Community Critiques #1: Jus Shar Designs

Oh My! Handmade Community Critiques, Jus Shar Designs

I am so excited about today’s post!!!! Random.org picked comment #54 from Beth of Jus Shar Designs to be the winner of our first ever Community Critiques post! Beth wrote:

oh my handmade community critiques, 4 foundations for a cohesive brand

16 years is a long time to be nursing any baby and I’m hoping we can help Beth wean her biz! I’m happy to be able to offer Beth my loving thoughts and open the critique up to our community to share their insight and suggestions. Jus Shar Designs sells knit and crochet accessories and home decor items handmade by Beth in North Carolina. She’s been selling on Etsy since 2008 and as she mentioned in her submission, she feels like she is running in circles trying to get her business off the ground.  She has built a sizeable following on Twitter and a presence on Facebook but this isn’t converting into sales. Beth also mentioned that she doesn’t feel there is any consistency in her business and doesn’t know where to start.

We are going to start right there! In real estate selling might be all location but in visual branding it is consistency, consistency, consistency. If you want to take your business from hobby to money maker you need to frame your product and story in a package that is recognizable to your market and that reflects the core of your brand.  Currently Beth is using a different font, graphic, and colour palette for each of her pages online. This is confusing to buyers and might be a part of the reason why her social media following isn’t connecting with her products. Let’s take a look at Beth’s Etsy banner, website shop page and homepage today (you can also check out her Twitter and Facebook pages to help you get a complete picture of her brand).

Jus Shar Designs community critique, oh my handmade

So we’ve identified an area of Beth’s business that could use support-she needs a cohesive brand identity. Now we’re going to help her break down the steps to transform her visual brand.  Keeping your fonts, colours, and graphics consistent across everything-from your website to your business cards, automatically gives your business a professional look and competitive edge. In order to decide on a look Beth needs to go adventuring to identify the heart of her brand (luckily Lisa of Moxie Pear can help with that).

We’re going to pretend that Beth has given me 5 core brand keywords:

  • Handmade
  • Feminine
  • Whimsical
  • Fibre
  • Cute

I’ve always been a visual person so going on this I’m going to create a mock brand for Jus Shar Designs that will help showcase Beth’s work and set the stage for the rest of the work to be done. Here are my 4 foundations for a cohesive brand:

  1. Recognizable logo that reflects the brand’s core values.
  2. Consistent colour palette & tone for visual branding (this includes photos!).
  3. Carefully chosen fonts that are in line with the brand values AND current design trends without being dated or trendy (Zoe’s got you covered here if you need some lessons in font basics)
  4. Graphic elements that complement and reinforce the overall branding & help tell the story. For this mock up I used these designs from The Ink Nest.
Oh My! Handmade Community Critiques, Jus Shar Designs

 

Want to see those elements in action? Here is an example of what Jus Shar Designs new Etsy banner could look like:

Jus Shar Designs mock etsy banner

 

Of course even with a foundation of a strong brand identity the work doesn’t end! I would suggest Beth chart a timeline for the next six months that begins with setting a relaunch day and putting her shop on vacation (what?! yes! brilliance doesn’t happen overnight) for at least a month. She can connect with her online community while she works hard at getting to the heart of her brand and pulling out her key words, developing a guide like the one above to define her brand identity, and creating new visual branding (either DIY or hiring help). I would suggest taking time to set a budget for the relaunch that can be anywhere from $100-$1000+ and then deciding where to invest it strategically.

To take it even further Beth could do some research into current market trends and styles then pull together a curated line of 16 pieces for the relaunch that includes elements of the colour palette chosen for the rebrand. Limiting the launch collection to 16 items will help Beth focus in on taking new photos for that selected line and crafting her product descriptions with care while keeping the new shop looking stocked. The photos should play off the new design to further tell the story; like this, or this if you have no model, or even this if you want to get creative.  They don’t need to be professional photos but the best image always wins so aim for bright, well lit pictures that are, you guessed it, consistent throughout all your listings.

I know I just handed poor Beth a few months worth of homework and now it is your turn to give and get support! Share your kind & loving feedback for Beth and Jus Shar Designs + your ideas for how she can make her brand more cohesive in the comments. If you want to enter for your own critique also share the one area of your business you feel needs support. Remember,  no criticism, only kindness friends! Big hugs and hoorays for Beth being brave enough to let us look at her business so publicly, thank you! I can’t wait to see how this baby of yours grows up!

I will draw a random winner from the comments below for our next community critiques post on November 19 with the next post published November 29th. You can get more details on how our critiques work right here

Happy commenting!

32 comments

  1. Gaia says:

    Oh this is great! I think the advice is spot on. And kudos to you Beth for putting yourself out there!

