2017 Christmas Cards

"It's Christmas Time Again"...soon

How many cards did you receive for Christmas last year? I love that feeling of seeing a different shaped envelope in my mailbox during the holidays. My mantle is brimming with Christmas paraphernalia and I am fighting for a prominent place to put this next beautiful stock. Those cards are up all season and into the new year.

When my tree comes down, that’s the moment of decision- which cards will be saved until next year or which card’s front panel will be retrieved for a Christmas craft?

I love that! The cards live on. The thoughts, the feelings and the sentiments behind them add to the feelings of the season.

Are you top of mind with your target audience? Do you include a hand written note to your clients, friends and family? How about a thank you to your colleagues for the year of business or the favor of a bestowed contract from that target customer?

Any way you want to craft your Christmas wish, DESIGNS by Rashada is here to help you achieve just the right feeling.


Home: A Website Case Study

A website is an online home for your brand.  I should look at your website and know something about your brand.  As I mentioned before, your brand is your reputation at every point of contact with your prospective buyers.

Pink Stiletto Cosmetics asked me to redesign their shopping cart site to look and feel like the brand that owner, Crystal Carmen and I had been crafting.  Her request was for people to visit the website and visually understand that the products were high quality, glamorous and good for the skin.

Where to start?  Well, if you are working with a shopping cart template, choose one that gives you the most freedom to adapt the layout.  Modern women increasingly care about health considerations when buying products.  A current website demonstrates that Pink Stiletto is progressive and in the now.

TIP 1: Modernize the layout of your cart

The site was altered to be responsive and fluid- these are web terms that mean, the site will adapt to devices of varying screen sizes and certain images will be widescreen.  Widescreen imagery also adds a bit of drama which goes hand in hand with glamor.  If you haven’t already done so, take a look at your website today and make sure that it responds well on tablets, phones, and desktop computers.

A DESIGNS by Rashada portfolio piece of Pink Stiletto Cosmetic's custom mobile cart.
A DESIGNS by Rashada portfolio piece of Pink Stiletto Cosmetic’s custom mobile cart.

TIP 2: Say it visually whenever possible

We reinforced many of Pink Stiletto’s clear objectives, not just in the textual content, but also through text in pictures.  We used photos on the front page to state the importance of glamor and organic ingredients in the products.  When it comes to web, may people are skimmers and not readers, so the important product points needed to be clear at a glance.  Are their any important points that you can make about your brand visually?

TIP 3: Unify and personalize
Lastly, when adapting a site with a shopping cart, be aware that tons of people may have the same exact look and layout.  Yet, this is your brand.  To customize your site, use your own product shots rather than stock shots whenever possible.  Keep the lighting even across all of the pictures and make sure that you images are clear.  You may also opt to do something unique with your background.

A DESIGNS by Rashada portfolio piece of Pink Stiletto Cosmetic's custom web banner.
A DESIGNS by Rashada portfolio piece of Pink Stiletto Cosmetic’s custom web banner.

Crystal had most of her photos taken from different model shoots and she had product shots taken with packaging and some without.  Crystal is an MUA so it was important that any face used was done with her makeup.  We incorporated photos that showed off the versatility of her products on several different women.  Interested in some of these luscious products?  I use them myself!  Check out her site: http://pinkstilettocosmetics.com/

You may also benefit from having professionals come in to help customize your site.  Many of these tips you can implement yourself, but I will warn you that customizing this particular site involved coding and professional graphic editing skills.  Should you have the time to learn, there are lots of helpful resources online to teach you how.  Google the name of your shopping cart along with “tutorial”.  If you don’t have the time, this is where a designer with programming skills can help 😉

Take a moment to review your website and see if it’s a good “home” for your business.  Spring cleaning is upon us now, and the web is no different.  Leave me a comment with one thing that you can change on your site today to help it better represent your brand.


Design Case Study: It's Deeper Than We Think

Most nebulae are of vast size, reaching sizes of even hundreds of light years in diameter. -Wikipedia “Nebula”

Design in its simplest form is often profound.  Think of how complex an Apple product is; but most people realize that the visuals all come together in a unified message.

I recently had the pleasure of working on author Paula Casill’s latest book cover.  She was clear on the tone and feel that she wanted the art to have.  She wanted clean lines and a mild sense of masculinity to come through in the font.  She wanted the text to occupy certain zones on the page and she wanted the colors of the cover to evoke the content of the book: DREAM CHASERS.

