It’s a new year and a lot has changed. If you have been to my site before, you will notice that it is very different then the last time you visited. I have transitioned my site from my freelance business, LV Graphics Studio, to the more personal bylaurav.com. There is a lot of new work to see, and a lot of news to share, so to get you up to speed, I’ve put together my top 10 for 2011.
1 ) New Clients, New Projects
I am looking forward to doing a lot of really amazing work this year. I will be sure to share new projects and new work as it comes, so be sure to stay up-to-date by checking my portfolio page throughout the year.
2 ) My New Ride
I recently purchased my first hybrid vehicle – a 2010 Honda Insight. I absolutely love the car, love having a GPS, love the bluetooth capabilities, and love that I use 3 – 4 less gallons of gas per fill up compared to my Civic, which is currently saving me $9 – $12 each time I go to the gas station. Yay for green technology!
3 ) Bizzy.com
My friend Elysa recently introduced me to her newest project – Bizzy.com. Bizzy is a personalized local business recommendation engine that takes information about the businesses in your area that you like and then tells you about other businesses that people with similar tastes recommend. It is currently still in beta phase, but they just surpassed the 100,000 favorites milestone, and I’m really excited to see how Bizzy continues to grow and progress over the next year. If you’re not already a part of the community, you should definitely check it out and start a profile – bizzy.com
4 ) H&M Coming to Dallas
FINALLY, the wonderful folks at H&M have decided to open a store in Dallas! I am so excited that I can finally shop there sometime other than when I am on vacation (not to mention, that I don’t have to worry about how I am getting everything I purchase back to Dallas with me without spending a fortune on baggage fees!) I hope that the store is everything I am hoping it will be and more, but will patiently be waiting until they announce the opening date to see for myself. And if you don’t know why I’m excited, or don’t know what H&M is, check out their site and find out – hm.com/us
5 ) New Charity Projects & Events
I had several opportunities to give back to the community and help with charity events in 2010, and am hoping to give back just as much if not more in 2011. I will be continuing my support of Alliance for Children in their upcoming Bingo Night event on February 19th. If you would like to participate, I’d love to see you there. Tickets are $100 and last I heard, there are only 60 seats left, so sign up soon at allianceforchildren.org
6 ) Ignite Dallas #3
As a participant of the first Ignite Dallas last March, I am very happy to see that the 3rd Ignite Dallas is well underway and is schedule for February 23rd. If you have never been before, you should definitely come and see what it’s all about. And, if you really want to light a fire, you can do like I did and speak about what you are most passionate about. Applications are being accepted through January 30th, so hurry!
7 ) Hill Country Adventure
On February 11th, me and my sweetie will be heading out to Wimberly, TX to experience the Texas Hill country at the beautiful Blair House Inn Bed and Breakfast. I am extremely excited about enjoying nature with all the conveniences of modern living while shopping local and eating plenty of amazing food. If you have some recommendations for our trip, be send them my way!
8 ) The 3rd Big (D)esign Conference
In May of 2010, the Big (D)esign conference kicked off for the 2nd year running and it was even bigger and better than the first. This year’s conference is sure to set a new precedent and I am really excited to see what’s next, who’s speaking, and what’s new in the Dallas usability and creative community. I’ll have more details as the conference approaches in May so be sure to check in or keep an eye out on bigdesignconference.com.
9 ) NetFlix
Netflix recently introduced the capability to stream movies through your video game console, and seem to be improving the selection everyday. I still free like it’s Christmas every time I get a movie in the mail, but I am also excited about the idea that one day in the very near future, I will be able to instantly access all the movies I want to watch through my PS3.
10 ) Spark Club
Spark Club recently announced that they are gearing up for 2011, and I am very excited to see what they are planning next. I have met so many wonderful people through Spark Club that are looking to make a difference and change the world. If that sounds like something you’d be into, be sure to check out their site and see what they are all about at sparkforgood.wordpress.com
What are you excited about in 2011?
