Something I’ve learned since starting my own business is that a lot of my clients are unsure of the design process. For new business owners especially it may be their first time dealing with a designer and I think quite often when I send through a quote for my time they inevitably compare the total to their own perceived value of the final product, rather than the whole process required to be able to deliver that final product. Being charged for time can be a scary thought for some people. How can they know how long it really takes me to ‘knock up a logo’? Nobody wants to be ripped off.

Well hopefully today, by outlining my design process I will be able to allay any fears about what’s actually involved and also show how I manage to keep costs down while still delivering a high standard of design.

As with all design projects, a good, clear brief is the essential starting point. It outlines the plans, desires and expected outcomes of the job. A detailed design brief allows me to quickly understand your business and gives me key points to focus on. This in turn allows me to work quickly and ensure that the designs you receive are relevant.

Often when clients first come to me, they arent 100% sure of exactly what their brief is. I use my experience to help them work it out. This can involve getting them to complete a set of questions via email or arranging a meeting to discuss in person the details of their business and the design services they require.

Once I have been issued with a brief I can begin the research and development process. This involves researching my client’s direct competitors and similar businesses: what their logos look like and what colour schemes, typefaces, image styles and graphic elements they use. At the same time I write down words and sketch out any images associated with or inspired by my client’s company name and service offering and begin to form concepts that are relevant and unique to their business.

Once I am happy that I have exhausted all creative avenues I will pick out the best concepts, bearing in mind how each could be developed and applied to future marketing materials and begin to create artwork for each on the computer. This involves exploring options for layout, typeface and colour and ending up with several different layout options for each concept. I then present all of these logo options for consideration. Ideally at this point there will be one that stands out, over and above the rest...or sometimes there are elements of each of that appeal to the client and these can be combined to create a new option.

Once a preferred option has been decided on we will go through a few sets of minor alterations (these can include colour changes, font changes, layout change and general styling) until the logo is complete. I then supply all file types they will ever require...and then the branding can begin!

So I hope this takes some of the mystery away from the design process.

If you’re reading this right now and think you could use a passionate designer who will brainstorm your brand and come up with a unique, clever and stylish logo to rival all your competitors, get in touch!

If you really want your business to be a success - whether you’re self-employed, a large corporation, a start-up or a long established organisation - it’s important to invest time researching, defining, and growing your brand.

Well, put simply, first impressions count.

Your brand is your company image…and reputation. It is derived from who you are, who you want to be and is ultimately what determines who people perceive you to be - which in turn sets you apart from your competitors and determines if they will become a loyal customer or not.

A strong brand identity presents your company with a distinctive, professional image that positions it for success and as such is one of your most valuable company assets.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. It is the face of your company and what people will remember about you the most.

A good logo is simple, distinctive, relevant and memorable. It should be able to be printed at any size, be effective without colour and it should communicate the message you intended.

If you don’t already have one, get a great logo and place it everywhere: business cards, brochure, website, packaging, signage and promotional materials.

Once you have a logo you then you can develop a tagline. This is basically a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand. It is not essential (there are plenty of successful brands that don’t have one) however if you get it right it can be an invaluable and integral part of your brand.

The next step is creating a “voice” for your company. This should represent the personality of your brand i.e. a brand that is spirited, edgy will speak with a completely different voice to a brand that is technical or corporate.

A succesful brand voice will really resonate with your customer and allow you to establish a deeper relationship with them. But be care careful. You need to really know your audience and the voice has to be authentic. There’s nothing worse than a ‘granddad’ brand that’s trying to be ‘down with the kids’.

The final step in building your brand is application. Here, consistency is key! Create templates and guidelines for your marketing materials. Use the same colour scheme, logo placement, fonts and look & feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.

Everywhere! A true, solid and long lasting brand is one of consistent design, tone of voice, strategy, people, retail environments and customer service. Branding does not stop at a logo and a business card or a poster or a car graphic.

