Design

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! 

4 color systems that every brand should use

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If you’re a small business owner DIY-ing your visual branding (your logo, website, business cards, social media graphics and more) or if you’re working with (or have worked) with a professional designer, it’s important to be familiar with some “designer lingo” from time to time. Have you ever heard someone reference “RGB” or “Hexadecimal” before and wondered, “what the heck is that?” You’re not alone. When it comes to design, understanding how colors work and effect a design in many ways is crucial. And, understanding that you need to design within specific color modes within specific platforms, in order for your design to be of the best quality and setup professionally, is even more crucial.

The short and sweet of it is this — you must design using a different color system for print than you do for digital. If you’re preparing files to send to a printer (let’s say, your business cards, a brochure, or a banner) they will need to be “CMYK-compatible” for best results. Or, if you’re developing your website or designing a graphic for your blog or Instagram (images that will only be viewed on a screen, digitally) you’ll need to use the “RGB” format or even a “hexadecimal” code.

Are you still confused?

That’s OK. Let me break it down for you! After all, I’m all about keeping things as simple as possible. Keep this information handy the next time that you’re creating on-brand graphics or working with your designer. (They will appreciate you knowing these things!)

RGB stands for red, green, and blue, which are the three additive primary colors. We use this system when designing something to be displayed digitally (think websites and social media graphics), but not to be printed.

CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. This system is used in 4-color print processing, as these four are the standard inks for producing colors. When a file is sent to print, it must be setup in CMYK mode.

PMS: The Pantone Matching System is a universal color matching system, also used in printing. Pantone colors are specific swatches that are already pre-mixed. So, if you use these colors in your design, they’ll print the same every time. This is important when you’re dealing with brand colors that need to be exact. A CMYK-based blue might print lighter or darker depending on the printer, but a Pantone-based blue should print the same from one printer to the next.

Hexadecimal: I’ve never been a math whiz, so this one can be a little tricky. Although I don’t even (always) understand how the numbers work, this is a color code that you can use when developing a website and when you’re utilizing HTML or CSS code. Within this color system, digits (in pairs) indicate the red, green and blue components in the RGB system, mentioned above. The code uses sixteen distinct symbols and when working within CSS, the symbols “0–9” represent values zero to nine, while “A, B, C, D, E, F” represent values ten to fifteen.

So, you can represent 16 values with one hexadecimal. And, with two hexadecimals, you can represent 16x16 values (which = 256 values.)

RBG looks like this: R=0-255,G=0-255,B=0-255

So, 3 pairs of Hexadecimal symbols are used.

For example: Hexadecimal code: #fefafd is RGB: 254,250,253.

Why? Because: fe=254 (which is red), fa=250 (which is green) and fd=253 (which is blue.)

(Again, don’t stress too much about this one. It’s handy when working with a web developer, but I think it’s important to understand RGB first. If you’re formatting a DIY website, you can often enter the RGB code for one of your colors and it will also display the Hexadecimal code, so you can just copy/paste it to use it elsewhere, if need be. That’s what I do!)

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Now that you have a little better understanding of when and why to use RGB, CMYK, PMS and Hexadecimal color systems within print + digital platforms, you might be wondering HOW to make sure that you have the systems “turned on” and correctly in use. I’m going to breakdown how to set this up in Adobe InDesign + Photoshop (the programs that you should be using to either design materials for print or digital platforms.)

Adobe InDesign: First, use this program for anything that you need to lay out and that will be printed (again, business cards, postcards, annual reports, booklets + more). Secondly, remember that you need to design these soon-to-be-printed materials in CMYK mode. To do this, open your “Swatches” palette. Click on the upper right-hand drop-down menu and select “Ink Manager.” If you’re using CMYK colors, the four of them should appear in a little window: “Process Cyan, Process Magenta, Process Yellow, Process Black.” You should also see CMYK values for each swatch in the palette (unless you’re using PMS spot colors, which is totally acceptable!) However, if any appear to be showing RGB values, simply double-click on the swatch, click on “Color Mode” and select “CMYK.” Before you export a PDF for printing, make sure that ALL of your swatches are setup in CMYK (or PMS options/spot colors.) Either CMYK and/or PMS (Pantone) is what you want your swatches set in before finalizing your design document.

Speaking of PMS swatches, where do you find those, you might be thinking? Simply go back to your “Swatches” palette, click again on the upper right-hand drop-down menu, select “New Color Swatch” and you’ll see multiple Pantone options to choose from. If a designer setup your brand colors via the PMS, ask them to provide you with the swatches. Then, simply add those exact ones to your swatch palette.

*Extra notes: Remember, when exporting your PDF for printing, select either the “Press Quality” or “High Quality Print” option under the “General” tab. Also, make sure that you choose “Maximum” image quality under the “Compression” tab. Finally, don’t forget any necessary bleed or crop marks if your design goes off the edges and the document is a certain size that will require trimming.

Adobe Photoshop: I create my digital brand graphics (for social media, my blog, etc.) in Photoshop. It may also be easier to use Canva. But, in Photoshop, once you create the image, simply go to “Image” (in the top menu) → then “Mode” and select “RGB Color.” In another instance, if you are formatting an image that is going to be printed for some reason (like a logo on a sign) you would choose “CMYK Color.” Are you getting the hang of it, now?

Keep in mind that if you do have a question, simply type in a keyword (like RGB or CMYK) in the search bar under the “Help” tab in the navigation menu at the top of your window (in both Photoshop and InDesign.)  


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! 