I was featured on the site GetYourBizSavvy.com in an article by Julie Barnes. How can your business make small steps to go green? Check out the full article to view insights from myself and other professionals as well as green resources to give you additional steps to go green!
Today’s marketplace is flooded with brands, advertising, and buzz words. There is a lot of competition out there for someone looking to make a name for their personal brand or their business. So what can you do to stand out? Is design really that important?
Let’s say that your business is a product at the grocery store. It’s on the shelf with every other product that is similar to your business. You haven’t put a lot of thought or money into your product placement or your brand, so you are currently located on the bottom shelf and have a generic label. Will people purchase your product? Sure. Will they expect it to be cheap? Definitely. Will they go with another product over yours if the other product is cheaper? Of course.
Now, let’s say you pay for the product placement, but skip on the design. Your product is now eye level. Right there with the big brand names. Will more people buy your product? Probably. Will they expect it to be cheaper than the big brand names? Yes. Will they still purchase the product on the bottom shelf over yours if it’s cheaper? Most likely.
Design is an important element in creating positive awareness of your product or business and gaining quality customers that will not easily be swayed because of pricing. A quality design will not only make customers more trusting of your business or product, it will make you appear professional, polished, and reliable.
By creating a quality brand design for your business, you are also showing customers that you take pride in your business or your product. You have put time and effort into making your business or product great, and believe in creating a quality image for yourself, and in turn, your customers.
Bad design can have a similar effect. A sloppy or unprofessional brand design can give consumers the impression that you and your business are not well established, less expensive and even untrustworthy. This website is an example of everything bad that can happen with a web design. Would you purchase something from the website? Would you contact them to do business with?
Design and branding for your business is important in creating quality customers that respect your pricing and appreciate what you do. You want the first impression of you business to be a lasting impression in a good way. Quality design could be the difference between a customer choosing to do business with you, or going to your competition solely based on pricing.
I recently did a blog post on the logo design process for one of my clients, and have had some questions about step one of the process, “Define the Style with a Vision Board.” I hope to elaborate on this process and its significance when creating a brand for a client.
I think that a key step in creating a brand or a logo is to understand what your client is looking for visually. This can be a little tricky, because clients are not usually designers, and at times, can find it challenging to demonstrate or articulate what it is that they are looking for. I know I have heard the phrase “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it,” from many clients. So, to avoid frustration and wasted design time on both the client end and my end, I found that creating a “Vision Board” is a great first step to get the client and I (the designer) on the same page before design work begins.
So, what is a “Vision Board”?
A Vision Board is a collection of inspiration images or objects that visually demonstrate the branding goals of the client. This can include other logos, pictures, illustrations, other design work, fabric, wood, metal, just about anything. The objects are then all put on a board (either a physical or electronic) to create an aspirational collage. The goal of the board is to create a foundation for the creative direction of the project. Basically, the board establishes a “style” that will remain consistent throughout the design process.
How is the “Vision Board” created?
It really depends on the client. If the client has a pretty good idea of what they would like to see, and have given me enough information to start, I created a vision board for the client to ensure that we are on track with a defined style for the project. This is an essential first step in my experience, simply because design elements can be very subjective. Even something as simple as the color blue can be viewed differently by two people. It is important that you clarify design details visually.
On the other hand, if the client doesn’t really know what they want, or has a vague idea of what they would like to see, I assign the client homework. I ask that they find at least four examples of a visual element that visually represents their business or what they would like there company image to be. Four examples are usually few enough to not be overwhelming to the client, and enough for me to see a general direction or consistency. If I receive the examples and there isn’t consistency, I meet with the client to discuss each example and why they selected it. This meeting usually clarifies any confusion on the direction of the project.
Last Wednesday, March 3rd, was the very first Ignite Dallas event at the Granada theater. This event was part of Global Ignite Week – a forum where the brightest minds get five minutes of stage time to make their point. I had the honor of being speaker #7 of the 16 speakers selected.
My 5 minutes was spent on the evolution of print design and creating awareness of eco-friendly graphic design practices. If you missed the event or would simply like a run down of the 5 ideas to inspire you to go green in detail, please feel free to watch the video below or check out the blog post on Go Green Graphic Design.
