design with consistency

“Consistency is next to godliness.”

-Roland Nord, 2010 (and probably a million times before & since then)

Roland was one of my professors in grad school – my favorite, if I’m being honest. If there is one statement that stuck with me since being in his courses, it’s that one. I quote it often and in almost every aspect of my life, but here I’m talking about your marketing and a simple change you can make to increase your brand’s consistency.

Consistency in your marketing creates recognition. Using the same colors, the same fonts, and the same feeling in your advertising, social media, and documents helps your customers become familiar with your brand. Familiarity is comforting, and humans gravitate toward what is comfortable.


Consistency in your marketing creates recognition.


The visual look of your communications is as much a part of your brand as your logo. If you’re using whatever font you feel like that particular day when creating a new document or advertisement, that underlying branding message from your organization becomes choppy. If you consistently choose the same font(s) and colors, your separate pieces flow together as though they were all created at the same time.

Of course, a graphic designer can help you define a direction and create a style sheet (such as the one pictured below) with a color palette and paired fonts as a part of a brand design. That can be important as you grow, expand your reach, and create more advertising for your business, but it’s not always necessary as you’re just starting out.

design standards help with (say it with me…) CONSISTENCY

The visual look of your communications is as much a part of your brand as your logo.


If you’re just starting out or if you’re just trying to create some consistency in your day-to-day business communications, start by using the same font for your communications. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a single font for now. One that came in your word processing software is just fine; choose one that has a variety of weights (regular, bold, italic) so you can create headings, subheadings, and body text.
  • If you are looking for a resource for free fonts, Google Fonts, DaFont, and FontSquirrel are great options. Just be sure to use a font that is licensed for commercial use and you read the fine print before you put it to use.
  • Make sure the font you choose is clean and easy to read. There are a lot of fun fonts out there, and you might like a lot of them, but keep your focus on what you would want to read if you were given the document you’re creating. Stay away from cutesy or decorative fonts. They have their purpose, but it isn’t here. Here you want to stick with the basics.
  • Consider your audience – do you need to be more formal, or is more casual ok? If more formal, maybe you will want to choose a serif font (these are the fonts with the small lines at the tops and bottoms of the characters such as Times New Roman, Georgia, or Garamond). If you can be more casual, or if the communication will mostly be read on a screen, a sans serif font would be a good choice (these are the fonts with no small lines, such as Arial or Verdana).
  • Be consistent. Use it in all email communications, new documents (both internal and for your customers), and wherever else you can. Make sure your employees know to use it in their communications as well.

Bottom line: don’t stress too much about choosing a font for your organization’s communications. As you grow, you can hire a designer to really dial it in and find a font family or pairing of fonts that speak to your customers and represents your brand’s personality. For now, just make sure what you choose is easy to read and you use it consistently.

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What do you think? Will you be applying any of these tips in your business?
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cover photo credit: pixabay.com user free-photos

designed to be unique

I saw a friend out and about a while back, and he mentioned he needed new business cards. He owns a painting business in town, and he said he got his current cards from his accounting software for super cheap and he’s almost out of them. But he also said, with a tone of annoyance in his voice, “Another painter in town has the exact same cards as me, so I need new ones.”

You guys, I live in a town of around 50,000 people. I don’t know how many painting companies we have, but I can’t imagine we have a ton. And the fact that two of them ended up with the exact same business cards just screams the old adage:

You get what you pay for.

I’ve seen it before too. My hairstylist used to have the same logo and business cards as a bridal shop in town. When you get your designs created by a one-size-fits-all shop online, you run the risk of sharing your branding with someone else in town, or even your competition. The internet is big, but not THAT big.

A small design company will take the time to listen to you and learn about your business, your customer, and the message you’re trying to convey. They will create something that is unique to you and YOUR company… something that stands out from your competition’s marketing instead of matching it.

Plus, if you give that designer your repeat business, they will become an extension of your team. They will grow to understand the nuances of your business, and you won’t have to explain who you are or how your business works to them each time you have a new project. It’s like having a designer on-staff, but without having to budget for it.

