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Telling Stories: A Roundup of Destination Travel Guide Design Projects

Having been a graphic designer for more years than I can count — and the owner of my own design studio for more than 15 of them — I can tell you one thing: When you find your niche; your ideal clients; your ideal projects…work ends up fulfilling you in more ways than you previously thought possible.

For me, that niche is travel and tourism. Those ideal clients are destination marketers and the business owners that make those destinations unique. The ideal projects center around the branding and marketing collateral that keep those destinations top of mind amongst visitors and consumers.

I’m excited to be sharing a few of those projects with you today in my first client/project roundup on the blog. This roundup edition is focused on just a few of the destination travel guides I worked with clients on throughout the first quarter of 2017.

A few notes before we dive in:

1. These are each printed guides, with circulations in the tens of thousands. While digital and social are undoubtedly important in today’s world, print is far from dead in the travel industry.

In fact, when done well, printed travel guides are more appreciated than ever before. Throughout my most recent visitor guide projects, we’ve aimed to blend the online and physical worlds by including user-generated content (i.e. submitted stories; case studies; Instagram posts), social proof (first-hand reviews, candid photographs, testimonials, Tweets), and more.

2. Developing and designing a destination’s travel guide is a long-term process that requires a deep dive into the people, history, culture, and stories that make each and every destination unique. It’s actually what I love most about doing visitor guides: Becoming deeply integrated into cities and counties by venturing out on photo shoots, chatting with locals and tourists alike, and often visiting places I likely wouldn’t get a chance to otherwise experience.

3. At approximately 50 pages each, the pieces I’m sharing here are content rich, from both a visual and written standpoint. Each one is worthy of a coffee table, and nothing makes me happier than hearing that people both collect and cherish these guides.

Without further ado, here are a select few of the client projects I’ve been blessed to work on for the last few months:

1. Seneca County, NY visitors guide fingerlakesgateway.com

Seneca County, New York visitors guide

Appropriately titled Faces & Stories, the Seneca County visitors guide is based heavily on the locals who make it home, and welcome visitors on the regular.

What I enjoyed most about this project was the collaboration it took to achieve it. Seneca County’s staff conducted video interviews, while a colleague of mine took photos, and I provided art direction. Each person interviewed contributes to the local economy and tourist industry in some way — from wine and craft beverages to agriculture to accommodations and everything in between. Being on site of each of these interviews gave me an intimate look at the people and the passion they have for what they do, bringing me closer to the community so I could create a piece that’s truly reflective of who they are.

What makes this guide even more unique is that we ran it horizontal, instead of portrait — a characteristic that firmly sets it apart from other guides on the shelf.

Fun fact: This year’s work on Seneca County’s Faces & Stories was an update of the original piece we created last year, which took home the Excellence in Tourism Marketing Award at the New York State Tourism Industry Association annual awards.

Get the guide here!

2. Livingston County, NY visitors guide fingerlakeswest.com

Livingston County, New York visitors guide

Taking a historical approach, the 2017 Livingston County visitors guide is a time-traveling adventure.

What I enjoyed most about this project was the deep dive into the history of the region and the memories that came with it. Pictures and stories compare then to now, and respected traditions are shared while also celebrating just how far businesses and attractions have come in the County.

Fun fact: The iconic train bridge over Letchworth Park was originally a wooden bridge that was destroyed by fire in 1875. It was rebuilt from iron and steel, and today, thousands of travelers visit it in all seasons.

Get the guide here!

Telling stories

I have two challenges for you: First, next time you’re in an airport or rest stop, pick up a guide or two and dive into the stories. Second, don’t hesitate to share yours — it’s the stories of locals and visitors that create a destination’s true brand.

As an avid traveler myself, I love that through my artwork and design, I’m able to help promote amazing places for people all over the world to explore. Getting to partner with destination marketers to visually tell the story of their travel brands and connecting visitors to their ideal destinations lights me up and gives my work even more purpose.

P.S. When your destination is a brand in and of itself, you can make it peak season all year round.

Revitalize Your Brand to Revitalize Your Business

brand revitalization

A few months ago, I got up on my favorite soapbox (my blog, of course!), and debunked three myths about branding.

The first of those myths was that your brand can be created in no time — well, actually, that your brand can be created at all. Here’s why I had to falsify that thought: your brand is something that, with time, you’ll uncover. It’s your job to embrace that discovery and then illuminate it.

