Category: Events


On September 15th I went down to iStrategyLabs to check out ContraryCon with some of my favorite freelancers in Freelance DC.  ContraryCon advertises itself as the “anti-conference” for people who “upset, astound and evolve” the creative industry in DC. I am happy to share my favorite quotes and insights from a few of the speakers.


José Andrés

José Andrés is Chef/Owner of ThinkFoodGroup.  He talked about what it means to be disruptive.

“To be disruptive you have to get to people.” – you can’t be disruptive if no one knows about you.  You have to stop talking and start moving forward.  While it may seem fantastic, “Reach for the impossible and anywhere you fall in between will still be good for people.”

One of the inspiring things that he said was that, “Sometimes the people that seem like followers are actually leaders.” You may not feel or look like a leader in the conventional sense, but you may still be implementing big change. “At times it’s going to be unclear who is a leader and who is a follower and that’s ok – we need everybody.”


Christian Dutilh & Jacob Weinzettel

Christian and Jacob are co-owners of Composite Co, a multidisciplinary creative studio for branding. They spoke to use about being different.

“We are all born different. Later in life it takes an active effort to take pride in the fact that we are different.”

They talked about establishing their company, and repositioning.  Essentially, “repositioning yourself is about tapping into something unique and authentic and bringing that out. Be the thing. Don’t be afraid to call yourself what you are.”

In a design process, “Good taste isn’t enough – you have to have concept and rationale behind it.  Research, research, research – but then do your own thing.” They spoke about how we get bogged down in research, and often try to recreate what we see – but in reality, we should use the research to inform, and still use our intuition to guide us on the design journey.

They reminded us that “Creativity is something you can learn and hone and it doesn’t happen for no reason.” You have to practice creativity, the same way you practice every skill.  The more you use it, the more you will have…

Kalsoom Lakhani

Kalssom Lakhani is Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate. She talked to us about being vulnerable and honest as entrepreneurs.

“By not saying [doubt/fears] out loud I am stoking people’s feelings of inadequacy.” She questioned why we all put on a facade, and reminded us that by hiding our struggles, we make people believe that the struggle doesn’t exist for us, and shouldn’t exist for them.  “It’s ok to be afraid of failing.” We all are.

She also reminded us that we need to take care of ourselves first. “You can’t be in service to others if you’re not first in service to yourself.” If you sacrifice your own health and wear yourself down, you can’t be helpful to other people.

In the end, “Success is a process and not an end goal.” Our businesses are forever changing and evolving. We have to celebrate all the victories, as they are today’s success.

All in all, ContraryCon introduced me to people doing really amazing work in DC. Definitely well worth the $20 price point.  I’d recommend it, and I’ll see you there next year!


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).


I went to a networking event recently, and left with one thing on my mind – what is effective networking and are we doing it?

I felt as if a good deal of people at the event were simply there to collect business cards. While exchanging cards is important, unless we have a memorable interaction, I’m not likely to use it.

So what would make me remember you?

Meaningful interation.

Before you hand me your card, have a conversation with me. Not just about business, but about the area, the event, whatever strikes your fancy. Sometimes a witty anecdote can go a long way to break the ice.


One of the people that stood out to me was a woman I met early on – who later came back to introduce me to someone she thought might be able to use my services. Not only did she listen, but she made an effort to connect me with someone else. I’ll definitely be keeping her card.

Be a partner.

Rather than a client/contractor relationship, I like to think that I am a business partner – helping my clients make their business great through design. I take this approach to networking as well. I want a long term relationship with the people I meet, so I don’t mind if I don’t get a card from everyone in the room. One or two in depth conversations may be enough.  Who knows?

Business cards.

After all this, why is this on the list?  Have an interesting business card can be a good conversation starter.  It is also a great leave behind so I can contact you later. Just don’t use it as a replacement for a conversation.

As we write out our holiday cards, we can’t help but reflect on this year, and all the milestones that we’ve accomplished. From going full-time in February to sponsoring an event with District Bliss in November, it has been quite a year.  Below are our 10 favorite moments of 2015 – the year in review.


Stacy Kleber Design went full-time!


Attended DCdotGOV.


Taught online image tips with FuelDC and Capitol Romance.


Vader joins Stacy Kleber Design as our first fuzzy Office Assistant.



Completed signage and event design for the IB Conference of the Americas 2015.


Helped to organize Happy Hour with Freelance DC.


Sponsored an event at Kendra Scott with District Bliss.


