Inspirations: Winter 2019

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May I just start by saying — this has felt like the longest freaking winter of all time. In a bite-sized attempt to appreciate the goodness that comes with the changing seasons we are blessed to experience here in the Midwest, I started a little gratitude practice to help me through the harder, colder times. Jotting down inspirations has helped distract me from subconscious complaints about winter that may be filtering into the back of my mind, and focus on the good that is present.

Because there are always good things, you just have to make time to see them.

If you’re like me and also ready to book the next flight to Belize, give this practice a shot. Make your own little list. What’s been inspiring you lately? While you’re cooped up in dry heat under a heap of blankets, remember the good news: It won’t last forever, and maybe in the dead of summer when it’s 1,000% humidity you’ll even miss it. (Ha. Ha.)

Without further delay, here’s what’s been inspiring me lately:

  1. BOOK — Georgia O’Keeffee Biography
    I have been sitting on this book for years. Like 8. I bought it at a rummage sale and forgot about it. I’m a believer that things happen for a reason, and as I’m now reading about the journey of Georgia’s life on her discovery of self and style, I’m finding some interesting correlations to my own journey. So many good quotes too — that Georgia is one inspiring lady.

  2. FOOD — Enchiladas
    Maybe it’s the gooey cheese, carbs (because winter) or spices to keep me warm, but all that matters is my enchilada game is getting strong. I started with a recipe from a friend, and with some online inspiration and my own touches, I’m pretty proud of my current enchilada status.

  3. MUSIC — Dead Horses
    Now that I know how incredible they are, I’m embarrassed to admit that Dead Horses weren’t even on my radar until I recently, spontaneously bought tickets to a local show. A group of awesome ladies in my friend circle were going, and honesty I only went because I wanted to hang with them. It was a win-win.

  4. SCENERY — La Crosse Bluffs
    While I have given up trying to take photos while driving to the grocery store, I’m still caught off-guard in wonder at the layers of blue that outline the horizon. Oh, and they change during sunrise / sunset. It’s pretty incredible.

  5. ART — Claire Provost
    I found Claire on Instagram. She’s an illustrator who, at the time I stumbled upon her profile, was in the midst of a daily challenge to complete one illustration a day using blue, yellow and red only. Her limited use of color caught my eye and inspires me to do an artistic challenge one day.

Now, I’d love to know from you! What manageable, bite-sized practices help you stay in the present? Please feel free to share in the comments.

New Work: Dixon Limos

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Helen Dixon approached me in the beginning stages of her business’s development. While she was still working out the fine details, her goal was crystal clear from the start: To bring a higher standard of rentable transportation to the Madison, Wisconsin area. 

As a frequent customer of limo rentals for business and personal occasions, she was frustrated by the steep cost for poor service. She wanted better, so she made better happen. 

Looking for a brand and website, we started with an in-depth phone call to discuss components that would help build a brand strategy: Purpose, target market and competition. It was immediately established that Helen wanted to offer customers a high-end experience without burning a hole in their pocket. By a high-end experience she meant exceptional customer services and modern amenities. It was also important to elicit a bold personality, something that wasn’t really being done in the limo industry. Other companies were focused on marketing themselves as elegant and classy, and to Helen it was important to be those things, but to also be down-to-earth and reliable.

Keeping these things in mind, we approached branding by striving for a sleek, elegant aesthetic with modern touches and a bold personality. The goal was to attract an audience that desired high quality, without deterring a younger demographic looking for competitive prices. Next, a moodboard was developed to express the feelings we wanted to evoke, visually. 

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The approval of her moodboard was my cue to move into the concept development phase. Our initial in-depth development of the Dixon Limos brand strategy helped us reach successful concept early on, although sometimes this process can take longer. The first concept came off a little too high-fashion for the desired brand, and we moved towards a more approachable option without sacrificing a bold, straight-forward personality.

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The Dixon Limos brand demands attention without being flashy, and encompasses all of the important traits important to the business. 