3 design myths you shouldn't believe

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Being a graphic designer (or any kind of creative entrepreneur for that part) is extremely hard. We work usually more than 40 hours a week, but if we work from home, it’s assumed that we really don’t even “work.” We are often misunderstood — people don’t know always know what it is that we do, how we make our money or they think that we actually have a “fun and easy” job and make “a lot.” On the flip side, other people think that because design is a type of fine art, we are all starving artists — not seeing it as a communications career option as well, realizing the numerous and amazing job opportunities that exist in print and digital design, all over the globe for some of the world’s largest companies. The misinterpretations are endless about what a day in the life of a designer is like and sometimes, it’s exhausting to explain things about my job and business over and over again. Sigh.

While I absolutely do what I love and I think I’m pretty good at it, I also know that a lot went into getting me to this point in my career, running a business full-time has its share of downs and design is not something that just anyone can pick up and do. And, while it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, necessarily, today, I’m still going to quickly talk about three COMPLETE myths that I have come across countless times while working in the design field. I’m taking a moment to debunk each one because they’re quite frankly, just SO not true! Here we go… 

1) “Design is so easy, anyone can do it!”

Anyone can design, but not everyone can do it well (or should!) Just because you’re somewhat creative, can navigate your way around InDesign or Photoshop just enough to get by or are a pro when it comes to creating images in Canva (which are all great things, by the way!) -- does not necessarily mean that you’re a designer. I’m all about a business owner having those basic skill sets and utilizing them to DIY things and save money, but again, it doesn’t make them a professional at it. I can pour Drano down the sink for a temporary fix, but that doesn’t make me a plumber. Designers have poured time, blood, sweat, tears, LOTS of money and energy into getting where they are. They are experts at knowing trends, keyboard shortcuts, can be creative and turn projects around on a dime, if needed. It’s not easy to stare at a computer screen all day, hustle out revision after revision of client projects, know design programs inside and out and be able to communicate with said client. Sometimes, people see the end results of designs, which are often very simple and minimal, so they don’t think that they’ve taken a long time to create. What they don’t know is (ironically, quite the opposite) all of the work and time that went into achieving that simple logo or functional website. Sit in a designer’s chair and knock out what they do even for just a few hours and you will quickly learn and come to extremely respect what they REALLY do and why they’re the ones doing it! 

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2) “The client is always right!”  

Although serving clients (and often under-promising and over-delivering is a huge aspect of the job) – sometimes, the client is not always right. A client hires a designer and should trust that they know best and that he or she is the professional. A designer should ultimately make the client happy, but it’s also part of the designer’s job to tell the client what they need and what is best. Don’t be afraid to speak up – after all, they’re paying YOU to do YOUR job and to make them look good. Communicate your professional opinions. Your client will actually understand and appreciate them more than you might think!  

3) “After graduating with a design degree, you never have to go back to school!”

I felt such a huge burnout when I graduated college 8.5 years ago, I could not even imagine sitting in another class or studying for another exam. I once considered going back for my Masters for the next school year, but that was a quick and fleeting moment in June of 2008, as I received my long-awaited diploma and again, could not imagine pushing another nugget of knowledge into my brain for the year. After time went by and I was totally focused on my professional internships and jobs, I came to realize a year or so later how important continuing education was. Any professional, in any field, should always seek opportunities to keep learning and be involved with professional development, whether it’s attending an evening workshop, registering for a semester-long course or participating in a conference. You will never stop learning. Especially in the design field, technology is always changing and you must stay current and relevant with the latest trends, techniques and software. It’s crucial to keep exercising your brain, opening your mind and (stay) excited to keep growing and evolving as a professional (and expert) forever.     


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! 

 

5 ways to keep prospects on your website longer

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In the midst of this crazy, digital age, you might hear the argument that as long as you have a Facebook business page and are on social media platforms, you don’t need a website. First, that is totally untrue. If Facebook pulled the plug and disappeared tomorrow, all of your content, photos and followers would go with it — and what would you be left with?

A website is an absolutely necessary marketing platform to have. It’s a space that gives prospective clients a chance to learn more about your brand and what you can offer them. You also look more professional, legitimate and credible. Often, it can be tough enough to drive traffic TO your website — to check out all of those great things about you and your services, products, or both. Because of this, it’s even more important to KEEP those individuals on your website for as long as possible.

Here is a list of 5 easy ways that you can make sure that they stay:

1. Make it really clear who you are and what you do.
In the first few seconds, if it’s difficult for someone to figure out what your website (or business or blog) is about, they’re going to make a quick exit. Make sure that your logo and name is one of the first elements that they see — as well as some quick hits about your offers. For example, when someone visits my website, they should be able to quickly figure out that I’m a graphic designer, that I offer branding and monthly retainer services and that I primarily focus on working with feminine brands and female-driven small businesses. If someone isn’t looking for what I offer, we might not be a good fit in working together and that’s OK. But, if a female business coach is looking to go through a rebrand and she needs a quick turnaround, then I will probably be the right girl for the job. She will see that — and continue to click through to other pages — to learn more about me as a person, my pricing — and what months I have open to book package jobs.  

2. Provide a call to action — in more than one place.
A call to action is crucial if you want prospects to either keep following you or contact you in some way. This can be in the form of an email newsletter sign-up, an opt-in to download a freebie that will offer them some help and value — or something as simple as a link to your contact page. CTAs keep people interested in and in contact with you — even after they leave your website. They’ll take action if they like what they see and want to talk to you about a possible hire — and they’ll take action even if they don’t have the need or budget to afford you right now, but they might in the future. Or, they want to learn more about or from you. You can sprinkle these in a couple of different spots on each page, or at the end of each blog post. There really can never be too many! They can be a mix of embedded forms directly on the site — or pop-ups. You want to encourage them to call, email, subscribe, share, follow, download or buy.  

