Creativity

3 Reasons Why Any Entrepreneur Can DIY Their Own Visual Brand

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I’m a big believer in not being a “jack of all trades.” While it’s great to be multi-talented and have different skill sets, it’s very important to focus on what you’re really good at and outsource the other tasks that you don’t have time for or enjoy.

Hold the phone, for a second. I know what you might be thinking. Not every entrepreneur is in a spot to hire help. Sometimes, that has to wait and come a little further down the road. Everyone is at a different place in their journey. And, I also agree with that!

Designing visuals is definitely an area that can be a bigger investment — hiring a professional designer to not only take care of your branding upfront (establishing the official look and feel of your business) but also providing support for on-going print and digital design tasks is something that needs to be budgeted for. And, there’s certainly a professional skill set that comes with using design software and working with high-quality graphics.

Until you’re able to do that…

You might be thinking that if you’re not a professional designer, you can’t create a professional brand for yourself.

You’re not sure how to even start. How to pick colors, how to find and download fonts, what software to use, what file formats a logo should be saved in, what else you even need beyond a logo — and you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Never fear, I’m here to let you in on a little secret:

ANY entrepreneur can DIY their visual brand!

Here are just 3 reasons why...

1. You know your business better than anyone.

You can translate your ideas, thoughts, feelings, strategy, mission, values and creativity into a foundational, visual brand identity that will be consistent, cohesive, look professional — and attract those dream clients you’ve been wanting to find. Because, only you know who you truly are, what you want to do or be known for — and who you want to work with

2. You are more creative than you realize.

Growing up naturally creative and an “arts-y” kid, I really used to dislike the idea that “anyone can be creative.” It made it sound like it was too easy and I felt that it downplayed the arts and those who were really gifted towards them. Because I was young, I simply didn’t realize that creativity involves so much more than just having the ability to draw on paper, like I always enjoyed doing. Now, I know that truly anyone can be creative! If you have a brain and a heart — and you’re passionate about your business, you have the ability to transfer your ideas, thoughts, visions and dreams to the screen or on paper, with the right help. All you have to do is see the bigger picture!

3. You’re smart and willing to learn.

As entrepreneurs, it’s a very innate thing to have an unquenchable thirst for more — learning, growing, evolving. How do we make ourselves and our businesses better? With that comes an open mind for continuing education and investing in professional development. As long as you have that drive and desire to learn more and be/do better, then you have the smarts to follow simple instructions, guidelines and templates that would show you to build a visual brand, right? I thought so!

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6 best tips for making a mood board

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Crafting a mood board can be a crucial aspect of any pre-design process because it’s a quick and effective way to set the graphic and emotional tones of a project.

In case you’re not sure, a mood board (or vision board or inspiration board) is simply a collage of imagery that conveys the overall look, feel, personality and identity for a particular collaboration or event — very handy when you’re having a hard time presenting or expressing your vision and ideas. Most people use a mix of photos, colors, words/quotes, typefaces, textures, patterns, illustrations and more to showcase a variety of visuals that will inspire and give life to a larger design concept.  

It doesn’t matter whether you are focused on your branding, a website, a brochure or ad campaign. A mood board can be created for literally anything! It can even be used when you’re planning to renovate a room in your house and you want to curate the colors, style and vibes before you buy that first can of paint, carpet, trim or fixtures.

Without further ado, let’s dive into 6 best tips for making a mood board for your next big project!

  1. Physical or digital? Mood boards can be crafted either way — that’s the fun part! Decide what works best for you and the particular project that you’re working on. If you want to go the “old school” route, cut out imagery from magazines and paste them to a poster or canvas, go for it! And, if you want to put your puzzle pieces together digitally, you can use Adobe programs like Illustrator or Photoshop, to drop your imagery into various shapes, organized by lines — in a grid-like format. If you’re not very Adobe-savvy, no fear! I’ve included links to a couple of good online resources and mood board generators that can come to the rescue:

    Canva Mood Board — Canva offers countless templates that you can play with. If you’re not already using Canva, you can sign up for a free account. It’s easy and user-friendly!

