Last week I went to a Smart Ladies event featuring Lauren Rothman, stylist to some of DC’s best. The event was about dressing for confidence, and dressing for your job. While that was interesting, and she had great tips, the thing that spoke to me most was something that probably passed under the radar.
She spoke about how many people don’t advertise that they use her services – but share her name with others in whispers. Lauren Rothman called herself a “best kept secret”.
Best. Kept. Secret.
I like that. In fact, the more I think about it – the more I think that may very well be what I am too.
For the last few weeks, I have been working on presentations for a good friend and brand guru. My designs will be seen by countless people. She will rock these presentations – I know it. Like most things I design, my name will never be on them, and it is possible that very few people will know I designed them. But I helped to make her look GOOD, and to me, that is an awesome thing to be a part of. That’s who I am – a best kept secret.
Let me help you look good.
Share my name in clandestine whispers.
I’m fine with that.
That’s the job, and I love it.
When I graduated college, I moved home to live with my parents and, like so many others, to figure out what was next. As I searched for a job, my father said I should start my own business, and that someday, I’d have a billboard. To this day, I can’t believe it, but the very first printed project of mine that we saw was…you guessed it…on a billboard. Suddenly, it made what I do very real, and tangible.
*Billboard done with Case Solutions.
As time has gone on, I have never quite gotten over the excitement of finally seeing a project I worked on in real life – whether it be an ad in a magazine or a book on a shelf. But as I check more and more projects off my list, it got me thinking about my design bucket list. I’ve designed many billboards, I’ve designed books sold internationally, I’ve designed national conference logos…but what’s next?
If I had to come up with a bucket list today, these would be a few of my to-do’s:
Speak at a design event
I have always admired the speakers at events like HOW or AIGA DC. I’d love to be able to be in a position to share what I’ve done with designers, and inspire them to follow their dreams.
Teach design to undergrads
Similar to speaking at a conference, I want to teach design to young designers. There is so much excitement in those just learning the field. As a business owner, I feel like I have a wealth of information to share, not only in design but also in dealing with clients, and running a company – a challenge many young designers don’t realize they will likely face in the future, when the glamour of agency life has worn thin.
Create a design with hand drawn typography
The work of artists like Louise Fili, Dana Tanamachi and Carolyn Sewell is beautiful and inspiring. If I have one project I’d love to take time and create, it would be to design something with hand drawn type – a letter, a poster, a sign…
Create branding and design for a restaurant
While I have done a few signs for a sandwich shop in Myrtle Beach, one of the things I always really loved was restaurant design. I’d love to take on a restaurant design project that included everything – signs, menus, interior design recommendations, details… A restaurant brand is so all inclusive, and has so many tangible elements. I think it would be amazing to work on so many diverse aspects for one company.
Are you looking for someone to do any of this? If so, I may just be your gal.
For everyone else, what’s on your business bucket list?
We hear a lot about a consistent brand experience, and how our employees are a part of that, but what does it mean? A recent travel experience gave me the perfect example.
On a trip to Atlanta, a client put me up at the W hotel. In general, the brand experience in hospitality is very important. Having briefly worked at a Marriott, I’m familiar with what goes in to the experience – from how you greet customers to how the rooms are maintained. But this trip, one thing stood out to me more than anything else – the mats in the elevator.
“What is so great about elevator mats?,” you might ask. “What does this have to do with branding?”
When I checked in that afternoon, I noted the elevator mat said “Good Afternoon.” And as I came and went throughout my trip, I noticed these mats changed to “Good Morning” in the AM, and “Good Evening” in the PM.
What does this say about the W brand? To me, this emphasizes an enormous attention to detail and to their customer experience. It also emphasizes what the brand is known for – a high-end, luxury experience. Not every brand would take the time to change elevator mats three times a day. Their hotel is the embodiment of what they stand for, down to the last detail.