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3. Keep the design simple.
As a designer, of course I can’t stress this point enough. Simple design is always the best kind, whether it’s a logo, website, PDF, social media graphic or anything else. The less busy that a page is, the quicker that a visitor will be able to scan it. If the branding is on point, navigation is easy to follow and the visuals are engaging, people will definitely stay around longer.

4. And, the content short and sweet.
In a very similar way, keep the words simple as well. Make sure that sentences and paragraphs — and any blocks of copy — are easy to read and to the point. And, make sure that you’re not just throwing around fluff. Utilize the space for copy in a smart fashion — and make sure that you’re not saying things just to impress a prospect — language that might actually be over their head and difficult to understand. Let people know who you are, what you do and what you can offer THEM (it’s all about helping the client, after all) that they’re not going to find anywhere else, with anyone else. Let the words on the screen pack a punch that can be quickly absorbed — and leaves someone thinking, “I HAVE to talk to or work with (her)!”

5. Integrate photos + videos!
Just like good and simple design, photos and videos can help to greatly elevate a page’s dynamic, look and feel. People relate to people and like to see photos (or videos) of them. This is why I find that posting a photo on Facebook creates so much more engagement than just a status made up of words. People would truly rather read a couple of quick sentences about you and then literally SEE you. It’s just human nature and simply a golden rule of design — to keep a healthy balance between copy and imagery. And, although there are many who would still rather read books than watch movies, I’m a big believer that someone will watch a quick 2-minute video of you over reading an exceptionally long blog post or 4-5 paragraphs of lengthy copy about what you can offer them.   


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!

6 good places to find fonts

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If you’re DIY-ing your brand, or you’re preparing to work with a designer and you’re searching for some font-pairing inspiration (whether for your logo or your website/graphics), it’s important to know what to look for and where to find it.

First things first, let’s talk about free 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!

Some of these free sites also 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.

Here are my go-to free sites:

  1. Font Squirrel

  2. Google Fonts

  3. DaFont

To skip the free sites (although they are great for searching a certain style and experimenting with different typefaces in your design — “try before you buy”) and go straight to buying more high-end or premium options...

Here are my go-to purchasing sites:

  1. MyFonts

  2. FontSpring

  3. FontShop

You can usually still find a collection of free fonts on the premium sites as well. Free or premium, the best brands tend to use a solid and effective pairing of serif and sans serif typefaces. For help with choosing the right fits, check out my post about this very topic.

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No matter what font selections you make, just remember that if you’re going to use it for your brand (or you’re a designer working on a client’s brand) you must check the licensing. If it’s a free font, is it free for personal + commercial use OR just personal? If it’s only free for personal use and you buy a license (even for just $12) — that’s just (1) license for your use, on your computer. You’ll most likely need to buy a second one for client or vendor use.


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!

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!

QUICK TIP: Should your brand fonts be separate from those used in your logo?

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I was talking to a design friend from college the other day that was getting ready to design some new print materials for a client. While the client’s logo (that she did not design) had a decent color palette and “OK” visual elements to it, the fonts were certainly dated and the weakest aspects of the design. In developing the new pieces, my friend asked me if I thought she should come up with some new brand fonts for them, as the client wanted a new and fresh look anyway. After some conversation, weighing the pros and cons, we both ultimately agreed that she should come up with new ones to use in her design. Whether you are asked to develop new typography for a brand entirely (doesn’t matter if you’ve designed the logo or not) or at least for a special project, this is something really important to consider.    

Frankly, there is no right or wrong answer. A lot of variables can play into whether or not a brand should have a set collection of “brand fonts” used on print and digital materials that are separate from ones that are used in a brand’s logo. Overall, it all depends on the strength of the logo fonts. Sometimes, a logo uses a unique, decorative or hand-drawn typeface in an artistic way and other times, a logo uses classic typography choices in a straightforward, simple and clean design. 

So, at the end of the day, should your brand fonts be separate from those used in your logo?

1. No, if the logo already uses a good serif + sans serif combo.  

When I design a logo, I tend to use a combination of two fonts. This might be a serif and sans serif combo or a handwritten + sans serif combo. I tend to make the name of the business the main focus of course, on its own line — and I’ll run a tagline or small description (if needed) underneath that. Regardless, whether I’m working with a logo that I’ve designed or that someone else has, if there is a nice combination of fonts already being used that express the brand well and that I know will be professional and readable across different mediums, I will usually just stick with using them as the “official” brand fonts. You certainly don’t have to, but I don’t see a big reason not to. To learn the difference between the three main styles of fonts, feel free to reference this past blog post.

2. Yes, if the logo is dated and you can’t change it right now.

Like my friend that I just mentioned above, if you’re working with a logo designed by someone else and the brand doesn’t plan to update it anytime soon, you need to decide how you feel about the fonts used in the logo. If they’re dated or too decorative/artistic to use consistently, over and over again on branded materials, then you should recommend a good pairing of fonts that will complement the existing design. This is what my friend and I decided that she should do. You can still respect the existing logo and brand elements, but if you’re not able to offer an entire rebrand, you should at least still offer your thoughts on some fresh typography that can be used to help enhance the current brand.  


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? Would you like to revamp it for 2018? 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!

3 ways to a foolproof web strategy

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When it comes to strategy, there is a strategy for everything out there. From content strategy to social media strategy, there seems to be a strategy for everything but your website.

