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 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…
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!
Last Fall, in addition to running this business, I taught Intro to Graphic Design at the University of District of Columbia. Creating lessons gave me a chance to revisit what I love about design, as well as to remember some of the finer points that we often let slip by in our hurry to create the next big thing.
Graphic design is about ideas and problem solving, first and foremost, but to create GOOD design, you also need to pay attention to the details. Here are a few of the finer, but often forgotten, points of typesetting long documents:
A widow is a single word on the last line of a paragraph. Widows create extra white space between paragraphs and distract the eye. Widows call for manual adjusting of the paragraphs to eliminate the space.
An orphan is a single word or very short line ending a paragraph at the top of the next column or page. Orphans look out of place, and distract the eye of the reader. Again, manual adjusting of the paragraphs may be necessary to create an additional line, or to condense so the line ends the previous page or column.
Rivers are created in justified columns when spaces accidentally align to form a path through the type. Letter spacing can be manually modified to reduce the alignment issue.
Paying Attention to Rag
When setting text flush-left, rag-right, a good rag should flow in and out with small differences from line to line. It should not create a pattern or shape that distracts the reader and creates odd white space. This can be modified by letter spacing or soft returns in the paragraphs to create more even line lengths.
Good kerning means that the letters have equal VISUAL space between them – so that no letter or group of letters is separated out. This is especially important in titles and headlines. While this may seem trivial, making something hard to read can completely distort the message. If you want to try your hand at kerning, check out this type game about proper letter spacing.
What other key points in Graphic Design do you feel get overlooked?
I hear it all the time. Someone brings up design for their business, and a friend chimes in “I got a [insert cheap price here] [insert project here] on 99designs (or other bid for design site)! You should try there!” Hearing it makes me cringe. While there may be some wonderful diamond in the rough designers on those sites, more often than not, you get what you pay for. What’s the difference? Let’s talk about what you get from working with a professional.
Logos are expensive. They are an investment. Your designer is designing something totally unique to your company. They are adjusting every detail – making sure every line is smooth, and every letter is kerned perfectly so that you can use it with confidence. Logos involve research, a thorough understanding of the company and hours of design. In addition, many professionals include a brand guide on how to use the logo, and a variety of versions for different media. If you are working with a company that designs $10 logos, do you really thing every design is fresh? That they put in the time to understand you and your company?
I have experience working with both designers and typesetters to produce multipage books with various headings/photos/etc, and I can tell you, there is a huge difference between paying $10-12 a page to have something typeset, and paying a designer to design your book. While typesetting may work well enough for a text heavy document, a more complex workbook or annual report really needs a designer. A designer will react to how things fall on the page, and alter the designs accordingly. Visually, the design will be easier on the eyes and will flow better. The time saved by someone paying attention to every page will far surpass the cost. Trust me.
Websites are another project that can be greatly impacted by what you spend. A few years ago, I was doing research on wedding photographers, and I can tell you, the more I went to, the more I saw the patterns of people choosing the SAME template. While templates are great, and I sometimes recommend starting with them, they often benefit from being heavily modified and customized. A poorly customized template can make it difficult and costly to make changes in the future. Not doing the research and choosing the same template as the competition, on the other hand, keeps you from standing out. A professional will not only give you something easy to work with, but they will likely make sure your template is different enough to set you apart from the competition.
Overall, you pay for experience, and experience means you gain from the knowledge the designer has accumulated over their tenure. They know a logo needs to be workable in black and white, because they’ve sent projects off in one color. They know you need extra margins for a saddle stitch book, because they have a sample at their house. They know what plugins you need to keep people from hacking your site.
In the end, you’ll spend far less time “fixing” later by using a professional.
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).
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.
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.
Let’s get personal for a minute. It has been almost a year since I took the plunge into full-time freelance, and the year has been a ride. Here are 5 things I’ve learned as I took the leap into self-employment.
1. You will work harder than ever before.
As a freelancer, you get a lot of freedom. Want to wake up at 9am? Do it. Want to go to the store in the middle of the day? Done. But like they say on Once Upon a Time – “Magic comes with a price.” In freelancing, that price is that only you can get the work done. Sick days? Days off? They only sort of exist, because if you are on a deadline, there is no one there to pick up the slack for you. You will work harder than ever before. But…that brings us to number 2.
2. It will be more rewarding than ever before too.
I work harder than ever before, but because the work is mine, I want to. I love my clients, and I love the feeling of satisfaction finishing up that job that I’ve been striving toward for ages. I do a bigger range of work now, and I find that extremely rewarding. Instead of an employee, I am a partner – helping people achieve their business goals. That is an incredible responsibility, but it also comes with a lot of satisfaction.
3. There will be quiet times. This is ok.
I am still working on this one. There are times when all your projects are out for review, and the work is…well, done. You sit down, and you stare at your inbox, and you wonder what the next email will be. It is scary – but it is ok. I consider these days “forced days off” – days to recharge my batteries and work on the projects that keep my business running, like updating my website, writing blog posts, etc. And tomorrow, either I will find work or work will find me.
4. Everyone will say, “It must be so nice. You can turn down work you don’t want.”
One of the first things I hear when I tell people I freelance is – “I wish I had the courage to do that.” The next is “It must be so nice to turn down the projects you don’t want.” While this is nice in theory, it isn’t the reality, at least not for someone building their business. I want to get my name out there – I am hungry for projects. And while I won’t devalue my work or take less money than I deserve, I will rarely turn down a project because I “don’t want it.”
5. You are not alone.
Sometimes, freelancing is isolating. Not everyone understands how it works. People will think you are between jobs. People will think you are taking this monumental risk. Maybe you are. But there are many, many other people out there like you, who are waking up every day and setting their own schedules, and they are hungry to connect. Freelance DC has been a huge resource for me this year. I’ve found clients, and I’ve found friends. Find your group – they are looking for you too.
Here’s to another year of learning, growth and partnerships with great clients and friends.