A good designer has to be savvy about a bit more than just design. Learn about other ways a professional designer can help you as plan your marketing (and maybe save your workplace sanity).
“What is it exactly that you do?”
This is a question that many professionals (of any career) dread answering. Of course there’s the elevator speech approach. But how do you share a job title that accurately sums up your job responsibilities?
In my experience, the word “graphic designer” is common, but I also feel it can feel a little limiting. Sure, if you give me your content and a bit of general direction I will happily make it look pretty for you. Sometimes that’s all my clients need, but so many times it comes to so much more than that.
In reality, while I promote myself as a graphic designer, I can wear many hats: Creative director, proofreader, copywriter, marketing manager, web/digital designer, traffic coordinator, production manager and print coordinator, just to name a few. I’ve had some professional experience in these areas to offer some pretty solid direction — and since no man (or woman) is an island, I can always steer my clients to other reliable resources/vendors. Maybe the best term is: TEAMMATE.
With so much going on at work day-to-day, it can be hard to put a lot of thought into your organization’s marketing materials even though you know they need some help. Sometimes, simply outsourcing a project to a professional you trust can make all of the difference – both in results and your staff’s sanity. I’ve been blessed to work with some great clients, and they can rely on me to create quality work, meet deadlines, share outside-experience and easily connect with me. The magic of the arrangement is that as an outside vendor I can be as involved in their design/marketing process as they’d like me to be.
Here are some scenarios (pulled from my own experience) where a professional graphic designer may be able help you in unexpected ways:
1. You’ve got an idea (or ten) to extend your marketing and brand image but I’m not sure how to begin the process of pulling it all together, much less designing it.
Maybe you have some marketing ideas but not exactly sure of their execution or format? No problem! A good designer can start the conversation, and help you develop a project plan. If you’ve got an idea for the message, they can help you figure out the best format to deliver it in, and can help tweak it to your budget.
“Jill is a great listener. She took my vision and not only met my design expectations, but far exceeded them. I look forward to working with her again in the future!” – Shanda Munson, Owner, The Scene Studio
2. You’re under a tight deadline! You need some marketing materials produced, stat.
No fear… a good designer has experience with project management. They’re responsible and also familiar with production deadlines – they can work with you to prioritize your marketing plan.
“Jill makes the design process easy. She goes above and beyond with presentation, creativity, and service. She’s quick to listen and incorporate feedback, yet always ready with new ideas and options to get to the best end goal. I am always impressed by her turnaround time and precision. It’s not everyday that you find a person with amazing talent, great project management, and a service personality, but Jill is just that!” – Sarah Bey, Operations Manager, University of Northern Iowa Center for Business Growth and Innovation
3. You’ve got some content written for your marketing piece, but it doesn’t feel right. Something is just not working.
Sometimes when we write we become so familiar with our own content that we use lingo or speak that only makes sense to us. Let a designer with a background in marketing take a look at it and offer a perspective from outside of your organization – they may be able to offer some alternatives for you that may connect better with your audience. Or they may be able to help the flow of your content simply by the use of clever design.
“Jill is an instinctive designer who works what you think you want into what you know you need. Her consistency and uncomplicated joyous nature make Jill one of my favorite people to work with. She gets it right every time.” – Sarah Till, Business Operations, M&M Sales Inc.
Hope this helps you! Best of luck with your marketing and promotional efforts. Of course feel free to contact me anytime with questions of how we may be able to work together.
Basing my design and branding studio here in Dubuque was no accident. Read more about my connection with Dubuque, the city’s potential for brands to shine and the local businesses I’ve had the opportunity to help along the way.
Three years ago, I made the decision to leave my full-time creative director job and take Luckythirteen Design from “working on side-projects” to my own full-time graphic design and branding studio. My family and I had recently made the move back to Dubuque, the city where my husband and I grew up. Though I had lived in other bigger cities for over a decade, Dubuque had always felt like home.