When we are leading so many people to our website, we are forgetting that it needs a strategy in place, too. If we send them there without a clearly-defined path, often times, they will click off faster than we can say "wait a minute!" We forget that we need to also clearly define our audience, create that clearly-defined path and focus on the user experience.

Let’s chat about creating a foolproof web strategy that is going to help you capture more interest and produce better results with your website.

Crystal Clear Audience

If you have ever talked with a business coach, you will find they always talk about your target audience. We may roll our eyes, but when it comes to web strategy, it is incredibly important to make sure that we have a crystal clear picture of who are target audience is.

When it comes to web strategy, you have to understand who you want to work with. Repel and attract those you want to work with to help you better focus on getting those clients you want. Weeding them out with your website can save you (and them) a lot of time in the long run, so, why not?

Once you know your target audience, you can make sure to design your website for them. If you are looking to target middle to older age women, you will want to be considerate on font size and have a simpler website. For those who are looking to target a younger generation, have a website that is a bit more “hip” (as they say) — it will make sure you attract that age group.

Most importantly, you want to make sure you are speaking to their needs through your design. Make them desire to come to your website because they are attracted to what you have to offer. Allow them to feel what you want them to feel by making your website feel just for them.

Crystal Clear Path

There is nothing worse than being given a destination, but having no idea how to get there. Often times, this happens with websites. We know that we have a need (for example, help with social media) — but we fail to take people on a journey in regards to what is it like to work with us.

This is a crucial part of the process and we sometimes forget how it even works.

Help your web visitors out by defining a path for them to go down. Do not give them too many options...just enough for you to be able to describe what you do, how you work and how you can help them. It’s simple in these terms, but can be difficult to make happen with a website. This is why designing it to be clean, simple and easy to navigate is the way to go.

This can easily be done with obvious call to actions on every page. Focus on your visitors going on a journey through your website and have your website reflect this journey that you want them to go on. Make it obvious what you want them to do and how you want them to respond to your website.

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Crystal User Experience

Out of all of the aspects, I believe the user experience is an important part of this. If you are not catering to your exact target audience and providing them with a clear path, then you should at least have a website designed for the user experience portion.

In simple terms, your website should be user-friendly.

There are a couple of items that go into this that some people do not talk about. These include making sure that the colors of your website attract your audience, but do not hinder their experience. Nothing is worse than visiting a website just to be blinded by neon colors on top of neon colors — or white text against a black background. While these can be successfully executed on rare occasions, make sure that your website is clean and color-friendly.

Another important aspect that we must all consider with our website is optimization. You truly do need a website that can be viewable on any platform. This is incredibly important when it comes to serving your audience because the majority of them are on their smart devices! Having a website that is not mobile-friendly will cost you more than you know.

Lastly, consider your image versus text ratio. Focus on bringing the page to life with images that convey the feelings or the messages you are looking to bring to the table. Having the right images can make or break a website. Never go for low-quality or simple, generic stock photos. Have branded photography done or find photos of flat lays that are meant to attract your audience. There are quite a few places to receive stock photography including Haute Stock.

Conclusion

When it comes to web strategy, it is not too difficult to implement these steps into your current web design. The three components just discussed can take your strategy to the next level!


ASHLEY DELUCA is a digital marketing and web strategist who empowers female millennial entrepreneurs by creating a web design and foolproof strategy in 30 days. She enjoys eating cheese and playing with her two basset hound puppies when she is not glued to her laptop. You can find her at blankslatemediaconsulting.com.

Fall + winter color palettes for seasonal graphics

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Although we are experiencing an Indian summer here in southern Indiana, the leaves are changing and the temps are dropping. I’m arranging pumpkins and mums on my outside porches. It’s official: fall is finally here.

With the changing of the seasons, as a designer, I often like to read up on the emerging color trends that accompany them. While it’s obviously important to stick with your brand colors for consistency purposes, I’m a big believer that it’s OK to experiment with some different palettes if you’re creating or launching something that is seasonal or holiday-specific. As you might know from one of my past blog posts, colors have such power in evoking certain emotions and feelings. Add the magical transition of a new season to the mix and you can have a lot of fun with graphics for social media use, blog posting, sales page layouts and more — whether you work with a designer or DIY it.

With that, take into consideration these unique colors + combinations and leave a comment below with a link to some of your seasonal print + digital pieces!  

1. Fall into the warm + cozy

To me, the popular fall palettes this year that seem to work well are mixes of warm colors. Think along the lines of burnt oranges, wines and caramels — with some blue + green hues thrown in to add a touch of “nature.” They’re all inviting and derived from the outside environment.

2. 50 shades of…

Clearly, grey is the perfect neutral tone that isn’t just meant for winter. It’s a great choice for a secondary color to be used with almost any brand palette (I use it constantly.) However, it’s an obvious choice for a classic, timeless and clean look. Combine grey with with shades of lilac, navy, tan, gold and blue — and you have the ultimate winter palette!   

3. Links for inspiration:

To dive in further, I’ve provided links to more detailed palettes that I briefly touched on above. Which ones are your favorites?

Color Trends (this includes a palette for this fall + past seasons’ as well)

Winter Colors: 9 Palettes for Web and Print Designs


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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 signs that it's time for a rebrand

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When is it time for a total rebrand? This can be a tough question for any entrepreneur — especially when you might be busy and perfectly successful, but you’re noticing that some of what used to work before just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Before you consider an entire rebrand, consider the signs below and if you’ve been experiencing the majority of them. If you’re not experiencing them so much, but you feel like your brand could at least use a little refreshing (without the time and investment spent in a rebrand, check out this post first.) If not, keep reading!