It also says they trust their employees to be responsible and take care of the brand as if it were their own. How easy would it be for someone to forget to change the mats – for one to say Good Morning at lunch time, or Good Afternoon in the evening? Pretty easy. But it never happened. The employees take pride in the brand and help to give a consistent experience.
Are you embodying your brand down to the last detail? Are your employees?
As you may have noticed, I recently updated my photos on the website and social media. I’m super pleased by the photos, and have gotten some wonderful feedback. SO, this week, let’s talk a little about headshots.
Why invest in professional headshots?
As a designer, I help you put your best business face forward – with your logo, collateral, etc. All these things are an investment – but so often we forget that we are the face of our business as well. Shouldn’t your headshots be an extension of you and your brand?
I understand the pain point of investing in professional photos, but it is more than worth it. By putting a professional face forward, you can help build trust with potential clients before they meet you. Would you rather put your business in the hands of Business A, whose CEO has a well executed photo? Or in Business B, whose CEO used a snapshot and cropped out their significant other, party drink, etc? You’d trust Business A every time.
So who did my headshots?
I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the photos, and for the record – any and all praise should go out to Mary Gardella of ‘elle and Nicole Palermo of Happily Ever After LLC. Mary is currently running some wonderful Profession’elle marathon sessions where you get a mini-photosession with 2 photos, and make-up by Nicole at a discounted price. They are the magicians behind the portraits – and I haven’t seen any bad ones yet.
Thanks, Mary and Nicole!
Sometimes, as a designer, we spend too much time on the computer. There. I said it. To all my design professors out there – you were right.
But, occasionally an opportunity comes along to do something different. That’s why I love District Bliss.
A month or so ago I got an email from Sara and Sarah asking if I’d do the paper products and giveaways for their DIY event in April – Makeup with Ariel Lewis. And of course, I jumped at the chance. Working with District Bliss is awesome, because I can stretch my creativity, and do something – anything I want to – hands on.
For the DIY event, I did Mason Jar takeaways with burlap ribbon, name tags and Hershey’s Kisses. I also did hand sewn notebooks for all the participants to write in while taking the class. Images of the final products below.
One of the best parts of going to the event was seeing participants actually using the name tags and notebooks.
Thanks, District Bliss, for another fun event! I hope to collaborate again (and again).
If you missed out on the last vendor social we collaborated on with District Bliss, have no fear! We’re creating the giveaways for their next fabulous DIY workshop on April 10 – Makeup Tips and Tricks with Ariel Lewis! Super excited to contribute, along with Popcorn Queens and Ariel Lewis. I gave away some gifts from Popcorn Queens for the holidays and they were a big hit.
Make sure to get your spot now, because they are sure to go fast.
You know the drill. It never fails. You’ll find a great client, design a beautiful flyer or brochure, and things will be going great, when the dreaded question arises. The question that strikes fear in the heart of designs everywhere.
“This looks great,” they say. “Can I get this in WORD?”
Now the above is meant to be comical, but seriously, why don’t designers design in Word? Let’s talk about this.
When you go to a designer looking for a page layout, they will likely be working for you in InDesign or Illustrator. This is not to keep you from being able to edit the files yourself. This is not to make sure you come back every time you need an update. This is simply to give you the best, professional looking design possible.
Side note: If you hire someone and they say they design everything exclusively in Word, I would run – and run fast…
InDesign and Illustrator are created for desktop publishing and graphic design. They have the ultimate amount of flexibility when it comes to layout and placement. You can have photos, text boxes with two (or three or four) columns and text boxes with one column, all on one page AND be assured that the placement never changes.
When a document is created in these programs, the designer saves a working file to make changes, but unless you are a designer or have a designer on staff, they likely provide you with a pdf. Delivery in a pdf means:
You don’t have to worry about whether or not you have the font.
You don’t have to worry about hitting a button and accidentally changing the layout.
You don’t have to worry about what version of Word you have versus what the designer has (versus what the viewer has).
You are assured that your final product is of the highest quality, and ready to be printed or emailed, depending on the agreement.
And then, the inevitable.
