The Design Materials Growing Nonprofits Should Invest In

Having worked with nonprofits on a variety of branding and marketing material projects, I’ve often fielded the same query multiple times - what types of marketing materials should we invest in? For any organization that is working to expand and deepen their donor base, it can be tough to know where to start.

When should I invest in design?
This varies depending on the situation on nonprofit. However, my recommendation is when it would make more sense to hire outside your organization instead of doing it yourself - whether that’s for monetary or time reasons. For example, if it takes you four hours to create a document that a designer could design in 30 minutes, it could be a smart use of funds to free up that time for yourself.

I’d also recommend waiting to invest until you have a clear brand vision to guide to process - which includes a strong visual brand identity, brand strategy, and content for the designed materials. This is so you don’t just have gorgeous materials - you have content worth reading once you grad your audience’s attention.

Why invest in design?
Working with a designer provides an opportunity to get a professional opinion on how to attract your audience. Your content could be excellent, but without a visual hook to pull in your audience, there’s a huge chance that they won’t consume the information they need to. We live in a visual world, and having a professional designer create materials that are catering to your audience can make a huge difference.

When you’re just starting out or refreshing your brand, there are a few strategic documents that are worth investing in:

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Trifold or one-sheet on your company and programs.
A trifold or one-pager is inexpensive to print, and can easily be produced in short runs. It’s a no-nonsense option that provides your potential donors with everything they need to know about your organization, and can provide information on where to go for more information on your website.

You can also create one-sheets or or trifolds for several different programs or campaigns for your nonprofit. A brief document like this is easily consumable in a meeting, and is small enough to work well as a key takeaway at an event. A call to action to learn more, donate, or sign up for an event should also be included on this, to create a call to action for next steps.

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Donor form and/or remittance envelopes.
Like I mentioned above, with donors can be missed when there isn’t a clear call to action. Attention spans can be short, and you can make next steps easier for a donor by providing a clear path to take.

Donor forms are a way to provide a simple and easy way to increase chances to a potential donor giving to you. If you’re speaking to a group of potential donors at an event, it also encourages them to promise a gift right then. When mailing a donation request, a pre-stamped remittance envelope is a simple way for your donors to give right away.

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Annual Reports (or Annual / Quarterly Donor Updates).
Once you have established a donor base, providing a yearly or quarterly update is a clear way to show the direct impact of their donation dollars. Although this may be a bigger undertaking for a designer because of the length of many reports, it can be a worthwhile one.

Branded folders.
Last but not least, it’s a great idea to have a branded folder to keep these materials together. It can be as simple as including your logo on the front, or could be more personalized to your donors or campaign.

What's Coming Soon to Anchored Creative Studio

This blog is going to be a little different than the type I usually share here - it’s a more of story, and I want to tell this story as a way to explain some shifts that are going to be happening here at Anchored Creative Studio. There’s some changes brewing, and I know they are going to all be for the better for both you and me!

For quite a long time, I’ve been ready to make a few new things happen here at Anchored, but I continued to waffle because I wasn’t sure these tweaks fell fully in line with the brand I had created. As an individual who prides herself on creating strong brand identities, I felt a lot of resistance in tweaking my own brand - after all, I preach the importance of consistency. There were a lot of ideas and options rattling around in my head, and I was feeling idea paralysis on following through with any of them.

It was with this scattered mindset that I attended the amazing Back Into Balance business retreat with Devan of Devan Danielle and Danielle of Function Creative Co. I came together with 11 other inspiring female business owners who were feeling the need to uplevel and streamline their businesses for a weekend of soul-searching in Charleston, South Carolina.

There were so many aha moments during our time together (more of which will be revealed soon!), but overall I realized that I needed to feel confident in my ideas. Instead of second-guessing, I’m ready to jump forward. Instead of wondering what people will think, I’m going to stop being so concerned. Because entrepreneurship is about following your vision - and I’m ready to make a few things up as I go.

So, what does this mean for you?

  1. I’ve been downplaying my passion for brand strategy.
    At the end of the day, I want to set people up businesses for success. And the best way I know how to do that is through a holistic brand experience - and that doesn’t mean only design. Design is a huge part of establishing a brand, but so are the communication aspects: establishing how to speak about a brand, how to phrase social media posts, the lens through which to write website copy - the list goes on. I’ll be adding more communications work to my brand strategy offerings, and I am so excited for it.

  2. I’m shifting my focus to serve people, places, and mindful organizations.
    This means I’m tweaking the types of clients I serve. This shift means I’ll be narrowing my focus so I can better specialize and serve the types of clients I really want to connect with. These are the types of clients I’ve found to have a beneficially fruitful relationship with my business, and the types of clients that I’m able to create real magic with. Here’s who that audience is:

    PEOPLE. Entrepreneurs.
    PLACES. Physical locations such as neighborhoods, cities, parks, and business improvement districts; real estate developments; and brick-and-mortar stores such as yoga studios, coffee shops, restaurants, coworking spaces, and more.
    MINDFUL ORGANIZATIONS. Organizations that are looking to innovate and create ideas that work better than what’s already out there.

    In addition to refocusing my audience, I’m also going to refocus some of my overall client offerings. This means starting all client relationships with branding. I’ll be narrowing my process and focusing on offering processes that I have seen work - as opposed to waiting for someone to come to me with a process. This will streamline my process and make things way easier for my clients.