    Milanote — This is another website through which you can grab a free account. You can use their pre-made templates or design your own, as well as use their pre-loaded imagery or upload your own. They take it one step further and even allow you to upload videos and animated GIFs, so that your boards can be really modern and dynamic!

  2. Plan with Pinterest — If you’re designing a digital mood board, you can create boards and save pins that resonate with you, save them to a folder on your desktop — and then add them to your mood board(s) later. (Or, print them off for your physical board!) Pinterest makes it easy to find specific types of images, so that you’re not spending a lot of time searching Google (even though, you can totally use Google, too.) Again, try to collect a mix of photos, colors, quotes and textures that will really capture and express the essence of your design’s identity.

  3. Think emotional, not just literal — Something important to keep in mind is not just using images that physically represent your brand (or any other design initiative.) Think “mood” after all! What feelings do you want to express? Colorful, youthful, vibrant, bold? Light, whimsical, fresh, airy? Sleek, sophisticated, elegant, chic? Whatever the direction, especially be sure to include colors that speak to these emotions — that will make someone truly feel something.    

  4. Consider your audience — Don’t just create a mood board with no clear direction or messaging in mind. Think about the project that you’re using the mood board to inspire and think about the audience who will be experiencing it. Don’t just put a collage together of random photos, text and colors that don’t make any sense. Have some rhyme and reason to the overall “puzzle” that you’re piecing together. This idea goes back to thinking about the emotional aspects of the board — be clear on who you’re speaking to and what about.

  5. Create at least 3 — There really are no rules, but I like to create at least 3 different mood boards initially (all using the same overall look and feel) and then take the best combination of imagery from each and make (1) really strong one. Tweak your board until it’s a good representation and expression of your design vision.

  6. Only use it for inspiration — Remember that if you’re pulling images from Pinterest, Google and even from publications — they have copyrights. Putting together a mood board should be strictly kept for the “conceptual” phase of your design project — and not for anything that is publicly distributed, shared or published. For example, I would be careful about not sharing it on your blog or website. I normally only share a mood board 1:1 privately, with a client. I’m not a lawyer and suggest consulting one if you have questions! Just be aware of the legal and illegal uses of imagery that belong to other people.

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5 ways to get started with brand visuals

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If you're just starting out as a small business owner, or you've been at the game for a while but haven't established a professional presence just yet — BUT — you also know your biz inside and out, what you want to be known for, who you want to serve, where you want to be seen, your overall vision, mission and strategy, this blog post is for you!

As I've mentioned before, it's EXTREMELY important to have those above non-tangible pieces in place and be really clear about your brand, before you even think about the visuals. Because, a brand is the emotional experience that your client has when they come into contact with you. It's what THEY think and feel.

So, if you're clear on the above and ready to design a logo, website and other materials, here are a few places to start and resources that you can use to get off the ground — until you're ready to hire a professional designer. (Which I highly recommend doing in time!)

1) Create a mood or "inspiration" board. This can be a physical or digital collage of colors, patterns, textures and photos that evoke a specific sense of style, emotion and personality when someone experiences your brand. This is important because it sets the tone for the rest of your branding and helps you get really clear on design aspects. You can cut out images from magazines and put it together yourself or create one in Canva or Photoshop.

2) Use Pinterest to not only help you create your above mood board, but to also help inspire your color palette and logo possibilities. Create specific boards for colors, logos, typography and more to help yourself stay organized — and to give you good visuals to constantly reference.

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3) Think about what style of logo that you would like to create — you can create something that is simple and type-based, or you can incorporate certain iconic, illustrative or design elements that express what your business does. Take a basic Adobe Illustrator course and download a trial version of it, if you're feeling brave enough to create it using a professional program. To make things a little easier, you can always use Canva.