Anyone will tell you that starting a business comes with plenty of questions and uncertainties. But setting up my business in the Dubuque area was completely intentional. Dubuque has such unique character – including its friendly people, its historic fabric and its wonderful causes. Mix in the qualities some great organizations and businesses – there’s a lot to be passionate about. And there are so many aspects to pull from that can make great design and branding work shine. There is also pride in supporting local business here – something that is very important to me. By supporting each other, we contribute to our local economy and support local families.
My small role in these connections? I feel that by brightening up a local business’ branding or marketing materials, I’m not only helping that brand stand out, but also brightening our local Dubuque-area community.
And its been working! I helped one local client (two co-owners) with the branding launch of their new Dubuque restaurant, American Bombshell – this included the logo design, print materials, illustrations, menus, signage, website, and other rollout materials. They had plenty of great ideas and we worked through a plan of execution. When their restaurant opened, they got a line of customers right off the bat and plenty of complements on their brand identity design. It created a buzz in town, and customers started asking them questions:
“Is your restaurant a chain?”
Nope, just the storefront you see here! We just maximized its potential.
“What agency does your branding work for you?”
A one-gal design studio, located right here in town. (Considering the great design work that comes out of big cities and agencies, that was very nice to hear!)
It’s been working together fantastically. The design stands out, the audience remembers the restaurant name and it’s become unique from the other similar businesses down the street. The brand identity design received area advertising awards and recognition (just another way to help put Dubuque on the map.) Business has been good, and my clients and I are so proud of the work that’s been done!
I’ve been fortunate to work with some pretty spectacular Dubuque-area clients.
Some are nonprofit or community causes:
Others sell thousands of products each year.
VERENA STREET COFFEE CO.
M&M SALES INC.
Some are sell unique products and services:
GABBY’S GIFTS (GALENA, IL)
ADAMS ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK
Others enhance the culture of our community.
KEY CITY CREATIVE CENTER
Some are large organizations:
MCGRAW HILL EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA
Others are small-business-owner shops like my own.
THE SCENE STUDIO
Though a chunk of my business is focused in the Dubuque area, I do have some regional clients as well. Every business is different and has unique needs, and I hope that I can work with you to ease your business’ internal marketing efforts. Please contact me anytime if you have questions.
When I took Luckythirteen Design full-time nearly three years ago, I made point to a make volunteer work a part of my worklife. I feel that by supporting some great causes, I’m not only doing a small part to help their efforts but I’m also adding some much-needed vibrancy to our local community.
I continue to help with the efforts of a number of area nonprofits and serve on a variety of volunteer committees of causes that I care about. I love that I get to provide design services, but I’m also strategizing our marketing plan and offering insight to my teams (which include some pretty awesome people and community leaders.)
Helping area organizations shine is at the heart of my business’ mission:
COMMITTED TO MAKING YOUR BRAND
AND OUR COMMUNITY A BIT BRIGHTER.
And adding volunteer work to my plate has never been a regret. For anyone considering volunteer work: Find a cause (or two) you care about and go for it. My experience has been that what I get from it far exceeds what I’ve put into it. What a fantastic feeling it is to do something for the greater good – and often you get to meet some pretty amazing people in the process.
Some of my local volunteer efforts have been:
Steeple Square – A repurposed campus in Dubuque that’s working to restore lives and prompt community engagement and vibrancy. It sits on the former St. Mary’s Church campus, and the gorgeous former church is now being repurposed as an event center. Apartments and community programs will soon be available here too, in one of the areas of town that needs them most. I serve on the Steeple Square’s marketing committee and got involved with the project during its early planning in 2013 – helping with the naming, the logo, brand identity, website and print materials. I continue to help regularly with projects, signage, website updates and providing marketing input. The enthusiasm around this project is ever-building and so contagious – I truly love being part of the team.
