From Branding

Adventures in Branding: What is your brand personality?

My friendly web design studio, Aeolidia, is well-known for creating custom Shopify websites for creative businesses – handmakers, designers, and crafters of all types. It is always thrilling when a client comes to us who really understands what her business is all about and what the personality of her business is, but she hasn’t been able to translate that to a logo and solid brand identity. Then we get to start from the start and make it all make sense – usually to the joy and amazement of our client. No better feeling than learning and understanding the point of view of a brand and making it come to life in just the right way.

What does “branding” mean, anyway?

You can think of your brand as the personality of your business. What does your business offer your customer that no other business can? Your brand should speak directly to your target customer, making you THE only choice for them. There are hundreds of options when someone decides to buy a cup of coffee – why are so many people at Starbucks? Branding.

To create a brand for your business, you don’t start with the logo. You start by brainstorming what’s unique about what you do, and putting together a description of your business’ personality which highlights why a customer will want to choose you over others. Once you know what your business is about, you’ll have an effective starting point for making sure your products, your logo, your marketing materials, and your advertising all make sense with your brand identity.

Excerpted from Branding Your Company on our blog

Brand identity examples

Jessika asked me to share some brand identity examples from our studio, and today I have Posie, a shop selling handmade stuffed animal kits, Little Hip Squeaks, makers of adorable graphic children’s wear, and Umba, who empower artist entrepreneurs.

A delicate, cozy logo for Posie

Alicia writes the Posie Gets Cozy blog, and she designs original patterns for sewing, knitting, embroidery, crochet, and other craft projects, and also manufactures kits to accompany her designs. She also sells a small, curated collection of her favorite supplies that are handpicked specifically to help customers make her projects.

She has been in business since 2000, doing it all herself, and the time finally came this year to work with professionals on a cohesive brand identity.

Posie Gets Cozy Logo by Aeolidia

Before we began, Alicia told us:

I want the logo to feel handmade. Since everything I do is handmade, I think it’s important that it feel sort of painterly and natural but still detailed — in an old-fashioned embroidery-pattern kind of way. I don’t want it to feel computerized. All of my embroidery patterns or sewing patterns, whether self-published or in my books, have been done by hand, by me, in black marker, and I will most likely always do them that way. So I want these drawings to have that simple, clean, black-outlined feel. But I also want the elements themselves to feel a little tangled, a little enchanted, and a bit wild. So I also envision having some elements that are not outlined but are more like circles of color that float a bit (I’m thinking about dandelion puffs and seed pods), and lead off.

It was such a delight to bring Alicia’s world perfectly to life! Mariah DeMarco on our team was her designer, and the brand identity includes some of Alicia’s own illustration work.

Learn more about how Alicia runs her business and how it’s grown on our blog.

Little Hip Squeaks’ graphic & handmade brand

It hasn’t been that long, but Little Hip Squeaks’ identity feels like an Aeolidia “classic” to me already!

Little Hip Squeaks believes that kids are fun, and their clothes should be, too! Our aesthetic is for of bright colors and bold prints, with modern babies, tots and kiddos in mind.

In the winter of 2010, Little Hip Squeaks was started at a kitchen table, in a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. Originally a side project for founder Amy Richardson, to keep her hands busy during pregnancy — sewing newborn hats for her not-yet-born son, and the new babies of good friends from thrifted t-shirts.

Little Hip Squeaks logo by Aeolidia

Amy came to us with these problems to solve:

The growth of our brand has been pretty major over the last 6 months—although I am a designer myself, I never seem to find the “it” this brand needs to have. Too busy with growing the biz, I can’t focus, or even think of what direction I’d like to take the logo and identity. We are a children’s brand, playful but luxury and sophisticated, so I don’t want to look childish, but I also want to be obviously a brand for children.

We are about to embark on the world of manufacturing, and have a lot of major internal changes for our company—we are also working with several major retailers, and feel that before I invest in tagging/branding I want to REALLY love our logo and brand.

Amy’s designer was Christine Castro Hughes on our team, and she shared,

You gave me great, clear direction: strong typography, curvy, modern, sophisticated, and playful but not childish. Something that appeals to hip, young, modern women.