    I would encourage you to consider raising your prices, and/or offer a higher-end (more expensive) version of an item. –Use super nice yarn, or a trickier pattern etc. A relaunch is the perfect time to do this.

    It might be fun to also think about your line in terms of collections. Fall, Winter, Spring or even just centered around a theme. I think it would make the shop feel a bit more cohesive, would provide some incentive for shoppers, and could be a creative boost for you!

    Beth, I’m so impressed with people who can knit and crochet– you do wonderful work! I’m so excited for you.

    • Jessika says:

      @Gaia you rock! Thank you for sharing this great advice that any biz can be inspired by-people often spend too much time thinking of filler/low cost items instead of bringing on the luxe!

      @Kylie-You are so very welcome! Thanks for visiting us here in the comments, I love your writing:)

  2. Stacey says:

    Beth – your work is fantastic (I love mutli-coloured mitts!), but there is room for improvement.

    Is there a way to get locally produced yarns to make some of your products? Maybe making a couple of pieces with local yarn and promoting them that way will help build up your brand within your immediate community.

    Like Gaia suggested, collections are a great idea – seasons, palettes, themes… all really good ideas for collections.

  3. Beth says:

    Thank you!

    I recognize that I tend to be “all over the place” where my creating is concerned. I love to work with my hands, and I want to try almost everything I see. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t knit, crochet, or both. Literally.

    I am so excited about this opportunity. You have no idea. I feel so fortunate to be able to learn from others traveling down the same road. THANK YOU!

  4. Brittany says:

    I love what you did with Just Shar’s branding! Amazing. Can’t wait to see how she uses it.

    I just launched my business, and am so excited about it, but have so many things on my mind I just hardly know where to start. I need to drive traffic to my site, develop products, PR, marketing…the list goes on! I could use help with focusing, and making sure what I have developed so far is appealing.

    Thank you!

  5. Katharine says:

    I think the font recommendations are KEY here – there is no reason that anyone in business should be using Comic Sans. Advise on better product photography is also key! Especially if you’re selling through etsy, which prioritises high quality, high depth of field photography.

  6. Lisa says:

    I feel for Beth! I also knit + crochet and I know how hard it is to get seen above the crowd. My best advice is to pick a theme for your products, and stick to it. It seems like you are already designing towards teen girls, so getting more photos with models would do wonders. Edit your photos, because right now your photos are inconsistent in brightness.

    Have you thought of selling patterns? There are no shortage of knitters and it would be interesting to include a collection of patterns that all match your brand and personality.

    I’d love a critique about blogging and having a knitting website versus a product website. I’m not sure how to get people more involved in my content and what I should focus my time on- knitting help for others or products for them to consume.

  7. Hanna says:

    I love the mock makeover, it makes understanding branding so much easier. And I love the design of the mock brand so much!

    I took a look at your shop, Beth, and the first question I had was “Who is your target market?”. Since there is so much variety, it’s harder for me to picture the type of person who would wear your designs. I think if you get clearer on that, it will also be easier to sell your lovely creations.

    I think consistency is really the key overall. I’m a creator-maker myself so I can totally understand wanting to try new things constantly. But, sometimes we as shop owners have to make difficult cuts. Not everything I make is a good fit for my shop. I have my blog for showcasing my other creative passions.

    As Jessica also mentioned, there’s room for improvement in the photography area. There are some very well lit photos in you shop, but also those, that are kind of dull or a bit dark. Photography used to be my fear, but there’s really some easy fixes you can do to a not so perfect photo to make it shine. There are tons of great tutorials, like this one: http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2012/07/how-to-create-vibrant-color-photographs.html

    Best of luck on this journey and I hope you’ll come out of it bigger and better than ever!

  8. Inês says:

    This is great! I think the mock up exercise is really useful, and helps you rethink the brand in a clear way.
    There are lots of great ideas in the comments as well.
    I would definitely work on making product photography cohesive… I looked at Beth items and thought about the props that could be used. It occurred to me that a vintage mannequin in a clear fabric would make the colours and the beautiful work stand out.

  9. I am also from North Carolina and actually read this post because I remembered seeing jus shar designs somewhere. Once I read the post I remembered going to your website. When I browsed your site I recalled thinking that your items were very nice, but that the photography was a problem. I love your stuff, but I didn’t want to buy mostly because I couldn’t get past the “amateur” look of the site and photography. I am definitely only saying this to be constructive because I have also struggled with the photography monster. By the time that I make inventory for retail locations, shows, and etsy… photography is the last thing that I have time for so it usually just doesn’t happen or when it does it’s a rush job. When I looked at your site, it seems like you might be in the same boat. I will be super interested to see how you take the critique and run with it. Good Luck!