Riverview Center – Provides free services for sexual and domestic violence in our community. They provide legal and medical advocacy, therapy/counseling, emergency shelter and many other services, free to members of the community. Violence prevention education is also a big push. Violence (particularly sexual violence) is not a subject that’s easy to talk about, so using my design skills to make the subject more approachable to the community is something that makes the cause even more important to me. I serve on the committee that organizes Riverview Center’s main fundraiser, Evening of Light – which I helped name and provided the brand identity design that’s been consistent for past years’ events. The design work helps frame the elegance of the evening and supports the cause (and hopefully draws in some extra attendees with stand-out invitations and event materials!) I’ve also helped plan the event’s menu, agenda, live auction items, and assisted with the organization of the silent auction. This year marks my fourth year serving on the Evening of Light event committee.
AAF Dubuque – I am an active member of my local advertising club, American Advertising Federation of Dubuque (AAF Dubuque.) Clubs like ours exist throughout the country, and promote our industry by hosting national speakers, holding networking events and putting on the AA Awards ceremony (formerly The Addys.) The club is soley run through the work of volunteers. Though I was a board member of our local ad club when I lived and worked in Des Moines, I now continue to serve my industry by volunteering with event planning and print design/coordination for some of those events. I have even volunteered my time to create logos and brand identities for a couple of the club’s past Public Service Campaigns – in which club members donate their time and talents to a local non-profit organization to help the organization reach its advertising and marketing goals.
Looking forward to continuing my efforts with these organizations!
I had been day-dreaming of developing the brand identity for a restaurant for a couple of years now. When the co-owners of the Dubuque’s local food truck wanted to meet with me about branding their new business venture, I was more than thrilled!
See below for pics of how the brand identity design came together.
Beauty and the Beef had been Dubuque, Iowa’s beloved food truck for a few years, and I was among the many locals that would make my way to their food truck (wherever it was in town on a random day) and meet up with some friends for one of their tasty sandwiches.
When I met with co-owners Teri and Kathy, they told me about how they envisioned evolving Beauty and the Beef. They were planning to open a downtown restaurant in addition to their food truck, and it would be under a new name… American Bombshell, building off their sandwich names based on strong female characters (The Bombshell, The Knockout, The Hula Girl, The Chicago Beauty, etc.) Their vision for their business was determined and very vivid, now they wanted to work with me to bring the brand to life visually.
My wheels started turning and we jived immediately. We talked through some visual ideas I had and discussed their marketing needs to promote their new restaurant. How would the execution of those pieces play out? We determined the best route would be to start with a logo design through my Logo + Brand Identity Package. In the package, I offered Teri and Kathy three very different logo options to start, along with a branding board of proposed design elements including color palette, fonts and patterns that would help build the American Bombshell brand. They decided on a logo design immediately, and were enthusiastic about the design elements I created that would be the basis of their brand and all of their marketing pieces moving forward.
One essential element was the character illustration of who we dubbed “Rosie”, our tough modern-day heroine which I illustrated myself. Fun fact: Her arm tattoo of the two cleavers represents Teri and Kathy, and pays homage to the cleaver in the original Beauty and the Beef logo.
The work that followed was a result of both constructive client input and a client placing their trust in their designer. Additional marketing fell into place seamlessly, and I worked with Teri and Kathy to evolve their branding and build excitement about the new restaurant opening. As they worked with the builders and sign-makers (a shout-out to Big River Signs) to build out the restaurant space, they included me to provide input in their design/decor decisions. We moved forward one element at a time, and I developed print advertising, printed menus, social media graphics, website, business cards, and I concepted the storefront menu clipboard idea so items could be easily changed as needed. All of these pieces work together to seamlessly represent the American Bombshell brand, and I have to say that the excitement of Teri, Kathy and the community has been very infectious and creatively motivating. AWESOME project, and can’t wait to have more restaurant branding design opportunities in the future!
UPDATE 2/28/2017: The branding design campaign for American Bombshell is now an award-winner! It won both a Top Ten Award and a Gold Award at 2017’s American Advertising Awards… so proud.
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I love the variety of my creative job, but the one constant is that there is ALWAYS music playing in my studio.