1. Your logo is dated

When you don’t love your logo anymore or want to show it off, it’s time to change things up. Maybe this is an identity that you used to like and has worked for years, but it doesn’t work anymore — and that’s OK. Creating a new face for your brand will set the tone for everything else — your colors, fonts, textures, patterns, social media graphics, photography and more — that will all work together well, be memorable and people will know and recognize that it’s you.

2. You’re not consistently using specific color palettes and typography

Speaking of colors and fonts, does anything seem to match anymore? Are you using different templates, photography and graphics that just aren’t cohesive or represent your brand? Do you feel like everything is all over the place? A rebrand will establish you with not only a new logo, but also a new color palette (primary and maybe even secondary ones) and at least 2-3 (no more than that, though) fonts to use for everything — throughout print and digital platforms.  

3. Your website is also dated and hard to navigate

Like your logo, if your website is outdated, visitors won’t want to stick around for very long or even know you, what you offer or what they’re even looking at. Is your site mobile-friendly and responsive? Do you use opt-ins to capture emails for your subscription list and to reach prospective clients? Do you blog? Do you give visitors a quick and easy way to contact you? Do you use photography or generic stock photos that anyone can see anywhere? Outside of a Facebook page, a website is absolutely necessary to have because it’s your business’s online home. Even if Facebook or other social media channels disappear tomorrow, you will still have your website (and email list!)  

4. You can’t explain what your business does or who your ideal client is  

You’ve been everything to everyone. What services do you offer? Who do you enjoy working with the most? If your branding is all over the place, less than ideal people will want to hire you for services that you don’t want to offer anymore or even like doing. You won’t attract those you want to. But, if you have a brand that really speaks to what you’re about, who you serve and the specific services that you offer, you will filter out (for the most part) those who aren’t going to be a good fit for you.  

5. Your mission statement and values aren’t clear anymore

These are elements that should be in place and solidified even before you have visuals created. If these aren’t clear, then not much about your brand is. Who are you? What do you do? Who do you serve? What do you want to be known for? Once you can answer these, you’re more likely to have visual branding that complements your messaging and makes you stand out even more, especially in a saturated online market.

6. Your business model or strategy has changed

Like your mission and values statements, if your business plans and strategies for running your business and getting clients changes or is non-existent, it impacts your entire brand in a huge way. Be clear on where you hang out, where you want to be seen, who you want to attract, how you want to work with clients, how you plan to deliver services and products (and get paid) and more. Again, once that is reestablished, your new visual branding will more easily be created and implemented.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!

7 perks of having a Squarespace website

Squarespace is an increasingly popular platform for building websites and I’ve been using it to build online homes for my clients’ businesses for the last 3-4 years. What is the appeal of it and the attraction to it? Too many to name, in my professional opinion. It’s the perfect drag and drop builder for getting a site up and running that still looks sophisticated and functions well. Below, I’m naming just a few perks to choosing it for your next website development and hosting project. 

1. Sleek and professional templates – no coding required!

Squarespace is known for its gorgeous templates. Just recently, they added several new ones to choose from. When it comes to templates, you might think that they’re generic and anyone else with a Squarespace account can have a site that looks like yours. However, you can customize a template in so many ways that it still looks unique. The template just gives you a skeleton to work from. You can move and adjust elements. And, if you know some code or you’re working with a designer who does, you can still inject HTML and CSS when and where you need to for an even more customized user experience. I often add dropdown menus or fixed navigation to my client sites (if they don’t come with the template to start) for a couple of additional bells and whistles that make the site more professional.

2. G-Suite and MailChimp are seamlessly integrated  

If you wish to use professional email from Google (like, name@name.com) and you purchase a business account, you can setup G-Suite free for the first year. After that, it’s a mere $5/month or $50/year if paid for upfront. You can add individual users within your Squarespace account and send emails to those accounts that walk them through the G-Suite dashboard setup. Also, if you use MailChimp for your email subscription platform, you can connect to it directly — via email sign-up forms on your site that connect to specific lists that you have setup within your MailChimp account.

3. Domain can be free for the first year

If you purchase your domain through Squarespace (with a paid annual business plan) it is actually free for the first year and then renews for a certain fee (usually $20) the following year, which is a nice bonus. Even if you have your domain through a third party like GoDaddy, you can still connect the site to the domain easily — it only takes a few seconds!

4. Easy to manage and update down the road  

My favorite thing about Squarespace (and the reason why I build my client sites on this platform) is its ease of updating after I’ve designed it. For many of my clients, I don’t necessarily continue to manage their sites for them after they are launched. But, at the end of our time of working together, I do walk them through (via a video conference and screen sharing) the back-end of their site. They learn how to change colors, fonts, insert or replace photos, add elements (like content blocks) or move them around, add blog posts and more — the basics that they’ll need to know in order to keep their website current. The drag and drop functionality is easy to figure out, as Squarespace is fairly intuitive and user-friendly. My clients can “learn as they go” and not be overwhelmed by the back-end of a site that is confusing and hard to navigate.  

5. Everything is already built-in for you

To add to the ease of managing a site once it’s finished, it’s good to know that Squarespace is an all-inclusive platform. Everything that you could possibly need for starting a site and getting it up and running is already built-in for you — things like analytics, some SEO, the SSL certificate, eCommerce and more are all features that you don’t have to worry about integrating yourself or through third-party apps.

6. Sites are responsive

Another great feature of Squarespace sites is the fact that they’re automatically mobile-friendly and responsive, meaning that they will scale to fit any size screen that they’re viewed on without any extra work from you!

