small biz chats: Jessica Levitz of June Letters Studio

Small Biz Chats: Jess Levitz  | Dotted Design

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Jessica Levitz of June Letters Studio. She’s a graphic designer and illustrator who loves working with creative clients. I love seeing her illustration and sketching work, and she’s worked with clients like Vanity Fair, West Elm, Threadflip, and Yelp. She has a beautiful soft style with some gorgeous hand lettering skills as well. She has a great story to share – dig in!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
I am a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, working under the business name June Letters Studio. After several years working at tech companies as an in-house designer in San Francisco I decided to strike out on my own as a full-time freelancer. While working in-house, my requests for freelance continued to increase, and so after saving up some money and securing a few great freelance clients I took the leap!

jess levitz | june letters studio

What were you doing before you launched your business?
I was working as the lead visual designer at lingerie company True&Co. I designed everything from clothing labels to the website to printed packaging. It was a great job, but I knew that I truly feel happiest when I can work on many projects at once and from the comfort of home!

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
About six months before I took the leap to start my own business I did a major overhaul of my website and started blogging almost daily. I found that people started to pin my work and my readership grew very quickly. Most of my clients find me through Pinterest! It is really incredible what that platform can do for a visual business.

jess levitz | june letters studio

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
When I first started out I kept organized by writing out lists on random pieces of paper – this of course didn’t work for long! I now use Asana to manage tasks and projects. I also keep a (mostly) organized folder for each client on Dropbox. I like using Dropbox for my clients so that I feel confident I won’t lose their work!

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
I luckily love so many aspects of my job – but probably my absolute favorite thing is the sketching that I do at the start of a project. I love breaking out my paper and pens and just getting out as many ideas as possible. I feel so much more creative with a pen in my hand than when I jump straight to the computer.


jessica levitz | june letters studio

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Plan ahead and get some practice before you fully launch! While it is tempting to just suddenly quit your day job and pursue your passion, you will be so much happier and more successful if you plan your departure carefully. Write out a business plan, gather advice from friends and family, start a savings account!

Thanks to Jess for sharing her insights!

Find June Letters online: Website • Instagram  Twitter  Pinterest • Facebook

All images are copyright June Letters Studio.


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how to prepare for brand identity design.

prepare for logo design | dotted design

Yay! You have a new business. You’re so excited to get going and share it with the world. But first: you need a logo and a brand identity.

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses can make when seeking a new logo is working on it too early. Your brand’s visual identity is a reflection of what you stand for, the clients/customers you want to attract, and the product or service you will provide. If you aren’t sure what these are yet, then it is probably too soon to start working on the logo.

So, what should you know before reaching out to a designer to work on your logo and visual identity?

  • Why did you start your business? If you aren’t sure why your business exists or what you hope to accomplish, it will be pretty difficult to build a brand that reflects that. Know what you are offering and how it will serve your customer!
  • Who is your target audience or dream customer? Your visual identity will want to be something that resonates with this crowd and connects them with you or your products. Define who it is your business will connect with and serve, and this will help your designer build something that appeals to that audience.
  • What makes you uniquely able to provide this product or service? No matter how many other people are out there doing what you do, there is something that makes you distinct. Knowing these quirks or special angles of your business can help a designer translate that into the visual aspect of your brand.
  • Where will your logo be used? Maybe your business is all online, and it will live mostly on web pages. Perhaps you are a brick and mortar and it will appear on packaging and stationery. Having a logo that can adapt to all its applications is key to a successful identity.
  • Do you have any strong preferences about color and type? Maybe you can’t stand the color orange or you love when words are in all-caps. It’s no problem if you don’t have any strong feelings, but any that you do have should be mentioned up front. You’ll use your visual identity too much to have something you don’t connect with.


As you can see, knowing all about your business is essential to create and logo and identity that truly reflects what you do and connects with your people. What piece of information do you think is most important to share with a designer about your business?