Confession: I am a music nerd. Music has always been a big part in my work life and personal life. If I’m not listening to music at work, at home or in the car, I’m singing it… either out loud (embarrassingly) or in my head. In past jobs at other agencies, our creative environment was frequently set to the soundtrack of a great playlist. Co-workers and I would basically DJ the day’s tunes over the company speakers, which would inspire our creative work or at least spark some interesting conversation while we worked (“This song reminds me of…” … or… “Whoa, I completely forgot this song ever existed!”) Throw in some name-that-tune challenges and random classic rock factoids and you have some awesome and sometimes pretty humorous convo.
Nowadays, I have my own studio and I am the solo DJ in my day-to-day worklife… which means I alone control the tunes, but still love to share new music with others and discover new music. My music tastes over the years have grown to be pretty well-rounded, but tend to lean toward alt rock, classic rock, indie rock, classic R&B/soul, etc. (Note: you won’t find much easy listening or country here, though I do love some more classic-sounding artists like Johnny Cash, Kasey Musgraves, et al. once in awhile.)
Welcome to LTD Studio. I hope to update this post periodically with new playlists as they are compiled. Enjoy and let me know your feedback… and I love finding new music, so if you have some suggestions I would love to hear them!
LTD Studio: Chill Fall Morning
November 17, 2017: Some tunes to coordinate with this chilly fall day. Relaxing and necessary.
KT Tunstall – Golden Age (Beck Cover)
MGMT – Congratulations
Owl Eyes – Diamonds In Her Eyes
Jim Croce – Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)
Real Estate – Talking Backwards
The Verve – Lucky Man
Local Natives – Ceilings
Fleetwood Mac – Bleed to Love Her (Live Version, from “The Dance”)
Jack Johnson – No Other Way
Kings of Leon – Revelry
Beach House – Walk in The Park
Pinback – Fortress
Obadiah Parker – Hey Ya (Outkast Cover)
Pearl Jam – Wishlist
Keane – Under the Walnut Tree
Ben Folds Five – Hold That Thought
Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Nick Drake – One of These Things First
Procal Harum – Whiter Shade of Pale
Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
LTD Studio: Endless Summer
September 2, 2016: I choose not to accept that summer is ending. Here are some tunes to enjoy on a summer day/roadtrip (or at least, to make it feel like one.)
Best Coast – The Only Place
Foster the People – Helena Beat
New Radicals – You Get What You Give
Stevie Wonder – For Once In My Life
Delta Spirit – Bushwick Blues
Alabama Shakes – Always Alright
Grouplove – Spun
Ben Folds Five – Where’s Summer B?
Coldplay – Strawberry Swing
John Fogerty – Centerfield
The Kooks – She Moves in Her Own Way
The Flaming Lips – Fight Test
Earth, Wind and Fire – September
The Whigs – Right Hand on My Heart
The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice
The Weeks – Buttons
Van Morrison – Real Real Gone
Adele – Right as Rain
The Beta Band – Dry the Rain
Passion Pit –To Kingdom Come
Sometimes pieces of an existing brand design or marketing work, but others don’t. This client was ready for an overhaul, but not sure how to do it in a rollout that was as seemless as possible. We worked with together to sort through their existing materials and come up with some very effective solutions, including a new logo and branding design.
University of Northern Iowa’s Regional Business Center was going through some organizational changes… to the point where they were undergoing a name-change to UNI Center for Business Growth and Innovation. They had a ton of existing marketing materials out there, and lots of programs that they offered that had a particular look and feel, all very different. No wonder that Sarah (Operations Manager) was a little overwhelmed when she contacted me! I was so excited for the opportunity, who WOULDN’T want to create design work for their alma mater?
I made the trip to Cedar Falls met with the UNI staff and took in all of the information. Where to start with all of this? After lots of discussion about their goals, businesses and programs, it all came down to the new business name change and providing a new logo along with branding design so we could see how the look would all come together in their marketing. We also thought building on the university’s reputation was important, and that associating with the university’s colors of purple and gold (which had not been done much in this office before) would be a step in the right direction.