7. Support is helpful  

Although there isn’t a phone number to call, the online support from Squarespace’s team is really great. I come across issues (often involving unique features or HTML code that I need to integrate into a template) and can always troubleshoot and find an answer using their “support” site. Rarely have I been stuck on something for very long, without being able to figure it out.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!

3 benefits of working within retainers

As a designer, I still do some “one-off” work (AKA individual projects) for a few select clients that I really enjoy working with. However, I transitioned my business model last year to working with other long-term clients “on retainer.” I learned how to budget time and work within this kind of style thanks to my agency background. If you’re not sure what a “retainer” is, it’s simply a way for a designer (or any creative professional or service provider) to offer either a set number of hours or completed projects to a client for a one-time/set fee each month in return.

Now, retainers aren’t always a good fit for every client/designer relationship. It is definitely a smart idea for established brands that need regular and consistent work created each month. But, if you own a business that is starting from scratch and has some foundational materials to get you up and running, you might not need 20-40 hours of work completed each month right away. Regardless, I’ve outlined below the 3 biggest benefits (I’ve experienced) for designers and their clients alike, if a retainer partnership is developed.

1. Expectations are more easily met.

Using retainer models gives a client ongoing access to a trusted designer and the consistency in the designer’s schedule allows them to provide better service to the client. By purchasing the designer’s time upfront, the client receives a preferred retainer rate and gets more bang for their buck. This style of working with a designer will help a business owner to plan ahead, have less stress with tracking and paying multiple invoices and they will know exactly what they’re getting each month! Both the client and designer can be on the same page and know what work is coming down the pipeline. As a result, there is better organization and deadlines are clear. This keeps (negative) surprises from happening and there is a more efficient workflow for both parties.

2. For a designer, there is less “chasing work” and wondering where your next client or paycheck is coming from.

This was my biggest reason for transitioning to working within retainers. I don’t have to create a proposal or provide an estimate/quote for each individual project, I don’t have to send multiple invoices and I get paid a lot quicker and at the same time each month. This obviously allows me to have a more solid source of income. Rather than quoting and designing 5 different jobs for a client that might altogether total $900-1,000 at the end of the month, I can count on a guaranteed $1500-2000 a month and maybe even end up doing less work — and getting that $1500-2000 amount in one lump sum, not 5 separate payments or checks. If I have a slower month when I don’t book as many branding jobs, I know that I at least have 2-3 retainers that guarantee me with work. And, that’s certainly reassuring!   

3. More long-term relationships are developed and higher-premium work is produced.     

For a client, the biggest benefit is that they have a trusted partner and aren’t just working with a random contractor they found online, who doesn’t quite know their brand or style. This allows growth for both businesses. The client can scale their business and better plan for the year and the designer can execute better work because they know exactly what the client needs and when. I personally like to review what’s coming up for the month with my clients and outline 3-4 larger projects that they know for sure need to be completed, so that I can make notes and plan my schedule accordingly.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!

“Like attracts like” — 3 reasons why professional branding will help you find the right clients

I was talking to a friend just last week who is getting ready to launch her new business. We were talking about branding and how she wants it to look “high premium” because her services won’t be cheap.

I told her: “like attracts like.” Have you ever heard of that phrase? Probably so. We are what we attract — what we put out into the universe is often what we get back. In running a business and developing the visual side of its brand, it’s important to remember that not everyone is supposed to be or will be your ideal client. You need to have a niche market/target demographic/specific style that you serve, so that you only attract and serve those types of people. If you offer a service or sell a product with a fancy steakhouse price tag, you don’t want to attract someone who is only looking to buy a cheeseburger at McDonald’s and not spend more than $5.

The more that your values align with your client’s, the more that they understand that what you have to offer is worth every penny and the more that you will attract the right kinds of buyers. The money won’t matter — they will believe in and need so much of what you can give them, that they won’t bat an eyelash at the price. And, they will happily refer you to other (hopefully) like-minded folks needing the same things.   

1. You will look more professional.  

Not only will you look the part of an expert, prospective clients will also look at you in the same way. When you have professional branding in place and look just a little “fancy” — you will also attract others who are sophisticated. If I am seeking a certain professional to work with, whether it’s a copywriter, business coach, etc., I’m going to look at their logo, website, social media, the way they speak, the way they write, the type of content that they put out and more. If everything is really sleek and professional and I genuinely connect with and like what I see, I’m going to reach out to chat with them about what they can do for me. If their branding isn’t cohesive, they don’t show consistency in any ways, they seem scattered or don’t speak or appear confident, they’re not going to impress me for a second and I will pass.

2. You will feel more professional.   

Plain and simple, when you LOOK more professional, you FEEL more professional. Many of us “work from home” entrepreneurs are definitely in tank tops and yoga pants most days, but when we do get dressed up, have our makeup on and hair done, don’t we just automatically walk with a little extra pep in our step? I know that I do. I feel better about myself and the confidence shows. It does for anyone! When you have a logo, website, photography and content that you’re proud of and want to show off to the world, people will see the pride and joy that you take in your work.

3. The right people will trust and believe in you.    

If you look high premium, feel high premium and have high premium prices to match, you will attract high-premium clients. This is because people who trust what you’re saying, doing and have to offer them (and believe in your brand) will buy from you without questioning it. They realize and see the importance in what you offer and that it will benefit them. They will pay you what you want and on time, because you would do the same if you were investing in a service to scale and grow your business, right? I have come to find that when I immediately connect with a prospective client, they like everything that I’m saying and agree with it, I don’t even have to work at the actual sale of my services. The conversation and process is fun and effortless. They already like me, trust me and know that I can do a great job for them. Then, when I say the cost and that I require a 50% deposit to begin the work and the final 50% due at completion of the project, they say: “Send me the contract and invoice!” Not every client is perfect and like this every time, but the more that you exude professionalism, class, expert thoughts/content, strong visuals and more (thanks to great branding) — the more likely that you will attract the same back. 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!