4) Once your logo is finished, try your hand at using Squarespace to design a simple website. There are other platforms like Wix and Weebly, but I've always been a Squarespace girl myself. It's pretty intuitive and user-friendly. You can connect to an existing domain (in GoDaddy, etc.) or purchase one through Squarespace and it's even free for the first year. It's crucial to have an online home for your business, separate from social media platforms, in case Facebook decides to pull the plug one day — and your page and all of its followers go with it. Your website is something that you own and will be online, even if other social channels come and go over the years. Make sure that it's easy to navigate and visitors can quickly learn about what your business offers and the value that you can provide THEM with. Make it visually interesting and attractive, packed with good content, so that they will want to stay and not quickly exit the browser window.

5) For other print and digital materials, like social media graphics, business cards, brochures, PDFs and more — you can download trial versions of specific Adobe Creative Cloud programs like the trio that I use (InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator) or use the free version of Canva. Strive hard to keep all of your branded materials consistent and cohesive. Whether someone is following you on social media, reading a blog post on your website, browsing a free worksheet or checklist from your opt-in or holding your business card, they should have the same visual experience over and over again. 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

6 color palettes for spring

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It’s sure been chilly and muddy here in southern Indiana for the last month, but the sun has finally decided to come out and show its shiny face the last few days. Alas, spring is just around the corner — I can feel it!

To celebrate bluer skies and warmer temps, I’ve been inspired to create a few go-to color palettes that are perfect for some fun designs, with the help of Coolers. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a great website that allows you to quickly generate palettes. Whether you’re a bolder/brighter kind of person, you like the fresh and clean look and feel, or you prefer the traditional “Easter egg” pastels, there is a collection of swatches below, just for you.

Feel free to use any (or a mix) of these for your own branding (if you like any of these color combos year round) or for a special spring project! Share this post with your fellow small business bosses and friends. And, be sure to tag @untethereddesign on Instagram so that I can see your designs using my color palette(s)!

Whether you’re using these for print or digital platforms, or a website/blog, I’ve provided the specific Hex codes for easy and quick references to start. If you like a particular color, enter the Hex code (#xxxxxx) at Color-Hex, a website that will generate the other color codes (CMYK, RGB, etc.) for you. Just type in the code at the top and click “Get Info.” Voila! And, in case you need to remember the differences between each color system and when/where you need to properly use them, refer back to one of my latest posts that gives the exact breakdown!

Happy Designing (& Spring!)

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SPRING PALETTE 1

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SPRING PALETTE 2

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SPRING PALETTE 3

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SPRING PALETTE 4

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SPRING PALETTE 5

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SPRING PALETTE 6

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Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! 

7 creative resources for non-designers

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Whether you’re a small business owner still DIY-ing your branding and visuals, or you’re a professional designer (like me) — it’s important to have go-to creative resources online that you regularly visit. You might be needing to look for new fonts, piece together a new color palette, design some simple illustrations or icons for your website or need new, strong photos to use within your blog and social media graphics. Or, you might simply hit a wall from time to time and need to download some new templates and find inspiration for your designs.

Below is a quick-hit list of (just a few of) my favorite sites that I constantly defer to when I’m working on a new brand for a client or even my own business development graphics. Leave a comment and let me know what a few of yours are as well, if they’re not listed here, so that I can check ‘em out!

Creative Market: This is absolutely one of the best online resources for design! You can find and purchase anything that you need — from fonts, to vector illustrations, stock photos, textures, patterns — and beyond. They also email featured freebies that you can download (which I do often! Gotta love a free font that comes with a commercial license or some new vector watercolor splashes!) They even offer templates for flyers, brochures, social media graphics, business cards, logos and more. Buy from one of their package options and stay stocked up on your credits, so that you can quickly download what you need, when you need it! (I know that I do.)

FontSquirrel + DaFont: As mentioned in my recent blog post about free + premium fonts, free font sites provide fonts that are free for personal use and often have limited licenses that you must consider. You might be able to use some that have commercial licenses and are still free, but make sure to check first!

FontSquirrel advertises itself as being 100% free for commercial use.

