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’

color study: blush.

blush moodboard on dotted design

A color that seems to be popping up lately is pretty pale pink. I’ve started to see it as an accent in some branding, packaging, and even accessories. While it’s not normally a color in my repertoire (makes me think of Steel Magnolias – blush and bashful, yes?!), I’m finding it really soft and pleasant. You never know what will draw your eye!

images: floral | envelope | calendar | boxes | naomi | whiskey

friday bright whites.

bright whites | dotted design

Happy Friday! I love a little color study, and since the cold and snow persist, I’m looking for the chic side of white. Nothing like a cozy pillow, warm candle, and keeping up with correspondence to brighten a day! And those tassels – so much fun. White has such a clean and bright feeling about it, which is why I love an almost excessive amount of whitespace in design.

Wishing you a warm weekend!

get the white:

tips for working with a designer.

Tips for working with a Designer

As I’ve worked with a variety of clients, I’ve seen a whole variety of situations in eager and well-meaning business owners. Everyone wants a new logo yesterday, and sometimes excitement overtakes preparation. Hearing questions from clients has really helped me become more clear in my process and better serve them as a designer. There are some great ways to make working with a designer more seamless, and this is my best advice for someone who want to work with a designer:

 

Know your business first.
While branding is an essential part of building a viable business, it is so important to understand your business and who you are serving before you begin to touch the branding process. It’s easy to get so excited about your new venture that you want to have a logo and business cards as soon as you come up with the idea. However, you should know things like who your target audience is, what type of person will be using your services, and how you want people to feel about your brand. This helps the designer figure out the best way to build your branding.

It’s totally fine if you don’t know exactly what type of logo you want (that’s why you hire a designer), but knowing who you want to appeal to and what sort of aesthetic type you are looking for is essential. For example, saying, “I’m a restaurant that serves food – I haven’t quite decided what yet,” may be an accurate description of where you’re at in building your business, but it is of no help to your designer. Figuring out that you are “a boutique café focusing on local produce and green living that serves vegetarians on the go,” or “an experimental culinary hub that serves unique meats in a family style presentation in a cozy dining setting” changes the outcome so much. A designer is building your brand so that it appeals to your customers, not simply to your own specific tastes.

 

Have all of your content ready to go.
Design solves problems, and it is meant to organize and beautifully present your content. And I get it: it is super exciting to be working on your brand, and you want that pretty website/logo/press kit NOW. But, nothing is more frustrating in the process than when you get all set up with a designer and then say, “Well, I’m still working out what to call my services, so can you hang on while I work that?” or, “Can you just design the website while I work on getting photos and writing the copy?” In short: no. It makes it pretty hard to design a way to organize your information if the designer doesn’t even know what that info is! Your copy and your photos all influence the design product. My best analogy is that you wouldn’t invite a photographer to your house to take newborn photos while you’re still pregnant, right? There would be nothing to work with.

One caveat to this is when a designer has a wait time or you have to get on his/her schedule in advance. It’s great to get in touch with your chosen designer when you know you want to work with that person to see about their schedule, and if they have a two-month wait, you’ll be prepared for that. But, don’t sign on to work with someone effective immediately if you know your copy won’t be ready for two more months.

 

Don’t ask for a duplicate of something that already exists.
If you don’t have design software and instead simply email a designer saying, “Yo, I love the Glitter Guide logo, can you just make me that same concept with my business name?” Um, no. That’s called blatantly copying someone’s property, but also it is completely boring. While it’s essential to have inspiration and give examples of brands and styles you love, the goal of hiring a designer is to create something that’s uniquely you. Having a nearly identical logo is like showing up at a party in the exact same dress as someone else. Embarrassing…

Along those same lines, it’s not very respectful if you are dictating exactly how your logo or website should look, saying things like, “I want this font and this color and number of pixels between shapes blah blah…” If you know exactly what your logo should be looking like, then why did you hire a designer? The most exciting part about working with a designer is picking their brain and using their professional expertise to create something perfect for your brand. Let your designer ask the questions, and then see where their knowledge takes your brand.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and communicate.
There can be lots of lingo when you hire a professional in a field that is not your own. But, we designers don’t expect that you are experts, or else why would you have hired us? If there is something unclear about what your designer is asking for, why he/she is asking for something, or especially if you don’t understand the process, speak up! A good designer will be more than happy to explain.

Asking questions is also a great way to gauge whether your working styles are a good fit. Learning about a designer’s work, process, and style all help indicate whether you will enjoy working with him/her and if their work will be a good fit for your needs.


What have you learned working with professionals like designers, developers, copywriters, etc? Any tips to share or comments on being the client?

 

work in progress: ice cream.

Purple Door Ice Cream | logo process

Today I’m happy to share some progress on a concept logo I’m working on for a local shop that I love. I wanted to create a brand that is playful and cheerful that mixes a bit of a retro vibe into a modern aesthetic. After creating this moodboard, I started working on these logo concepts. It’s always fun to share how the process goes! After refining, I’ll be working on some brand build out – stay tuned.

font friday: romantic.

Romantic Fonts | dotted design

Happy Friday! In honor of February, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite romantic script fonts that are perfect for your Valentine, a wedding invitation, or even a note to yourself. They each have quite a different personality, so choose wisely.

download here: acustica script | cantoni pro (always a fave!) | chopin script | heartwell | lovers quarrel | petite formal script

What are you favorite script fonts? I love finding new ones!