There’s another piece of evidence, though, when it comes to debunking the myth that your brand is a one-time creation. And that’s this: over time, your brand will evolve.

The evolution of a brand

The three initial keys I gave to discovering/uncovering your brand were these:

1. Observe. Watch your clients, and document how they interact with your business and current brand.

2. Research. Survey clients, analyze the competition, and create benchmarks.

3. Evaluate your mission. Identify the audience(s) you most want to serve, and learn how you can best serve them.

Now, that is, of course, the abbreviated version of each of those steps. I won’t dive in further right now, but here’s the important thing to take note of: none of the actions listed above are a one-time task.

You should always be observing.

You should always be researching.

You should always be evaluating whether your mission still fits your audience, and vice versa.

And as you continuously do each of these things, here’s what will happen: your brand will evolve.

A case study for a Brand Boost

Because we often hear that consistency is the most important thing in branding, it’s often thought that your brand can never change.

I urge you to consider this, though: your brand is the feelings, biases, and inclinations that flood your clients’ and prospects’ minds when they hear or see your organization’s name. It’s an emotional connection that rarely stays stagnant.

And so the truth is, as your business grows, your brand often needs to change to reflect that growth and keep the doors open to unlimited possibility.

This was illustrated for me perfectly through a recent client project. The task? Give new life to the brand of Ferris Hills, an independent and enriched senior living community in the Finger Lakes. Naturally, this called for a Brand Boost.

Ferris Hills realized that it had outgrown its branding. And it did this by observing, researching, and evaluating its mission over time.

In observing and researching, the organization realized what its residents really loved about the community and what sets it apart from others: its proximity to Canandaigua Lake as well as Thompson Hospital; its options for meals, activities, and events; the carefree living it allows for.

A fresh take on the good life

What the Brand Boost resulted in for Ferris Hills: an updated logo, a wave of new photography, and design of a beautiful brochure that captures the essence of the good life.

We’ve interwoven design elements — from colors like greens and lavenders to scripted fonts — that evoke a sense of happiness, vitality, and calm.

Ferris Hills isn’t your standard senior living center. When they lead with “I promised myself the good life…” they let you fill in the blank with whatever that might mean, and then they strive to create it. The campus at West Lake is a hub of activity where life sincerely gets better.

Revitalize your brand

Change is good. It means you’re observing, analyzing, and evaluating the environment you’re operating in and the audience(s) you most want to serve, and keeping an open mind as to how you can do it better.

Your brand will naturally evolve as you grow, and it’s your job, business owner, to let it.

Want to see where your current brand stands? Download my free ebook, What Does Your Brand Say? to do a mini-audit of your brand — then sign up for a complimentary Brand Clarity Call where I’ll help you work through it.

Gratitude Attitude: Lessons in Being Grateful

alphabet gratitude

Each and every morning, I slip on my shoes and grab Banks, my dog and number one office companion, and we head out for our morning walk. I’ve talked about how this sets my day off right, encourages me to breath in the fresh air, and often acts as endless inspiration for projects, paintings, and work throughout the week.

So when a friend told me about using the “gratitude alphabet” when you walk, I was immediately intrigued. The idea? While out and about, find something you’re grateful for that starts with the letter of the alphabet you’ve progressed to. Simple as that — but also not so simple, when you really think about it.

Turning off to be here now

One of the hardest parts about living in the incredibly wonderful world we live in is that we are constantly connected. There is unlimited opportunity to be plugged in; to be in touch; to always be doing. While there is immense advantage to this, especially as a business owner and traveler, our constant state of connection makes it especially difficult to turn off and allow yourself to just be, in the moment. Right now.

It’s the consistent pull to be plugged in that makes the need for exercises like the gratitude alphabet ever more present.

Walking with gratitude

So for 26 days straight, as I headed out for my morning walk, I took myself out of the always-on mentality and instead seeked to take in all that is around me. And each day, I discovered more and more things that I simply passed before, that are truly amazing parts of my neighborhood; my day; my life.

Day one began with apples by the road.

Day two was Banks overlooking the lake at my favorite place in the world, Brantingham.

Day three? Color. Always so much color.