P.S. My newsletter goes out this Thursday! Are you on the list? My word of the month is “focus” and there may or may not be a paper shop discount… ; )


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recent work: Fifth & Grey

Few things are as fun as sharing new projects! I shared the initial concepts not long ago, and we haven’t strayed too far from those. We built a brand with some soft colors and more romantic fonts to evoke a calm, relaxed feeling with a touch of sophistication.

F&G style guide | dotted design

F&G stamp example | dotted design

We also worked on some business cards to build out the brand identity – gotta love pattern design!

Fifth and Grey Cards | dotted design

Fifth & Grey | Dotted Design

Fun fact: I used a few photos from Death to the Stock Photo to build some of these examples – it’s a great resource when you want some quality, free photos for mockups!

It was so much fun working in this style and on this sweet brand!

P.S. If you’re looking to build your own brand identity, I’m currently booking for May! Get in touch, friend.


small biz chats: Kate Baird


I’m excited to share today’s edition of Small Biz Chats with Kate Baird of Katelyn Brooke. She’s a web designer/developer who specializes in WordPress sites for creative women. She has a great story to share and awesome style. Enjoy!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
I create WordPress websites for creative women. In the fall of 2011, I found myself having recently graduated from college, newly married, and living in a small town. I’d had a (very) small blog for a while, and since I didn’t have a job I was looking into designing my blog myself. What I found instead was a class on how to become a blog designer. When I was done I was totally hooked! My business has evolved to be more based around websites and branding for small business.

What were you doing before you launched your business?
I had started substitute teaching in our local school system, and before that I had been an architecture student. I basically created my first job out of college, which was something I never would have envisioned for myself!

kate baird

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
I advertised on a few blog design related sites at first, but from there it really became word of mouth. I was growing my personal blog alongside my business, and most of my clients found me that way, and then through my social media presence.

kate baird

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
I use a combination of Basecamp and my Day Designer to organize my client projects. Basecamp helps me plan more long term across the week, and I love having a paper planner to help me plan each day as it comes.

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
For me it isn’t really one task, it’s really just when my clients are tickled with something I’ve presented to them. In my experience, that’s most likely to happen towards the beginning of the design process or at the very end once the final thing is launched.


What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Start where you are and don’t be afraid to change course down the road. I think a lot of people get stuck because they feel like they’ll be tied to whatever it is they decide to do or how they decide to do it – the possibilities are endless and no one is saying you have to stay the same!

Thanks to Kate for chatting with me!

Find Kate online: Website • Instagram  Twitter  Pinterest


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3 ways to build visual brand consistency.

3 tips for visual brand consistency | on Dotted Design

Do you ever see an image or a post that screams a certain person or brand to you? For example, if I see a bold black and white with a pop of bright color, I think Kate Spade. If I’m scrolling through Instagram and see a mostly white photo with a black or neutral-colored object, I always know it is from The Veda House. How do you build that expectation with your audiences?

While as a person it may be fun to mix up your wardrobe or look for new recipes every month, with your brand, visual consistency in what you present is key. I have a few friends that could go into a store and pick out an outfit that is “so Laura.” I used to take offense to that, but now as a business, I can see the power in building a consistency of that level.

One of the secrets about sticking to a consistent visual identity is that it makes your job easier! You won’t waste time wondering what font you should use on your Facebook ad or what colors your newsletter should be this week. Consistency builds a recognizable brand for your customer that makes them feel comfortable, but it also builds a simpler work system for you or your designer.

It is obvious advice that your visual brand begins with a professional logo and website design. But…then what? How can you use that base to build a brand that your followers recognize in an instant?

Stick to one set of fonts and colors. While you might think it keeps it interesting to use a different font every time you post an image, it is better to have the predictability of a set of fonts and colors for your brand. Because people see SO many messages and images each day, they will grow accustomed to recognizing your posts if they see them in their various feeds and think, “Oh! I love this person’s posts, I’m definitely clicking!” Bonus note: please don’t use more than two fonts at once in an image. Keep it simple and don’t make your readers’ eyes work too hard.