I got to work, designing three logo concepts as well as branding design inspiration. After some rounds of revisions and lots of client input, we had a final logo! Elements of this logo were carried into logos for each of the programs UNICBGI offers too, each inspired by elements of their existing logos for some consistency. Here is the branding board that was developed:
UNI CBGI BRAND IDENTITY BOARD
Next, we had discussions of what marketing materials were most important to rollout first, including business cards, popup displays, social media graphics, marketing folders and inserts, postcards, programs and a brand-new website design. Several pieces were necessary for a booth at an upcoming event, so we made the design of those our priority. I created a timeline for all of our projects to keep us on-task and on-schedule, and provided an estimate of design costs. We successfully hit our production deadlines for EntreFEST (an event for Iowa entreprenuers which I was thrilled to attend) and the booth looked great… lots of brand recognition gained and the branding stood out awesomely in the welcome area. Kudos to their team for pulling that all together!
“Jill makes the design process easy. She goes above and beyond with presentation, creativity, and service. She’s quick to listen and incorporate feedback, yet always ready with new ideas and options to get to the best end goal. I am always impressed by her turnaround time and precision. It’s not everyday that you find a person with amazing talent, great project management, and a service personality, but Jill is just that!”
– Sarah Bey, Operations Manager, University of Northern Iowa Center for Business Growth and Innovation
Nowadays, there is a renewed sense of energy at the UNI office, and the staff is proud to display their logo on apparel and their business design elements on their office walls. I’m especially proud of our website design, which gives an overview of all of UNICBGI’s services and incorporates the branding design of their marketing materials. The UNI staff will be able to make future edits to their mobile-friendly WordPress site in-house.
This small business had an existing logo and some existing marketing but needed some help pulling it all together for a cohesive look and feel. They had some marketing ideas but not exactly sure of their execution or format. Here’s an example of how we pulled together multiple design executions for a consistent branding message.
CTW Photography is the business of savvy small business owners Carissa and Tanya, two young ladies that focus on portrait, commercial and wedding photography in the Iowa City area. Carissa is the talent behind the portrait portion, Tanya leads commercial photography and they team together to photograph weddings. They had been working together for a couple of years, but had been struggling to keep the different facets of their business together as a ‘brand’ and keep a consistent look in all of their work. After all, portrait photography is more playful than the more commercial photography, which is less formal than wedding photography. How do you produce marketing pieces that keeps it all together?
Carissa had seen my portfolio work, gave me a buzz and we started collaborating immediately. They had an existing logo which they liked and were using in their existing marketing, but something about it just wasn’t working for them. She shared their marketing pieces with me (which they created in-house), and I could see she was right… there just wasn’t a flow or consistency in their look. She and Tanya had lots of ideas of what pieces they wanted in their marketing arsenal, but just weren’t sure of the exact format or how to roll it all out in a way that made sense. Were they crazy? Was this way over our heads? No way, ladies. We’ll figure it out piece by piece, a bit at a time.
I knew the first step was to figure out their branding look. I took charge and designed a visual brand board with my suggestions: Tweaking their color palette and keeping some elements consistent between portrait, commercial and wedding. Each facet has their own design elements and main color palette too. With this branding board as our guide, we could proceed with concepting the rest of their marketing pieces.
CTW PHOTOGRAPHY VISUAL BRAND BOARD
Every business is different. I was able to work with these ladies to find out how they sell their work, which helped me suggest which format might work best for the application. Some documents are able to be both emailed and printed. Some documents require constant updating, so I designed those in a format that the gals could edit in-house as needed. Others I worked with a local print vendor to coordinate print production.
See below for photos of how some of
these branding projects worked out!
A large project was the concept of a bridal kit… a bag of goodies for new brides that signup for wedding day photography. With a lot of collaboration, I was able to concept and design the separate pieces for this kit (screenprinted tote bag, folder, inserts, booklets, tags, etc.), and we are all so proud of the results! UPDATE February 2016: The CTW bridal kit is now an award-winner! It won a Gold Award at 2016’s American Advertising Awards.