  10. say it says:

    Jessika this post is so helpful. I totally agree on the consistency thing – when I try to like someone on Facebook I want to be sure it’s them so am looking for something I recognise.

    Beth – I think your Etsy shop is fab. I love your items. Well done for sticking with it for 16 years! I think with a little bit of rebranding, consistency and some work on photos you could do really well. Some of your photos are actually already pretty good – like the crochet pink purple lilac neckwarmer cowl for example. You could also try and make your etsy product descriptions a little bit more exciting. You include all the right details, but tell me why I absolutely must have one right away, or a bit of a story about your inspiration and how it was created. Good luck!

    I’d love some help too, with my Folksy shop. I’d really like to know why my items aren’t selling as fast as I’d like them too – do you think they are any good, or what would prevent you from purchasing them?

  11. Brenda says:

    Beth, I am loving the softer colors and new suggested look for your site and shop banners. It is time consuming but VERY exciting to put together a look that you love and one that tells folks who you are. I have been working on mine for about 9 months and still playing with it.
    I agree that photography is the key and can make or break you. I purchased a good second hand DSLR, a tripod and a how to book [saved mucho$$]to help me with my photos, takes time, thought and the more you do the better you get. I try out different light, backgrounds, take a ton of pics then edit on Picassa. Look at the pics that are making the front page on etsy, shops who do what you do and have high sales..learn from them, not copy but it gives you an idea. See what tags and titles they are using that get them found on search.
    I can’t seem to grasp twitter but FB has brought me many new customers. Show them your gorgeous new wool, then the finished product, share photos of your life, your knitting basket so they know you are real…I do giveaways every now and then with rafflecopter on FB to find folks who like my things. Every once in a while I pay the 5.00 promote when I have a great post.
    Start somewhere and just slowly bring it together…You have just made the biggest step already. Your work is lovely, takes skill and expertise. You can do it!!

  12. michele says:

    I have to say, this is one of the more helpful posts I’ve ever read on branding. It visually answers the questions: How to brand? What is branding? As a visual person, this is what I needed, and it’s pretty obvious when you SEE it all laid out.

    I know that Beth will be grateful for this, but so will I. Thanks for bringing clarity to these sometimes muddy questions.

    Beth, best of luck with the homework! 🙂

  13. Beth says:

    Keep the suggestions coming! You all are being so helpful….I really appreciate it!

    I know my photography is an issue, and it really is a matter of learning my camera (I have a great DSLR), Photoshop, and staging my items. It’s true that the last thing I want to do after creating an item is doing the photography. I know it’s important, but….

    Again, thank you all so much!

  14. dana says:

    So much good feedback already! Here is my two cents: I completely agree with the rebranding advice and love the direction that Jessika started to go in. I’m with Gaia on diversifying your pricepoints. This is something I’m completely guilty of as well and I’m taking steps to fix it. I’m having trouble putting it into words but offering a range of pricepoints really make a collection seem more complete and let’s the customer make a purchase at the price they feel is right for them. For example, someone may love your blankets but feel they should be spending more if the gift is for a wedding or their first grandchild.

    And lastly photography, I think having a few gorgeous lifestyle shots on your home page might be better than the 25 little shots you have now. True, it won’t show that range of your product but I think a few enticing photos will draw people in and encourage to click on your shop link to see what else you have to offer.

    I also wanted to say that the first photo for “custom DIY knit sweater shrug bolero xsmall small” sold on Jan 10, 2009 is wonderful! It’s well lit, fresh, and modern. And the model is adorable. I could easily see this on any blog. Keep going in that direction.

  15. Natalie says:

    I love your crochet items. I crochet as well for my kids, my retail shop and for family.
    The rebranding advice was fantastic. What a difference it makes for the overall look and cohesiveness of your business. We have been working on this for our business and it seems to be making a slow difference (we still have lots of work to do).
    I am thinking it would be great to make your patterns a little more modern and up to date. To me they look slightly dated. Use bold colours, bulkier wools (bulky is in right now). There are some great patterns that you can buy on Etsy from other crocheters or you can create your own.
    I love the one image of I am assuming you wearing the hat (with the matching scarf). It looks so natural and gorgeous. Whereas some of your other hat images are not popping out to me.

    I am still trying to work on cohesiveness and branding…we are slowly plugging away at it, but our personal webpage is lacking and our etsy shop to me is a little bland. Would love some help with that 🙂

  16. Sam says:

    So I went to your website as if I was a customer and not someone who was breaking it down. What I noticed was you had a great selection of items, but I couldn’t any info on your website shop about your product. Also I didn’t really see the link on your website to Etsy until the 3rd or 4th time I went to your website. As a customer I like your Etsy shop so much more than your website shop. You might just want to stick with that.