Click Here if you have trouble viewing the video above.
Brandpointe is an industry leader in career training, employee productivity and performance solutions. Brandpointe offers two distinct training paths – Work Ready and Job Ready. JobReady is designed for individuals looking to make a career change or to move up within their field. WorkReady is designed for people that have a job that are looking to expand their skill set, or the skill set of their employees, through training sessions, learning events, and individual study. In addition, a new program called Ovation is designed for anyone looking to network and connection with others in the Brandpointe community.
In December, I was very fortunate to meet Jasmin Brand of Brandpointe at a Spark Club meeting/networking event. Shortly following the event, Jasmin and I began to discuss her business and her upcoming upgrades, including the addition of the Ovation community and the launch of a new online classroom to the website. With all of these upcoming improvements, Jasmin and her team at Brandpointe were looking to upgrade their current identity and add cobranded identities for Job Ready, Work Ready, and Ovation.
Step 1) Determine the Style Guide
Because this was an upgrade, and not a redesign, the overall style of the logo had already been established. The logo would be lowercase, with an emphasis put on the “e” in Brandpointe, there would be some kind of dot grid/pattern in the icon, and the colors would remain consistent. The goal was to create something more polished, not to create an entirely new identity.
Determining the style guide from this starting point was focused on selecting a typeface and an updated color palette (color palette options shown below). Several rounds of typefaces and colors were discussed, but ultimately a serif font with an updated cerulean blue was selected to represent the new Brandpointe.
Step 2) Create an Updated Icon
The new tag-line for Brandpointe was determined before design took place. It was imperative that the new tagline, “Bringing education full circle,” be represented by the new logo. For this reason, it was proposed that the new logo icon represent a circle more than a grid in the design execution. Several placement options were sketched out and discussed, but it was ultimately decided to have the icon at the end of the logo to emphasis the “e” in Brandpointe.
Step 3) Creation of Cobranded Logo – Job Ready, Work Ready, and Ovation
The cobranded logos were programs within Brandpointe, and needed to relate back to the original logo. Since Job Ready and Work Ready were both training paths, it was determined that these cobrands should share the same style. The blue and the green in the Job Ready and Work Ready logos match the colors in the Brandpointe logo. It also further supports the branding goals, since the circles within the icon of the Brandpointe icon match the logo icons for Job Ready and Work Ready.
The cobranded logo for Ovation was treated a little differently. In our initial meeting, Ovation was described as the “Twitter” of Brandpointe. So the identity should be relevant to the Brandpointe logo, but also be able to stand alone as with it’s own identity independent of Brandpointe. The decided upon icon for the Ovation logo was the same as the Brandpointe logo but with a different typeface and color palette.
Now that the design process is complete, I am helping Jasmin and the Brandpointe team with the implemention of the logo on all social media channels and the new website (set to launch March 1st). Soon to come will also be updated business cards and office signage.
Lindsay Stoulil is a New York City-based personal chef and nutritionist. She is a Registered Dietitian and strives to make food for her clients that is both nutritious and delicious. Her website, fridgeandtunnel.com, showcases her blog of recipe ideas and nutritional information.
In June of this year, Lindsay posted on her Facebook status that she was in need of a logo. I quickly responded to her query and we started work on the logo. Because Lindsay is in New York and I am in the Dallas, TX area, there was no in person interaction on this project. Lindsay and I began brainstorming over email about what she envisioned for her company and what she hoped to achieve with her brand identity.
Step 1) Define the Style with a Vision Board
The first step I take in a logo design is to define a style with a “Vision Board”. This is a helpful in establishing a style guide draft and being more efficient in executing the design. In most cases, if the client and I agree on the Vision Board, the rest of the logo process goes much more smoothly then if I begin the design without one.
Because Lindsay and I were corresponding over email, I sent her several links with different inspirational sites online and asked her to tag a few things that she felt identified the direction she would like to take with her branding. She found illustrations from different sources that all had a similar style. It became clear that she wanted to do something with an illustrated, fun feel that was colorful and vibrate, while being modern and classic at the same time. Lindsay also suggested that we do the logo in green and white, as she felt this would best represent her brand. This established a style starting point, and gave me enough to start designing.