Bring your visual identity into all your products. I’m sure you would use your logo and follow your style guide when building your website, but do you apply this scheme to everything you send out? If you are a service-based business, use your brand fonts and colors on your documents like proposals, quotes, contracts, and invoices. If you teach an online webinar, bring that visual consistency into your email templates, presentations, and course handouts. If there is something you are giving to your client or customer, use it as a tool for building consistency in your brand.

Stay consistent both online and offline. You may have consistent imagery across your social media accounts, but what about the business card you hand out at a networking event? Don’t forget about those in-person experiences with your audience. It helps a person connect with your brand if every touchpoint you have stays within your visual identity. Use your consistent visuals in both your email signature and in the handwritten thank you notes you send.

In what ways do you build consistency in your brand materials?

P.S. If you’re looking for more business and design tips and want a sneak peek into what’s new at Dotted Design and the paper shop, I’d love for you to sign up for my newsletter, The Dotted Line! Delivered just once a month with the freshest content:

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moodboard: neutrals.

Neutrals moodboard | Dotted Design

Spring (or, continued winter as we call it in the Midwest) is all about fresh air, fresh blooms, and fresh starts. This moodboard with all its neutral tones is feeling so light and airy to me! Nothing harsh, nothing too bold.

The brand that I’m building from this is all about softness, coziness, and calm. Can’t wait to share more!

images via  loser soap | voyageur du temps | white walls | the farmbar | ampersand 

grammar time: 3 quick tips for better writing

Tips for better writing | Dotted Design

One of the things that hurts my brain the most when scanning my social media feeds or reading blog posts is seeing bad or just plain wrong grammar. An easy way to make yourself or your business look professional is using correct grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.

I may be a designer, but I also consider myself a stickler for good writing. While I always do a quick read-through of copy when I’m working on a design project, I would love to have some of the common mistakes I see disappear! Rather than continue to have *headdesk moments, I’m starting a little series of quick grammar and language tips to make you a better writer. Here are my first three:

  1. apart  vs. a part
    apart = not together, separated
    a part = participant, an element of
    Wrong: I’m so glad to be apart of this roundup!
    Right: I was sad that my sister and I were apart on Thanksgiving.
    Wrong: It’s hard to be a part from my goldfish during the day.
    Right: I want to be a part of the next conference.
    How do I remember? If the word “of” follows it, then it is most likely going to be two words. It’s funny because these two versions are almost opposites – a good reason not to mix up their use!
  2. Plural S vs. Possessive S
    cats = more than one cat
    cat’s = something belongs to the cat
    Wrong: I love all the pineapple’s in this room.
    Right: The avocado’s color is so lovely.
    Wrong: This rooms vibe is so calming.
    Right: I’m bringing many hats to the party.
    How do I remember? Generally speaking, if you are indicating there is more than one of something, don’t use an apostrophe. If I see one more billboard with an apostrophe for a word that is meant to be plural, I am going to lose it. Please stop, people!
  3. My vs. I’s
    my = something belongs to me
    I’s = NEVER correct
    Wrong: I can’t wait to share Walter and I’s new living room.
    Right: I can’t wait to share Walter and my living room.
    How do I remember: This one is easy – never use “I’s” in a sentence when referring to yourself. That’s why the article “my” was invented! I usually see this in situations where one is saying “so-and-so and I’s…” so another check is to remove the other person and see if it makes sense. “I’s house is for sale” doesn’t make sense, so why would you say, “Bob and I’s house is for sale”?

What are some of your grammar pet peeves? Or, are there any grammar usage questions you’ve been wondering about? I’d love to include it in my next grammar post. Yay for better writing!

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work in progress: Fifth & Grey

Fifth & Grey | Dotted Design

It’s a new week, and I’m excited to share another work in progress project. This photographer does a lot of outdoor work, and wanted to build a brand identity that was modern, simple, and with a touch of whimsy. We’re using some sleek, sans serif type and possibly a handwritten-like element. The colors are black and white with a cool gray and rose.