I created four hand-drawn concepts, each with an accompanying monogram. In order to avoid getting cutesy, I kept the type clean with simple illustrative elements (including one sketch with olive branches, like you requested). I also tried to avoid anything too trendy, like the arrows that I agree are now seen everywhere. I think a logo that “holds back” a little will have a longer life span for you and continue to fit your brand as the seasons change and your business grows.

Learn more about Little Hip Squeaks and see more about this project on our blog.

Umba’s whimsical modern-vintage brand

Founder Lauren Thorp told us:

We started Umba (from a Swahili word meaning “to create”), as a way to better connect makers + consumers in a more dynamic way. As Umbassadors (our team of social-savvy sales reps) gather their network of friends & family in homes across the country at fun and social Trunk Shows, they’re able to effectively share the positive impact that buying handmade has on the makers’ lives.

Umba logo by Aeolidia

Lauren wanted something clean, but with character and unique elements. She was looking for something somewhat vintage, but modern, with a bit of whimsy. She told us that she was a fan of hand-lettering, and her designer, Christine, created this logo with a brush on paper, bringing it into Illustrator to create a vector logo that can be scaled to any size without losing quality.

How do you describe your brand?

If your brand was a person, could you describe her? Can you easily look at a product or design and know if it fits with your brand or does not? Is it time to get clear on what your brand stands for?

We have quite a handful of branding articles on our blog that will be helpful (with more info about the projects above), and I often send people to Why You Need to Start With the Logo when they’re not convinced that their brand identity is worth spending some time on.

I’d love to hear more about the words and images and principles that fit with your own brand in the comments.

Adventures in Branding with Tara Swiger

Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger

I recently had the experience every designer dreams of-an enthusiastic client who was able to clearly explain their brand story & customer + had a love for spaceships! From the second Tara Swiger emailed me about redesigning her branding and website I knew we were going to have a grand time working together, so even though I wasn’t even looking for new projects I said yes!  Her work is all about exploration and enthusiasm, two things that couldn’t be closer to my heart. A new brand, like any good adventure, is exciting and also often a little scary. There is such a pressure to get it right since a brand is the public face of the business and it is a big investment, I’m so glad Tara agreed to visit us to show off her new brand and tell us a bit about lessons learned from our exploration in rebranding!

We’re talking all about adventure and exploration this month on OMHG & together we just went on a giant adventure together to rebranded your business and launch your new website! I’d love to start by asking when/how did you realize you had outgrown your old branding and website? What was no longer working for you? 

Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger
I’ll be totally honest with you – my old site never felt quite right. I had hired a (very talented) website designer when what I really wanted was visual brand. She did beautiful work and my site was well done (and my readers loved it). Not being happy with it was entirely my fault – I wasn’t clear AT ALL what I wanted (I literally didn’t know what it was called, or what this uneasy feeling of “I want everything to be cohesive and reflect my voice” really meant).
So really, I never had “old branding” – just things I had slapped together and a few buttons + the framework from my first redesign. But I  desperately wanted my site to look how it felt to read it, or to be in one of my programs. I wanted it to reflect the things that students and clients say drew them to work with me: You’re unabashedly goofy! I appreciate your honesty. You’re so cheerful!
 
But I’m a word person, not a graphics person. So I can’t explain how to make the site feel a certain way…I just need it to do that.
Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger 

Before the first mock up is ever created there is a whole process of getting to know each other and exploring your business – did you find that process valuable for you? 

Yes! You sent great questions ahead of time, and I giggled over how similar they are to questions I ask clients when they’re getting comfortable talking about their work (ie, marketing). Even though I’m always asking readers to explore what they want to say and how they want their work to make their buyers feel, it was so valuable to have someone make ME do that!
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Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger: Mock ups
First round of concepts for Tara’s new logo
 

What was your favourite part of the design process? What part did you find most challenging? 

I loved seeing how you interpreted my weird, space-explorer themes into something visual! I loved seeing myself through someone else’s eyes (especially someone who loves me and gets me). But this is also the most challenging part – it’s hard to let someone else’s vision represent you in the world, even when it’s spot-on and it feels so right (more about this in a minute!).
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I’ve noticed designers don’t usually talk about how branding can be an emotional experience for people. I often feel part of my job while designing is to help clients navigate those ups and downs! Did any big emotional shifts happen for you during your rebrand? 

