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?
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 a 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.
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!
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!).
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.
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.
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:
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.
In other words, you’re not ready to invest in a designer until you’ve invested the time in becoming clear on your message.
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!)
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.
You’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?
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.
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!
What a friendly success story about design collaboration! You both deserve a hand 😉 I could so relate with this quote by Tara:
“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.”
What a coincidence. I was just on Tara’s site last week and I was thinking, “WOW! This site looks and FEELS so much better.” I had no idea you reworked it. Thumbs up!
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