A site like DaFont offers plenty of free fonts (but mainly for personal use) and encourage you to donate to the font designer. Oftentimes, I like to peruse fonts that I want to use for a client job — and experiment with a few. But, once I find the right font, I either find the link to the designer’s site to purchase it OR find a provided link that connects to creative resource sites like Creative Market or Design Cuts, where you can also purchase a commercial license for the font — and that might run anywhere from $12-30. Although other typefaces can cost much more, I like finding these types of fonts that are more affordable and that I know I am legally “OK” using. But again, if you’re using a font for fun or with a personal project (that isn’t classified as “commercial”) then certainly play with free fonts! There are countless collections on these two sites alone, ranging from handwritten/cursive, to holiday-themed, to retro and more!

Pexels.com + Unsplash.com: According to the Pexels website: “It's hard to understand complex licenses. That is why all photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means that the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. You can modify, copy and distribute the photos. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So, attribution is not required.”

The same applies to Unsplash.com. There are many photos that crossover between the two sites, because they are so similar. I use these sites because the stock photos are beautiful, sleek and artistic. They are not like what you will find on iStock or Shutterstock that are a bit generic — and that everyone has used at one time or another. The best part, they are 100%, totally free to use!

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Canva: By now, I’m sure that you’ve heard of or are using Canva for creating graphics, especially if you’re DIY-ing your designs. I used to not be super crazy about this platform, as I felt that it made “everyone a designer” but now, I see its importance as I help to serve small business owners who are creating their own graphics, until they have a budget to work with a professional designer. I’m actually planning to setup and share an account with my social media strategist, so that we can quickly create and access graphics together. I currently design my brand images in Photoshop, so this will help to free up some space on my computer and allow me to be more efficient with the constant creation of small + simple graphics. (And, I can still use my brand + stock photos, fonts + colors, so that my graphics look just as professional as before.) With that said, Canva is great when it comes to creating a template for anything imaginable — posters, flyers, social media graphics, cards and more. And, it uses a drag-and-drop format, which makes it user-friendly and pretty intuitive to pick up on.

Colour Lovers: This is a handy site for browsing and creating color palettes, shapes and patterns. It also provides you with the RGB, CMYK and HEX codes, so that you can use the exact swatches in your designs. If you’re not sure what the color modes that I just mentioned mean, reference this post that I just wrote last week about color systems!

I like to use this website when I’m experimenting with colors for a logo or creating the official palette for a client’s brand. I like to see what works well together and what doesn’t and file/save away different collections and themes. Even if I don’t end up using a particular palette for the current project that I’m working on, I might use it for another one in the future!

With this list of resources, you should be equipped with some solid, go-to sites for discovering fonts, downloading graphic templates and photos, designing your own graphics and creating color palettes. Happy designing!


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! 

Adobe Overview: When you should use Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator and what are the differences?

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The Adobe Creative Suite is an all-encompassing software platform (that is strictly cloud-based now) and is absolutely the industry standard in today’s design and branding world. Whether you need to create social media graphics, a mockup for your website, a downloadable PDF to host on your website or a logo identity, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator all have you covered!

If you don’t already have the programs downloaded, you can download free trial versions here (good for one week): http://www.adobe.com/downloads.html

As stated by Adobe, Photoshop is meant for image editing and compositing. InDesign is intended for page design, layout and publishing and Illustrator focuses on vector graphics and illustration. Below, I’m quickly breaking down specific documents and materials that you can create in each one (that you might not have already been aware of) — and also when and why you should. Each program serves unique purposes and all can play well together.  

Photoshop: As you can probably guess, this is the go-to tool for editing photos. Do what you need to do when it comes to cleaning up a photo before you print it or use it within its sister programs, InDesign or Illustrator. You should know that it’s a raster editor, which means it’s perfect for working with an image that is made up of a certain amount of pixels — which changes the quality when it’s resized. Beyond all of the ways that it can alter photos, it’s also handy for creating web-based graphics. I create all of my social media images (Facebook cover photos, Instagram posts and more) as well as blog graphics and any web banners, icons or online ads. I also use it to create website mockups or email newsletter layouts that I will then pass off to be coded by a developer. When it comes to creating graphics that will be printed, however, I open InDesign.   