  3. I’ll be offering more for you, the business owner, through courses and products.
    Since the beginning of setting out in freelancing and creating my own business, I had dual ideas - offer services directly to clients, and train them on how to do it themselves through workshops and courses. As I retool my business, I’ll be shifting some more focus onto that second tier. Here’s what’s on deck for the near future:

    BRANDING YOUR BIZ. A relaunch of my workbook series from last year, with additional video elements. If you’re a business that isn’t quite ready to invest in branding, or have a business idea that needs to be fully formed, this course will help you get a head start on forming your own strategy.
    Estimated launch date: Summer 2019.

    BIZ FINANCIALS. A smaller workbook series about setting up for business financials for success. This will include information on money mindset and the basics of calculating what you need to charge to make a living off of service-based income. This has been my single biggest hurdle to overcome as a business owner, and I’m excited to share my wisdom.
    Estimated launch date: Fall 2019.

    YOGA FOR CREATIVES & BUSINESS OWNERS. In my other life, I’m a registered yoga teacher, and I want to start integrating both the mindful practice and physical benefits of yoga into Anchored Creative Studio. I’m not sure exactly what this is going to look like in terms of content (videos? a workbook? If you have thoughts, let me know!), but it’s definitely in the pipeline.
    Estimated launch date: Late 2019.

    MINDFUL PRODUCTS. I already launched Lunar Cultivation last week, a niche wall calendar centered around new moon intentions and the Jewish year. I’m planning to produce a few products for fun (such as wall prints), as well as productivity and centering (perhaps a planner or planning resources). I’m entering a phase of life that is all about streamlining and time resources, so mindful products are definitely on the rise with that in mind.

  4. There will be more “me” in this brand.
    In case you didn’t know who was behind this business, hi! My name is Anna. I’ve always waffled between using “I” and “we” in Anchored Creative Studio pronouns; but I’m now deciding that it’s an “I,” and always has been. Anchored was a vision I had for years before starting it up, and is mine alone. Although there’s a possibility to bring other employees on board in the future, it will be just me for the foreseeable future. And because of that, I’ll be implementing in some additional ideas and processes I’ve been wanting to since the beginning.

And that’s just about it! There will be more news, tweaks and changes happening around the website in the coming weeks, and I’m planning on a grand brand introduction in mid to late April. Stay tuned for more, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions! And a huge shoutout to the amazing Back into Balance business retreat for inspiring these tweaks and changes, and for helping me best serve both myself and my audience.

 
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A Deep Dive Into the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates' Branding (Color Palettes & Typography)

Since I had already done a deep dive into my thoughts on the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates’ branding in another blog, I thought I’d follow that up with a (slightly nerdier) foray into the color palettes and typography choices of each campaign. This blog includes links to access the fonts and typefaces used on each of the candidates’ websites, as well as links to access the hex codes from their sites.

Although I’m not providing commentary on each of these, there were a few interesting overall notes:

  • It was fascinating to see which teams utilized open source and/or free fonts, compared to those that purchased from big name type foundries. I will note that pricy isn’t always better, and definitely isn’t a hinderance to having a great campaign website.

  • As diverse as this field has seemed in regards to branding color palettes, I was surprised by how many palettes showed up as red, white and blue heavy. Although small steps are being made, very few candidates veered completely away from this classic combination.

A couple quick resource shout outs to the tools I used to create this blog:

  • WhatFont: An awesome Google Chrome extension that allows you to hover over web fonts to find out what they are.

  • Site Palette: Another great Chrome extension that scans websites an exports their color palettes, including to Coolors (below).

  • Coolors: A color palette generator. You can make an account and save color palettes for free, which is what I’ve done to link all of the palettes below. Click on any palette to open it in Coolors.

CORY BOOKER

Dapifer Book, designed by Darden Studio. Available on Adobe Fonts.
Conductor, designed by Frere-Jones Type. Available on Adobe Fonts for $$$.

PETE BUTTIGIEG
(Updated April 2019)

Aktiv Grotesk Ext, designed by Dalton Maag. Available on Adobe Fonts.
Industry, designed by Mattox Shuler. Available on Adobe Fonts.
Domaine Text, designed by Klim Type Foundry. Available on Klim’s website for $$$.

*Note: Check out Buttigieg’s website for an in-depth Design Toolkit, which includes reasonings for type and color choices.

JULIAN CASTRO

Mallory, designed by Frere-Jones Type. Available on Adobe Fonts for $$$.
Fedra Serif, designed by Typotheque. Available on Typotheque for $$$.

JOHN DELANEY

Source Sans Pro, designed by Adobe Type. Open source; also available as a Google Font.
ITC Avant Garde, designed by Monotype. Available on Adobe Fonts for free.

TULSI GABBARD

Harmonia Sans, designed by Monotype. Available on MyFonts for $$$.
Neue Swift, designed by Linotype. Available on MyFonts for $$$.

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

Navigo, designed by CSTM. Available on Adobe Fonts for free.

Mike Gravel

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Gilroy, designed by Radomir Tinkov. Available on MyFonts for $$$.
Open Sans, designed by Google. Open source; also available on Google Fonts and Adobe Fonts.

KAMALA HARRIS

Bureau Grot, designed by Font Bureau. Available on Adobe Fonts for free.
Ivy Journal, designed by Ivy Foundry. Available on Adobe Fonts for free.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER

Proxima Nova, designed by Mark Simonson. Available on Adobe Fonts for free.
Bold Uniform, designed by Miller Type Foundry. Available on Fonts.com for $$$.