Can’t wait to share more as we continue to refine this brand identity!



10 ways to fight overwhelm

fight overwhelm | dotted design

Do you ever get to that point where you just feel totally uninspired? Maybe you need to work on a creative project and you just aren’t feeling the ideas flow. Perhaps you have so much to do that you don’t know what to start with.

No matter how much you love your work, there are inevitably going to be moments or days where you feel stuck. I am a firm believer that we should strive to be productive and not busy. Whatever your reasons, here are a few ways you can break through that creative block or feeling of overwhelm and get back to productivity:

  • Take a walk. The best way to clear your mind is to get active and allow yourself to cycle through any thoughts that are stuck in your head. I always seem to have my best ideas while out for a walk or run!
  • Make a list. It’s easy to feel like you have 97 things to do when they are just sitting in your head. Getting them down on paper is a great way to see what you really have to do and not simply what it feels like you have to do.
  • Work for a set number of minutes, then stop. Set a timer for something reasonable, like 15-20 minutes, and commit to working on one thing. No social media, no emails. Sometimes the idea of sitting down to work on a project for an indefinite amount of time can seem so daunting. Knowing that you only have to focus for a short time can really help! (And I bet you’ll keep working after your set time is up.)
  • Complete an admin task. Nothing like taking time to do some accounting or filing to make me ready to jump back into creativity!
  • Do some business reading. Pick up that book that’s been sitting on your to-read list and dive in. Not only might you pick up some great tips, I often find my mind wanders to some inspired ideas for my current projects while I’m reading.
  • Do an activity in another field. If you’re a graphic designer, try doing some photography for fun. If you’re a photographer, trying painting instead. Sometimes flexing those creative muscles in a different way can help bring back that inspired feeling!
  • Take an ecourse. Continuing your education is imperative, no matter your field. Maybe you’ve been wanting to hone a new skill that will help you attract more clients. Or, perhaps you want to take a course to help you better define or operate your business. Dive in and you’ll feel oh-so productive.
  • Schedule down time. If you are feeling uninspired or overwhelmed, it’s likely that you’ve simply been expecting too much of yourself. Make the most of your work hours each week and then let go. It serves no one to give 30% of your best effort for 80 hours a week when you could be working at your peak productivity in 30 hours a week. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will be left to take care of your business? Bonus tip: plan a trip. Nothing helps you get through your work like having a vacation to look forward to!
  • Accept that it is ok to say “no.” This one can be hard when you’re presented with an opportunity to make money, gain exposure, or do something fun. If you are too overworked to take on a new project, you will serve both your current clients and your own health by admitting you can’t take it on right now.
  • Remember it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. When our lens in narrow, it’s easy to feel like if you don’t complete 12 things on your to-do list in one day that the chances will be gone. Running a successful business is about the long game, and accepting that you can’t do it all in one day will be so freeing.

What are some ways you fight feeling uninspired?


small biz chats: Jamie of Spruce Rd.

Jamie_SpruceRd on Dotted Design

I’m excited to start a new series today! One of the best parts about the freelance world is the community of creative entrepreneurs. I love hearing their stories and learning from their experience, so I decided to start sharing some awesome ladies in a new series, Small Biz Chats. We’ll hear how they got started, found their first clients, and advice they have for those wanting to find their own dream business.

Kicking it off is Jamie of Spruce Rd., a designer and blogger who recently came on my radar. I love her style, and I’ve loved reading her blog ever since. Enjoy!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
I am the blogger, graphic + web designer behind Spruce Rd., an independently run boutique design studio! I focus primarily on crafting fresh brand identities for creative entrepreneurs, that are as unique as they are. I love diving in deep, and learning what makes each business stand out, and developing a brand identity that reflects their story. I also take their branding to different mediums such as business cards, print design collateral as well as web design.

The idea behind the name Spruce Rd. is that when collaborating with businesses, we journey together to develop a solution that freshens up their visual identity.

Spruce: Neat, smart, stylish, dapper. To freshen up appearances.
Road: The journey from the old to the new.