4 ways to refresh your brand

Refresh vs. Rebrand – a never-ending debate in the life of a small business owner!

How do you know when it’s time to add some spark back into your visual identity or wipe the slate clean and start from scratch all over again?

Sometimes, we can get ahead of ourselves. It’s easy to want a new logo or website when we stare at these major components of our brand day in and day out. I get it, we tire of them. I feel the same way about my own print + digital materials.

However, the point of branding is to establish consistency. You need a cohesive look and feel to everything that represents and expresses you, so that people become familiar with and trust you. On the flip side, sometimes a logo can become outdated and after years of looking a certain way, it’s OK to take the leap and go through a full rebrand. However, before you step off that ledge, think to yourself – what if I just refreshed my brand in a few small and easy steps? You might be surprised at the simple ways that you can enhance it and add extensions – to make it feel new – but without the time and expense of executing an entire facelift.

1. Add a font to your typography collection.

I don’t recommend using five different typefaces throughout your branding, but if you have one or two that you consistently use (and hopefully they’re a serif and sans serif combo) it’s OK to add in a third option. Maybe this is a script, handwritten or more “fun” font that you use for some headlines, quotes, social media graphics, highlighted blocks of text, etc. Something to add additional interest or flair to your content and design.

2. Add a color to your palette.  

In a very similar and really easy way, introduce a new color to your existing swatches. I believe that you can have 4-5 different colors working together for your brand (unlike fonts, I cap those off at 3 max) and it can be fun to add one more to the mix. Even if you don’t add something super vivid and different, it could be as simple as a neutral option like a grey, ivory or beige. This can also add a sophisticated touch to your branded materials. And, here is what I have to say about choosing the right combination of colors.

 3. Introduce elements like a secondary logo mark/icon, textures or patterns.

Adding some visual elements that can be used throughout your website, social media graphics and print stationery can be a great way to bring a new dynamic to your branding, without doing an entire overhaul. No matter how great your logo is, you do have to look at it every single day. You probably think of ways that you would tweak it or what you want your next one to look like. Instead of going that far, though, why not add a secondary version of your logo to be used for special occasions? Many businesses use icons and monograms as simplified versions of their logo, when they don’t want or need to use the original version. These smaller marks can absolutely be consistent with your brand and use elements, fonts and colors from your logo, but in a new and unique way. You can create some icons to be sprinkled throughout your website, to help break-up page sections or represent your services or social media handles — that still match your brand. You can also introduce some nice textures and patterns as extensions to your color palette, to add more visual interest to your graphics. I especially like this step because it allows you to add some new elements to your brand, without doing a full-blown rebrand.

4. Invest in brand photography.  

This is a step that I took myself in my business this year and it’s such a game changer! If you’re using the same stock photos over and over again or you don’t have any actual photos of yourself and your working space, now is the time to invest in a professional photographer! At the beginning of the year, I found a photographer whose style I really liked on Facebook and who was located in my city. We met at a local studio/co-working space that is a renovated warehouse and spent the morning capturing headshots and shots of me working with my “tools” – like my laptop, iPad, sketchbook and journal. We incorporated two outfit changes and some different backgrounds — and they turned out perfect, exactly as I envisioned. She gave me around 100 to keep, so I use them regularly on my website, in blog graphics and social media graphics. I feel so much more professional with them — and, I like posting them knowing that nobody else in the world as the exact same shots. I highly recommend investing in unique photos, rather than the same stock photos that everyone else on the Internet is using. **Sidenote, you can also go to a craft store like Hobby Lobby, buy up some paper textures to use as backgrounds, office supplies and fun props — and style your own photo shoot of flat lays to freshen up your blog and Instagram feed. Again, this way, you’re at least using your own photos!**


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!

QUICK TIP: How many fonts do you need for your brand?

One of the most popular questions that I get from entrepreneurs who are ready to brand their businesses is, “how many fonts do I need?” While you may use a different and unique typeface just for your logo (which is perfectly normal and fine) — you do need to establish at least a couple of typefaces to be consistently used on all of your print and web materials. Your typography selections are just as crucial to your brand as your color palette. They play a huge role in contributing to the overall look and feel of your identity — and it’s important to get them right.

You really shouldn’t use more than (3) typefaces on a regular basis. When more than three are used and not consistently, it makes your brand look confusing, not sophisticated and not professional. Plan to just stick with a classic serif (for example, think “Garamond”) as well as a clean and modern sans serif (again, think “Gotham.”) The third exception is a script/handwritten typeface, which can be used in special instances. Read below to find the definition of each one. Above all else, always remember to keep it simple!

1. Serif

A serif typeface has little lines (or strokes) added as embellishments at the ends of characters. Times New Roman is a generic example. These are good to use when reading large blocks of text (like you often see in books) and are great for professional and traditional purposes.

2. Sans serif

A sans serif typeface doesn’t have the serif strokes coming off its characters. Arial and Helvetica are common examples. This style of font has a cleaner, more modern look and feel.

 3. Script  

Finally, a script typeface is, as you might guess, “script-y.” It’s meant to look like cursive handwriting, or on a fancier level, even calligraphy. It’s meant to not be overused, but is great for accenting pullout or highlighted words in a headline or quote. I like to use one to complement my pair of serif and sans serif fonts in a brand to give designs a personal, classy and sophisticated touch.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!