Let’s translate the requests into design decisions that may help you when you want to create a new marketing piece:

Dream Chasers Book Cover
Click to find Paula’s book on Amazon

FONT
The chosen font is a sans-serif font ie a font without serifs (added decorations at points along the letters.)  When you want a clean look, start with fonts that have the same line thickness throughout each letter.  The boldness of this font suggests strength which nods to the masculine feel.

FIELDS
There are two main blocks of text in the design: title and subtitle with the author’s name.  When you are creating a new piece, take care to order your information according to importance.

Here, the title is the most important, so it’s centered and the largest item on the page.  (Notice how it grabs your attention?  That’s what titles should do.)

The subtitle is next, so we bring it down into the second requested field and reduce its size.  More often than not, keeping the font the same or similar in style keeps the design uncluttered.  Lastly, the author’s name will follow in the same size, but to distinguish it visually from the subtitle, we change its color.

IMAGE
The background art was created to include colors requested by the author.  Those colors worked for the theme and some of the other colors ware added as accents.  There are abstract shapes in the cover that remind me of clouds when you see them.

Color theory would also tell you that purples are very regal, luxurious and royal while the teal blue family was used to evoke the limitless possibilities of sea and sky- a very present theme of this book.

When you choose colors, consider your target audience and what message you need to convey to them.  … All right, I’ll admit that this color palate also happens to be a favorite of the authoress – how appropriate though, right?

TT-deeperSo, there’s quite a bit of thought and purpose that goes into design especially at its simplest form.  It may seem easy, but case studies like this show many things to consider when designing for your brand!  Need some help?  Contact me 😉

Leave me a comment and tell me how you plan to use one of these design tips to freshen up your marketing materials!


How to Build a Business Community

“No man is an island”.  I had to learn this lesson early on.  The one woman band gets tired very quickly and I do mean super sleepy.  God’s form of math is all about multiplication and we can see that within the world that we live in.  One seed is planted and through a partnership of sun, water and earth, a “multi-fruited” (yes, I’ve made this a word) plant with tons of new seeds springs forth.  One person may be able to accomplish a lot, but a body of people dedicated to one vision can accomplish exponentially more.

When Solomon organized the nation in a temple building project, there was a boatload of people needed for every aspect of the job.  It took 7 years to accomplish and many specialty craftsman to make it happen.  In the end though, this temple was a beacon to those within that “Israeli organization” and without.  Check out, in King Solomon’s words, what that project was all about.  Now, imagine 1 king attempted to build all of that by his lonesome…

::que the crickets chirping::

As a “solopreneur”, I have been reaching out to those in my network and partnering with other business owners to mutually grow our businesses together.  The process of networking will stretch you, but widening your business community is well worth the effort.

3d-small-people-jorney-to-prosperityHere’s a concrete approach if you are just starting out:

1.  Research local groups that you can visit that work with your schedule, your budget and your business values.  Attend a few meetings to get a feel for the people in the group.  Pick 1 to start and then join.

2.  Each meeting, ask 2 people to schedule a coffee chat, also known as a “1 to 1” for the following week.  If your group meets only once a month, reach out to 5 people for that month.  Let’s not forget to ask colleagues out as well.  Just because they may not be your immediate target market, does not mean that you cannot benefit each other in some way.

3.  When you meet individually, listen to your guest and try to understand what they do thoroughly.  In this way, you will be able refer business to them and they to you, which is the point of the meeting (aside from making a new friend).

4.  Follow up with them, afterward.  As you network with more and more folks, it becomes easier to connect one “new friend” to the next because your list of contacts widens.  This is the step that tests how well you followed #3.  Did you listen well and remember?TT-Community

5.  Pray, pray, pray.  When you now “network with God”, He may give you new ideas based on some of your past meetings.  Perhaps in the form of new products that will meet many of the pain points that you heard, or perhaps He will just ask you to start praying for someone.  Follow God’s leading because at the end of the day, networking if nothing else if not a great way to share the love and gospel of Jesus in your community 😉

Now, I would love to hear what your community building experience have been?  Leave me a comment here and share a tip that I did not mention or let me know how you will follow through with one of these suggestions.


3 Quick Tips on How to Deal with Your Competition

3dm-boxingHave you ever seen this scenario:  You’re at an event, mingling with other entrepreneurs and business people.  Someone asks you what you do, and you tell them.  Their immediate response is “Oh, that’s a tough tough business!” or “What makes you different than all of the other people doing the same thing?”