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InDesign: Think of this program as your desktop publisher. I have designed everything imaginable in it that can be printed (or downloaded/viewed digitally) — magazines, newspapers, newsletters, brochures, multi-page PDFs, business cards, banners, billboards, menus, pocket folders, notepads, invitations, stationery, album covers, books, posters — you name it. The list is endless. Mainly, when you’re looking at designing something that involves a lot of text, automatically plan to use InDesign. Aside from its print purposes, you can also create digital graphics, e-books and more — just make sure that when you initially setup and export the document (as a PDF or JPEG) you choose web/interactive options, not print ones. So now, we’ve covered editing images and creating graphics for print and web. Where do you turn when it’s time to design a logo or create an illustration? You guessed it, Illustrator!

Illustrator: This is a program that I was introduced to and took classes in years ago, after I already started finding my way around Photoshop and InDesign. Although I’ve known designers to use Photoshop for creating logos, Illustrator is absolutely the only go-to for me. This is because unlike Photoshop (which is raster-based) Illustrator is vector-based — which means that the images you create in it are going to be scalable to literally any size (no matter how small they’re reduced or how big they’re enlarged) and not lose their quality or resolution. For example, if you scale a photo that doesn’t have a high resolution to begin with to fit a large space (like a 4x6 photo blown up to fill a billboard next to the highway) it will appear very fuzzy, unclear and pixelated. However, if you enlarge a vector-based logo that is originally 5”x5” in size to fill a 500’x500’ space — the design will stay perfectly intact. Aside from logos, I also create illustrations and brand icons in this program. If you are tasked with creating a design that involves some text (but not multiple pages of it) you can also create PDFs, business cards, posters and basic templates. However, I still personally use InDesign for those.  

Leave a comment below if you still have a question about the proper program to use when creating a certain project. I would be happy to answer it!


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018 — how is your branding looking? Would you like to give it a bit of a makeover or refresh? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

3 simple places where inspiration can be found

“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.”

–Bruce Garrabrandt (author/colored pencil artist)

Whether you’re a graphic designer trying to find visual solutions for your current project, a chef perfecting your next unique and delicious recipe, a writer crafting your next award-winning story, a teacher decorating your classroom door or a bridesmaid trying to plan your best friend’s wedding shower, it’s happened to us all — the dreaded “creative block.” When you hit this annoying wall and you can’t seem to find a way over or around it, what do you do and where do you turn? While I’m still (and will always be) guilty of stalking Pinterest boards and my favorite online designers that I admire — I’ve also learned to go back to some old school and simple ways of finding the best kinds of inspiration and creative boosts that I need to get back to the drawing board and actually be productive!

1) Step away from the work.

Sometimes the best thing that will benefit your work is actually taking a day off (or at least a few hours.) And, if you need an even longer amount of time, take a vacation! When you walk away from something for a little while and actually stop thinking so much, that little invisible light bulb above your head magically goes on and the methods, processes and results that you’ve been longing to find and execute all of a sudden just come to you. It’s really that simple. And, it’s also known as one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

2) NOT looking at what others are doing.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the virtual comparison game. You know the one — just like in real life — when you find yourself looking at what “everybody else” is doing, instead of focusing on what YOU need to do for yourself. It’s easy to get sucked into that black hole of the Internet, not feel good enough or as confident as you should — which doesn’t end up getting you anywhere. Instead of following everyone on your Instagram feed, choose just 2-3 individuals or businesses that you admire and take what bits and pieces of inspiration that you need from time to time — but NOT ALL of the time. The less time you spend worrying about everyone else, the more time that you will have to create something really special, genuine and unique. In turn, others will be admiring the great work that YOU put out into the world — and they will draw their own inspiration from it.   

3) Everyday things.

