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Quality over Quantity: A Mantra

quality over quantity

Have you ever gone car shopping, picked out a car you really like, and then, as if out of nowhere, suddenly started noticing that car everywhere you go? Or maybe you just put a book on your to-read list, and suddenly it’s showing up in your social media feeds and at the checkout line at the grocery store.

Maybe it’s something else entirely — but it’s as if once that something is on your radar, you can’t seem to escape it.

This happened to me recently. When the calendar turned to January and I dove back into business after a few weeks of family, friends, and fun, a phrase came to my attention.

Quality over quantity.

Soon, I became hyperaware of the phrase, as if the universe was sending me a message — on repeat. After just a few days, it solidified itself in my mind as a mantra that’s helping me get 2016 off on the right foot, and I couldn’t help but share it with you.

Where quality wins over quantity

This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard this phrase. Perhaps you’ve even used it to guide some of your decision making before. Age-old adages are persistent for a reason: They make a difference. Here’s how I’m letting “quality over quantity” lead me in the new year:

Choosing quality over quantity in clients and projects: The core of my business is serving other people. There is nothing I love more than articulating a business’ brand through the perfect blend of color, typography, and texture so that it speaks to their ideal audience. Yet if there’s anything I’ve learned in running my graphic design business for over a decade, it’s this: I simply cannot do it all. With that in mind, I’ve taken the road of choosing quality over quantity in the projects and clients I take on. What that means: Having to say some hard “no’s,” but surrounding myself with work and people that truly light me up and make being a woman-owned business all the more gratifying.

Choosing quality over quantity in design: One of the most powerful ways to convey a message through design is with the use of white space. This never fails to amaze me: How much we can convey by using less. I apply the same principle for all of my design elements. Fonts, colors, shapes, and textures that carry a greater quality when it comes to evoking emotion will be more powerful than a page filled with a greater amount of elements, even if they’re each beautiful.

Choosing quality over quantity in relationships: Much like my approach to clients and projects, I choose quality over quantity in relationships outside of my work, as well. I am incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful husband and two grown children, my best friends, who inspire me every day. The same goes for friends: While I absolutely love meeting new people and learning from others, I choose quality over quantity in how many people I let into my life, knowing how much I value my quiet time for reflection and rejuvenation.

Choosing quality over quantity in hobbies: I am a designer. But I am also a painter — perhaps first and foremost. While there are many things in this world that I would love to try, I most certainly approach my extracurricular activities from the viewpoint of quality: What will add the most to my life, offering the creativity, balance, and adventure I desire? While painting has always been at the forefront, this past summer, this manifested in the form of serene days floating around the lake in the Adirondack guide boat that I can call my own.

Choosing quality over quantity in followers: I love having a blog. An Instagram feed. A Facebook page. An email list. These are all essential to my business and in opening a door to my community. But what happens when you start building social communities is that there’s an overwhelming emphasis on numbers. Yet for me, a small group of engaged readers and followers who won’t hesitate to hit “reply” or tell me what’s on their mind is more important than cracking a certain milestone in digits.

Forget the numbers game

More. Enough. Two words that often get us into trouble. We always want more, and we rarely ever have enough. Yet the funny thing is this: Once we begin placing the emphasis on quality over quantity, while it often means physically having or mentally choosing less, we often feel more full. Full of love. Full of happiness. Full of gratitude.

Where, in your life, will you allow quality to overtake quantity — and ultimately fill your bucket up more?

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.

The Spring Effect: Brighten Up Your Brand

Spring Brand RefreshDriving down the roads of the Finger Lakes region lately, it’s tough not to notice the shift taking place. At first, the thought goes something like this: “boy, does it look pretty out here.” Then, you think, “well, this area is always pretty.” So, what’s changed?

Spring has sprung. Leaves have returned to the trees. Lilacs are in full blossom. Cardinals, blue jays, and other colorful birds adorn the trees and fill the air with music.

While spring may have “officially” began in March, it’s only now that we’re seeing what makes it so glorious.

Infusing spring into your brand

Each turn of the season reminds us of how colorful the world really is, no matter where you might be. Winter shows us how blue things can get, while spring is all about a fresh start, signified by the sudden sprouts of green everywhere that mark the coming of brighter, longer days. It’s in the trees, the lawns, and nearly every plant that surrounds us, inspiring joy as we walk or drive amongst it.

So, with the turn to spring, it’s only right that we take some of that energy and infuse it into our brand.

What green can do for your brand

As a general reminder, color is complex. To make one blanket statement about what green signifies or stands for would be over-simplifying a color that can evoke a variety of emotions.

Let’s start by exploring general associations we make with different shades of green:

Green: Standard green (think: grass) is reminiscent of health, freshness, serenity, growth, environment, and vitality.

Dark greens: Darker shades of green (think olive green; money) often denote wealth, prestige, or envy, but can also signify an environmental aspect.

Light greens: Finally, lighter green tones often promote a calming effect, evoking feelings of balance and harmony.

There’s a lot going on when it comes to green. Which is why you’ll see it in so many brands that span a variety of industries, attempting to portray a diverse set of emotions and, in return, evoke different responses among various target markets.

Consider Garnier. The brand uses a lighter, brighter green that practically shouts fresh, vibrant, and healthy for hair and skin products.

Then there’s Starbucks. Its brand is of a more sophisticated note, using the darker green that can also be representative of its devotion to environmentally-friendly sourcing.

The epitome of “going back to the Earth”, John Deere uses a more standard green tone to establish itself as a tool for growth and environment.