JAY INSLEE

Montserrat, designed by Julieta Ulanovsky. Available on FontSquirrel for free; also a Google Font.

AMY KLOBUCHAR

Avenir Next, designed by Linotype. Available on FontShop for $$$.

Note: I really like Klobuchar’s serif used for headers, but it’s embedded as an image and seems to be custom.

Wayne Messam

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Montserrat, designed by Julieta Ulanovsky. Available on FontSquirrel for free; also a Google Font.

Tim Ryan

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Open Sans, designed by Google. Open source; also available on Google Fonts and Adobe Fonts.
Poppins, designed by Indian Type Foundry. Available on Adobe Fonts and FontSquirrel for free; also a Google Font.

BERNIE SANDERS

Gibson, designed by Canada Type. Available on Adobe Fonts for free.
Jubilat, designed by Darden Studio. Available on Adobe Fonts for free.

Eric Swalwell

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Effra, designed by Jonas Schudel. Available on Adobe Fonts for free.

ELIZABETH WARREN



Ringside, designed by Hoefler & Co. Available on Typograhy.com for $$$.

Marianne Williamson

Cormorant Garamond, designed by Christian Thalmann. Available on Adobe Fonts and FontSquirrel for free; also a Google Font.
Poppins, designed by Indian Type Foundry. Available on Adobe Fonts and FontSquirrel for free; also a Google Font.

ANDREW YANG

Awesome Font, designed by Dave Gandy. Available on FontSquirrel for free.


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What the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates' Branding Says About Their Campaigns

Now that the U.S. is in the thick of Democrats announcing their intention to run for president in 2020, I thought it would be a fun practice to critique the brand identities of the candidates.

As any visual designer knows, the purpose of a strong brand identity is to hook your core audience with striking imagery that will make them want to read more. I wanted to review each of the candidates’ identities by taking a look at their overall branding, as displayed on their website. The opinions and rankings are not meant to judge the UX/UI design of websites; but instead judge the website for the message and audience they are looking for. A bit of a reverse creative brief - defining what the visuals say to me.

Don’t miss the follow up to this blog: A Deep Dive Into the Presidential Candidates’ Branding (Color Palettes & Typography)

Skip to:

Note: Logos and websites were originally added January 22, 2019, with new content added periodically as additional candidates entered the race. All opinions are my own, and logos/branding/websites are for inspiration and reference only.


Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg’s New (April 2019 & Beyond) Branding and Website:

Pete Buttigieg has embraced a millennial message more than any other candidate - and that includes his design chops. Hands down, looking over his website and branding, it’s incredibly obvious how much care and meaning is present in the design. And that’s not just because his team provides an in-depth Design Toolkit to explain the real-life inspiration behind the brand logos, colors, and typefaces. It’s clear that the time and energy put into these brand elements were efficient and thoughtful. It’s my favorite design style - noting that just enough is best, and favoring simplicity over anything else.

Values I gather from this branding: Warm. Rooted. Unfettered.

Overall ranking: 10/10. Nothing is unnecessary here. Simply excellent design work that resonates with the brand at hand.

Buttigieg’s Original (Pre-April 2019) Branding and Website:

Buttigieg’s website is currently a splash page, but I really like the direction it’s heading in. He is a mayor from a conservative Midwestern state (Indiana), and does a nice job of having a wholesome, safe look without looking boring.

Both the website and logo are simple but well-executed, focused on red, white and blue and smartly chosen design elements (the color blocking of the website is well-done). I often say that the most simple design takes the longest amount of time to create, and I can tell that effort and care went into the creation of this brand identity.

This effort will connect across social classes and across the country; Buttigeig’s brand looks like someone who can both aid and connect. That being said, connecting across class lines does give up some specificity, and this brand identity may end up blending in with others as we get further into the race.

Values I gather from this branding: Moderate. Wholesome. Clean.

Overall ranking: 9/10. I’ll revisit this after a full website buildout, but I really do like this identity so far. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the grey in his logo, which feels unnecessary.

 
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Julian Castro

Honestly, I think this was the type of look that Andrew Yang’s team was going for in their website and branding, but didn’t quite hit. The color blocking and gradients are used to the right effect throughout Castro’s website.

The website and logo is entirely in shades of blue and white, and it works really well. It’s simple without being too safe or boring, and bold without being isolating. It’s rare that I don’t miss some sort of accent color, but the right shades of blue were chosen here, and are different enough that they don’t blend together.

Castro’s logo is simple, but puts an emphasis on his heritage through the accent in his name, which smartly makes it look clean without being forgettable.

Values I gather from this branding: Loyal. Bold.

Overall ranking: 9/10. Similarly to Warren’s branding, parts of this feel a bit generic.

 
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John Delaney

Hands down, this is my least favorite. Although I felt like there was a disconnect between Richard Ojeda’s logo and website, it is nothing compared to John Delaney’s.

Just like Ojeda’s logo, Delaney’s reminds me a lot of Obama’s 2008 logo. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery; but a presidential campaign is absolutely a new time to pave a new road. Unlike Ojeda’s logo (which is too busy), Delaney’s logo feels fairly boring and unexciting, both because of the colors and typography.

