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Three Branding Myths We Need to Debunk Right Now

business branding myths

There’s a lot of buzz about branding. From one-person solo businesses to large corporations, the importance of a strong brand has only gotten more prominent as time goes on and companies rely on exceptional experiences and word of mouth to boost their sales. Your brand, quite simply, has to be on point.

But with all the buzz, there’s a lot out there to read and learn — and not everything you’re hearing is true — or necessary — for your business.

Three branding myths worth debunking

1 – Your brand can be created in no time. (Actually, that your brand can be created, at all.)

If there’s one thing you need to know right now, it’s this: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your brand won’t be, either. Branding requires research, time, and strong doses of intuition. The most important aspect of branding is authenticity, and because of that, it requires the patience to figure out what your business is, what your business stands for, and who your business serves. And all of that means you need time.

What should be done in this time?

Observation. Watch your clients, documenting how they interact with your business and current brand.

Research. Survey clients to gather stories. Get the lay of the competitive landscape. Create benchmarks and identify gaps.

Mission evaluation. Decide who you most want to serve and how you can best serve them.

Branding isn’t about creation. It’s about discovering what’s already there, and knowing it will evolve. When you allow for intentional and productive time to evaluate your business and where your brand stands, you and your branding strategist will naturally uncover your brand.

2 – Your brand is all about you.

The second most important thing to know is this: while your brand is a reflection of you and your business, it is not all about you. Your brand is the key that opens the gate to connect with your ideal customers, and because of that, your brand has to speak directly to them.

While you’re in the discovery process, take the observations of how people are interacting with your business and where that intersects with your mission, and note what speaks to them most. What do they come to you for? What desire or need does your business fulfill? Your brand has to be uncovered with the customer in mind — because it’s what connects with them that will ultimately dictate what your brand is all about.

3 – Your logo = your brand

Finally, this is perhaps my favorite branding myth to debunk: there are many people out there who will equate your logo with your brand. While your logo is a crucial piece of your brand, your brand is so much more than just the logo: your brand is a portfolio of the colors, type, tone, and ethos of your business.

So where do elements like your logo come in? Your logo, website, and marketing materials are vehicles to carry your brand, as are you, your team, and your ambassadors. Powerful, intentional branding is about activating and empowering those vehicles to tell your story.

The truth about branding

With three strong myths debunked, let’s get to one truth: your business is your brand. And a powerful, relatable brand is imperative for your success as a business.

I want to help you uncover where your current brand stands. Check out my free ebook, What Does Your Brand Say? and when you’re ready to level up in your branding and feel its impact on your business, book a complimentary (yes, free!) Brand Clarity Call with me.

To debunking myths + celebrating strong brands!

BRANCH: A Behind-the-Scenes of My Design Discovery Process

BRANCH design discovery process

While I’d love to say that all of my ideas as a graphic designer and artist come to me while lying in a hammock under the trees in my backyard, I’d simply be dreaming. (That’s only true for some.)

The truth, in fact, is that a good portion of my job as a graphic designer is to get to the bottom of your brand — from the history of your business to the market you’re catering to and everything in between. Intelligent design that connects with your ideal audience is more than just creative ideas based on aesthetics you’re partial to. Intelligent design requires research. That’s where BRANCH comes in here at Harris Studios.

BRANCH: design discovery

My process for working with clients includes three distinct steps before we get into the actual design: a 30-minute Brand Clarity Call to discover where your brand is at and where it needs to be, a package proposal that can make that happen, and, finally, the kick off: BRANCH.

What is BRANCH, exactly? I’m glad you asked.

BRANCH is a research process that gives me true insight into your business and your current brand by analyzing what’s in and around it.

BRANCH is all about qualitative research, through which I’m able to tune in to the foundation of your business, your potential customers’ perceptions of your brand, and how that compares to the competitors in your environment. It’s broken down as follows:

Brand discovery through:

Research

Authentic design

Necessity

Competitive analysis

History

To look a bit closer:

Research: I engage in qualitative research to uncover perceptions regarding your brand from current and potential customers.

Authentic design: based on what I learn, I begin the process of creating a brand and design elements that are authentic to your business.

Necessity: a good graphic designer understands how your brand fits into your overall business goals. It’s at this step that I dig into your needs to be sure to meet them.

Competitive analysis: to get an accurate feel for the landscape, I evaluate both your direct competitors as well as like-minded businesses that you wish to emulate.

History: your business’ future should be informed by the best pieces of its past. I dig into the history of your business and brand to understand what’s influential and important to keep around as we amplify your brand forward.

Why BRANCH?