Step 2) Sketching
The next step in my design process is to sketch out some rough ideas before getting on the computer and illustrating. For me, sketching is essential because it creates a rough idea, rather then a somewhat finished and polished design. This allows me to focus on different concepts that can be utilized for creating a brand.
For Lindsay’s logo, I tried several different concepts during the sketching phase of the design. Some of the first concepts were kitchen utensils and items found in the kitchen like a stove burner. I then tried a few sketches using Lindsay’s initials to create an icon. I sent Lindsay a few of these rough sketches with detailed branding ideaology that would go with each sketch. She liked the idea of the kitchen utensils, but didn’t feel that the utensils in the sketches were the best for her brand. Below is the email with her feedback
“The image of an egg cup (I know a bit random), came to mind while I was on walk a while back. That image keeps coming to mind, so wondering if I should use it? I am enjoying the idea of an egg as a symbol of nourishment (covers the nutrition bit), and the eggcup egg as a symbol of nostalgia (for me it was something special my Mom made for me, so this covers the whole homecooking/chef bit). Plus I think if done right it could look vintage and classy.”
And so the eggcup icon was born. A kitchen item that represents nutrition and simplicity was a great icon for Lindsay’s branding goals.
Step 3) Design Presentation and Selection
In my design process, I give my clients multiple options with multiple variations to ensure that they are getting exactly what they had hoped to receive at the beginning of the project. By the time I begin designing, a clear style, direction, and branding concept have been established to ensure that my time and the clients time is well spent when it comes to choosing the right logo.
Lindsay requested that the logo be green and white and feature the egg cup concept. I sent her 3 initial designs (2 are shown above, one was the final design). Each design showed different font examples and color options. In addition to the egg cup concept in green, I also sent her an option with a whisk icon in a similar illustration style and did color variants in teal and yellow.
After the first round of designs, Lindsay selected one of the logo options and requested a variation of the egg cup concept in a hand drawn sketch style. She also liked her name in a sans serif font option, with her title in a serif font spaced out underneath her name.
Ultimately, the final logo selected featured the original illustration style established by the Vision Board with a teal blue color (as shown at the beginning of the post).
Step 4) Design Execution
The final step for this project was to implement the new logo to create new business cards for Lindsay. I sent Lindsay two design options to choose from, and she decided on the design shown above. The design is very simple and classic, to highlight the logo and clearly establish Lindsay’s brand.
Now the the logo is final, and the business cards have been printed, I will be helping Lindsay to bring her new brand identity to all of her business materials and her website/blog. At the beginning of the design process, Lindsay requested that her blog have a seperate identity that corresponses to her business identity. Fridgeandtunnel.com will soon feature a site header and the new logo to bring Lindsay’s business identity full circle.
Shortly after Lindsay and I wrapped this project, she sent me her feedback:
“Laura was able to turn my design vision into a fantastic logo and provided me with precisely what I asked for. I highly recommend her work.”
Thank you, Lindsay! You were a joy to work with!
The following links are for my top picks of 2009 for graphic designers or just about anyone with an interest in design or who is working for themselves. I have found these articles extremely helpful, and hope you do to!
All of these links were shared via Twitter to followers of @lvgraphics.
