from the Design Lab
If you really take the time to look, design is everywhere. Sometimes, it’s what makes you choose one bottle of wine over another; other times it is actually influential in choosing a business or service over another. A strong brand can be something very powerful for any business the same way a weak one can hold it back from thriving.
There is no shortage of amazing designers out there. All you need to do is browse through a magazine like HOW or Communication Arts to wet your whistle with gorgeous creativity. There truly is a style and aesthetic out there to fit everyone’s taste, need as well as budget. Yes, design is a job, a damn good one and well worth the investment.
Now, for someone who is just starting out in their business, hiring a graphic designer to do a custom brand suite for them can seem like a high target, but there are good ways (and not so good ones) to get around this and still get a logo you are happy with and still be able to pay your bills. Starting a business of any kind is not easy, but starting off right is crucial for future success.
A lot of people get sticker shock when shopping around for a designer, and while I believe there are designers out there to fit any budget, I firmly believe that you get what you pay for and that really good design has a high value. There is a time and place for pro-bono work and maybe even for a discounted rate, but I hope my fellow creatives will always value their work and time enough to price it accordingly, and that clients out there will understand and appreciate that value as well. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you study this chart from one of my favorite designers out there, Jessica Hische: Should I work for Free?
Design on a Dime: The Good
Nowadays, there is a great selection of packaged design suites to help businesses look professional but still remain within budget. You can purchase these items and customize them to a certain extent. Most of them are easy to use and ready to be sent to print. Sites like Design Aglow, The Shoppe and Brand Sushi are some of my personal favorites.
Another way I recommend is to trade services with a designer who is either just starting out or who can benefit from a service you have to offer, for example, maybe you are a photographer, offer the designer to take portfolio photos of her work as a trade.
The Bad: The only downside I can think of to going the packaged route, especially for branding, is that the convenient “one-size-fits-all” nature is just that. If enough people fall in love and purchase the same brand suite, you will in fact start looking like your competition, when the purpose of brading is to separate you from the pack in the first place.
The Ugly: As a consumer and client,I would be weary of websites that sell logos as if they were stock images. Chances are, you don’t know just how many people have purchased the same logo; and the last thing you need as a new business owner is a copyright infringement lawsuit, or to find your lovely new logo you bought on the business card of your competition.
Which brings me to our specialty, custom design, or as I like to call it, One-Size-Fits-You.
Which is exactly what photographers Melody McFarland and Jesse Freidin were looking for when they came to us. Both photographers, both creative people, different needs.
Jesse Freidin is an established and wildly celebrated dog photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jesse already has a strong brand and a very well defined style in his wok and the way he handles his business image. When he came to us, he was in need of some branded items such as postcards, gift cards and auction certificates. He wanted these items to be classy and elegant without being snobby, and he wanted a hand-made look to keep it consistent with his work-style (Jesse only shoots with film and develops, prints and frames each photograph by hand). Having the products printed locally was very important to Jesse (always listen to your clients and value their wishes) and as a small business ourselves, we greatly appreciate that.
Here’s what Jesse had to say about working on this project together:
“I was drawn to Design Lab’s clean and simple design, and creative use of color and textures. For my projects, a subtle ‘hand-made’ feeling has been an important aspect, and the Design Lab team is able to balance that nostalgic feel with a modern approach. I really appreciated that my products were designed first on paper by a talented artist, then put onto the computer and perfectly fitted to my company’s needs.
As an artist who is constantly juggling new projects and clients, I am always impressed at how Design Lab can quickly and creatively tackle any job I throw at them. Communication was easy and constant throughout each project, which allowed me to feel relaxed, confident, and productive each step of the way.
I’d recommend Design Lab to anyone looking for modern, hand-crafted design and branding. You certainly don’t have to have a dog-related business to get a lot out of what this team has to offer.”
In photographer Melody McFarland’s case however, the mission was to re-brand herself. Melody felt disconnected from her previous logo and wanted to better represent herself and her business Melody Pet Photography. Mel and I had met at a workshop and stayed in touch. She had been following our work for some time and decided to contact us.
“I met Nat a few years ago at a pet photography workshop. We stayed in touch over the years via Facebook and as I got to know her better, it knew I wanted her to design a logo for me. It goes without saying that she’s an extraordinarily talented illustrator and designer, but that’s not what attracted me to her. It was her sweetness, her good-will and her genuine and deep sense of empathy and compassion for animals and other people. I make it a point to support businesses run by good, quality people and I found that in both Nat and Bill. I knew that people who cared so much about other beings were going to do their very best to make me happy as a client. That type of goodness runs deep.
I was certain of the type of look I wanted but had no idea how to go about articulating that. Nat took the time to really think about me as a person and what I am all about. She came up with the most thoughtful, special representation of both me and my business I could have imagined. It might not mean much to others, but there’s a lot behind it that Nat was able to bring to life. I am so glad I met her and that we were able to work together. The whole process was a blast and I can’t wait to start on the next one!”
An essential part of starting a new logo/ brand for someone is a design brief, a questionnaire of sorts that will help you as a designer get a sense of what your client is looking for and often times, helps the client too in clarifying their ideas and expectations for the project. Melody was so thorough and honest in her answers that “getting” her was a breeze and understanding her needs and wants for her new logo was not only easier, but fun!
The logo itself has a vintage/library feel with a touch of modern. Mel loves vintage lithograph style illustration and wanted a dog incorporated in her logo without falling into the same pattern of silhouettes many other pet photographers use. I asked her if she had a “favorite dog” that we could take inspiration from to develop a litho-style illustration for her and she provided some photos of a dog very dear to her named Little Buddy, who had recently passed away. Immortalizing him and making him the new face of her business seemed a good way to pay tribute to her good friend. If you know Melody and know Little Buddy’s story, you get a sense of what her values are both personally and professionally, and that is something she brings to every gorgeous photograph she crafts. She is now in the process of transferring her new brand across her website and marketing materials.
Since we make these illustrations by hand and then scan them in to use digitally, we decided to send the original drawing to Melody, as a thank you for working with us and a tribute to Little Buddy.
Portrait of Little Buddy created witha micro pigment pen.
Working with amazing clients like Jesse and Melody makes our job incredibly enjoyable… I can’t honestly call it a “job” most of the time and we are such a small company focused on quality vs quantity, that every client becomes a friend. Feedback like this from clients is invaluable to us and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with them.
If you are interested in working with us on your next project or would like to enquire about our process, please contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org with your project details.