So whatever service you offer and wherever you offer it: be true to your brand. Be consistent and reliable, keep your brand promise and your customers will not only return again and again but they’ll tell others to do the same!

No time like the present! Although you’ve only got one chance to make a first impression, branding can evolve as companies grow. Even if you’re self employed with a small website and self-created logo, you have a brand - you just need to decide if this is the brand you want.

Before you invest anymore in your brand, now is the perfect time to take a step back and ask yourself…is it’s working? Does it create the right impression? Is it professional? Is it consistent? If you are unsure...or if the answer is may need to speak to a graphic designer.

As a Freelance Graphic Designer, there are 3 questions I am asked a lot:

1. It must be fantastic working from home?

2. How do you keep yourself motivated?

3. Is it lonely, working on your own?

Today I am going to answer all 3 of these questions and hopefully give you a little bit of insight to what’s going on behind the scenes.

The answer to the first question is easy. Yes, it’s bloody fantastic!

And not just because my commute is 5 seconds long, that I can wear my pjs to work if I want (I haven’t….yet), or that I can play the music I want (at the volume I want) or that there is a cat on my lap and a dog by my feet. All those things are wonderful…but what really makes working from home such a joy is the fact that I am so much more productive!

When I worked as an in-house designer it was mostly heads down, bums up trying to meet deadlines and get on top of the workload. But every now and again there would be a lull (whether we were waiting for feedback from clients or for files to download or software to install or sometimes just because we’d finally got on top of the to-do list) at which point I would twiddle my fingers, make a cup of tea, browse the internet and wait for the things to get hectic again.

Working from home, that is no longer the case. Now when these lulls occur I hang out the washing, stack the dishwasher, walk the dog. Which means that most days my hubby comes home to a clean tidy house (if he’s lucky, something yummy in the slow cooker) and we can get on with enjoying our free time together. It also means that the weekends are ours again! To head to the beach or spend time with friends…without feeling guilty about the piles of washing waiting for us back at home.

Of course there are still times when it’s heads down, bums up and working from home does mean that it’s sometimes hard to know when to ‘leave’ work. 12-15 hour days are not unusual not to mention a cheeky wee hour or two on the weekend. But what always gets me through the busy times is knowing that when the next lull comes I can take a day or two off and head down South with my boys, knowing that I’ve well and truly earned it.

Now to question 2 - How do I keep myself motivated?

And the answer to that is: I don’t, my clients do.

It’s hard not to be motivated when you are juggling multiple jobs and deadlines for several different clients. I cannot afford to drop any of the balls. Plus there is invoicing to be done, files to be archived, software to be updated…

Luckily for me it is a challenge I relish. Even now, 11 years in the industry I still get a buzz from successfully managing multiple tasks and meeting my clients’ expectations. There is truly nothing better than receiving positive feedback about the work and services you provide. So keep it coming!

Another great motivation when working from home is having a designated working space, separate to the living area. When I first set up my business my number one priority was to create a funky and inspiring studio space, with the best of equipment and a comfy, ergonomic chair! Even though it is just 5 seconds from the living room, when I step into GGDS Headquarters I am in work mode and I stay that way until I close the door on the studio at the end of the day.

Which that leads to question 3 - Is it lonely, working on your own?

And the answer to that is: I am not on my own!

In fact some days it feels like all I’ve done is talk and it’s quite nice to have some quiet time to get some design work done. And I am not just talking to my furry colleagues (although Douglas and I do enjoy a good gossip by the water cooler) but also my suppliers and most of all my clients.

I spend 1-2 hours every day communicating with my clients. Whether it’s by phone, by email or in person. Good communication is key to creating effective graphic design and in my opinion such an important part of running a business, of any size, successfully.

So, to summarise, working as a Freelance Designer has it’s stresses and difficulties (just as any job does) but without a doubt the positives outweigh the negatives and I still think I have one of the best jobs in the world.

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