the value of consistency in your brand

Value of Brand Consistency \ Dotted Design

When building a business, one of the most important things is that your customers connect with you and want to buy from you. Chances are, they will interact with you multiple times before buying your service or product. So, how do you connect with these people to keep them coming back to you?

The first step of course is to build a solid visual identity. Beyond just your strong logo, you want a system of colors, typefaces, icons, and layouts. The visual experience is a person’s first impression of your brand, and you want to build something that looks professional and attracts the type of clients or customers you want.

But…then what? You have a logo, you have your swatch colors. What should you do with them?

Short answer: put them everywhere. Everything that you produce and put out there for your business should be in some way connected with your brand identity. No matter what a person stumbles upon from you, they should get the feeling of, “I bet this is from *insert your brand here*.” Your style is what makes you unique and not just another designer/photographer/blogger/coach/podcaster/etc. You likely know that this is true of your website, but what about your other platforms?

A few places you may not have thought of to apply your branding:

Social Media: Create profile images that match your branding.

Newsletters: Create headers and graphics that fit your style.

Free downloads: Have a PDF for your opt-in freebie? Make sure it follows your color and type palette.

Blog posts: Create a template for your posts so that they are easily recognizable as yours if someone spots them on Pinterest.

Stationery: Do you have business cards, thank you notes, or letterhead? Apply your branding!

Quotes/Invoices/Contracts: You’ll likely want something simple and readable for these documents, but they are another place to create a cohesive feel for your brand and a memorable design.

While this concept may seem easy enough to apply, I often have clients who worry that this cohesion will seem boring or repetitive to an audience. I always assure them that while it may seem redundant to you to have the same concept for every blog post graphic for example, your audience will be seeing countless images throughout their day. Creating that consistent, cohesive style instead makes you more familiar and more likely for them to return and check you out!

When you change fonts, colors, and styles with every item you create, it gives the impression that you are still figuring things out, and maybe you aren’t ready for clients yet. Or, it could even indicate that you are indecisive and can’t land on a visual and stick with it. A solid visual identity shows you are ready to go, understand your business, and care about your user’s experience. {Side note: this doesn’t mean you can’t rebrand. Making an intentional change is fine, as long as you stick with it once it’s launched!}

Bonus: it makes creating the graphics for your newsletter, blog, or social media SO much easier when you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you create something! I love efficiency.

You do want to keep things fresh, of course, and here are a few examples of some brands that excel at cohesion without making every single graphic exactly the same:

Lauren of Elle & Company: she has a definite template for her blog posts, but mixes up which colors from her palette she uses and mixes photo with non-photo versions:

Elle & Co

Lisa of Elembee: her eye-catching color palette is so recognizable, and she uses the same concept for every blog post image:

Elembee

Lindsay of White Oak Creative: she uses a monochrome color palette and mixes in some black and white photography. Each is different, yet oh-so related in style!

White Oak Creative

If I see a graphic from any of these ladies floating around, I can instantly identify who it belongs to without even clicking or reading the fine print. Because they always produce quality content, I know I want to click when I see their work. This is the same feeling you want to create with your audience.

Consistency makes you recognizable, professional, and put together. It shows you’ve thought through your branding and want to create a meaningful experience with your audience. Once you take the time to put together a plan (or enlist the help of a graphic designer!), it only gets easier to implement!

Bonus! Want to create consistency in your brand? Download my Guide to Building Brand Consistency!

Free Download Brand Guide | Dotted Design



 

 

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WIP: Lisa Copeland

Lisa Logo Concepts | Dotted Design

One of my favorite types of client is women who are out in the world, making things happen. I connected with Lisa Copeland through a former client of mine, and we’re working on both a full branding and website design project. Lisa started her career in the auto sales industry {very male dominated} and since then has worked on marketing campaigns with major companies like Fiat. Now she also travels around the country speaking to inspire women in the workplace. Pretty neat!

Lisa wants to have an inspiring brand that is feminine but not girly, statement-making, and modern. We’re working with a black, white, and purple color palette, but in this first round of logos I’m sharing we’re sticking with black and white, like I do on all first round designs! It really lets people see the composition of the logo and not get caught up in a color that might not click. She loved the idea of some sort of monogram or using the letters of her name in some way.

Can’t wait to share the final product in the coming weeks!