Sure, you will likely have to pay more for the service of custom design. But, you didn’t design your business to fit into a template; why design your marketing around a template?

photo credit: user RawPixel on Pixabay.com

why use a graphic designer?

Do you need a graphic designer?

Sure, you can put together that ad or coupon using your basic word processing software. Yes, it’s cheaper, and yes, it gets the job done.

You may not have the need for a graphic designer on payroll, but finding one that you can contract and work with consistently will build a relationship. Your designer will come to understand your business, learn your audience, and work more intuitively over time, thus needing less of your time and input. That groundwork and communication on the front end will help you immensely as you develop a relationship, grow your business together, and excellently serve your customers together.

Then this:

email screen shot

…turns into this:

2018.11.05 Heels&Wheels discount-01-01

…with minimal effort from you.

My passion is to take your message, polish it, and create a beautiful design so you can proudly put it out in the world. If it’s a print project, I’ll take care of getting it printed up for you too. Let me take care of those things so you can focus on the parts that made you want to go into business in the first place.

How can I serve your customers? Let’s find out!

cover photo credit: markusspiske on Pixabay.com

marketing kindness

A while back, I wrote about a generous gift I received from a client. I mentioned then that I had been working on a project for them that truly exemplifies who they are, and now that some time has passed and word is out, I thought I’d tell you more about it.

Frozen Yogurt Creations is a locally-owned frozen treat shop, but it’s so much more than that. Anyone who knows store owners Kelli and Bruce also knows that they see their shop as a place for community and family, for celebration and smiles, and a place to pause and reconnect with those we care about. They are intentional in their decisions – from their marketing to their cheery atmosphere to the gifts they give organizations in the community (which they do quietly and frequently).

I struggle to even call their most recent marketing campaign a “marketing” campaign, because for them, it isn’t about the marketing. They want to change the community to be kinder, and they thought of a fun way to do it that is just… well, I don’t know how to say it other than it’s just so them.

It starts with a business card sized coupon:

discount cards

The idea is that they hand these cards out to family, friends, and employees to give to people they “catch” in an act of kindness, which the recipient could turn in for a free treat.

So then the recipient comes in, card in-hand, and writes down what they did on the back of the card. The card gets added to one of 6 posters that are hanging on the wall, such as this one:

poster/wall art
24″ by 36″ custom poster

Each one of those little rectangles will eventually get covered up with a card, but for now, they each contain a little quote about kindness. The posters hang near the seating areas so customers can read them while they enjoy their treat.

Finally, the do-gooder gets their picture taken holding a sign so Kelli and Bruce can brag about them a little bit on social media, like this:

38933040_2163576540341425_2844245291803082752_n

Finally, they give that person a new, blank card so they can give it to someone else for their act of kindness and keep the campaign going.

So, yes. Technically, this is a marketing campaign. The first Facebook post they did about the campaign got around 150 “likes” and a bunch of shares and comments. Subsequent posts had strong responses as well. People got excited about it, and word is spreading, which I imagine is probably good for their business.

More importantly to Kelli and Bruce, it’s a Kindness Campaign: smiles are being spread during a time in history when maybe the world could use a little extra kindness. That’s their goal; the other stuff is secondary.

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What do you think about their campaign? How can your business create a Kindness Campaign, with the heart being in the kindness and the marketing being secondary? What kind of organizational culture needs to be there so customers know it’s genuine and not just for publicity?
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cover photo credit: user klimkin on Pixabay.com

7 tips to help your designer help you

“Help me… help you! Help. Me. Help you.”

I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I can still remember Cuba Gooding Jr.’s face when Tom Cruise angrily delivers this line in the movie Jerry McGuire. Cuba’s expression goes from beyond frustrated to totally amused as Tom’s character begs Cuba’s to help him do his job. (Oooh I found it! You can watch it here.)

OK, getting to my point:

Every service occupation has ways the customer can help the provider do a better job of serving. Graphic design is no different. Your graphic designer will probably not scream at you like Tom Cruise does in the movie, but…

You can help your designer help you.

Here are some tips for working with your graphic designer so the end result is what you’re hoping for and the process is as smooth as possible:

1 – Answer their initial questions the best you can.

