

The jump between inspiration collecting, gathering, and then articulating, leads straight into what I like to refer to as ‘visual deciphering’. As a designer, I absorb all of the information, think ridiculously intently on it, and let it go. Somehow in that bumbly brain of mine, dots will be connected: and VOILA! A logo idea will pop in.

When that client (who shall remain nameless here, but she totally will know who she is when she reads this!) saw her Round 1 comps of her logo, I imagine she felt confused and totally unsure. We spoke a bit about what to do, and I suggested now that she had already gotten her toes wet with the process, she should revisit some sites and inspiration that will help get a direction that was going to be closer to someone that she would actually LOVE. You know, the whole reason for getting a big awesome branding company to handle it.

What she sent over changed the way I will handle my branding inspiration-collection process forever. She sent over new inspiration, yes. She also sent over drawings, and notes and thoughts all scanned in- while this stuff is great- the part that really sealed the deal to awesome town was a solid chunk of words she included to help me better understand what she was trying to achieve visually: this might be the holy grail of designing for a client.

“Crisp, clean, professional, reliable, approachable, personal, contemporary, unique, layered, interesting, moment-defining, dynamic, timeless, creative, vintage, emotion, warmth, sunlight, afternoon, glow, welcoming, inviting, storytelling, funky, elegant, documentary, sensitive, electric, emotive, quiet and loud, effective and subtle.”

While collecting these may have seemed a weird mix of awkward + redundant, it showed me what was most important to this client, and it was not going to just be achieved by a font, or even a customized typographic solution, color palette, and texture treatment.

This was something that needed to be planned, layered and very much considered.

Working off of concepts like “storytelling” may seem cliché at first, but coupled with “moment-defining”, “approachable”, “electric” and “emotive”, creates a story all on it’s own. It tells how this particular client wants to be seen, how they view themselves in the context of what they do, and how they handle their particular subject matter.

This is a branding gold mine, people.

Information like this, coupled with visual inspiration, creates a richer and more authentic experience not only the client/designer to work through, but the hopeful potential customer as well. It absolutely will make the fledgling brand you are tirelessly working towards that much more successful in that it’s not just something anyone can replicate, and it’s definitely not going to be a one-note trend that’s going to die out in 2 weeks.

Thinking of branding yourself? Get yourself a comfy seat in a quiet spot, grab a notebook, and write. Do not edit- I repeat- DO NOT EDIT at this stage! This stage is for word-barfing, not word-judging. Get it all out there word by word, and know that the longer you do it, the better the words will be. Initially the words you think of will be the easy stuff, the artificial things.

We all want to take pictures that make people happy, and we all want to be warm and welcoming, clean and organized.

But what sets you apart?

The longer you spend at this particular exercise, the clearer idea you will have. Trust me, I do this for every client, every project. But it took having a client do it for me to really appreciate the effort.

Until next time!

the Essential and RIDICULOUSLY Important Questionnaire

A couple of months ago I wrote some posts trying to really focus on the importance on visual direction,
be it from inspiration images or descriptions + feedback. You can read them here,here and here.

But the time has come to discuss the importance of a tiny but very necessary step: the questionnaire.

When I first started working with Flosites so many moons ago, the process was very simple, I received a filled out form, looked it over, clicked on the different examples, and then collected ideas off of what I had seen and read. While we definitely have beefed up our beginning stages of information collection, the base of that information is still true. We need information in order to develop any sort of concept for a brand, blog, calendar, best teacher award mug- whatever. It has to come from somewhere, and where it comes from is the questionnaire.

Filling out these questions may be difficult at first- but figuring out the answers to the questions being asked will prepare you for the open ended questions involved in the branding/design process. In the worst of the worst case scenarios, I’ve had clients respond to questions with “This is so hard…” and while this approach may show the personality of the client as irreverent and humorous, it is also an indicator that the client will be unable to relay the information as needed and therefore the experience could very well be a bumpy one.

Without hearing the first person experience, we can only make guesses as to what the right approach, look + feel, even the correct course of action that should be taken. And while these may be guesses with the gut instinct of experience, every client is unique in their needs and expectations! You can see why we push for answers at every turn.