 

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4 signs it’s time for a brand refresh

4 signs it's time for a brand refresh | Dotted Design

I am one of those business owners who is always feeling the pull of trying something new with my visual branding. I want to try a great font I found, test a new color hue, or do an experimental layout. Now, I realize that this is impractical because I know the value of a strong, consistent brand, and changing things up all the time is usually detrimental to this value.

However, sometimes it is a good idea as a business owner to take a deep look at your visual brand and see if you might need a redesign or a refresh. Are you making the right impact on potential customers, clients, or readers? Do you feel proud of the website you send people to? Perhaps you may only need to simplify your design. If you’re uncertain, here are four signs you may want to consider a brand refresh:

1) Your original design was DIY, and you want to go pro.
When you’re first starting out, it can be a big money saver to work on your design yourself. This can get you by for awhile, but once your audience grows and you narrow into your niche and focus, it can be a great idea to get your visual identity done professionally. One big reason is that it is hardest to design for yourself and having that outside perspective is key. And obviously, a designer will know all the nuances of designing a brand that can really take you to the next level for your customers.

2) You are consistently attracting the wrong type of client.
Do you get lots of inquiries from less-than-dream clients? Do you have people who are interested but you aren’t in their price range? These are just a few of the signs that your visual brand may not be communicating the right message, or you might not appear professional enough. You can start by really narrowing in on who that target audience is and from there build a refreshed brand that better attracts those dream people. Design is all about communication and clarity, and if you aren’t exhibiting this in your brand materials, it might be time to look at it again!

3) Your brand materials are all over the place instead of cohesive.
This happens most often when everything is created in isolation without considering the bigger visual picture of your brand. Maybe you did your logo yourself, then had an intern work on social media profile images for you, then had an artist create some cool images for your Instagram. While each may be interesting in isolation, they aren’t helping to tell your brand story. Regrouping to take the elements of your branding that make sense and applying them across all your channels will help create that desirable consistency and clear message to your audience.

4) You’ve made a big change in your business.
Sometimes a business refines its offerings, partners up with another business, or changes focus all together. An easy way to communicate this to your audience is with a refresh of an existing brand or development of a new brand. You can use elements of the old but restructure it to better reflect the new venture. When people see that updated look, they’ll know something exciting is going on.

Your visual identity is how you show your customers that you are a good fit at the first glance. Make them want to keep getting to know your business and all it has to offer!

PS If you’d like help with a brand refresh (or start from scratch!) I’m currently booking for September projects! I’d love to hear all about your project – simply get in touch.

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Small Biz Chats: Corina Nika

Small Biz Chats with Cocorrina

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Corina Nika of Cocorrina. She’s a fantastic designer and letterer, and her blog is full of inspiration on design, freelancing, and keeping perspective from where she lives on Kefalonia Island. I don’t think I’ve ever been on Pinterest and not seen one of her designs or blog posts pop up! She has an awesome story and advice to share – here we go:

What is your business, and why did you start it?

My business is about design. From creative direction, to graphic design and fashion design as well! Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been somehow creative. A few years back, studying interior architecture in college, I realized that my heart was in the graphics. Slowly, I followed my heart.

cocorina-stamp

What were you doing before you launched your business?
I had just had gone through an eight hour operation in my sternum (at 21 years old) so as a result I wasn’t able to work or walk for a few months. Although a very tough period in my life, it gave me so much time to work on my business, brand it, work on my skills, learn a few things here and there and generally create a brand plan.

 

cocorina-cards

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?

To begin with, I started my blog. In order to stay connected and inspired, I had to kick myself to actually stay creative. All the creatives I looked up to had a blog, so it felt like the way to go and introduce my work to the world. The blog itself helped my work get a bit more recognized and that gave me the push to keep creating and sharing my work. At some point, I created a graphic design shop on Etsy, and although that did go fairly well, potential clients would email me directly, so I ended up closing the shop after three months or so.

decor8 by corina nika

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
My organizer…just that, I think! At some point I tried Apple’s calendar but I quickly realized I’m a traditional girl. If I don’t write everything down and see it at the same time, it’s just not for me. For three years in a row, I’ve been using the day planner by Paperblanks, and I’m so hooked that when this year I couldn’t find one anywhere (on this planet!) I ended up buying one from Australia and paying $100 for it. But it’s totally worth the money.

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?

The creative life! Being able to live a life where I get to create, draw, design, and sketch on daily basis, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Feeling inspired, feeling that I do something beautiful, fills up my soul.