With a letter in mind each day, I took in my surroundings. When day seven came around, I was amazed at the amount of things I encounter — and often sail by — that begin with the letter ‘g.’ Grapes. Geraniums. Grandma Dier (I often think of her when I walk). Gravel. GREEN! The thought process often went like this, until I landed on the one that meant the most. I was so grateful for all of the shades of green that surrounded me right in that moment. Hundreds of shades — warm, cool, dark, light. The Finger Lakes is home to magnificent greens — and stopping to absorb that gave me the overwhelming desire to capture them and be inspired by them — and later infuse them into a branding project.

On and on this went — from the journal I write in daily to the fresh lavender growing in my yard, the quiet where I get my best thinking done, and the luminescent September sunrises that have graced each morning. The further I got in the alphabet, the more and more I realized exactly how much I am surrounded by — and fulfilled by — each and every day.

Living from a place of abundance

Most of the time, I’m inspired by nature. This “challenge” was no exception — but it also took me outside of that comfort zone and had me looking at everything that surrounds me, and how gratitude can come from even the seemingly smallest things.

And the beauty of it all is this: when we focus on what we are grateful for in each moment, we stop living from a place of scarcity (“I wish I had more…” or “If only things were like this…”) and we start to realize we are infinitely living from a place of abundance, where we have all we need.

Being grateful — and recognizing that gratitude — helps me to stay positive. It reduces worry. It expands my awareness, and impacts my creativity in a positive way. It’s yet another amazing tool in my toolbox of life.

As we celebrate the end of summer and welcome the onset of fall, I encourage you to take a moment each day to connect with where you are right now and recognize something you’re grateful for. And if you’re feeling brave, share at least one thing with me below!

Banks at Brantingham         journaling        September sunrise in the Finger Lakes

Creative Inspiration: Just Be.

creative inspiration in morning walks

I took the leap to become my own boss in my graphic design business 16 years ago, yet it was only in the past year that I became even more daring, listened to my heart, and moved out of the office space I rented and into the coziness of my own home workspace.

With this came a lot of change: I no longer had the parameters of “going to the office” to set my pace in the morning. I no longer had the presence of other building tenants keeping me alert throughout the day. I no longer had the routine I had followed for those 15 years.

Like with any great change though, I knew this was an opportunity to grow. To appreciate my commute from upstairs to down. And to bask in the bliss that is being an entrepreneur who lives in an absolutely spectacular place.

Bloomfield bliss

I am fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth – a small town called Bloomfield in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. It’s the perfect place to draw inspiration for both graphic design and painting, where beauty is always in abundance throughout the four distinct, changing seasons.

So naturally, it didn’t take long before I found my absolute favorite routine to get my day going: a morning walk most often accompanied by my officemate and mascot, Banks. Together, we take in the fresh air — some days in shorts and sandals; others in ear muffs and boots. (Okay, that’s just me. He usually goes out in the same way each day.)

On these 2.5 mile jaunts around the wooded “block” that surrounds my home (which is pleasantly located on a secluded dirt road), we are blessed to see, smell, feel, and enjoy so much. It’s during these walks that I have the freedom to just be. To enter the perfect state of flow. To set my intentions for the day and focus on being present.

To say my morning walks inspire me would be an understatement. They do so much more: they take me to a quiet place of presence where I am able to observe. I see details, colors, and textures that would sadly be easy to overlook otherwise. More than once, a great idea or creative design solution will present itself to me as I allow myself to be in this state.

Meanwhile, Banks takes pleasure in his own way, stopping to smell at any given point. In fact, his stops are what often allow me to notice the bittersweet changing of the leaves, an interesting bird, or an intriguing texture in a tree.

Magical. It’s the perfect word to describe seeing the Earth change: the streams full in the spring; iced in the winter; dry in the fall.

Allow yourself to be.

Most of my working life, I didn’t allow myself this time to just be; to walk and really absorb the amazing beauty I’ve always been surrounded by. I rushed off to work. I was “busy.” I was always doing. Now, I can honestly say I’m being.

Taking in our surroundings and appreciating the small things is truly a gift. My creative work is better for it; I am better for it.

What do you work into your routine to allow yourself to just be? Let’s inspire each other in the comments below!

PS – It just wouldn’t be fair to keep these moments of pure nature and inspiration to myself. That’s why I started Instagramming them to share the beauty that surrounds me with friends and followers near and far.

Banks        winter berries in Bloomfield        leaves in the Finger Lakes