If you find yourself in front of a lengthy form with questions that make you wish you had a ‘forward to’ option in your brain – there are some ways to deal:

1. Write about yourself in third person

Create a glorious review as a bride you recently met with, a couple you recently photographed, how would they describe you? How would they describe working with you? Imagining you from the outside perspective is a great way to fine tune your professional demeanor, and it will give you a more detached approach to writing about something so heartfelt and personal as your goals and ambitions as a business.
(Small tip, this also works in terms of interviews!)

2. Talk it out

Get in a place where you can blab out loud without the fear of being judged as a crazy person. Hearing yourself speak about the goals, desires, and how you wish to be perceived will help you break the ice in terms of being inhibited about speaking about yourself in a proud and determined way. It is allright to say one over the other (whatever we are currently defining in this instance, that is) for the purpose of branding, one has to be decisive! Before the branding process it can be all things at any given time, but it is through the framing of the individual’s tastes that things begin to become refined, and decisions must be made. Talking it out may help you bring that decision making skill to the forefront.

3. Ask around

When I have a dilemma surrounding a choice and I have thoroughly explored talking to myself (I have no qualms about being viewed as a wackadoo), writing it out, or yoga-ing to my great answer place, I send it off to be discussed and dissected by those I love.

My friends and colleagues have no problems sharing their opinions, and likewise I would never hold back one of my own to share with them. What I love about getting others opinion and feedback is I get to counter in all of the perspective I would never have noticed, this makes me feel more “well rounded”, and that I have considered all of the options- and not just the ones I was currently swamped with.

This option encompasses the other two I mentioned, but I saved it for last to bring up an important point: While other peoples opinions are great and absolutely valid for success in a global market, it is the most important thing that you choose the direction that best suits you, and most assuredly NOT to appease others; be it your mother, best friend, or even your pushy designer that wants your opinions.

3.5/Maybe 4. Ask Questions Too!

What I always find funny with clients is the idea that branding/design is a one way street. While in design school this may have been the naive designer’s dream, I think it’s a fascinating reaction. If I have a question about something (like let’s say, I don’t understand what the client is wanting) I turn around and say “Hey! I don’t understand this! Let’s talk it out”.
I hope that I helped calm some of the overwhelming confusion and fears when asked to think about personal things in an objective way, but getting through this learning curve will only strengthen your ability to be direct in your communication, leading to more success and an awareness that can help attract the specific clients you are wanting to work with.

Until next time!

Hi, my name’s Jenny– but my boyfriend calls me ‘Goose’

It’s actually quite safe to say that I don’t usually follow the predictable path through a decision I’ve made. As I’ve been saying since the age of 2, strive to “do it all by self”, and seriously, do I ever. I’m hard pressed to think of an influential figure in my life that didn’t try to talk me out of whatever decision I felt passionate in making. I mean we’re talking friends, teachers, guidance counselors, professors, yes, even my parents– you name it.

At first I thought this was some grand test thrown onto me from the universe, a karmic Mt. Everest sized “Prove you Deserve it” grand gesture.

No no. It’s because I am glaringly unconventional.

The traditional never seems to make sense to me, and to do things the way just because it is the way it has always been done? Clearly, we have never thought certain rituals through.

I am too curious to accept “Because” as an answer, and too vocal to ever stop asking the questions.

The strange thing is, even though I can be ruthlessly driven to perfection, my aim is never to be disrespectful or irreverant. It comes from a desire to understand (and well yeah, I guess challenge..) the preconceived, the taken-for-granted’s. Being challenged strengthened my perseverance, my reserve and ultimately my passion and ambition to be the best I can be- regardless of title or role. How can I not bring this into my daily process and ultimately my work method? While I would be caught in an outrageous lie to say I enjoyed being opposed mid-challenge, I would be so ignorant to deny it’s role in my growth and every day life, and so I continue on the path I believe is best for me, regardless of the nay sayers.