 

tropical by corina nika

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Don’t be afraid to take risks; they will end up being the best decisions you’ll make. Experiment all the time, never rest and be super passionate about what you do. With no passion, there’s no happiness and definitely no success.

Thanks to Corina for sharing her insights!

Find Corina online: Website • Instagram  Twitter Facebook • Bloglovin’

All images are property of Corina Nika.

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4 lessons I’ve learned running a business online.

4 lessons learned running a business online

Starting a business can be a daunting task. There are so many knowledge areas to learn, especially when you are starting out as owner/creative director/accountant/sales/designer/marketing/social media manager. It’s easy to find resources on the best accounting software or where to host your website, but some of the more nuanced areas are ones that you can only learn with time.

One of my favorite quotes about work is, “You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.” It’s important to be efficient, stay steadfast in your boundaries, and take creative breaks. In the time that I’ve been running my business, I’ve learned a few lessons that have truly helped me achieve these things and be happier in my business life.

1. Only put projects you want more of in your portfolio. There is no rule that says every piece of work you’ve ever done needs to go in your portfolio. If you want to do more brand design work, put those projects in your portfolio. If you want to stop offering ebook design, then take those projects out! If people see something, they will want it. It doesn’t do any good to show examples of things you don’t want to do anymore. Plus, it will save you time responding to inquiries about a project you don’t want to do. Bonus tip: if you want to start a new avenue and don’t have many portfolio examples, do some self-initiated projects. Follow all the steps you would if it were a real client, and you’ll gain both experience and a new portfolio item.

2. It’s perfectly fine to say no. Whether it’s a potential client that doesn’t seem like a good fit or a favor from a fellow business owner, it can actually be more polite to say no. If you take on a client that is a bad fit either style or personality-wise, you are going to resent the project and not deliver your best work. A client who doesn’t have an excellent experience surely won’t be sending any referrals your way. Same goes for a peer who wants to collaborate or swap services – if you don’t have the time or the interest, it won’t benefit either of you. You can always offer to connect again in the future if the timing is bad.

3. Support your community. It is only going to drive you nuts if you think of others as competition. There is always going to be someone who offers your services at both lower and higher price points, who launches their product first, or has more experience. Rather than waste time worrying about who might be “better” than you, look to those people as inspiration and members of your community. You can choose to be annoyed at a developer who is tweeting about how heavy her workload is, or you could befriend her and maybe she’ll send some overflow work your way! It’s great not only for growing your business, but also for finding confidants in your industry who can truly understand what you’re going through.

4. There will always be ebb and flow. This goes for client work and for confidence you feel in your work and business. You’ll have both busy and slow seasons (psst: read my tips for what to do during slow periods here!) with your work. You’ll have days where you feel on top of the world, and days where you feel like your work is crap. This is also where #3 comes in – lean on your community if you’re feeling down! Always remember why you started, and that will make every moment, good and bad, worth it.

What have you learned running your business? Any tips for those wanting to get started?

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moodboard: black, white, & peach

Peach Moodboard | Dotted Design

I always love creating moodboards. They are such a great way to summarize an aesthetic or a theme when words don’t always work. A client may say they like a vintage style and the color teal. However, once I see their inspiration images, I see that their style in my eyes is more mod and that their color is actually aqua. Building a moodboard visually summarizes everything I have learned about a client to assure that we are on the same page with our visions.

This board combines soft peach and pink colors with some subtle black and white patterns and script text elements. The brand words are feminine, modern, friendly, and cheerful. Can’t wait to share more!

images: drink logo gift tags scarf flowers luxe cards pattern

 

 

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small biz chats: Sarah Stone

Small Biz Chats with Sarah Stone | Dotted Design

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Sarah Stone of cleanline studio. She’s a graphic designer with a beautiful aesthetic, and I love reading her blog where she shares inspiration and life as a designer (I especially love her Color Me Monday series!). She has some great insights to share about how she found her dream clients – let’s dig in!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
cleanline studio is a boutique design studio located in Philadelphia, PA. I started cleanline studio because I wanted to be my own boss, set my schedule to accommodate my young family, and work directly with the kind of clients who matter most to me. I’ve worked hard to create a business presence (both online and off) that identifies my design aesthetic and strengths. I’ve had success in attracting my dream clients: small, mostly female, creative business owners.

