5 Best Design Resources for Non Designers

This is a semi-followup from last week's post on slowing down. Many of our clients work with us for branding and web to get their brand off the ground. Then armed with their brand guide and some consulting, they are able to handle most of the day to day marketing stuff in house. (Go team!) Then we get to work with them again on bigger projects like line sheets, annual reports and bigger marketing efforts. It's been a really nice flow for us!

Here's a few of the resources I find myself recommending time and time again:

Free Stock Photo Sites

Images are everything. At some point you will want your own branded photography, but for now you might be able to get away with free stock photos. There are some wonderful stock photo sites out there, and this article, Stock Photos That Don't Suck, has a bunch. Our personal favorites are Unsplash and Death to Stock

Canva

Canva is an online graphic design tool. It can be a little testy, but it's perfect for putting text over an image for a social post or resizing/reformatting images. They have templates for all sorts of different items. We have several clients using it for those small day to day items!! 

Skillshare

I have used Skillshare to learn so much! Lots of hand lettering, but also how to optimize my Etsy, and a course on Email Marketing. 

If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over, why not search Skillshare and find a class that may teach you how to do it better/faster? I recently made myself a mini chart of new short codes to learn for Illustrator. My thinking is - when you run your own business, lessons come to you. Why not seek some learning out and get ahead? Haha.  

Mailchimp

Hands down, Mailchimp is the easiest and most beautiful email marketing software. (Bonus points for being located right here in Atlanta!) (And they just launched free automation for everyone! Yay!)

Squarespace

If you don't have a site yet, or are considering switching, we recommend Squarespace. It's a template site builder, but miles above Wix and the other guys. Their customer service is top notch. (To me that is such a huge selling point.) It also has Gmail and domains built right in. They have so many gorgeous templates to choose from. (This chart can help you spot the differences.) Then you can change out photos and text and reorder pages. Later down the line if you want something more custom, you can team up with a designer.

These have really helped us and our clients grow in marketing and design.

If you feel good about your ability to create what you need, but want help with a game plan - we now offer personalized consulting sessions! We can talk through anything from branding, company naming, web layout, how to tell your brand story, products and customer experience. If that sounds fun, hit us up for a free intro call!

P.S. If you want even more resources, check out this post! It's a mega post!


Top photo of the most amazing pair of boots you will ever wear from The Root Collective / Photo taken by Molly Stillman

Where is Your Water?

“Where is your water? Know your garden.”
Hopi Teaching

Self care doesn't come easy in the small business world. Dusty and I recently took some time to think about the things we love about our business and how we could do more of it. 80 hour work weeks are the norm, but not the goal. If our business is our garden, our water is working closely and collaboratively with a few clients at a time. One at a time ideally - but no more that 3, for sure. Our water is taking time to experiment, play, push boundaries and adventure.

The last 6 months have been busy. At one point we had almost 20 active projects in various stages. That wasn't our water. That almost washed our soil out. 

We're working to move towards a more slow and deliberate pace with our design work. At first, it was hard saying "No," or "Not yet," or "We can't make your deadline and do our best work, so sorry." Now I think I'm finally in a good place with it. I woke up to an email this morning about a project that we couldn't complete within the client's deadline and I happily sent a list of brilliant designers who may have more availability. There was so much peace in that.

It's easy to get sucked into the trap where you feel like you need to take on all the work - that work is scarce and hard to find - that you'll never get "there" if you don't hustle 24/7. That's not our water. I want to be a designer for a long time. That will take a lot of water, and sunlight, and time, and laughter, and joy. Growing slow is okay with us. 


photography by Angie Webb, styled by Madison, for Marie Mae Company
succulents on loan from Brenda's House of Flowers, thank you! :)

the most important part of design is not design

Personify Shop's new branding on their product tag!

Personify Shop's new branding on their product tag!

I run into this in my own work daily. I do my best to create wonderful designs that keep audiences engaged. Designs that spark connection and inspire action. 

But - the most important part of my job is not my design.

It's what that the design does.

When we design a logo, the most important thing is getting that logo on a business card / on your website / on your sales sheet / on your email header / on your product tag so you can go do the work with confidence.

When we design a line sheet, the most important thing is getting that line sheet printed, packed in a box with samples and in the mail to your retail stores.

When we design an annual report, the most important thing is getting that annual report into your donor's hands to show them how their money made an impact.

We could spend hours agonizing over the smallest things together, but that font/kerning/color/layout/extra revision is not the most important thing. 

Good designers facilitate forward momentum, while easing doubt and uncertainty. 

Hitting send, mailing it out, passing it along - those are the most important things. Don't forget that! 

 

How to Produce Content when You're Totally at Capacity

How to get that content flowing when you're totally overwhelmed!

Producing content.
What does that even mean?

I started out last year with this grand *MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS 2016* plan, but it wasn’t practical for our team of two with a full design schedule. I was struggling to keep up and feeling like a failure. This year, I don’t have a marketing plan - or pan for communications or content. As it stands, we have 6 months of work waiting to be blogged, formatted into case studies and added to our portfolio. (2016 was quite the hustle year for us.) Our social channels are quiet and I don’t quite know how to break the silence there.

It’s hard not to look at that stack of “we should’s and should be’s” and feel overwhelmed. Producing content feels like homework.

A business coach once taught me this awesome way of reframing things. You get up out of your seat and literally move around the room and think about things from a different perspective. It’s so helpful to take time to think of things in a different way. If I feel stuck, I try to move around. See what things look like from over there.

Maybe producing our content should feel more like a celebration. I want that.
Aha... Now, how do we get to there?

Most importantly, how do we get to there without burning out, without throwing our other systems into chaos, and without destroying the joy I want it to bring?

I tend to go 180% full throttle into new things. This makes me an excellent learner, a great problem solver and a good consultant. But that full throttle can wreak havoc on my inner peace if I don't keep it in check. I have a hard time scaling my goals to my capacity.

Lately my solution for this has been writing out everything I want to accomplish and choosing 5%. I identify what the most important items are and scale them back. By just working on the 5%, I build momentum. After I successfully, non-stressfully can accomplish that 5%, I’ll add another 10%.

My 5% looks like:

  • crafting an email once a month for clients and people in on the behind the scenes newsletter
  • posting to Instagram 1x a week, I’ll have it auto push to Facebook
  • posting a blog post 2x a month
  • continuing to add work to our portfolio, scaling back the intensity of our case studies, 1-2 hours/week

Let’s see how it goes. How do you handle your social media and producing content? What would be your 5%?

Any tips, tricks or questions?

P.S. If you’re ever looking for help on the writing front, let me suggest Signify! We recently designed their branding and site. I can tell you, Kristi is on point!

Branded Icons for Beds4Kids

Beds4Kids Bed Icons Arranged

Beds4Kids Bed Icons Arranged

A brand is always so much more than the logo. An organization's brand is made up of colors, keywords and all those design pieces that help you tell your story faster and more visually. When we worked on the Beds4Kids Media Kit, we created a series of icons for use in future projects. (These icons could be used on their site, social graphics, and print materials.) It was fun to expand their visual library with a set of simple, playful icons!

Mattress, Pillow and Bed Icons

Mattress, Pillow and Bed Icons

You might feel like something is missing from your brand. It's easy to point a finger at your logo, but often times a set of icons can breath new life into a brand. If you don't have a brand guide, that will certainty help as well. 

Your mission and/or offering set might have evolved over the years. It doesn't mean you need to scrap what you have for a whole new look. (Breath a sigh of relief with me!) 

Bed Delivery Icon

Bed Delivery Icon

Like that / Want that? Tell us about your project!

high fives!
Mads