There’s also a lot of different colors going on here, in the form of solid blocks of colors (such as the top buttons, quote block and footer on the website), website gradients and overlays, and the colors used in Delaney’s logo. There are at least six (!) unique colors used in his branding and website, which feels wholly unnecessary. And because his full logo is not used on the website (just a sublogo, which is rendered in white only), there’s a major disconnect in the website and the full-color logo itself.

Delaney is the only candidate who uses a serif as a header font on their website, and I don’t think it’s done effectively. The headers throughout the website are too close in size to the body copy, which does not entice the reader to keep reading.

Values I gather from this branding: Hard-working. Connection.

Overall ranking: 3/10. There’s a few solid starts here, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

 
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Tulsi Gabbard

This splash page is very simple, but communicates a lot. Tulsi Gabbard sets herself apart by using her unique first name in his brand identity. Her logo itself is powerful - I’m generally not a fan of gradients because they often aren’t used well, but the gradient is effectively utilized here. The colors are reminiscent of the rising sun as well as her home state of Hawaii; Gabbard also does an awesome job of using those colors in her brand photography on the splash page - something that is often overlooked. I also love the curved edges of the T and I, which draw the eye toward the focal point of the logo. In a one-color logo, I still think this logo will work well.

Gabbard smartly sticks to two colors on this splash page, which keeps the website from looking too busy, which can easily happen with using a photo background. I’m excited to see the full version of this website when it comes to be.

Values I gather from this branding: Rising. Powerful. Inclusive.

Overall ranking: 10/10. This may have to be revisited once Gabbard has a full website build out, but this identity has helped a gradient-hater really dig gradients. I can’t find a flaw so far.

 
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Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand’s New (April 2019 & Beyond) Branding and Website:

Gillibrand’s team updated her website and logo after launching her campaign for president, which now features a more rounded, sans serif typeface and an overall more type-centric interface. I think it’s definitely an improvement, and feels a bit more approachable and inclusive. Her bold usage of phrases such as “Brave Wins,” makes it clear that she’s looking to appeal to women voters.

Overall ranking: 8/10. Although a lot of Gillibrand’s branding still feels safe to me, I applaud her team for taking a more bold step with this brand refresh.

Gillibrand’s Original (Pre-April 2019) Branding and Website:

Overall, Gillibrand’s brand feels personable and caring, yet proper and conservative - almost motherly. Not only because they’re both blonde New Yorkers, but I’d like to think this is what a younger Hillary Clinton presidential campaign would have looked like. It’s overtly feminine while still being no-nonsense.

As a whole, her branding choices aren’t the most bold or exciting choice, but I think it works very well for the type of politician I think Gillibrand is; I’m not sure how it would have worked for anyone else. There’s also great uses of typography throughout her website (which is a one-page site) that give overt calls to action. It’s a great example of a one-page site done well, and shows the power of minimal color.

This is a small gripe, but I wish the website design had stuck with only black and white photos and the hot pink spot color. The orange Instagram tile and a few color photos are driving me nuts!

Values I gather from this branding: Feminine. Polished. Personable.

Overall ranking: 7/10. Everything about Gillibrand’s branding is very OK. It’s not overly exciting, with only her color palette pulling her out of being too safe for me.

 
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Mike Gravel

It’s a theme of many of these campaign websites to heavily use color blocking, and Gravel’s website continues on that trend. I enjoy his campaign’s use of monochrome color on images, which is unique and evokes a more old-school, newspaper-y feel. The website is also very simple, pointing users to the most important topics.

On the other hand, this logo is pretty rough. The idea of a more curved font works well, but the star/flag graphic in the “a” of Gravel just doesn’t work. It’s not visible when the logo is shrunk, and doesn’t match the clean lines of the website at all.

Values I gather from this branding: Classic. Simple. Throwback.

Overall ranking: 7/10. Love the website and it’s simplicity - but the same cannot be said for the logo.

 
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Kamala Harris

Harris’ campaign is direct and up front about who they’re working for - the people. She is the only candidate that directly works a tagline into her main logo. My only gripe is that the main logo does not work well in one color; but this is a small complaint for what I think is overall great branding.

The colors are very different and make her stand apart. Even though some of the other candidates err toward unconventional color palettes, Harris is the only one that doesn’t utilize blue. Purple has already proven to be a recent smart choice for progressive candidates’ branding, and Harris makes it work well.

The very bold sans-serif used for her headers balance well with the serif used for body copy. Compared to the modernity of the header font and colors, and body font is quite classic. It really helps anchor the branding from getting too out-there or kooky, and helps in making this a very memorable brand for all the right reasons.

Values I gather from this branding: Risk-taking. Striking. Colorful.

Overall ranking: 9.5/10. The tiniest issue, but I love for a logo to work in one-color and full-color equally; I don’t like that transparency needs to be applied for this one for it to make sense (as you can see in the website example).

 

John Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper is playing on a lot of current branding trends - keeping all graphics clean, consumable, and simple. Using purple as such a key component is unexpected and smart - it’s a rich color (literally, historically seen as the color of royalty) that represents the combining of red and blue.

The graphics of the logo itself are also smart - the simplified mountains are a way to show Hickenlooper’s home state of Colorado without being too literal. The star helps the logo look balanced while still staying asymmetrical.

The only negative things to say about this identity is that it may be too simple. Although I’m sure plenty of time went into the creation of the logo, the type feels a little uninteresting. I could do with a bit more contrast of colors and type. I will say that the display of logo variations toward the bottom of Hickenlooper’s homepage is very nice, and shows the full variety of logos - though it also kind of looks like a mockup from a graphic designer’s portfolio?