    One suggestion for photos would be to use a live model on your Etsy shop. It gives a human connection and helps people visualise themselves wearing it.

    Also you might want to raise your prices. Consider how much time it takes your to make each item (give yourself an hourly pay rate) and the cost of materials. Multiply it by 2 for wholesale price. Remember your product is handmade. It doesn’t have to compete with Walmart or Target prices.

    Best of luck with your shop.

  17. Bev says:

    Wow, love the new banner idea! Graphic design always impresses me 🙂

    My biggest suggestion is echoing what several others have to say: raise prices. Quality yarn can be pricey, plus knitting a piece can take awhile. You want your product prices to reflect all of your hard work! (This is something I still struggle with–I always want to price it too low!) Best of luck with everything, Beth!

    The areas that I feel I need the most help with are writing interesting product descriptions, figuring out key words, and getting found (which probably goes hand-in-hand with the first two!)

  18. Rachel A says:

    This branding critique is so great. I’m going to go change my Twitter background right now to be in line with my website branding.

    And to Beth, I think ditching Comic Sans alone will improve your website by like 40%, ha. 🙂

    I would like to submit myself for a critique. I need help with marketing/attracting new customers/advertising stuff. I’m not sure if I should do things like try to partner with other blogs and write guest posts on video blogging? Do traditional banner ads? These types of things don’t really *fit* what my service is, and I don’t really know how to market myself.

    Thanks, and good luck Beth!

  19. Great advice! I agree that consistency is key. Beth, photography was a huge hurdle for me to overcome in the beginning. My pics aren’t perfect but when I look at my early ones, yikes! I’m surprised anyone bought from me. Best to you in learning how to optimized your images with the DSLR.

    I would love a critique of my shop. Product descriptions, keywords, and that type of thing are weaknesses of mine. By the time I order supplies, make each product, photograph, edit, and post the item, I think I run out of inspiration.

    Also, my business is extremely seasonal with 80% of my sales occurring in the spring. I’d love advice on how to market my items for other occasions/time of year.

    Peace!

  20. Pepper says:

    I love your recommendations for a new cohesive look for Beth’s site. I’m definitely a novice here, but one piece of advice that I would offer to Beth is to work on making the first sentence of her product descriptions really pop out because that is what is going to show up in google results.

    I would love a critique of my etsy shop… I have serious reservations about my “brand” from the colors right down to the name! I’d love some community input!

  21. Nicole says:

    I LOVE everything about the revisions and agree that creating a boutique product line will work. I am in desperate NEED of assistance with my website, it is a year old and has never ever processed/produced a sale (even after the first revision)

  22. Meagan says:

    OMGoodness! I’m so impressed with this critique Jessika! I love all your recommendations for Beth’s site, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

    I’d love to get a critique of my shop as well. It’s been up an running for one year now… 6 months officially selling, and I need branding help. I’ve been working on my personal branding, but I need help being clear and consistent across the board. I really struggle with the visual aspect of my brand for sure. I’d love your help Jess!

  23. Shannon C says:

    Being that I am working on re-branding right now this couldn’t have come at a better time. I love your suggestions, color choices and fonts. I agree you should consider making some patterns available for sale because then your store could be working for you even when you aren’t.
    My suggestion is to find who your target client is and what she likes.
    I was shocked when I looked at my stats and found out my ideal client was a lot older than who I thought she was. This meant that I needed to gear my marketing to an older clientele. Not a bad thing but it changes things.
    I think that with this new branding, new photography and your awesome work you will do very well!
    Shannon

  24. Julia Grace says:

    I am desperately trying to get my arts business going. I am extremely disheartened in my search for a studio to rent where I can work and teach. I love teaching, but have no where of my own to teach. I’m currently stuck in a very small room in my parents house with no room to breathe. I would love advice for how to find a studio or funding, as well as advice for building followers and content creation for my SoMe and blog. I have no fan base and so have a hard time creating content that won’t be seen. I’m usually more positive about the whole thing and have hopes for the future, but am very discouraged this week. Any encouragement would be great.

  25. Lisa says:

    This is great advice, and good to read. I’m a marketing professional if you’d believe it, but I’m having trouble with my own biz as well. I think the disconnect is that I am accustomed to working on big brands with lots of resources, and now I have nothing! Also a case of not seeing the forest for the trees 🙁

    I run an online boutique where I curate collections of handmade and hard to find accessories, often tapping into the Etsy & local crafter’s markets to find my vendors. I also produce a small jewelry line of my own to supplement the site. I’m not sure if I’m focused enough, or what I should do! I am making sales, but not enough and may have to shutter soon. I feel pretty bad because I help other people with their businesses all the time (and they then become successful) but can’t seem to figure out my own house. *sigh*

    Help!

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