What about letterhead?
Letterhead is one of the exceptions. With so much correspondence happening via email, it makes sense to provide a client with a letterhead in Word. But this rarely necessitates any sort of extravagant layout. The header and footer of a design, done in InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop, is placed in the header/footer of the word document. In this case, we are using Word as it is meant to be used – as a word processing tool. All other design is happening outside the program.
All that said – I don’t hate Word. I use it for papers, letters, notes… I think it is a great tool for writing, and its many templates have went a long way to put design in the hands of non-designers. I just don’t use it to design.
At the end of the day, what I can provide a client in InDesign or Illustrator will far surpass what I can provide a client in Word – and if you are hiring me, you deserve the best I can deliver.
Like most designers, I do my best to accommodate my clients – but almost all my design quotes include 2 rounds of revisions. I have found this to be typical among designers, and reasonable if used correctly.
So, how can you make sure this works for you?
Here are my tips:
Make sure text is written the way you want it before you hand it over.
This means, for example, if something should be alphabetized, it is best to do that before you send your file. Some other common things to look out for – date order, date format (M/D/Y vs D-M-Y), capitalization, spelling, url formatting…
Make sure every stakeholder reviews the file.
I have seen situations where I go through 2 rounds of revisions with a point of contact before it goes to the decision makers. This can be costly to the client, and at times, can even result in starting over. Get text approved prior to handover – and upon receiving a first draft, involve all stakeholders. It will save you time and money.
Make sure to include as much info as you can going in.
Though a good designer will do their best to cover all the basics, it doesn’t hurt to make sure you are covering them as well. Confirm with the designer that all the specs are in order prior to beginning a job – this includes file type, size, format, previous projects that it needs to align with, etc. It is better to give too much info than too little.
Are there any other common handover mistakes that you can think of?
As the caterpillar says to Alice in Wonderland…Who Are You?
There’s been a lot of heavy debate lately about how to introduce oneself to potential clients. I consider myself a range of things – an entrepreneur, a small business owner, a design studio… The most controversial of these labels seems to be another term I use for my business – freelancer.
Is there a stigma attached to the term freelancer?
From my discussion with fellow designers and freelancers, it seems the majority say yes.
To those unfamiliar with freelancing the term freelance brings to mind “between jobs” or “work-for-hire.” For most of the freelancers I know, this couldn’t be less true.
This stigma is particularly interesting, since freelancing has become a significant part of the workforce in recent years. One would think that people would have a better understanding of what freelance can be, since according to this article from Inc., as of October 2015 more than a third of US workers were freelancers.
A consultant is essentially a freelancer – so why does that term elicit a positive response, while freelance does not? A small business owner or one man shop is a freelancer too. To be a freelancer requires an array of business skills, as well as exceptional skills in your own profession. No junior or entry level services would cover the range of skills needed to keep a business running in this way.
According to an article by Freelancers Union, the term freelancer comes from “a medieval mercenary that would offer their combat skills and weapons to the highest bidder.” That sounds pretty bad ass to me.
For those of us who have done it, we speak the term freelancer proudly. We love it. We wouldn’t do anything else. I say, we bring the glory back to freelancing. Who’s with me?
When I’m at a networking event, one of the first things that I often get asked is, what do you specialize in? While I do work on a range of projects, from web design to flyers and print collateral, my niche is branding.
The goal of Stacy Kleber Design is to be the design arm of your business. I want to know your branding as well as you do, and help you to roll it out consistently in a variety of mediums. This may mean that we develop your logo, or we develop a new logo for you – but it may also mean we work with your existing brand guidelines to further embellish your company look and feel. Your success is our success, and we seek long term relationships. We aim to help you grow, and grow with you.
I have numerous clients that see me as one of their own – and I love that. Using a freelance design studio is a great way to get quality work when your business isn’t ready to take on a full-time staff member. It is also a great way to handle temporary overflow.
If you are ready to invest in quality design, contact us today! We want to work with you.