Though the letters describe the process out of order, it all comes together under one umbrella: a holistic view of where your business and brand have been, and where it’s going. I love referring to the process as BRANCH because your brand truly begins with your roots, but grows and spreads over time through the branches.

BRANCH builds the foundation needed to inspire creative ideas in intelligent brand design; design that ignites true growth in your business.

Is your brand in need of a boost? Let’s get to know each other. Sign up for a complimentary Brand Clarity Call to get the gears in motion. We’ll figure out what’s holding your brand back, and kickstart the process to get you where you want to be.

Solo Business Camaraderie: Upleveling With Others

Uplevel With Others

Being an entrepreneur running a solo business is an amazing feeling. Knowing you can build a business, consistently delight clients, and provide for your family really makes you appreciate your everyday work. I am forever grateful that I branched out on my own to start Harris Studios over 15 years ago.

That being said, sometimes the going gets tough — and you crave the camaraderie of coworkers or the accountability and mentorship of a coach as you grow in your business. For me, that point came two years ago, when I made a decision that would completely change the path of my business.

Joining a mastermind

Flashback to 2013. I’d been in business for over a decade, but was considering a major move: from rented office space to my home office. With this move came the need for more business structure, accountability and strategy.

At just the right moment, I revisited Christine Kane’s blog, a blog I had been reading for years after being drawn to her authenticity and mission: “a mentor to people who are changing the world.”

Color me inspired. I ended up taking two of her online classes, then committed to her Gold Mastermind program. That was two years ago.

Business growth that connects me to my purpose

In the time since I joined the mastermind, a lot has changed here at Harris Studios.

– I’ve moved to my home office (one of my best decisions yet!).

– I gained clarity on my goals for upleveling my graphic design business.

– I redesigned my website and restructured my design packages.

– I made room for travel and painting — two of my greatest passions.

All of this has led to me landing more of my ideal clients — a game changer when you’re running your own business. By clarifying my purpose — helping businesses uplevel their brands so they can better serve the world — and intertwining that with my passions — nature, travel, and art — I’ve positioned myself to only work on things that truly light me up.

I couldn’t have done all of this without taking the leap to surround myself with others. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to celebrate this fact while on a Gold Mastermind retreat in Asheville in March.

Surrounding yourself with those you can learn from

When I joined the Gold Mastermind, I gained even more than a solid business path and ideal client base. I have also been fortunate to become part of an inspiring group of heart-centered women from all over the world, striving to make their full potential a reality in their business. These women know that the best way to live is to build a business around doing what you love and serving others in the best way you know possible.

To be surrounded by people who understand your core and your purpose is an exceptional feeling — especially as an entrepreneur. Here are just a few of the ladies who serve as constant inspiration for me:

Kim Bushmore-Maki is the president and founder of Shakti in the Mountains — a community center for women offering classes, therapy, and retreats. I admire her depth, inner strength and courage. I know that Kim is just getting started in changing the world and I am so excited to see her continue to grow, and to grow alongside her.

Jen Rinehart Blumenthal provides spiritual tools + intuitive guidance for women. She’s currently helping me explore some super cool, deeper sides of myself: my intuition, chakras, and a deeper understanding of the metaphysical.

Michelle Knox is a fellow graphic designer and visual brand stylist at Lone Red Design. She and I are moving forward in a similar fashion with our businesses and she serves as such an inspiration to me. She’s got a big heart (and gives big hugs)! I love seeing her creativity just flow.

When you open yourself up to growth and surround yourself with the right people, the transformation you see in yourself can be absolutely amazing. Surrounding myself with these women has not only amplified my business beyond what I could have imagined, but it has deeply inspired me in my everyday life, as well.

Who serves as inspiration in your life? How can you surround yourself with support that helps you + your business grow?

Designing an Environment for Creativity: A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of My Studio

Home Studio Tour

“One of the greatest necessities… is to discover creative solitude.” – Carl Sandburg

When it comes to creativity, or really anything productive, environment is everything. The sounds, smells, and space you surround yourself with are incredibly important to fostering the mindset needed to accomplish.

As a business owner, I’ve also found that the environment you create is a direct reflection of your brand.

That’s why, when I moved from an external design studio to one within my own home, I took special care to make it exactly what I needed to reflect Harris Studios and to perform at my best.

Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of what that looks like:

2015_03_12 Tour 01

1. A clean, tidy desk

I work on design projects for a variety of clients, meaning I need space both mentally and physically to dream up different concepts and visions for each project. My desk serves as the place where the design happens, and keeping my desk clean save a few necessary, deliberate items – my Wacom tablet, fresh fruit, and beautiful flowers – gives me that space. If creativity thrived on clutter, life might be easier — but then, it wouldn’t be as fun, right?