I also blog about design, color, style, my life and family, etc. I love how blogging affords me the opportunity to share my tastes and personality with potential clients.

http://www.taasky.com/

 

What were you doing before you launched your business?
In 2007 I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in graphic design and photography. Although it was really tough to leave the beautiful city of Savannah, I returned to the Philadephia area (where I grew up) to begin my career in the advertising industry. I freelanced for a few agencies at first and then stayed at a salaried job for about four years before quitting to do my own thing.

 

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
I have to chuckle about this one! My first “real” client after branching out on my own was actually the owner of the coffee shop where I spent a lot of time working. I was designing some stationery products to sell on Etsy, which he saw me working on. He owned a handful of small businesses and hired me to do branding and a website for a new business and redesign the website for an existing business.

Every positive interaction with a client, every connection made at a design event, and every referral has helped me grow my business. I never quite know how or when it will come back to me, but the more I keep doing what I’m doing, the more consistent my client inquiries and workload become.

cleanline studio

 

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
My to-do list is absolutely crucial to my staying on task for the day! I usually write my list late at night, or before I get out of bed in the morning using an iPhone app called Taasky. Because I’m the only one to keep me accountable, it can sometimes feel like a daunting task to decide what needs to get done (or put off) for the day. I try to limit my list to about 8-10 items each day. I also try to avoid social media and email as much as possible while designing.

 

cleanline studio

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
It’s so hard to only choose one, I just have to share the first two that come to mind!

1) I love when I get a client inquiry from someone who’s either found me because they love a series on my blog, or they stumbled across some business cards I designed on Pinterest, anything like that. I really love the blogging and social media side of my business, and it comes very naturally to me. When something I’ve shared through one of those avenues turns into real deal paid work, I feel super victorious that it’s all come full circle!

2) Whenever I am sending initial design comps to clients, my goal is to fulfill my client’s vision, and then make it even better. I love it when I immediately get an email back from them saying that it’s hard for them to decide because they love them all! Of course I’ll hold their hands and help them narrow it down, but I feel like I’ve done my job well when they have a hard time deciding.

cleanline studio

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Develop a thick skin, and know who you are trying to attract from the start. Building a successful business takes time, no matter what. If you go into it without knowing who your dream customers are, you’ve failed to create a clear goal for your business. If you really want to succeed, ask for advice from people who are already successful in your field. It’s hard not to get overly emotionally invested when your business is your baby… but do it anyway, in the name of success and self improvement!

Thanks to Sarah for sharing her insights!

Find Sarah online: Website  Pinterest • Instagram  Twitter Facebook Bloglovin

All images are copyright cleanline studio.

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recent work: Hadley Boutique

Hadley Boutique identity | Dotted Design

I’m thrilled to share a new project today! Since I’d love to work with more shops and cafes, I took an actual boutique I’ve been to and completed a rebrand as a self-initiated project. The shop sells women’s clothes and accessories, as well as some home items like soaps and decor pieces. Their inventory is feminine and slightly romantic, though not girly, and they have many botanical-feeling items and scents around the shop. (The initial round of logos is here if you want to see the progression!)

Hadley Boutique set | Dotted Design

Hadley Boutique set | Dotted Design

Hadley bag design | Dotted Design

I love building out brands, and creating all the extra brand elements beyond the logo was so much fun. I may even find another shop to rebrand!

P.S. If you are looking to work on logo and brand identity design for your shop or business, I’d love to hear from you! I’m currently booking for August. Get in touch and tell me about your business!

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10 things to do when business slows down.

10 things do to when business is slow | Dotted Design

Running a small business can often run the spectrum of feast or famine. Some weeks the inquiries will fly in; other weeks…crickets. Or, you may be getting requests but not taking on those who aren’t a good fit. Other times, it seems like you’re waiting on feedback from all your clients at once, giving you a slow day in the meantime. Or, perhaps lots of people are taking summer vacations!

Whatever the reason for the lull, rather than waste more time digging through all the Facebook groups you belong to, here are 10 ways you can work on your business or prepare for next clients:

1) Evaluate your website. With everything else that comes up, updating your website is so easy to push to the back burner. Make sure that all your info and content is up to date and reflective of what you do! You could refresh your about page, delete old offerings you don’t have any more, find some new photography to freshen your look, or knock out a few blog posts.

2) Learn a new skill (or brush up on one). Continuing to learn is essential when working in the fast-paced online world. Is there something new to your industry you could learn more about? Or maybe there is something you could learn about more deeply, like if you’re a web designer that is awesome at desktop design but needs to learn more about how to design for a responsive site. This will only make you more valuable to your potential clients.