Ugh. Yes! The whole process was smooth and decisive – you showed me something + I would love + approve it (or suggest a few tweaks). So it was a total surprise when I first saw it all on my site…and I freaked out. I literally laid down and cried. It took me a while to recognize what my issue was. I was suddenly saying to the world: This new, cohesive, friendly, fun vibe is a visual representation of WHO I AM. And when you dive in, I’m going to live up to it. 
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In other words, after years of seeing real shifts in my customers lives, I have every confidence once I start working with someone. But to have that kind of confidence (and demonstrate it via a professional and just-right design) up front, as soon as they land on the site required a BIG shift. I had to recognize: This IS me. My work deserves this beautiful home in order to serve the people it will help. 
Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger: Round 2
Exploring layouts in round two

We chatted a bit about how investing in a new, more functional website & beautiful brand is a lot like moving from a well loved but too small apartment into your first house. How are you settling in to your new digs? 

It took me a day or two to find my spatulas and cardigans (we also installed a new shopping cart, WooCommerce), but a few weeks in, it’s as natural as ever. 
 

Do you have any suggestions or advice for other makers or creative entrepreneurs who are wondering if they are ready to grow by investing in a designer? 

A few things: 
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1. Get clear on what you do and who you are. 
Spend time clarifying your own message. What does your business DO for your buyers? Who do you serve? What’s your overall mission? What’s your vision of where you’re going? (I help you define your mission in Chapter 2 of my book). This isn’t just about your visual brand, this will also inform the words you use, the photos you share, and how you show up on all social media. 
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In other words, you’re not ready to invest in a designer until you’ve invested the time in becoming clear on your message. 
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2. Do the math. 
Know your overhead, what you earn each month and what you can afford to pay a designer while still paying yourself. This may sound obvious, but I talk to a lot of makers who feel “ready” for a redesign but have no idea how much money their business has to invest. Dig in and be honest. (And if you need to, save up!)
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3. There’s nothing wrong with going slow. 
You do not need a gorgeous design right out of the gate; you need a clear message. Good design will make that message more clearly communicated…but if you don’t know your message, the best design won’t be able to deliver value. And it’s OK to not know your message in the beginning. Keep working, connecting with your people, and learn from them. Over time a bigger message will evolve and the right design will light it up. 
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Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger: Brand IdentityYou’ve got a lovely new brand with spaceships & all kinds of goodness, what is next for you? How are you hoping that this new branding will help you grow your business? 

What’s next? I’m always writing, creating new explorations, and continuing to support explorers. Just last week I launched a new podcast, confirmed a new digital teaching opportunity, and I’m scheduling more workshops around the country! I also have a new book that is waiting for my attention.
 
My real hope for the design was simply that it would make visitors, readers, and students feel more comfortable and at ease. I want what they read to match up with how they feel when they land. That leads to growth because feeling comfortable -> increased trust -> deeper relationships…and that’s where my sales come from – relationships with the makers I’m helping. 
 
Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger: Brand Identity Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger: Brand Identity Adventures In Branding: A Brand Exploration with Tara Swiger: Brand Identity
Tara’s new branding in action!

I’d love if you could share a bit about working with me & your experience having me design your new brand!

Working with Jessika was a dream! I have no idea how to communicate about visual stuff, but she asked the right questions and made sure she really understood what my business does + stands for. I loved all of the samples she made for me – but one was just perfect right from the start! It felt amazing to have all my words + ideas represented by something that felt SO ME. (As a maker, it’s hard to believe anyone else could make something that would feel SO ME, but she did it.) Since letting Jessika loose on my site, email subscribers (my biggest sales driver) have increased faster than ever + new opportunities have come my way (people are understanding what I do!). 

Visit Tara’s new site taraswiger.com + connect with her special brand of awesome on Twitter & Facebook!

Want to work with me on your branding? Learn more about Oh My! Design here.