2. Ambiance

2015_03_12 Tour 02

I am so incredibly fortunate to work out of my 1800’s post and beam-style home, where accents like this fireplace adorn several rooms. There’s nothing like the crackle of a wood fire during the cold winter months, or the sound of the breeze coming through the front door during the warm summer. Setting the tone in the room is so important to my mood, and being comfortable allows me to create freely. My office mascot, Banks — also my walking buddy — is a frequent visitor, and enjoys the ambiance, as well.

3. Space for what you love

2015_03_12 Tour 03

All work and no play makes for a tough day. For me, painting is my passion. It fuels my inner artist and largely influences my design work. That’s why it was absolutely imperative that I create a space for painting within my home office. For you, this space may look like a reading nook; a set of workout equipment; a ping-pong table. Making space for what you love will inspire your work in ways you can’t even imagine — I promise you that.

4. The little details

I firmly believe in making your space your own, as you can tell. This goes down even to the small details. Whether you’re in a tiny office cubicle or sprawled out on a spacious deck overlooking the ocean, it’s the little details — the photos you hang up, the quotes you write down, the special tokens that remind you of places and people you choose to display — that make the space yours. For me, I also include many fun art supplies, books, and interesting pieces I have picked up on my journey that may serve as inspiration or subject matter at some point. They remind me that an integration of creativity, focus, work and play are imperative to a successful business and balanced life.

2015_03_12 Tour 04

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Just as Virginia Woolf believed all women should have a room of one’s own to create and succeed, I truly believe that each and every entrepreneur and individual should put careful thought into designing the space they occupy to make it a place that fosters creativity, inspiration, and comfort.

Our best work comes when we’re in a space that allows for it. What does that space look like for you?

Should You Hire a Graphic Designer? Ask Yourself These Three Questions.

2015_02_19 Three Questions Designer

When it comes to running a business, I’m willing to bet quite a bit of your time and energy is spent making decisions. Decisions on your next product or service development; decisions on whether or not to attend that conference; decisions on whether that potential customer is indeed your ideal client. With decisions comes stress. And with stress comes a lack of sleep.

Well, when it comes to whether or not you should hire a graphic designer to help you boost one of the most important parts of your business — your brand — I don’t want you to lose any sleep, now or in the future. That’s why I’ve put together a quick-and-dirty guide with three questions to consider before you hire a designer:

1. Am I committed to my business and ready to create new energy in my product or branding?

First thing’s first: you need to make sure you’re ready to invest. Embarking upon a project that involves revamping your branding or creating a sub-brand around a new product or service will require both an investment of money as well as time.

Understanding how a branding revamp or new product/service will affect your business will help you decide whether it’s something you can truly commit to. For a successful relationship with a designer and outcomes that exceed your expectations, unwavering commitment is key.

2. Where would I like this new product or branding revamp to take my business?

In order to understand how it will affect your business, it’s important that you have a clear idea on the direction you’re going with your product or branding. Consider the goal for the project(s): are you trying to achieve greater awareness? Increased sales? A more unified presence among all of your products or services? Something entirely different?

Then, consider whether or not your current branding can achieve those goals, or if a fresh start is required. If it’s something that your current brand can achieve, then you can stop here and put it to work. If not, you’re one step closer in preparing to work with a designer by having your direction and goals mapped out. Which brings us to perhaps the biggest question of all…

3. Am I comfortable and confident that I want to work with a designer?

As mentioned, there are certain aspects of your design and branding that you can achieve on a DIY-basis — especially if you’ve had a designer create a brand identity for you in the past. (In fact, I’ve created a mini-workbook to get you started in evaluating your current brand – download it today!) That being said, if the design required isn’t something that’s already in your wheelhouse and doesn’t fit the skills or schedule of anyone on your internal staff, it’s time to get comfortable with the idea of bringing in the outside help of a graphic designer.

A good designer will share your philosophy on how branding influences your business; they’ll understand your company’s story and be able to incorporate that into design; and they’ll exercise both their expertise as well as take your feedback into account when creating design elements that meet your needs.

Decision made? Go for it!

If all the questions you’ve candidly answered above have led you to the conclusion that hiring a designer is indeed what your business needs, my biggest piece of advice is this: GO FOR IT! Make the commitment, and your designer will take it from there. Remember — your brand is your business’ first impression. Making the decision to invest in a designer you’re confident working with will reward you with a stronger brand to support your business, products, and services.