I have had this conversation many times.  Do you feel discouraged by talk like that?

In 1 Kings 5:1-12, Solomon has just taken the throne.  Now, it might seem like a king has no worries, after all, he’s the king, right?  Who in the kingdom can compete with him?  Well I don’t think the transition is always quite so smooth.  Do you know what the bounty on the head of a new king is?  No, I don’t have a number, but check out these assassinations / hostile takeovers here, and here, and here, and…  You get the picture.

noose-cartoon

So what did Solomon do?  He exchanged services with a neighboring king.  He made friends.

Don’t be afraid to play nice yourself and here’s why:

Think “Colleague” rather than “Competition”
As a designer, I meet a lot of people who design, who code websites, and who print stuff.  Some of these folks get overwhelmed themselves and who do you think they may call when there’s more work than skilled workers available?  Meeting with your colleagues can also help you decide how to best position your own offerings and determine where the true needs for your services actually are.

For example, if are you a massage therapist, ask your colleagues what kinds of clients they serve?  Where do they meet them?  What services do they offer?

Think “Partner” rather than “Competitor”
3dm-chess-togetherI’ve also met several people who’s core business focus is not on design but do it because it needs to be done in order for them to accomplish their part of the project.  It’s a win-win when they can focus on their own efforts while delegating the design portion of the project to me.  Likewise, if someone is better with maintaining social media or marketing email campaigns, who am I going to call when those portions of my projects are ready to go?  Their are many strategic partnerships that can be found when you dig a little deeper into the core of a colleague’s services.

For example, if you are an independent author, do any of your colleagues write books with similar themes that can be self published into a special Christmas offering?

Think “Friend” rather than “Enemy”
Know your strongest offerings and what it is that distinguishes you from a similar colleague.  If I have a client who would be better suited to working with one of my colleagues than with me, that’s the time to step up and say “Hey, so and so is amazing in this particular area.  Why don’t I ask them to work with you on this portion of the project?”  Now note, your colleagues may or may not return the favor, but God sees these moments of the heart and like a farmer, you will reap what you sow if not in this season, then the next.

Extreme kindness and service has a way of blossoming into the most incredible rewards.So, let’s take the next step:
What are your business’ core strengths?
Who is best served by you?
Can you sit down and chat with some of your best colleagues this week?

 

If these tips have helped you, please share them with your friends!


Even God Cares about Branding

I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Lehigh Valley Elite Meeting and enjoyed some of the looks I got from people when I told them that even God cared about branding. It’s true.

Keep-in-mind-this-client-has-strong-opinionsThink back to the story of Moses found in Exodus 24-31; 35-40. God took a body of people from Egyptian slavery to the Promised land. These people, the Israelites, spent a lot of time, on route in the desert. During that time, God gave them a whole slew of laws, specific instructions on how they were to behave as a body, and plans for a Tabernacle and priestly leadership. God gave instructions down to the color and style of uniform to be worn by His top execs, the priests.

God was creating His own brand. What is branding? It’s basically your business’s reputation- what you convey to your prospective clients through every point of interaction with them. This includes not only your customer service, but each visual aspect of your brand be it your logo, website, testimonials, invoices etc. It’s the value that you convey. Why are such visual symbols important?

They distinguish your company from others by conveying what’s unique about you
God took a group of people from one land to another, where world view’s other than His were prevalent. He wanted people to see God when they looked at Israel. What is unique about your business?

They unify an organization
God spent the time in the wilderness setting a culture into motion and providing a vision for His company and their posterity to follow. Do you have a vision or mission statement written down for your team? Is it posted on your website so others can identify with what you stand for?

Visuals provide clear communication of complex ideas
Many of the instructions from God were metaphors for how He interacted with people. (You can read more on that in Leviticus). People generations later could look back at what those folks did visually and understand the complex states of sin, repentance and forgiveness. Do you have visuals to help communicate some of the more complex points of your service or product? Graphs, charts, and videos can often help others to grasp large ideas that your business is attempting to convey.

truth-tweet

 

Whatever visual elements you choose to incorporate into your business, know that they should all be cohesive with who you are and what you want to communicate. Your business’s reputation is important as what people understand about your business is what either draws them to it or repels them.