It’s important to note that this was not an overnight process. It took a lot of prioritizing of needs, and projects were tackled as fit priority and budget. We are always evolving their marketing – Carissa and Tanya are savvy enough to realize that their needs are always changing and new ideas are always developing that make their lives easier, their clients’ lives easier and not to mention easier on the eye.
UPDATE September 2017: 3+ years later, we’re still working together! There’s more to come, including evolving their brand look to a gorgeous new website – stay tuned on that front!
“From Day 1, Jill has been nothing but amazing. She is professional, timely and her work is phenomenal. Although our line of work (photography) also requires creativity and an artistic eye, Jill has presented designs to us that we simply could and would not have come up with ourselves. Simply stated: it has been an absolute pleasure working with Jill and we can’t wait for what the future holds, both for her as well as for us as we continue working with her. If you need a designer, Jill is definitely your gal. Thank you!” – Carissa Wemmie, Co-Owner, CTW Photography
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This brand-new business wanted to be seen as a professional, and needed the looks to reflect their organization and catch attention right off the bat. Here’s an example of how I worked with my client to design the elements of their brand (including a logo, fonts, color and design elements) that were uniquely theirs and serve as a guide for all of their future marketing efforts.
Sometimes, a project just clicks. Was super-excited to be contacted by the staff at Heritage Works, a new non-profit organization in our hometown of Dubuque, Iowa (they had also been recommended to me by members of other local non-profit organizations I have been working with.) Heritage Works focuses on preserving and developing the beautiful historic buildings in our city to help revitalize the community and drive economic development. As a brand-new business, they realized they needed a logo that would get them recognized in the community right off the bat.
I met Duane (CEO) and Rachel (Marketing and Operations Manager) at a local downtown coffee shop and got the opportunity to learn more about their mission and desired impact on our community. We clicked on the shared vision that Dubuque is growing, and becoming a more vibrant community and we all want to be part of spearheading its revitalization. They shared ideas that they had for their logo, and I shared some input too. We quickly realized that developing some Heritage Works’ branding elements in addition to a logo would also very beneficial to a new business’ roll-out. After some discussion we decided to proceed with my Logo and Branding Design Package (which includes three logo options to start, along with branding inspiration such as color palette, fonts, and design elements to inspire future marketing pieces.)
Next, our conversation turned to what other eminent marketing needs they may have. First thing of course, new business cards! Also as a brand-new business, they had already started social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, but knew they needed more of a web presence where visitors could learn more about their organization and share recent news stories. Rachel also wanted a website where she could eventually edit and add content herself, so we decided we would build a WordPress website. Wahoo!
The next day I got to work, doing some internal research and sketches for three logo designs. These sketches turned into three different logo design concepts, which were shared with Duane and Rachel. Based on their comments, we made rounds of revisions to come up with the final logo design. Very much a collaborative effort, and so happy with how the final logo turned out! I provided final logo files for Heritage Works to incorporate on their social media outlets, press releases, store signage and more so they could get those pieces rolling internally.
In tandem with creating the logo I worked on branding design elements that would inspire the website design and future marketing. We could all see the ‘brand look’ coming together!
HERITAGE WORKS’ BRAND IDENTITY BOARD
With colors, fonts and patterns established, I was able to extend the brand to a business card design that included the look-and-feel from the branding board.
Next step was to get cracking on a website design. Rachel and I worked together to decide on a sitemap and she provided clear and concise content for the site (which was incredibly helpful!) I took her content and developed website mockups for them to approve, and after a couple of rounds of tweaks I was ready to start developing. Weeks later, Heritage Works had a gorgeous website design that fit within the branding design look that had been developed at the business’ start. Check out the website yourself at www.heritageworksdbq.com.
” With her care and professionalism, Jill created a logo, brand and website that perfectly reflects the mission of Heritage Works. Thanks to Jill, our young organization has a look and feel that will help us to further our mission and grow our organization. Any concerns were always immediately addressed, and our expectations were always exceeded.”
— Rachel Wilberding, Marketing and Operations Manager
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