Values I gather from this branding: Clean. Compromising. Friendly.

Overall ranking: 8/10. Overall, I really like this identity. However, I’m not sure if it’s going to stand out against the crowd long-term. I’d love to see a little more variation of colors and other graphic elements.

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Jay Inslee

I’m not totally sure where to start with this one. The website isn’t bad, but the logo… eesh. It commits my two cardinal sins of logo creation: 1) the logo is not easily transferrable to all-black or all-white (the globe would make little sense), and 2) it’s using more than two colors in the logo (actually, I think there’s five?!).

I applaud Inslee for taking his key campaign component (climate change) to heart and reflecting the colors throughout his website. The website itself is laid out just fine; but the design elements are all rough on the eyes. The green and blue gradient ends up making an unappealing brown color, and the red in the website banner and logo isn’t woven throughout the brand at all.

This is the smallest element, but I am in love with the hamburger button in the upper lefthand corner, which is a simplified flag. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of this brand at all, but I love the touch of it.

Values I gather from this branding: Green. Passionate.

Overall ranking: 3/10. No A’s for effort here, but you do get some points for trying.

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Amy Klobuchar

I appreciate that Amy Klobuchar’s branding provides something very different than any other candidate. The use of gradients on her website (in the primary hero image above the fold, and the opaque image in the background of her Campaign section) are used in a smart way, and look fresh and new as opposed to dated (which gradients often are).

Klobuchar takes the risk of making branding choices that are different than her fellow candidates. Her choice for a serif font in her logo sets her apart from nearly every other Democratic candidate. She hops on the Kamala Harris train of using a campaign name as opposed to her last name in her logo, as well. She’s also the only candidate to use green - a color that has popped up often in local and state elections with a focus on environmental factors, but hadn’t quite made it to the national stage yet.

For the most part, those different choices pay off. I really like the bold serif used as a header throughout her website, and the website as a whole is visually appealing. Unfortunately, I don’t think that same serif works as well as I would have hoped in her logo. The “Amy” letterforms simply don’t pack a punch, and the left-aligned logo looks a little unbalanced to me. The logo also uses three typefaces and three colors (!), which ends up feeling too busy. And as much as I like the unexpected choice of green, I think using green and a darker blue only for “for America” could have simplified this logo and kept it from looking unfinished.

Values I gather from this branding: Clean. Striking. Green.

Overall ranking: 8/10. This may be one of my favorite websites, but I just don’t think the logo stands out very well on its own.

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Wayne Messam

This branding and website is very okay to me. There’s really not anything wrong with it, but there’s nothing exciting, either. I like the full-bleed photo on the home page, but beyond the photo, there isn’t much of substance.

Similar to Amy Klobuchar, this logo isn’t saying much on it’s own. It’s also very similar to Klobuchar’s logo, but uses a bold sans serif in place of a serif. There’s also a gradient, which feels unnecessary, and doesn’t add anything.

Values I gather from this branding: Bold. Traditional.

Overall ranking: 6/10. Both this website and logo are pandering to anyone and everyone, which means it probably won’t strike much of a chord.

 
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Richard Ojeda

Note: Suspended campaign in January 2019.

Although I do like Ojeda’s website design, the logo is not my favorite. The logo communicates Ojeda’s military background through the colors, eagle and American flag, wings, and rough textures; but there’s a lot of elements going on, and they’re not all necessary.

The winged version of the logo on his website feels like overkill; I’d like the wordmark without the wings much better on its own. I do like the concept of the eagle and American flag wings within the “O,” but it reminds me far too much of Obama’s 2008 logo. I think it could have been executed in a cleaner way.

The logo also doesn’t mesh very well with the rest of his branding, which is bold yet clean. The website does not feature any texture or major graphic elements outside of typography and color. The website overall is a good way to show how a tough and masculine message can be communicated without going overboard with graphic elements.

Values I gather from this branding: Bold. Masculine. Rough and tumble.

Overall ranking: 6/10. I like the use of branding on the website, which I think gets his message across. I just wish that was better displayed in the logo.

 

Beto O'Rourke

This is truly the brand I didn’t know I needed in this presidential race. Beto’s branding is very minimalist without feeling too simple or boring. It’s striking with a vintage feel. Although it’s not the exact same typeface, I’ve used a similar one in a political branding project in the past, and I love how bold it looks without looking like everything else.

Values I gather from this branding: Basic. Bold. Different.

Overall ranking: 9/10. I’m moderately obsessed. The only thing throwing me off here is the triple lines in Beto’s logo. It feels unnecessary and too delicate for the rest of the logo and brand - they could have filled the white space in a different way.

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Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan’s website and branding are well done, if not a little on the safe side. The logo is very similar to Cory Booker’s, and I don’t think either show off much about the candidate. Ryan’s website is also very text-heavy, with the graphics not telling a ton about the unique nature of the candidate.

Values I gather from this branding: Wholesome. Classic.

Overall ranking: 6/10. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing super exciting.

 

Bernie Sanders

I don’t have a ton to say about Bernie’s branding, because he’s choosing to keep the same overall branding that he used in the 2016 election. Overall, I think that’s a smart decision since he’s going after the same voter base - but we are also living in a very different day and age than 2016. I think it could have done some good to make some tweaks and updates to his logo and colors as to show progression over the last four years.