Relocated our office the Gaithersburg, MD.  (Don’t worry!  We didn’t go far!)

Launched the new website.


Spent time at The Wilbert Group office in Atlanta.


Thank you all for being a part of this year!  We can’t wait to see what the next one brings…

We are excited to share with you some of the official photos from the District Bliss event!  All photos courtesy of Kathy Lynn Photography.

Thank you to Sara and Sarah for organizing!

One of the best parts of District Bliss is hanging out to meet new people.

Our Kendra Scott sign on the counter with two of their fab employees.

Drinks mean a chance to design some rad coasters.

The giveaway we designed for fall – sunflower seeds for planting.

Proud to be linked with these fantastic ladies!


In November we were a featured vendor for District Bliss at the Kendra Scott store in Bethesda. If you haven’t checked out Kendra Scott yet, you definitely should stop by – the jewelry is beautiful, and they have a color bar where you can chose your stones and make a unique piece that is truly your own.

For the event, we created these amazing thank you cards, signs, coasters and giveaways in Kendra Scott yellow. The designs were a big hit, and we are excited to share them with you!

Official pictures coming soon, but until then, enjoy this sneak preview!







As I mentioned in our newsletter, November is going to be an exciting month for us.  We are getting ready to be a participating vendor at the District Bliss November Social at Kendra Scott in Bethesda.  If you aren’t familiar with District Bliss, you are missing out.  Run by Sarah and Sara, an amazing photographer and wedding planner, the events are a chance for creatives and wedding vendors to mix, mingle and socialize while learning about each others businesses.  Each event has featured vendors in a variety of categories who provide work for the event – from venues to florists to photographers, and in this case, designers, which is the role I’ll be filling November 5th. Come back for a sneak preview of what I’m working on soon, and in the mean time, sign up for the event here!  It will be a blast.


Invitation Design by Stacy Kleber Design.  Photo by Paula Player Photography.

Stacy Kleber Design Fuel DC

For those who missed it, I spent one night last week with Fuel DC teaching small business owners tips to create simple images for their websites and social media.  If you aren’t familiar with Fuel DC, they run a few events a year in order to help entrepreneurs learn skills that will assist them in running their business.

While having a designer create custom graphics for you every day would be an ideal scenario, as small business owners, we all know that this would be neither cost effective nor realistic for someone who is either starting out, or is a single person business.  That is why we need to find simple, fast and lucrative ways to promote on a budget.

I covered some of the websites that I shared in my blog post earlier in March as a teaser for the event. This week I’ll recap some of the tips that I gave on designing your images for maximum effectiveness.


Keep your fonts simple, and stay away from cliches like Comic Sans. Script fonts are ok, but be wary of using them on images that will be used small, such as photos you are inserting into tweets. Script can get hard to read at small sizes.


A color wheel is a great cheat sheet for choosing colors.  Do not overlay colors on opposite side of the color wheel, or they will appear to “vibrate” to the eye (for example you wouldn’t overlay yellow text over purple, or bright red text over bright green). Stick with dark on light, and light on dark for maximum contrast.

Overlaying Text on Images

When you want to overlay text on an image, choose something that is either blurred out so that the text won’t compete, or an image with a large blank area such as a sky or a grassy field, where the text will be easily visible.


Keep your message short and simple. People skim their social media, and if they don’t get the message within a few seconds, the opportunity to hook them in is lost.


Even with all the options out there for creating images, be true to your brand. People build a relationship and come to expect a certain image from you as a business.  If you start giving them conflicting messages, and images that don’t fit your brand, you will begin to build a level of distrust with the customer.

Thanks to Studio DBI for hosting, Fuel DC and Capitol Romance for organizing and of course, thank you to everyone that attended!  Let’s get designing!

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending the DotGovDesign Conference in DC.  I’d like to share some of what I learned with you here, to give you a taste of what is going on in local government design.

Creating Motion Graphics & Video Communications – Department of Labor

The first session that I attended was Creating Motion Graphics & Video, presented by the Department of Labor. They showed their video on family leave, as well as some other interesting videos. A favorite highlight in this talk was the animation at the end of the video – where the wings flap slightly to animate the logo. While many people think of government design as restrictive, the Department of Labor staff proved that there is interesting and modern work going on, and that you should seek to constantly challenge the status quo to make each design better than the last.