Having completed her brand development, we were ready to move on to her website. Following along her brand’s desired path to remain approachable and straight-forward, it was important to Helen to make information, especially pricing, easy to find. She voiced her own frustration from renting limos in the past, explaining that she often had to send a request for pricing, which was followed by a waiting period. 

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Helen and I have continued to collaborate on projects ranging from marketing materials like promotional postcards and brochures to large-scale design for her booths at expos and events. It’s been such an honor to watch her business grow as she gains traction in the Madison area!

When to Hire a Graphic Designer

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Most of my clients approach me with a good idea of what they need. Whether it’s a new logo, brand support like business cards, or an email template, the possibilities are vast but they come into the picture with a direction already in mind. 

But maybe you may want to reach your target audience and aren’t sure which approach to take, or where to start. Until a recent conversation I had with my husband, also a business owner and great sounding board for ideas, I assumed that most people knew the purpose of graphic design and the value it served. 

During one of these convos he asked, honestly wanting to know for his own business, “How do I know when I need a graphic designer?” I started wondering how many others out there were asking this question. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how often someone’s response to my telling them I was a graphic designer was, “So, logo design?” And while yes, that’s a service I offer, there is so much more that designers do. 

To shed light on this topic, I’ll touch on when to hire a graphic designer and the value in the investment. 

Let’s begin!

  1. TEMPLATES ARE FOR EVERYONE, NOT FOR ONE PERSON
    Templates can be a quick, affordable fix, but try thinking of it like putting a bandaid on a gash that needs stitches. If the gash were your business, which you care deeply about, you’ll likely want to invest time and money into its well-being and future success. By skimping on professional-looking, curated design that has been made just for your business, you’re willingly taking a shortcut that may be apparent to your audience. 

    Our world is more visual than ever, and the template you just chose for your high-end fashion line might be the same one Susie’s using for her local coffee roasting business. Your business doesn’t deserve to look like someone else’s — it deserves to stand out and tell its own unique story. 

    As a business owner, chances are you’re wearing more than one hat. Maybe all of them. Spending your precious time digging through literally hundreds of thousands of templates takes time away from doing what you do best: Running your business. Instead, invest that time with a designer who will listen carefully to your needs, ask directed questions about your target audience and campaign goals, who will then translate those important details into intentionally-crafted design whose goal it is to solve a very specific problem.

  2. TELL THE RIGHT MESSAGE, RIGHT AWAY

    People have an attention span of like 7 seconds. So while they’re scrolling along, they’re processing information at lightening speed and making subconscious decisions as they go. Hence the importance of saying the right thing right away.

    Designers are trained to develop a keen eye for achieving a balanced layout, practicing hierarchy of elements, understanding psychology of color, the history of typography and their effects on our subconscious. By asking my clients directed questions, I’m able to gain an understanding of what needs to be said, to who, and reach them on that subconscious level. 

    You have very little time to get into your ideal customer’s mind, so do it right, and right away.

  3. HOW TO KNOW WHEN TO HIRE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER

    The initial question that sparked this post is also tough to answer because it will be different for everyone. Generally, a graphic designer is vital when you need to share a message that can’t be done with words alone. Visual impact can make an enormous difference in the memories of your audience.

    A couple examples… If your business has an upcoming event, a designer will help craft the look and feel of marketing materials made to resonate with the audience you want to attract to your event. Similarly, if brand support pieces are needed for your business (business cards, social media posts, email templates, point-of-purchase, signage, packaging), the designer’s goal is to craft design that is for specific people, or aligned with a specific brand, message, or campaign.

    I could go on forever on this point, so if you’re wondering when you need a graphic designer, I’d be happy to chat with you and get the creative juices flowing!

If your interest has been sparked on the ways a graphic designer can help leverage business and you’d like to learn more, please reach out! I’d love to 1. help your business, and 2. know where other confusion or gaps in understanding of graphic design lie so that I can help provide further clarification or examples. I also kind of love talking about it, so I promise I wouldn’t mind.