I created Spruce Rd. out of a desire to connect with clients + projects that are more of a right “fit” for me. Yes, it is risky starting your own business, but it can also become unhealthy if you are dissatisfied with your current work situation. I wanted to stop complaining, and make a change… and I haven’t looked back yet :)

Jamie_SpruceRd on Dotted Design

What were you doing before you launched your business?
Prior to launching Spruce Rd., I worked as an in-house designer, an employee at a design studio, and a freelancer for a design agency…but not all at the same time! I worked as an in-house designer for a church for a couple years, then at a university for another two years. I had a great experience at both, and learned a TON! In-house design is definitely overlooked. I got to work on huge campaigns, collaborate with photographers, art directors, and videographers, design numerous publications, work on specialty book designs, and most of all I learned what the fullness of branding entailed. Though I loved the people I worked with, as well as some of the projects, I knew I desired to grow my own business.

After working at the university, my husband and I moved so he could pursue a graduate degree. I worked for a short time at a local design studio, prior to taking the leap and starting Spruce Rd. full-time.

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
I consider myself very lucky in that both of my parents are entrepreneurs! They also happen to be huge fans of my work (thanks, mom + dad!), so I had a few jobs lined up for their business. These projects were not as much portfolio builders, but provided a bit of stability in my income through the first couple months…for which I am very grateful!

My first paying clients, that weren’t related to me, came from Pinterest! I can’t pinpoint exactly which pin drew them in, but most likely it came from my blog. I remember reading other designers mentioning how much their blog helped their business, so I knew that this was a tactic I wanted to try. Turns out, I love blogging and connecting with other creatives! I am still in the beginning months of Spruce Rd., but I can say that blogging has definitely opened doors for me, and put my name out there. It is also a way to showcase your design skills through crafting unique + consistent blog graphics, as well as great for SEO and establishing yourself as a professional in your field.

Jamie_SpruceRd on Dotted Design

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
I use Basecamp, Evernote + Google Calendar like nobody’s business! Basecamp is great for client project management. I used it at the university I worked at, and can’t recommend it enough! Yes, no system is perfect, but Basecamp is the closest I have found. I have tried several free/less expensive versions, but they felt incomplete. It is so great because it keeps everything for each project all in one place.

I use Evernote primarily for brainstorming, writing blog posts + keeping a running list of future blog post ideas. I also use it outside of my business for all of my recipes. If you cook a lot, I definitely recommend organizing your recipes through Evernote!

I use Google Calendar + TeuxDeux for scheduling blog posts, as well as assigning tasks for each day. It helps keep me organized for each day, and what projects I need to prioritize.

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
I absolutely love developing new brand identities! Research is always a fun part of the process, as well as sketching new concepts. It’s awesome that I get paid to research inspiring design books, browse through Pinterest, or sketch in my notebook! Branding is my favorite because I get to create something completely new, and brainstorm creative solutions.

I also really enjoy brainstorming new ideas for my business! I am introverted, so sitting at my computer in Evernote, just thinking of creative business ventures really gets me pumped up! I have an entire note in Evernote devoted to new business ideas that I dream of pursuing down the road. That might be nerdy… but I think it is essential to have that driving passion if you are running your own studio. It was this brainstorming + excitement that left me unfulfilled at previous jobs, so I am thrilled I get to explore new ideas for Spruce Rd.

Jamie_SpruceRd on Dotted Design

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Go for it! I would also suggest that they have a plan in place prior to launching their own business. I am a planner, and a very practical person, so I had multiple conversations with my husband + Excel sheets that outlined my approach to launching Spruce Rd. on a realistic level. If you are starting your own business, you understand that income might not come in immediately. Just realize that it takes time attract the right clients + projects, as well as establish yourself as a professional business. Be patient, and your business will thrive! It is so worth it!

Thanks to Jamie for sharing her wisdom with us!

Find Jamie online: Website • Instagram  Twitter  Pinterest • Bloglovin’

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