There truly is so much beauty in the world, but we often get too caught up in our digital platforms — living and working behind screens that keep us from getting outside and breathing in some fresh air — and keeping us from really “taking it all in.” Similar to stepping away from the work, it’s important to observe nature and the environment, animals, people and conversations happening around us. With a clear mind and through real life experiences, we can better understand and appreciate colors, sights, sounds, textures, smells and stories that can be more easily translated into a design, onto paper, a canvas, or party plan. Take a walk or go for a run — activity away from your desk is just plain healthy, anyway.

Creative blocks can really keep you from scheming up something amazing, but only if you let them. If you take even just a small amount of time, step away from what you’re struggling with, don’t spend time comparing yourself or your work to others and observe the everyday world around you, you’ll allow your mind to be opened up and stimulated “non-digitally.”   

And, if you still can’t seem to shake a creative block when it comes to your next big idea or business, maybe I can help

Spring color palettes worth checking out

I don’t know about you, but Daylight Savings Time has kicked my booty the last couple of days. I’ve felt more tired and like I’m just dragging myself around, trying my best to be productive. It’s definitely been tough pushing those clocks ahead an hour, here in the U.S. Now, don’t get me wrong, I also LOVE the time change. It stays lighter out longer and as each day comes and goes, we’re getting closer and closer to summer. Bring on the (consistent) warmth and sunshine!

With Daylight Savings Time also comes the official start of spring — on March 20th! In celebration of that, with the help of some great resources, I’m giving you the scoop below about the popular, seasonal colors to design with during this time of year. These might be ones that you can incorporate into your social media and blog graphics, while still not straying too far from your brand colors. Or, they might give you some inspiration to create or expand your palettes. Either way, enjoy! Comment below and let me know what some of your top picks are…

What Pantone says…
It’s going to be a season of bright and cheery, but also earthy. The hues that Pantone has picked out are reflective of nature and the environment, to evoke and stimulate certain emotions. Click here. 

Creative Market’s choices   
This fabulous, go-to resource for many designers has created and provided (15) different palettes to help you with your creations. They’re inspired by a lot of colorful flowers and food and they’re a mix of warm and fresh! Click here. 

Refinery 29 has their “it colors” picked for the season
This is more fashion-based, but Refinery 29 is all about the fluorescent palettes this spring. Think hot pink and neon orange! Click here. 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
Here we are, 2017! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

Simplicity is queen — why less is always more

Trends are always changing in any professional industry. When it comes to the creative field, I always make it a point to research and read the projected ideas and styles at the beginning of each new year to 1) stay current and relevant with my work and my clients and 2) to see one of two things — is the trend for this year going to be minimal design or more complex? Graphic design should always be sophisticated, sleek and professional and these aspects can be achieved via either method. Complex doesn’t have to mean messy — it can simply mean organizing a lot of important information in readable ways. And, while this can be done successfully, the best kind of design in my book (that always wins and never goes out of style) is simplistic, clean and, as you might guess, minimal. Period. Find just a few good reasons why, below.

1) The message is always clear.  
Imagine looking at a concert poster that is overly cluttered. The colors might be vivid, the typography might even be stacked and arranged in a cool way. All of the important information is there, like the date, time, location and contact name. Something is missing though — order. All of the details are arranged in every direction, you’re not sure what element to look at first and all you’re really seeing is clutter. It takes a few minutes to really take it all in and understand what is being advertised. If the poster instead consisted of one big visual (and maybe a few supporting, smaller images) and all of the information was arranged in a clean fashion (starting with the most pertinent) — you would be able to scan and interpret it effortlessly, in mere seconds. This would be an example of good and clean design — it’s visually appealing, readable and isn’t confusing.

 2) White space is legit.
White space is the breathing room purposely left around a design, so that a viewer can look at and focus on one thing, or the most important details. And, it’s a designer’s best friend, so use it to your advantage! Sometimes, the best design means having a page with hardly anything on it. It can be aesthetically pleasing to not have to concentrate on so much. Good design can be just a line or two of text, simple shapes, 1-2 colors and one striking image — with plenty of white space throughout it (or even “dead space” – which can be any color or background that isn’t distracting or doesn’t contain any elements.) Do not design just for design’s sake — just because there are several different ways to design a logo, website or publication, mediums through which to create it and a variety of tools in your toolbox, you don’t have to use them all — or do “all the things.” The goal of good design, no matter what, is for the audience to understand the message that you’re trying to communicate. If someone is able to do that within just moments, then the design is successful. In order for visual information to be understood and absorbed quickly, the less a viewer has to look at, the better.  