Design Federal – Jason Schupbach

The next session I attended was the keynote by Jason Schupbach from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). He talked about the history of the NEA, including the many grants they have sponsored to help better the arts. These grants have touched many people, including some of the great designers like Ivan Chermayoff – who produced “The Design Necessity” for the first Federal Design Assembly. Jason mentioned that the NEA funds about 50% of design grants submitted – so start applying and get some funding!

Building Confidence in your Agency’s Leadership for New Designs and Solutions – IDEO

The next session I attended was with IDEO, and was about building confidence in design. They gave us 5 basic principles – design for someone specific, build props, everyone in government is a service designer, make the design process transparent and design for the way decisions are made.

Design for someone specific suggested that the more specific you get, the more broadly applicable your solution will be.

Build props is about making your project easy to imagine. Showing people a prototype or sketch can go a long way in helping you both sort out the wrinkles in your design, as well as get your design approved.  It starts a dialogue.

Everyone in the government is a service designer brought forth the notion that as a designer, we can empower others to see themselves as valuable contributors to the design process.

Design for the way decisions are made was one of the most insightful parts of this talk – it implies that instead of trying to fight the process, we can use it to our advantage to help get our ideas through the decision making process. It seems so obvious, and yet it is something that many people can easily overlook.

Could Design Help End Extreme Poverty? – USAID

After lunch, I attended the talk by USAID on “Could Design End Extreme Poverty?”  Again we saw video design for USAID, which seems to be an extremely effective way to engage people for cause advertising. Many of the work at USAID is done in conjunction with Ogilvy, a well known design firm. The ads were engaging and tugged at the heart strings.

Designing for 1600 Penn – Ashleigh Axios

Designing for 1600 Penn was the talk that I was most looking forward to at the conference. Ashleigh’s talk was full of interesting tidbits and insights.  Some of my favorite quotes and insights were:

Designers are creative problem solvers at heart.

In house designers have a special kind of endurance.

It is a little easier to get things done when the White House has done it before you.

Mistakes will happen. Roll with them.

40% of lower income families only check internet on mobile, so think about how you strip your site down for that screen size. 

Ashleigh showed us an extensive wall plan for the enhanced State of the Union address – with layers upon layers of infographics, the President’s speech and key facts that could be interspersed for viewers.

She also consistently proved that no matter where you work or who you work for, design is design and things happen. From a slide not showing up on the President’s Powerpoint to “handling the crazy,” it seems life at 1600 Penn is not so different from life at our other in house design studios.

Thank you AIGA DC for organizing the DotGovDesign Conference!


In April, I’m giving a talk about creating simple graphics for your business with Fuel DC.  In the spirit of that, I thought I’d introduce a few things to help you here on the blog.


There are many resources for the entrepreneur who is trying to create simple images for their blog, social media or website.  One of my favorites is Canva.  Canva makes it incredibly easy for you to create graphics for all your business needs by offering you a variety of pre-sized dimensions, including Facebook cover photo, instagram post, etc. From there, you add text and images to create an appealing design.  Canva has a handful of free choices, as well as a variety of designs that cost a very small fee to implement, and is great for someplace with a small budget. Though nothing beats a design eye, Canva is the next best thing to hiring someone to design posts for you. is a great resource for creating charts, infographics, etc to dress up your website or newsletter. You can choose your type of graph, input your numbers and colors, and viola!  A chart that looks so much better than the ones that come out of an excel spreadsheet. For a small fee, you can sign up for a subscription that will allow you to download the graphics as pdfs. For a designer, this means you can bring them into Illustrator as vector art, and manipulate them til your heart’s content.

Font Squirrel

Font Squirrel is a great resource for downloading fonts that are free for commercial use. What I love about Font Squirrel compared to some other font sites is that they take the guess work out of it for you. All of their fonts are licensed for commercial use, which means while it is still advisable to read the licensing agreement, most of them can be used on any of your professional marketing products.


Unsplash is one of my favorite sites for free stock photos. They upload 10 high quality photos every 10 days, and those photos are free for to use for commercial purposes without permission or attribution.  Now, there are a lot of stock photo sites out there, but these are downright beautiful. They may not be a fit for every business, but they are certainly worth a look around.

I hope that we have given you some ideas on how to create simple graphics for your business in a cost effective way.  Happy designing!  For more information and to continue the discussion, join me at Fuel DC in April!

*Note: All sites above are to be used at your own discretion. Stacy Kleber Design is not affiliated with them in any way, and makes no guarantees about the quality of the information or the licensing.