gradient_bar

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.

On the Common Thread Amongst Cultures and Living Brave

On the common thread amongst cultures and living brave

Show up. Be seen. Live brave. These words, written by Brené Brown, stare at me every day from my office wall thanks to a beautiful Christmas gift I received last year.

To say the past few months have been tumultuous would be downplaying the gravity of our world’s situation right now. There have been days of sadness. Of anger. Of fear.

Yet there have more often been days of beauty. Of gratitude. And of proven strength. After all, Brené’s words have done more than just stare me down…they’ve lifted me up.

Finding the common threads amongst all cultures

At the turn of the new year, I was fortunate to attend The New York Times Travel Show, a three-day event in New York City that brings tens of thousands of travel professionals and consumers together.

I went to the event looking for inspiration for my travel and tourism branding work, as well as for my own wanderlust, yet I walked away from it with much more.

More than 150 countries were represented at this year’s show. I spoke with people of different races, genders, and ages excited to share their landscapes and stories with me. I met a young South African photographer on his first trip to the United States. I chatted with travel representatives from Greece. I drew inspiration from print materials from the Caribbean.

I traveled the world in a day, consistently confirming the same idea: That no matter where we’re from, who we are, or what we do, we all occupy the same Earth and recognize that the pursuit of happiness is a journey that we need each other on.

And it’s a journey that’s been paved by so many who’ve come before us — people we can turn to for inspiration in times of self-doubt, of anger, and of fear, when living brave is easier said than done.

The sacred ground we stand on

I attended The New York Times Travel Show on behalf of the Finger Lakes, a region I’m incredibly proud to call home. It also happens to be a region where showing up, being seen, and living brave in the pursuit of happiness permeates our surroundings.

I’m blessed to live, work, and play on land that powerhouse women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Jigonsaseh once filled — women who actively dedicated their lives to fighting for rights and peace that we so easily take for granted. Women who, when told to sit down and be quiet, showed up, who were seen, and who most certainly lived brave.

Their presence reawakens my spirit and fills me with energy, power, and mindfulness. Connecting with the power of the past, I am able to harness the strength of love, peace, and hope.

It’s these past presences and the stories they’ve written by showing up and being seen that people all over the world — no matter their culture or physical location — can experience, as they appreciate those who lived brave before them.

Show up, be seen, live brave

Personally, I’ll be traveling through this Women’s History Month with an increased awareness of the women who came before me, and an increased passion for following in their footsteps to inspire understanding, strength, and acceptance as we face today’s challenges.

Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever your cause…I hope you’ll join me in showing up, being seen, and living brave. The world needs our voice. It needs our courage. And it needs our camaraderie.

Designing an Experience

designing an experience

When you walk into a floral shop, it’s easy to find yourself attracted to certain bouquets. Maybe it’s the Calla Lilies sprinkled with the Bells of Ireland and dotted with Lily of the Valley. Or the way the tulips are balanced by hydrangeas. You see, florists are experts in pairing just the right flowers to make you want them staring at you from your kitchen table every morning.

They do something that many people can’t: they see what works together, so they package it. Then, they sell it. And it works — because suddenly we see what we might not have seen before. And when it works really well? It resonates with us.

The magic of packaging

The same could be said of your brand. Your brand starts with a single element — maybe it’s your logo. It could just as easily be a texture that speaks to you. Or a color that represents you. The talent of a good graphic designer comes in being able to take disparate design elements that work on their own — a logo, certain graphics, a color palette, various patterns — and package them together so that they work even better. In their unique packaging, they form an identity for you and your organization — one that resonates with your ideal client.

Packaging items helps people understand, appreciate, and connect with the experience, whether it’s flower buying, interacting with your brand, or embarking upon new travel destinations.

Packaging travel

Consider the organization AAA: as a travel agency, AAA packages vacations to present them to potential buyers as a one-stop shop: your airfare, lodging, meals, transportation, and excursions organized over 7; 10; 21 days for maximum enjoyment. They can do it because they know the product. Where you might look at a trip to Ireland and be overwhelmed with options, they can present to you an all-inclusive trip with an itinerary delivered to your inbox.

Local travel bureaus are doing the same. But what’s even more fun to see than the standard packaging of hotels and restaurants is the coming together of partner entities to form a trail you can explore — one with a unique brand to call its own.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

That’s precisely what so many local tourism partners have done. It’s the trails created by others that give us the encouragement, and the understanding, to explore newness without overwhelm. Take for example the Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail. Voted #7 on USA Today’s 10Best list for Food Trails, this one’s focused on the good stuff: the cookies, jams, honey, ice cream, and other sugary delights, all made with a focus on locally-sourced ingredients.