Working with Clients
- How To Explain To Clients That They Are Wrong
- 7 Tips on presenting logos to a client
- How To Identify and Deal With Different Types Of Clients
- Designers Share Their Favorite Designed Website
- 15 Examples of Well Designed Contact Pages
- Pantone Fashion Color Report for 2010
Running Your Business
- Taxes and Freelancing, Overview of the Schedule C
- 12 Tricks for Optimizing Your Freelance Career via Freelance Switch
- 30 More Essential PDF Documents Every Designer Should Download
- The Circle – a simple ToDo System to Get more Things Done
- 10 Productivity Tips That Work Surprisingly Well
Promoting Your Services
- Calls for entries: Upcoming graphic design competition and book submission deadlines
- Self-Promotion the Social Way
Design Tutorials and New Technology
As a designer that primarily focuses on print projects, I usually provide print service quotes to my clients. Recently, I have noticed one question has been coming up pretty often when it comes to print projects – Why not use an online printer or outsource the printing? While these types of printers are perfectly adequate, I do not recommend online printers or outsourcing printing to my clients. Do I still use them? At times yes, because I have to keep my clients happy, and deliver what they want to stay in business. However, I feel there is good reason to not go the online or outsource route when it comes to printing. Here is an overview of why I prefer to use local print shops, and why your may consider it for your print needs as well.
I spoke with my representative, Royce Gregory, at Walls Printing in Dallas about this topic and asked him what his number one reason to use a local print shop would be. His response was service. When you print online or outsource overseas, it is difficult to speak to a representative about what the best option for your project would be. It is also hard (and costly) to get paper samples, print proofs, and have a full understanding of what will be delivered ahead of time. For some projects, this may not be all that essential, but for a large scale print job, this is a vital step in ensuring your money is well spent.
There is always a risk when you release your credit card information to an unknown third party or online. If you have been given a recommendation from a colleague who had success with an online or offshore printer, this isn’t as much of a factor. But there have been multiple online and offshore businesses that collect and disappear without delivering. If this does happen, there is very little you can do to get your money back.
Most local print shops accept payments in increments or after the project has been delivered. This establishes a higher level of trust. The printer does not get paid until the project is right. If you receive the project, and it isn’t what you wanted, you don’t have to accept it and can request a rerun of the project at no cost (given that the printer was in error). If you never receive the final product, the printer does not get paid in full.
Different paper stock can print color differently and react differently to different inks. When using an online printer, you get a one size fits all approach to the print process. The result is adequate, but not quality. Online printers only offer digital printing, which is less expensive, but is not always the appropriate print method for every project. This also limits the kinds of paper you can use when printing (for example, you cannot use a thick paper stock when printing digital because it will not run through the machine).
Online and offshore printers cannot deliver color proofs or paper samples as easily as local printers, which makes it difficult to adjust your project to ensure the color and content work well with the paper selection. Shipping charges for print proofs can be expensive and timely, and usually involve an additional print charge. Paper overseas is different then the paper in the U.S. and has a tendency to print more yellow, making color matching an essential, timely, and costly step when outsourcing printing.
I recently attended the HOW design conference in Austin, TX and was very moved by one of the sessions entitled the “Blue Q Method of Making Stuff”. The ideology was that when creating a product, you should consider the full impact of your actions. Specifically, when you work with a print vendor, you should know the kind of working conditions in place and be aware of their business practices. If you cannot see the print facilities, there is no way you can know if they are implementing proper safety measures for their employees. In the words of Blue Q Art Director Mitch Nash, is it really worth compromising someone else’s well being to save a little money on production cost?
The Green Appeal
Working with a local print shop is also a more sustainable practice. Because the printing is done locally, there is not shipping involved, and therefore less emission cost on the project. Because paper selection can be more specific, you can opt to use FSC certified sustainable papers. You can also choose to work with a printer that uses environmental friendly processes, like recycling paper and inks, minimizing water waste and disposing of inks properly.
If the recent recession has shown us anything, it is that small businesses are the back bone of our economy. As a small business owner, I encourage my clients to support local businesses and use local print shops. When you support local business, you are helping your local economy succeed, which in turn creates a better community and can even create more jobs.
Most business decisions come down to one simple factor – money. Fortunately, many local print shops are pretty competitive with their pricing. More times then not, the quote I get from a local printer will beat an online printer price. Many online printers advertise low prices, but once you factor shipping, setup charges, and other fees, the project becomes much more expensive then anticipated. Also, if you tell a printer a price quote received elsewhere, many times they can bring down the cost to better meet your budget needs.
Having trouble standing out in online communities? Perhaps it’s because you are losing touch with the offline world!