 3) Simple design is easy to remember and recognize.
UPS, Nike, Apple — they’re all universal brands and symbols that literally anyone can and will forever recognize. Their logos are iconic; they consist of simple shapes or letters. Design should be timeless and memorable — and a truly strong and great design should still be considered great even years down the road, because the elements used in it and the foundation from which it was designed should never go out of style. Again, the less someone has to look at and read, the quicker they can understand what the design is communicating and the more that they’ll be able to remember what they saw or read within it. Makes sense, right? When you think of Nike, you probably think of the “swoosh” checkmark graphic and their “Just Do It” tagline. That’s really all that you have to remember to know the brand — from 20 years ago and 20 years from now.    

Graphic design is absolutely art, but there is a big distinction between fine art and communication art. Again, to me, a big goal of design is to visually display a message, which can be translated through many different elements — colors, type, shapes, space, lines, texture, hierarchy and more. This can be achieved digitally or by hand. Although design involves many artistic elements, design should still quickly communicate, no matter what. Someone should be able to look at a design, understand what it’s talking about or representing and then be called to take an action — attend an event, connect via the Internet to learn more or contact someone. They shouldn’t have to look at it, not know what to read and walk away confused — unlike a painting or sculpture that might be created and intended for individual interpretation and one’s own imagination.   

Although good design can be artistic and attractive, it should still always be simple, clean and easy to understand. Are you currently struggling with your own creative project and how to organize the information or visually display its message? Connect with me today, I would love to hear from you and continue the conversation!

 

 

 

3 simple places where inspiration can be found

“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.”

–Bruce Garrabrandt (author/colored pencil artist)

 

Whether you’re a graphic designer trying to find visual solutions for your current project, a chef perfecting your next unique and delicious recipe, a writer crafting your next award-winning story, a teacher decorating your classroom door or a bridesmaid trying to plan your best friend’s wedding shower, it’s happened to us all — the dreaded “creative block.” When you hit this annoying wall and you can’t seem to find a way over or around it, what do you do and where do you turn? While I’m still (and will always be) guilty of stalking Pinterest boards and my favorite online designers that I admire — I’ve also learned to go back to some old school and simple ways of finding the best kinds of inspiration and creative boosts that I need to get back to the drawing board and actually be productive!

1) Step away from the work.

Sometimes the best thing that will benefit your work is actually taking a day off (or at least a few hours.) And, if you need an even longer amount of time, take a vacation! When you walk away from something for a little while and actually stop thinking so much, that little invisible light bulb above your head magically goes on and the methods, processes and results that you’ve been longing to find and execute all of a sudden just come to you. It’s really that simple. And, it’s also known as one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

 2) NOT looking at what others are doing.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the virtual comparison game. You know the one — just like in real life — when you find yourself looking at what “everybody else” is doing, instead of focusing on what YOU need to do for yourself. It’s easy to get sucked into that black hole of the Internet, not feel good enough or as confident as you should — which doesn’t end up getting you anywhere. Instead of following everyone on your Instagram feed, choose just 2-3 individuals or businesses that you admire and take what bits and pieces of inspiration that you need from time to time — but NOT ALL of the time. The less time you spend worrying about everyone else, the more time that you will have to create something really special, genuine and unique. In turn, others will be admiring the great work that YOU put out into the world — and they will draw their own inspiration from it.   

 3) Everyday things.

There truly is so much beauty in the world, but we often get too caught up in our digital platforms — living and working behind screens that keep us from getting outside and breathing in some fresh air — and keeping us from really “taking it all in.” Similar to stepping away from the work, it’s important to observe nature and the environment, animals, people and conversations happening around us. With a clear mind and through real life experiences, we can better understand and appreciate colors, sights, sounds, textures, smells and stories that can be more easily translated into a design, onto paper, a canvas, or party plan. Take a walk or go for a run — activity away from your desk is just plain healthy, anyway.