That being said, there’s definitely nothing wrong with Bernie’s logo. However, in a sea of branding that is beginning to stand apart from old-school political logos, Bernie is staunchly in the old-school camp. There’s nothing wrong, but there’s nothing very exciting, either.

Values I gather from this branding: Traditional. Inclusive.

Overall ranking: 6/10. “It’s fine” is really the best way to describe this. Maybe I’ll find more eloquent phrasing down the line :)

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Eric Swalwell

Although the concept of Eric Swalwell’s logo isn’t wholly original, I really enjoy the execution - it’s America-centric and bold without feeling trite or overdone. His website is similarly bold, though there could be better use of color blocking (as opposed to gradients) to match up with the logo.

Values I gather from this branding: Bold. Loyal. Patriotic.

Overall ranking: 7/10. I love the logo, but there’s many parts of this website that could be improved.

 

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren’s website is playing on all the right trends of the moment, and feels quite different from all typical campaign sites. The website is clean and unfettered, with minimal graphics that work quite well.

There’s not a lot that this website is doing wrong, and I think using light green as a key color is a very smart move. Relying on green and dark blue as main colors make it more striking when red is used as an accent color; this design looks expensive and smart, and makes the calls to action feel important and urgent. The color palette also brings a bit of whimsy to the design, which could easily skew too serious with the imagery and copy.

Values I gather from this branding: Modern. Clean. Serious.

Overall ranking: 9/10. I like this branding a lot - the only thing holding me back from a perfect score is that it feels a little too turnkey for me. If you replaced Warren’s identifying information with another candidate, it would probably work for them, too.

 
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Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson is a major fringe candidate in this election, but man, her brand is smart. It eschews the typical political color in favor of a more feminine nature (but less bold than Kristen Gillibrand’s branding). Her logo is also smart - it is simple but thought provoking, and the stacked, cutout-style of “2020” makes it obvious it’s a political logo (for a less political candidate).

The website design is really nice, too - Williamson’s watercolor portrait in the header balances the seriousness of her typography and logo with a softer, art-focused element. Overall, I’m not sure it’s the best political website, but it looks very nice and gets the point across that she’s not your typical presidential candidate.

Values I gather from this branding: Feminine. Delicate.

Overall ranking: 8/10. This is a really nice identity, and I’m only docking points because I don’t think it’s the best fit for a presidential run.


Andrew Yang

The colors of Yang’s website are very bright, tech-y, and has tons of calls to action. There’s a lot going on (not in a negative way), which makes me feel like millennials are one of the main audiences they’re looking for. Unfortunately, I’m definitely not feeling that in the logo (more on that below).

Yang is one of the more little-known candidates, and the design of this homepage pushes toward getting to know him and his policies, as well as information (“The Latest”) on news and appearances, which gives more of an air of credibility.

I like the brightness of the purple-blue and red - they are bright and remind me of the tech industry. The lighter blue does not jive quite as much more me, and would have preferred a different accent color.

On that note, the majority of these graphics feel quite modern and minimalist. However, the wave graphic below Yang’s above the fold picture feels like a more dated element and out of place. The logos are the same story - the “Y” with a flag is a clever idea, but could have been executed in a different way. The 3D effect of this also feels very backwards to the modern, 2D look that is displayed everywhere else.

Values I gather from this branding: Future-focused. Bright.

Overall ranking: 5/10. I like most of the website, even if the logo falls very flat for me. As with Richard Ojeda’s branding, I feel a major disconnect between the website and logo.

 
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Cory Booker

Cory Booker’s branding certainly is bold, but I’m not sure it’s the type of bold he was looking for. Booker’s campaign and political persona is consistently based around being down-to-earth and connecting with constituents, and I don’t think that comes across in this branding.

Color blocking is definitely on-trend in this presidential election, but Booker’s color choices are fairly predictable and aren’t setting him apart from other candidates. The content of his website homepage is focused on Booker’s humble beginnings and grassroots campaigning, but the visual identity feels like it’s clashing with that message. The sans serif used in his logo and website headers is blocky and heavy, and the serif used for body copy feels equally dated. Looking into the sans serif header font, it was inspired by vintage Bulgarian lottery tickets, which feels like an … odd choice. That font paired with the color palette of red, white, black and blue reminds me of constructivist design, prominent in Russia in the early 1900s.

Values I gather from this branding: Bold. Taking a stand. No-nonsense.

Overall ranking: 5/10. Similar to the branding of several other candidates, there’s nothing wrong with Booker’s visual identity. But, I think it was a missed opportunity to do something outside the box, and communicate his morals and policies that are for the people.

 
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What I've Learned in My First Full Year of Business

Although Anchored Creative Studio was founded in 2016 (almost three years ago!) mid January 2018 to January 2019 encompassed our first year of full-time business for me. As the creator of Anchored Creative Studio, I’d always wanted to run this studio as a full-time gig. Lots of things prevented me from doing that, but the biggest one was fear of the unknown.

A little over a year ago, my part-time design job was eliminated. Although I started to apply to other part-time jobs, I realized that I was in the position I’d always wanted - to run my studio on a full-time basis. I was a year of high highs and low lows; of learning so much about myself and the types of people and companies I like to work with; and the boundaries I want to set in order to keep Anchored going for a long time.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned:

  • Lead your clients - don’t let them lead you. This is the big one. Any not-so-ideal client experience I’ve ever had was because I let them lead the process, the contract, and/or talked down my price. Everyone likes structure, and the more structured your process is, the better the chance that it will run smoothly and be successful. I learned a ton this year about standing up for myself and taking charge.