When I work with a new client, I usually pepper them with questions about their organization, their customer, as well as the project. I know that I ask a lot of questions, and I realize that the questions can seem tedious, but I ask them so I learn the mark I should be aiming for. My client’s customers are my customers, so I want to be sure I know who they are. My client’s message is my message, so I want to be sure I know what I’m trying to convey.

Click here for some of the types of the questions I ask.

Put in some time at the beginning. Your designer realizes you’re busy, and you probably just want them to take the project and run, but fully answering those questions can save you time and money later.

2 – Say what you want.

I live in Minnesota: the land of 10,000 lakes and 5.5 million “nice” people… meaning most people don’t really say what they want. This can make designing difficult. Even if you don’t really know what you want, you probably have an idea of what you like, or you know the general direction you want to see the project take. Find inspiration on Pinterest, Instagram, Etsy, Google… look for what people in your field are doing for similar projects and show your designer what you like. I love coming up with ideas, and it really helps that process if the client provides some initial basis to start from. If you DO know exactly what you want: describe it clearly and specifically, find and show examples that represent your ideas, and give feedback along the way.

3 – Give specific feedback.

And while we’re on the subject of feedback, remember to give it and use specifics. Let your designer know early and often if you find things that aren’t quite what you’re looking for. Include exactly what it is that needs to change – is it the layout, colors, images, font choice…? Saying “I want it to ‘pop’ more” or “it’s just missing something” is not as helpful as “I would like a brighter color here” or “I’d like to add another image to this page”. Yes, it’s the designer’s job to design, but the options are endless, so your specific feedback really helps guide the direction. It’s also MUCH easier to make changes early in the process than to rework things at the end, so communicating things you want changed along the way saves you time and money.

Of course, everyone likes to hear what we’ve done well – that’s human nature. So, compliment your designer freely when they’re doing good work too! Say the things you like – again, using specifics – so they know they’re heading in the right direction and can keep building from there.

4 – Have your content ready to go.

If your designer is not helping with the writing and editing of the content, have it  cleaned up and finished before you give it to them. The better organized the content is, the less time he/she has to spend figuring out what goes where and how to best make sense of it all.

To make a minor adjustment such as fixing type-o’s or swapping out a photos is of course no big deal and is expected; but once the text is placed on a page, making major changes to it can really affect a design, and big changes to a design costs you (say it with me…) time and money.  Make sure the content you’re providing helps the designer achieve your goal for the project. For example: if you tell your designer you want lots of white space, visuals, and a clean look with minimal text, then you give them lots of text, it’s tough for them to meet your expectations.

5 – Address their needs as quickly as possible.

As with any kind of project, questions can come up during a design project. Maybe I’m missing a logo or maybe there’s something I want to clarify, and sometimes work can’t continue until that question is answered. The timeline is usually a big part of the projects I get hired for, but I can’t meet the deadline if I’m waiting for a response from the client. When the ball is in your court, remember that the designer may have to put your project aside until you lob it back and they can continue working.

6 – Ask questions.

You hire a designer to provide a service for you, and you should ask questions if you’re unsure of something or want clarification. Ask for drafts, updates on progress, or whatever you need to feel comfortable. You’re spending your money, so your expectations need to be met. And like I said before, it’s easier for a designer to correct any issues earlier in the process than have to re-work the design when it’s close to done, so don’t assume you’re on the same page if you’re not sure.

7 – Be open.

Sometimes having someone outside your organization take a look at how you’re presenting yourself can be the best way to find what you’re missing or could improve! Let your designer make suggestions and consider new possibilities you haven’t explored before. Trust this person you’ve hired. I imagine you’ve vetted them and looked at their portfolio – give them room to work and use their creativity and skills for you! An outside viewpoint could be just what you need to change how you connect with your customer.

Almost all of these tips come down to communication. Keep the communication open and frequent with your designer, and you’re much more likely to see the outcome you’re looking for. The end goal for any designer is for you to be happy with what they’ve created for you, and they can only achieve that if you help them.

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How can I be helpful? Do you have questions about working with a designer? Or do you have other suggestions I missed? I’d love to hear from you!

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bicycle gear photo credit: user JarkkoManty on Pixabay.com