What’s best for everyone may not be best for you, and it’s taken my entire 27 years on this planet to know that that is okay. Trying to fit yourself into the wrong setting, regardless of how much effort is put into it, will rarely work, and the chances are even fewer that it will make you happy. It is, (and I am taking this analogy very personally) like squishing a sparkly unicorn into a cube sized slot- messy and uncomfortable, and definitely not worth it.

So what does that mean? and how can I use this wonderfully quirk-embracing philosophy towards my business? You may be possibly having this thought right now.

Yeah, I thought about that.

1. Embrace it, baby!

Basically, being a designer for an individual can be a lot like therapy. You listen to people’s stories, opinions about themselves, ambitions, likes and dislikes, as well as mid-design feedback. The amount of hesitation and fear of failing involved in the wording, coupled with the surprisingly deafening ability to incapacitate one’s knowledge of adjectives! But I do it too. Faced with decisions, especially important ones– I often begin my opinion with “Is it weird that…?” Which brings me to my point, no it’s not WEIRD. It’s personal, and persons ARE weird. It’s the whole collective society that’s normal, individuals are allowed to be unique.

So yes, to someone else it could be weird that you want to combine orange and purple and hats made out of live sheep, and with this brand your photography business, but who cares? You are branding yourself, and how you want to be known and represented. How can you possibly represent yourself by aiming to please everyone else– especially since you can never pinpoint the opinion of everyone else. It’s just so… elusive!

Another issue I’ve run across lately is staying on a trend. Trends are awesome, they can switch things up, make old things new, and turn an expected thing on it’s head– but they should used sparingly throughout a design or brand. When you invest in getting work done professionally, you want it to last beyond this year’s visual treatment, or the coolest look your favorite store has on their site. If you see something that’s trendy, and love it and want to use it- do it! Absolutely bring it in, incorporate it, but don’t just one-note it. You’re better than that, I know it.

2. Assessing your pro’s and con’s to make it work for you

Anyone who’s had a chance to video chat with me knows I am a big softy goofball who gets super excited when talking about design, and ends up falling in love with almost every client I design for. I still get emails from people I’ve worked for 2 years ago, asking me for advice, to look things over, etc. If I could help the fact that I am so caring and loving with those I work with (which I can’t) I don’t even think I’d want to, because it’s made so many people feel that they can turn to me whenever anything goes awry, design or otherwise; and this is a feeling I want to cultivate.

While it didn’t work in a corporate setting (boy didn’t it ever), it’s who I am, and can’t turn off my big heart and huge grin because I’m in a cubicle. Realizing your strengths and weaknesses is possibly the best thing for you to do when coming to being aware of your work style, personal approach to handling clients, etc. Being genuinely you will send the right message to your targeted market, bring in more positive results with your clients, the list goes ON. Authenticity is rare these days! Make it count!

3. Realize who is most important in all of this.

And of course the answer is you. My belief is as long as you aren’t hurting anyone or yourself, who really should stand in your way?
When it comes to branding, it’s what I say to clients when they ask my opinion. Of course I will give it to them, but at the end of the day, I don’t have to love it – they do. This is pretty much true for all of life. You make decisions based on the amount of happiness and prosperity that is possible. Regardless of what’s going on, involved, whatever– strive to be happy with whatever the decision being made, and don’t settle for less. Maybe this makes my designer life difficult, so be it. I’d rather know that a client is wanting to see 10,000 variations to get that perfect 1, than tell me they are okay with everything and are secretly wishing it was different.

So I hope this gives you guys something to think about in terms of how to go about life being totally okay with being a weirdo. I do it everyday.

Fearless and awesome, and people actually will love you for it.

Try it and trust me.

Brand Board #6: Sweet, Vintage + Feminine

I’m starting the week off right by showing a lovely gem of a brand board, possibly one straight out of a daydream of mine. Soft ruffles, dandelion fluff, and bold vintage typography create this week’s little pretty.

The color palette strives to create a visual balance between delicate shades and bold metallics, and when paired with the strong vintage typography, creates an effortlessly chic look that’s equally sweet and strong; a powerful, and quite lovely combination!

Until next time!