On their own, each of the businesses on the trail operates just fine. But together? They’ve joined to create a brand that brings more visitors and fosters a better experience. (And gets featured on USA Today…)

The same could be said of other local trails with which I’ve worked: the Canandaigua Wine Trail, the Cayuga Healthy Choices Trail, and the Let’s Go Hike and Bike trails. Each is made up of seemingly disparate entities — ones that you might think to visit individually, but wouldn’t necessarily know how to approach together as an outsider. As collective entities with distinct brands, they’ve united to offer experiences.

Trails you want to be on

It is incredibly important to create a brand that excites the people you want to reach. Whether it’s perfecting the pairing of flowers in a bouquet, partnering a logo with graphics and textures for a company identity, or packaging the wineries, waterways, and sweet shops into a trail, make your next creation an experience that others want to take part in.

Create a brand that excites. A package that inspires. A trail that invites.

What skills, elements, or ideas will you blend into an experience next?

Destination Branding Can’t Happen in a Day

Destination Branding

In many places in the northern hemisphere, we’re in the midst of what the travel + tourism industry will label as “peak season” — at least, if your prime activities require being outdoors, your destination comes to life when green, and you’re kid-friendly.

Peak season is fun: It’s easy to sell; it’s easy to put a smile on travelers’ faces; and it’s all too easy to kick back and relax while accommodations fill up and activities sell out.

I am all for sunshine, relaxation, and celebration — but let me share a little secret: When your destination is a brand in and of itself, you can make it peak season all year round.

Destination branding: Not just a trend

In 2010, still in the throes of an economic downturn, many destinations in the US turned to re-branding campaigns to revive their image while families and meeting planners worked with limited travel and planning budgets. Yet what one expert referred to as a temporary “branding bug” has stuck around well beyond the downturn — because destinations see the impact a strong brand can have on its image, its influence, and its ability to satisfy.

It’s about learning, not fabrication

The first mistake destinations make in building out their brand is that they begin by thinking it’s something they need to create. But the truth is, unless you’ve just built your city, theme park, ski mountain, etc. from the ground up, your brand already exists. It’s up to you, destination marketer, to dig in and discover it.

Step away from the drawing board and get out and about. Survey past and current visitors, monitor social media — including blogs — to see what’s being said, and get in touch with locals. Research is the name of the game. Ask questions to get to the bottom of what makes your destination unique and what gives it its personality.

Gather a solid idea of what it is that draws people to your destination, what it is that makes them happy there, and what it is that they talk about to others. Pay attention to the words they use, the feelings they express, and the stories they tell. With that pool of research in hand, you’ll be set up to properly package what’s already being emanated, rather than trying to create something from nothing.

Key elements of a destination’s brand

Like any brand, a destination’s brand includes key elements. Here are a few:

Messaging: The taglines, phrases, and stories told. A few great examples: Visit Finger Lakes’ “Taste the Life”, Explore Asheville’s “Discovery, Inside and Out”, or Visit Philly’s “With Love.”

Design: From logos to typefaces and graphics to the style of photography, design plays an incredible role in embodying the feeling of a destination.

The goal of hitting the message and design nail on the head in tourism branding? To evoke a feeling. How do you want visitors to feel upon seeing or interacting with your destination’s marketing — whether in print, on the web, or even on a phone call? (Hint: The feeling you’re encouraging through your marketing needs to match how they’ll feel once they actually arrive!)

What destination branding achieves

Branding a destination doesn’t just equate to sales — though, yes, with the upfront investment and cohesive marketing built around your brand, you’ll be amazed at the potential it holds. Building a strong brand also leads to the following:

Increased pride amongst locals: Giving a destination a brand — so long as it is authentic — gives the people who live and work there a sense of pride to be associated with it. Locals can be your best advocates. Use that to your advantage!

Self-selection: When your brand is true to the experience your destination holds, you’ll find that visitors will naturally be attracted to the places that best suit them, and will therefore be more satisfied with their decisions and experiences.

Destination branding can’t happen in a day

Your destination’s brand will naturally evolve over time. While you can design the messaging and the imagery that will accompany the brand, the personality and characteristics that serve as the foundation already exist. It’s up to you to uncover and amplify them.

Because when your destination embodies a brand — a personality, a feeling, a story — travelers will want to experience it all year round, not just in June, July, and August.

Want to get it a better idea of where your current brand stands? Get my free e-book, What Does Your Brand Say? and sign up for a complimentary Brand Clarity Call today!

Destination marketers: What stories do you tell about your brand?

PS – Research serves as the basis for my design process. Get the behind the scenes here!

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.