Creative blocks can really keep you from scheming up something amazing, but only if you let them. If you take even just a small amount of time, step away from what you’re struggling with, don’t spend time comparing yourself or your work to others and observe the everyday world around you, you’ll allow your mind to be opened up and stimulated “non-digitally.”   

And, if you still can’t seem to shake a creative block when it comes to your next big idea or business, maybe I can help

Could you use a creative makeover?

Isn't it funny how we can create something that (in the moment) we feel is so right and so perfect? A logo design, a painting, a DIY Pinterest-inspired craft for our home, a scrapbook, you name it. Then, we can revisit it 3-4 years later and think, "What was I thinking? This is awful!" 

I have found myself more than once looking back on my college portfolio, somehow still loving a few select designs, but most of the time absolutely HATING the work that I cranked out for four years. Now, I don't regret any of it as I loved college (would totally do it over, that's how amazing Ohio University and its School of Visual Communication really is, I promise) and I obviously was a student — learning, growing and experimenting with my artistic abilities, Mac and Adobe skills. All of that work led me to have wonderful internships, which led me to some some really great jobs (working for other people) which finally led me to be able to build up a client base of my own and work full-time for myself. Everything we do (good or bad, success or failure) is simply a life lesson or stepping stone to the next great thing that we are meant to experience and live. The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes what we are doing in the moment is truly the best that we can do (in the moment) - in that very current spot in time. But, it's also okay to learn how (and want to) learn more and do better the next time. At this point in my design career, I can pinpoint exact things that I need to do to better my portfolio, increase my reach, build a loyal client base and work smarter, not harder. But, I must always keep an open mind and stay hungry and ambitious — never wanting to settle. I want my business and I to always be on the way up — and more than what we were yesterday. Sometimes we grow by leaps and bounds, other times we take baby steps. At the end of the day, though, it's important to recognize when we (or our businesses) need to be better. And, when it comes to giving your business or creative venture a makeover (or sometimes facelift) — it's important to decide whether you need to DIY it or actually bite the bullet and hire a professional. (And that's where I come in.) 

It's perfectly okay if you are just starting out and don't have the budget or means to pay a designer to take care of your branding — which, by the way, is SO much more than just a logo. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a mini branding guide that I am currently working on for DIYers/beginners who maybe can't quite afford my professional design services just yet. But, if you see the importance in having a sleek and sophisticated identity (logo, website, stationery, social media graphics + more) whether you're still a start-up or a business that's been around for over 20 years and you're ready to make the investment, then you're already lightyears ahead of some businesses that are complacent, comfortable and will never upgrade, update or change their visual presences. Many businesses like that are still perfectly successful and maybe don't feel that they need to spend the money to change anything — and that's their choice. But in the long run, they will still be missing out on what could be new business, a greater customer following and additional revenue. Bottom line and this is a promise: when a business has their stuff together — a brand that is consistent and professional — they will appear to be so much more trustworthy and legitimate to their existing clients and prospective ones. Period.

You can always stay in the same place and never move up or forward. It's one thing to be happy with where you are or even settle, but it's another to hinder yourself and your business from growing simply out of ignorance, close-mindedness and lack of branding knowledge. Trust me when I say that any business, big or small, new or old, will absolutely gain more clients and make that much more money each year if they have a truly professional brand. One that has strategy behind it, has been thoroughly thought-out, has attention to detail and is consistent across different mediums and platforms. To be the part, you have to look the part. So, let's visualize — and chat about how together, we can find a branding package that will fit your needs to "look the part." Everyday is a good day for a visual makeover. What are you waiting on? 

Visit my current packages and offerings to find the right option that fits your wants, needs and budget or email me directly to talk about creative consulting around the ideas of branding, if you can't find exactly what you need. We will make it happen for you and your business, I promise!