Step Up, Step Forward

So as many of you know, DESIGNS by Rashada is a part time endeavor that follows the heels of a full time “client”, Walker Technical Company, where I do not only design work, but IT services as well.  I began working at Walker straight out of college.  I could work my day job and still help my clients, allowing me to flex my creative muscles in the process.  Now, nearly 10 years after parking myself at Walker, I am taking my company’s wheels out for a spin and investing some of that “9-5”, or should I say “8-6”, time into my personal business pursuits.

It can be a pretty scary thing to say to yourself “Listen, we’re going to step it up a notch and really get out into the marketplace.” Yes!  “…but wait, is this smart during a recession?” hmmm…  “Is there really a consistent need for design skills?”  Dude! Do not want to loose income!  “Are you even good enough at your trade yet?”  That’s a hard question to answer…

These are all legitimate points to consider, but the more I sat pondering them, the more I realized that I was really spending time with my fears.  Then, someone said to me, “Don’t over think it.  You plan yes, but then you get on it!”

K, getting on if for me meant that I was going to practice a normal day of working for myself.  I took a Friday to network, work on my website update and touch base with a client.  The funny thing is, whenever you attempt to start a new habit, the old tend to creep up on the onset.  Friday was no different as I woke to realize that I still had a report due for Walker despite being “off”.  Two hours later, that was under wraps and then came some urgent household work.  What’s the deal with that stuff?  Does the house know that you are home and then decry its state?  Well, with those issues out of the way, I dove into some photo work.

Lunchtime rushed upon me and it was time to meet Vica.  Now Vica rocks!  As the owner of Black Forest Deli in Bethlehem, she networks with quite a few people.  I think it helps that the food at Black Forest Deli is a must try.  I enjoy food from all cultures and I think that this was my first introduction to Ukrainian cuisine.

The Borshe soup and Perogies are hand made and do not disappoint…  but I digress- do not get me talking about food!

Vica’s got a story that I can all relate to.  She worked for six years in the human resources field and then decided it that it was time for a change.  She and her mom have worked the deli for eight years and it is still going strong.  Vica is quite a people person and upon meeting her, you feel like you have known her for a lot longer than you have.

See change!  “Change is good” to date myself and quote those long gone Taco Bell commercials.  It’s crazy that I write this post after my last one where I was so tentative about change.  (I’m currently typing from my new office space by the way, which is just fine and a tad bit cleaner and brighter too ;0)

Vica embraced change and now has a successful deli that she loves to run (and de-lish food at her fingertips…).  Isn’t making the choice to move forward and pursue what you love sometimes the scariest part of change?  What if you fail?  What if you loose income and adversely affect those you love, like your family who rely on you?

…Or, what if you said no to the fear, prayed for direction, and planned effectively?  What if you stepped out and tested the waters and gave up some “free” time to practice doing what you think you want to do in the future?

That’s what my Friday was all about for me.  Well, that and one great meal!


A new year: fresh with no mistakes in it yet

I’ve had this picture up as my Facebook cover for a while because it was my subtle way of announcing the official logo for DESIGNS by Rashada.  The end of 2012 brought with it the close of my marketing class and with all of Christmas upon me, I took a very much needed hiatus.

Now it’s back to work.  A new year, and new clients, but the same “brand”, if you will.  The same custom work, the same quality, and I strive to improve the quality and value of my work daily.


From Comp to Core

My client’s business, “Rally Comp”, has now become “Rally Core”. Apparently, there is a similar company in Sweden (I believe) that is now branching out internationally and encroaching on the US “Rally Comp” name front.
Rally Core's original logo

I must say though, that he’s handled the transition beautifully. The update to the website was a quick one, two, three for me and he was able to adjust his logo with the right software.

(When researching the name for your business, do a google search not only on your proposed business name, but also on your product description. Check the thesaurus for other words or phrases that are similar to your product or service and search those as well.)

If you’re stumped by similarity in the field, think about that unique aspect of your business and run with it. Before I settled on naming my business DESIGNS by Rashada, I dabbled with using Empire4Design.
My original logo and name, Empire4Design

There’s still a spot in my heart for this name as there was so much of me wrapped up in it, however, when I came to that fork in the road, my name was more unique then all of the other design businesses that I’d googled with “empire” in it. I wanted my name to stand for quality, creativity, and professionalism. That’s the end that I’m still working towards.

From a design perspective, I’d love to hear if either of these logos speaks to you. What are they whispering in your creative minds?