3) Take a look at your client processes and collateral. When you get a new client, it is often a rush of “let’s get started!” and I know I tend to simply go with what I did with my last client. Take some time to see where you might clarify or simplify the process for your clients, whether it’s through documents you give them to explain what you do, the onboarding process, or how you manage the project. Making things simple and clear for the client means they will love working with you even more.

4) Find a way to help someone else. Look for a peer of yours that has too much work and could either hire you or refer you for the overflow. Write a more in-depth blog post about a problem that a lot of your audience has and you can help solve – or even a short ebook. Go through your social media feeds and see if anyone has a question you can answer. I really think karma is always at play here – if you offer your help, people will notice and hire you in return!

5) Touch base with past clients. Think back to clients that you loved working with and might be able to offer an additional service. If you designed a logo, see if that client is now in the need for any updated marketing pieces. If you took newborn photos, perhaps that family is ready for some whole family photos. Even if they don’t need anything immediately, it will help keep you front of mind should something come up!

6) Read a book or ebook you’ve been putting off. It’s so easy to buy a cheap ebook and save it for reading later, or to save a book to your Goodreads list and then never pick it up from the library. Find one (or a few!) and take a few hours to actually read them.

7) Reach out about a collaboration. Is there an acquaintance, fellow blogger, or a brand that you’ve been itching to work with? Now is the time to write that email or make that phone call! Tell them (concisely) about your idea or interest, and how the collaboration might benefit both of you. They can’t say yes until you give them the chance.

8) Clean up your social media feeds. See if anyone you follow isn’t relevant to what you do or look for anymore, and clear their clutter from your feed. It’s also a great time to sift through and see if there is anyone new-to-you to follow for inspiration or connecting with a potential client!

9) Catch up on your accounting. Ok, this one kind of stinks, but you will totally thank yourself later. Even if you have a bookkeeper, there are probably receipts you need to scan, income or expenses to enter, or even something as simple as making that transfer from PayPal to your bank account. You won’t be in a rush, so you can take some true time to get your accounts up to date.

10) Take a true break. Hopefully you will be busy again soon, so why not take a little time to yourself? Self-preservation is so essential when running a business by yourself or just a small team. Take an entire afternoon to go on a long walk and not look at your email even once. Take a day to go on a mini road trip. Do something creative but totally unrelated to your business. You deserve it!

What do you do when you have a slower day or period of time?

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tools I use for running my business

Tools for Running Your Business | Dotted Design

Running your own business or freelance gig demands organization. There are so many options when it comes to project management, site hosting, accounting — it can get so overwhelming!

I’ve started a new Resources page on my site as a way to track options for everything business-related, and today I wanted to share more about the particular ones that I’m currently using:

Hosting
Because I’m on WordPress, I use Flywheel. They have speedy customer service and migrating your site is complimentary! Plus, super designer-friendly.

Project Management
While there are tons of options, the one that makes sense for me is Trello. I start a card for each client project, and checklists to keep track of what items need to get done and when. I also keep cards for personal projects or ideas I have that I can save for when I have a slower week.

Accounting
While for a long time I just kept my own spreadsheets to keep track of income and expenses, I’ve found that Wave does a great job of organizing and keeping track of my accounting. Plus, I can send invoices straight from Wave and accept credits cards. And, it’s free!

Contract Signing
I use HelloSign to get e-signatures. It’s a very simple interface, and you can send three free contracts per month. After that, it’s a low monthly rate for unlimited documents.

Email
I am in love with Boomerang for Gmail. I am very diligent in keeping my client communication to business hours only (I refuse to be harassed on weekends), which includes emails. Because I may occasionally catch up on emails during the week or in the evening, I use Boomerang to schedule my email to send at a later time, during business hours. Then, I don’t set the precedent of weekend replies. You can also schedule to have an email reappear later as new in your inbox if you want to be reminded of it.

Printing
While I love Moo as much as anyone, it’s getting a little redundant to see the super thick matte cards that they make everywhere. When I want something a little different, I love the options at Print Peppermint! They are the most reasonable letterpress and foil I’ve seen, and the quality is great.

Web Design
A great tool for web designers is InVision. Once I get a design going in Photoshop, I can upload a png of the page to InVision so that the client can preview it in a browser. It makes it much easier to see how the page will look online vs. trying to envision it from a PDF (and it also can be a nice reference for your developer).

For more options, check out my Resources page!

What are some of your favorite tools? How do you narrow it down so you don’t have too many things to use?

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