Designing a collection – how to stay sane and organised

Designing A Collection: How to Stay Sane & Organized, Sam Osborne for Oh My! Handmade
When you’re creating a new range or collection there are lots of elements that need to come together and it’s easy to lose control of one or more of them if you don’t stay organised and focused. Here are a few organisational tips I learned during the creation of my latest Wondercook collection.
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Getting started:

The start is, in some ways, the hardest part of any project. It’s easy to procrastinate and go round in circles. Most creatives aren’t great with the ‘you can do anything, anytime’ approach so it’s good to put a framework around the project to give you some focus and help get you started.
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  • Write a brief. It doesn’t have to be too specific, maybe no more than a general theme (for my new range it was simply food and cooking). It should be something that interests you and that you think you can continue to be interested in for a while – you’ll be living with it for a long time! Don’t forget to also think about your audience, what kind of people are they? What do they like?
  • What’s the timeframe? Setting a goal for when you’d like to be finished is important. I hung up a big wall planner and stuck a pin in the date I wanted to go live with everything. Seeing it there everyday helped get me moving, it’s amazing how quickly the days start to disappear!
  • Do you have everything you need? Is your workplace tidy and inviting? Do you need to do any research? It’s easy to decide that you can’t make a start today because your desk is a mess or your computer files need reordering. Do it now and get yourself all set up.

Keep the designs moving:

Staying on track when you’re in the design phase can be quite hard. It’s super easy to get lost in the fun of designing, which is awesome, but it can lead to delays in actually getting the work done.
  • Find a workflow that works for you to keeps things moving. I allow myself a set period of time at the start of a project to go crazy, have fun and explore the theme without the pressure of thinking about the end product. Then when it comes to playing out the design for specific products I’ve got loads of icons, motifs and designs to play with – this stops the blank canvas anxiety and saves me lots of time!
  • Keep an eye on the timescale you’re working towards and set yourself deadlines. When I started this collection I wrote a big project plan that included all the phases of creating the range, from initial visuals, through the design phase and manufacturing time. From that plan I then set myself weekly goals so I knew what I was aiming for and could focus on that.
  • Get help, it’s really useful to have someone that you can tell about your goals and deadlines who will check in with you to see how you’ve done that week. OMHG Community members got together recently as accountability partners and this helped hugely during the design phase of this range (thank you Joy!).

Managing manufacture and money:

There is lots more to a collection than the design and creation side. You’ll need to spend a lot of time organising suppliers and/or manufacturers and ensuring that your costs, margins and prices are right so that you can be sure of making some money.

  • Shop around. Whether you make your products yourself by hand or work with manufacturers it’s always good to shop around to find the best people, products and price. I keep a big list in my google docs account of suppliers and price up every possible option before deciding who and what to go with. Don’t forget to send for samples – seeing the items for yourself before buying makes a huge difference, keep notes about the samples with your suppliers info so it’s all in one place for the future.
  • Spreadsheets are your friend (honestly). The amount of costs you need to take into account can feel overwhelming, especially if your brain isn’t wired for numbers. I’m not a natural spreadsheet person, in fact I usually run a mile from them, but it’s hard to see where your costs are going without them. So I dug deep and built a spreadsheet where I can enter unit costs from suppliers or manufacturers at one end, add percentages for design and admin and it works out my overall costs, wholesale prices and retail prices. Find more info on working out your product costs here.

The last mile:

.This can be the worst bit of any project, you think you’ve sorted everything then you realise there are key things you haven’t even thought about or the amount of little tasks left to sort out starts to feel overwhelming.

  • Get yourself a nice new notebook and write The Big List. You’ll feel much better once it’s all down on paper and then you can start ticking items off. I also have a big board on the wall of my studio that I use to keep track of everything, seeing it up on the wall helps make sure nothing is missed and I love the feeling of wiping each one off as I’ve done them!
  • Set a deadline for when it will go live. Not telling the world a ‘go live’ date can be appealing, especially when you’re not sure that you’ll ever make it through the items on your list, but honestly this really helps. Name a date, tell people about it and you’ll have no choice but to stick to it!
  • Reorganise your time. The old adage that 20% of the work takes 80% of the time is true, this last bit will take way longer than you think so try and clear your decks if you can. Reschedule other work, fill the freezer with easy cook meals (or put the takeaway on speed dial), arrange extra childcare or decide that the hoovering can wait.

My Wondercook collection is available now from www.sam-osborne.co.uk/shop

So just a few simple bits of organisation can really help keep a big project like this on track. How do you organise your projects? Do you have any top tips to share?