  • Find people who make you feel like you’re not alone. Being a solo business owner is lonely. You spend a ton of your day alone in a coffee shop or home, with your main interactions being with your clients. You don’t have coworkers to bounce ideas off of, or to ask an opinion about a sticky client situation. This year, I found some amazing business besties - both in-person and virtually - and have found it to make a giant difference in finding camaraderie and making the struggle feel a little less crazy.

  • Admit your mistakes and learn from them. If you want a job that’s without confrontation and conflict, being a business owner is probably not for you. In this year alone, I’ve dealt with a ton of issues that require having tough conversations with clients - including out of scope requests, lack of payment, and ending professional relationships. From all of these situations, I’ve learned to do a postmortem check and see what I could have done better, and what processes can be put into place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

  • Find clients that fully trust you. This piece of advice may sound obvious, but took me awhile to really understand the nuance of it. Of course anyone who hires you will place some amount of trust in you, but there are still clients who attempt to drive the entire creative process through endless tweaks and lack of commitment to a specific direction. They should be able to trust your expertise, and create a true collaboration.

  • Learn to say “no.” Perhaps the toughest lesson. I struggled with saying “no” to clients that I thought wouldn’t be a good fit all year, which resulted in rough client relationships and forced me to further examine my need to take every client that inquires with me. I also struggled to say no to existing clients, going over the set number of revisions, or adding in additional deliverable that weren’t included in the original scope. I’m now less afraid of setting up boundaries, and more confident in my own voice and skills.

  • Trust your gut. Whether it’s for a creative direction, choosing a logo, or accepting a client - It’s usually always right.

  • Create passion projects. I’d often put off passion projects, citing that I was too busy, and they weren’t directly connected to an income stream. But spending more time on passion projects has not only reinvigorated my creativity and allowed me to take risks, but also helps create portfolio pieces to attract my ideal client. It’s something that I’ve found is necessary to make time for.

  • Know that time and experience brings answers. As one of my favorite songs says, “take your time, don’t live too fast / troubles will come, and they will pass.” Letting time pass and gaining experience brings clarity. Don’t respond to that email immediately, and table a project if you feel stuck. All will come.

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Where to Find Quality, Affordable Fonts and Typefaces

When I first got started as a professional designer, the most stressful part of the job was the sheer number of choices that needed to be made on each and every project. Working primarily on new brand identities, it’s common for me to still spend lots of time weighing the pros and cons of two intensely similar Pantone swatches before finally deciding on one. When it comes to fonts and typefaces, these choices can be detrimental in properly communicating the mood and feeling of a brand, and need to be chosen well.

To avoid scouring all of the Internet each and every time I work on a new brand, I’ve compiled a short list of my favorite resources. To be honest, it’s rare that I download a new font or typeface these days, and probably only do so once every month or so; and that’s usually for a specific client request or mood that I can’t quite hit with my existing library.

When it comes to fonts and typefaces, I encourage that quality always trumps quality. Because I have created a client niche among entrepreneurs and nonprofits, there are about 25 - 35 typefaces that I use within about 90% of all projects. While something new and unique is necessary from time to time, I recommend finding what works and works well for the types of projects you create, customize when necessary, and use them well.

 

Have you gotten this far and are wondering what in the world the difference is between a font and typeface? A typeface is a system that contains many variations that are called fonts; kind of like how you learned in geometry that a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. For example, Proxima Nova is a typeface. Proxima Nova Light is a font within that typeface.

 

Adobe Typekit

Many designers probably use Typekit the most because it is included in their Creative Cloud subscriptions, and it’s definitely not to be overlooked. Typekit partners with a variety of foundries to provide a large variety of fonts and typefaces for download. I love Typekit because it includes typefaces that can be rather pricey to purchase outright, but can be downloaded for free with a CC subscription. There’s unfortunately a cap on the number of fonts that can be synced on a CC subscription (you can also sync more for an additional fee), but it’s nice to have an opportunity to clear out those fonts you’re no longer using.

Font Squirrel

Font Squirrel is a pretty magical website that features mostly free fonts, all of which are licensed for commercial work. This means you can use any fonts from this website for branding projects as well as products or packaging that might be printed en masse. The website isn’t incredibly user friendly, but is worth the bit of effort it takes to learn to navigate it. I’ve found some pretty incredible free fonts on this site (a few personal favorites) that I now use on a regular basis.

Creative Market

The majority of what you’ll find on Creative Market is not free, but don’t let that dissuade you. It’s a great place to support small business owners and find super unique fonts and typefaces, as well as other graphic design resources (such as illustrations, mockups, Photoshop brushes, and more). It’s a great place to head to if you’re especially looking for a unique handwritten font or typeface.

So, what do you think? What are some of your favorite resources?

 
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How to Create a Visual Brand for Your Wedding

As a graphic designer, the first thing I did after getting engaged to my now-husband was dive into the process of creating a visual brand for our wedding. While my husband was busy crunching number and making spreadsheets, I was looking at fabric swatches and building Pinterest boards (one of the many reasons I love him is the ways in which we complement each other so well). I was really thrilled with how the visual brand we chose to create was so well-woven throughout our wedding, and came up with a few pieces of advice for others:

  • Ask questions to figure out how to brand your wedding. Treating your wedding like a business may sound unromantic, but it’s necessary if you want to create something cohesive and striking. Ask yourself questions like: what do I want my guests to feel when they attend my wedding a reception? Is my wedding meant to be whimsical; romantic; classic; modern?