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

3 reasons why your brand is more than just your visuals

It’s sometimes easy to forget that your brand is more than just your logo. It’s more than the way that your website looks and functions, it’s more than the feel of your business card in your hand. It’s more than the words that you say, the strategy that you stand behind and the stories that you tell. It’s more than just the vision that you have for yourself (and your visuals.) It’s ALL of those things. All of them working together, as a team, to give you an overall and cohesive identity — one that your clients remember and makes them feel something. Your brand isn’t just an identity, though, either — it’s an expression.

Today, I want to hit on just (3) reasons why your brand goes beyond the design that you invest in or create (and that’s the honest truth coming from me, a designer.)

1. Your brand is an experience.

Your clients (and prospects) should have the same experience every single time that they come into contact with it. All of your materials, tangible and non-tangible, print and digital, in-person and online — should be cohesive and consistent. Whether someone looks at your business card, browses your website, reads your social media posts or the content that you put out, meets with you via video conference or over a coffee chat, etc., they should know that it’s you, each time. They should feel something and be able to see how genuine and authentic you are and what value you bring to the table, with the services that you provide.

2. Your brand reflects what others think of you.

If your brand is professional, legitimate and polished, people will feel the same way about it (and you.) They will take you seriously and more confidently hire you, if they truly like and trust you. If they are digging what you’re about, who you are, what you offer and see that you can serve them (all with the help of the different aspects of your brand that they experience, see point #1 above) — they will undoubtedly want to work with you. I want to hire someone that I feel is not only professional, talented and experienced — but who I can also relate to. As humans, I’m sure that most of us feel that way, as well.

3-reasons-brand.png

 3. Your brand includes your vision, mission, strategy and content — not just design.  

These “non-visual” elements should come first, even before design and your logo is created. When you get super clear on who you are, what you do, what you want to be known for, who you want to serve and how you’re going to serve them, it will be much easier to decide on things like color palettes, typography, style elements, website function/development, printed/in-hand materials, social media platforms and more. When you have brand clarity, by knowing yourself and your craft really well and the words, strategies and systems that will attract paying clients in place, the “fun and pretty” aspects of your brand will come to life more quickly because they will simply complement and express the other aspects that you’ve already established.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!

The differences between 4 major file formats

When you’re not a designer or working with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator on a daily basis, it can be difficult to differentiate between various file formats. Which ones are best for print or digital platforms? Which ones have a higher resolution and which ones tend to be lower? In what format should your logo be formatted?

Today, I’m giving you a quick and simple breakdown of the best practices and applications for four major and popular file types. I took these as an excerpt from a guest blog post that I wrote a few months ago, which you can find here. There are several other formats to consider as well, but these are the ones that I tend to come across and work with the most. Comment below if you find my tips helpful or if you need any information regarding a different one!   

1. EPS (Encapsulated PostScript)

You’ve probably heard the word vector thrown around quite a bit. A designer loves to work with vector files because they’re scalable. You can literally enlarge them to fit any size or format in the world and they won’t lose quality. It’s the perfect file format for logos and illustrations. (Word of advice—when sending your logo to a designer, send them a vector file.) An EPS can contain both graphics and text.

2. JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

This file can be printed (think photos) but should be used primarily for the web. It will be pixelated when you try to enlarge it too much, and it will always print with a white box background behind it if placed against anything other than white. Some quality is lost when it’s saved because it’s compressed.

4-file-formats.png

3. PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

This file type can be printed, but it should also be used more for web purposes. I prefer to use these over JPEGs, as they tend to have a little higher quality and transparent background (meaning you can place them against any background and they’ll translate clearly against it). It’s now the most popular lossless image compression format used.

4. PDF (Portable Document Format)

This is a universal file type that everyone knows and uses. High-res PDF files are standard for printing, but they can also be viewed digitally. They, too, will have a transparent background, when you’re using the PDF format of a logo.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!

3 big design trends (that will impact summer 2017)

I’m keeping this week’s blog post short and sweet. Quick and dirty. Easy peasy.

If you’re a designer or a business owner about to hire a designer, you need to be up on a few things (like in any industry) — if you want your artwork and marketing to be successful and relevant.

Each year, trends come and go. Just like with fashion, certain colors and styles are either “in” or “out” — but with time, usually come back around. With graphic design and branding, there are a few elements in particular that have made their comebacks in a really big way. And, for me, they are particularly important to implement into your summer work. I think that they will help certain designs to stand out and be remembered — which of course is the goal of any good design. They bring good vibes, fun times and that “endless summer” youthful feel that I think most of us really love and long for. Leave a comment and let me know if you agree!    

1. Bright and vibrant colors

Neon has come back from the ‘80s, y’all. The louder, the better. Think hot pinks, sizzling oranges and juicy yellows. With a palette like this, the sun is shining all day. 

2. Bold fonts

The last few design seasons have preached the importance of clean and minimal design. And, while that is definitely my style and one that will never go away, it’s OK to let your hair down, bump up that point size and experiment with some thicker/heavier typefaces that you normally wouldn’t use. Consider arranging typography differently — enlarge the size, stack, run it down the sides or all the way across a page. Go big or go home!

3. Raw and original photos

Who doesn’t still love Polaroid-style instant snapshots, capturing candid, real-life moments? I know that we live in the world of perfectly-filtered selfies now, but it’s time to get back to the basics. AND – stop using generic stock photos that everyone else is using, too. Hire a photographer to take actual brand photos of you — and your products. Or, go to your local dollar or craft stores and find items that you can use to style within flat lays for homemade shoots using your smartphone. No matter your method, the more original, the better. Quite literally, get real! 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? 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!