Oh — and one final fun fact about the color green? Many argue that it’s the easiest color on the eyes. (So, visitors to your brand can feast their eyes for even longer.)

Spring doesn’t stop at green

The freshness of spring most certainly comes from the abundance of green, but it’s even more rejuvenating when dotted with sudden, intense pops of color, like the vibrant purple of the lilacs. After all, the real potential of using color to evoke emotions requires knowing how to use colors together, seamlessly, to create just the right amount of contrast and lead your viewer’s eyes where you want them to take action.

I’ve said it before (and I’ll keep repeating for reinforcement!): color is one of the most important and powerful aspects of your brand. It’s fascinating, really. Research shows that it takes just 90 seconds for a customer to form an opinion about a product — and 62-90% of that interaction is determined by color, alone.

Powerful to say the least, right?

The spring effect

For me, spring is all about rejuvenation, growth, and vitality. For you, it might mean fresh air and serene nights.

While spring looks a little different for everyone, one thing’s for certain: it can play an important role in setting the tone of your brand.

Want to learn more about how color affects your brand’s impact? Download my handy What Does Your Brand Say? workbook, and when you’re ready, get in touch to set up a complimentary Brand Clarity Call so we can really dig in.

In the meantime, stop and smell the flowers, and enjoy the ever-lengthening days!

Harris Studios spring        Harris Studios spring        Harris Studios spring

Travel Inspiration for the Creative Entrepreneur: Asheville, North Carolina

Love Asheville, NC

Every destination has a story. Exploring new places, discovering their stories, and bringing the inspiration back to breathe new life into my design and painting is key to my work — especially so I can help other destinations uncover their brand. Welcome to Travel Inspiration!

In this Travel Inspiration edition, I explore Asheville, North Carolina. I had the privilege of heading south to Asheville in March for a business retreat with Christine Kane.

There’s no other way to say it: from the time you grab a taxi driven by an aspiring poet to the musicians serenading walkers on the street, the authentic spirit and artistic essence of Asheville is simply palpable. With the addition of the Blue Ridge Mountains setting a beautiful backdrop, Asheville has easily become one of my favorite places to visit as a graphic designer and painter.

What’s more: Asheville has owned its inspiring culture through its bold but warm brand and the experiences to be had there.

Experiences + brands that impress

In a place surrounded by so much beauty and truly fantastic people, it’s tough not to find inspiration at every turn. Here are four experiences — and brands — that truly left a mark on me:

Asheville’s Salt Cave

After two days of adrenaline-rushing, mind-racing, idea-flowing business coaching, my body and mind were craving a place of relaxation.

My fellow retreat attendee recommended the Asheville Salt Caves. For her, just one hour in the cave felt like four days of vacation at the ocean. For me, my short time spent there allowed me a relaxing experience and renewal in a deep meditative state. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a solo business owner, it’s that full-immersion work on your business is critical to moving forward, but self-care through release and renewal are just as important. It’s all about balance.

The Salt Cave experience has stuck with me even as we conquer the lion that spring came in as in the Finger Lakes. The people behind the Salt Cave know its benefits — the environment’s healing, restorative properties — and have communicated that through its whole brand, from design to packaging and through its services.

Herbiary

An herbal apothecary and natural remedy store (doesn’t that just sound amazing?), Herbiary simply does it right. Owned by a strong and powerful friend, Maia Toll, the store carries hundreds of medicinal herbs, essential oils, teas, tinctures, flower essences, and body care products.

Maia is honest and transparent when it comes to her practice. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers — but she is dedicated to learning and sharing as much as possible. Her humility and passion shine through her brand loud and clear, from her website to the packages she offers.

In case you’re wondering, I left with an essential oil called “Mental Clarity.” I keep it by my computer to turn to on days when I simply need a burst of energy.

The Black Bird restaurant

Art and music are unmistakably a huge part of Asheville culture, but its food deserves the same pedestal. Just one of the many memorable restaurants we ate at was The Black Bird.

The menu focuses on local: seasonal bests from local farmers and fresh catches from the coasts of the Carolinas. But not only was the food amazing, the ambiance — the environment created — was truly inspiring. Particularly notable for me was the wall sculpture of blackbirds soaring. Extending your brand to your interior design as a brick-and-mortar place of business is a dimension and opportunity not to be forgotten. It truly brings the experience full circle.

French Broad Chocolates

Guilty: I cannot go to Asheville without stopping at French Broad Chocolates. (Let’s just say chocolate is essential to release, renewal, and mental clarity, as well!)

You’ll notice something quick about French Broad Chocolates: there’s always a line out the door for its hot chocolate, cakes, brownies, and chocolate boxes to go. That’s for a good reason. Not only does the shop do chocolate and baking right, but it creates a true experience around its brand with its chocolate “lounge” and “bean-to-bar” factory. Its story emanates through the ambiance, packaging, and service.

Let travel inspire you

A destination encompasses so much. Its brand is determined by its people, its natural environment, its created experiences, and so much more. Every place has a story. Asheville owns its story as a place for creatives looking for inspiration, restoration, and a nurturing culture. For me, the inspiration found in Asheville will fuel my creativity as long as I can recall the memories made.

Where have you been lately that’s inspired you, in life or business? Share with me below!

Next up in Travel Inspiration: I’m headed to Santa Monica, California! It’s been nearly a year since my last trip to Santa Monica, but the inspiration has remained. I look forward to it being renewed, and sharing that story with you.

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?