  • Create a moodboard. If you’re struggling with creating a visual brand for your wedding, creating a moodboard can be really helpful to figure out what you want to communicate on your wedding day. Putting this moodboard somewhere nearby where you do your wedding planning (like the background of your computer, or printing it out and pinning it next to your desk) can also help.

  • Narrow down your colors early. There’s a lot of different ways to figure out your colors for your wedding day - my favorite (as you can guess) is to gather your colors from moodboard and question exercises. Many others choose their wedding colors based on their favorite hues or the season of their big day; there’s no incorrect way to go about it, but it’s important to make sure the colors you pick are cohesive with the overall mood and tone you’re looking to set with your wedding.

  • Follow through in all areas of the celebration. Wedding colors and themes are generally most evident in paper goods like invitations and the colors of decorations; but there’s plenty of small touchpoints to make, like ceremony programs, centerpieces, signage, and your wedding website.

Here’s a peek into how we did this with our wedding:

Our Moodboard

It’s incredibly easy to be overwhelmed at the outset of a wedding, with the multitude of decisions that need to be made. As a design professional, it was really tough to narrow down decisions about our wedding since the world was our oyster. Making a cohesive moodboard was incredible helpful, and we printed and hung it up in our living room, which was a great tactic.

Our wedding was in autumn, but we ended up going with a more modern, simple approach to our palette as opposed to autumn tones. Here’s how I would describe the brand of our wedding:

  • Minimalist and simple

  • Neutral with pops of greens, greys, blues, and blush

  • Rustic and geometric elements (wood and gold)

Save the Dates

Our save the dates were the first touchpoint guests got to learn about our wedding. I loved how these turned out, and they were fairly in line with the brand we landed on, although you can see the more refined version in the invitations. We ended up using the state of Ohio (where we were married) and the “Anna + Jacob” logotype more prominently later on.

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Invitations

I loved how these invites turned out. I was inspired by the multicolored neutral invitation suite featured on our moodboard, and wanted to create something similar. I’d never seen an invitation suite use multiple colored papers, and I really loved how these turned out

I printed these through LCI Paper (RSVP return envelopes and vellum overlay) and Printswell Fulfillment (everything else) and designed them myself.

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Captured by our fantastic wedding photographers,  Photo 243

Captured by our fantastic wedding photographers, Photo 243

 

Day Of Materials/Mood and Feel

Below are a few more items created for the day of our wedding, as well as a few captures of us + our guests, which we feel really shows how we wove our minimalist, rustic/rust-y, neutral color story throughout the whole day. From my dress to his suit to our table decor, we really just couldn’t be happier about how it came together.

All items and decor created by me unless noted otherwise.

My 3 Favorite Tools to Ensure a Great Client Process

For a long time in my business (maybe too long?), I wanted each and every client process to be unique. I chose to spend a lot of time writing out personalized responses to every potential client, and would often already be exhausted by the time I’d landed the client. Earlier this year I realized exactly how many hours I spend each week simply on emailing, and knew I needed to invest a little time and money in my client process.

Once I dove into how I could streamline and automate this process, I found a few things - a) it’s wayyy cheaper than I thought, and b) my clients LOVE working with these programs, mostly because they make things incredibly easy. There’s little to no learning curve, and my clients don’t need to sign up for their own accounts in these programs. I was worried that using multiple new programs in the client experience would complicate things, but it’s done quite the opposite.

To Get the Client: 17Hats

An example of 17Hats’ client portal

An example of 17Hats’ client portal

17Hats is a CMS (customer management system) created just for small/entrepreneurial businesses. There’s a lot of similar CMS systems (Dubsado and Honeybook being two of the most popular), but 17Hats ended up being the best fit for me. All of these CMS systems have a myriad of uses, but this is what I use 17Hats for the most:

  • Automating workflows. For example, I have a full workflow that seamlessly takes potential clients through the inquiry phase - after filling out a form on my website, 17Hats triggers a follow up email with a few more questions to ensure they’re a great fit. If it seems like they are, all I need to do is review and hit a quick “approve” before 17Hats sends another email to set up a phone meeting. Something that used to take me at least an hour to do now takes 5-10 minutes.

  • Invoicing, contracts and proposals all in one place. Instead of creating PDF invoices for clients who wanted to write me a check and sending others a PayPal or Stripe link, I can keep track of everything all in one place. Those check writing clients can easily print invoices and others can pay online - no excuse for lost invoices! You can also set up 17Hats to automatically send reminder emails when invoices are nearing their due date. Also, a client can quickly approve a proposal, sign a contract, and pay their invoice in one fell swoop - no more going back and forth with clunky PDFs each time you are landing a new client.

  • Client portals. 17Hats automatically creates a client-facing portal, where all of their invoices, questionnaires, etc. can live; it’s also a place where you can upload files (such as final deliverables). It’s amazing to give clients a single URL where they can always head to if they can’t find a file, or need to print out an invoice for any reason.

Want to check out 17Hats? You can take 10% off an annual plan by using this link!
Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link, and I get a little something if you sign up.

For Client Onboarding/Project Management: Asana

I’d heard people raving about Asana for years, and I’m kicking myself for exactly how long it took me to try it out. Asana is a free tool (there is also a paid version for larger teams) that is truly amazing for organizing both client experiences and your own business to-dos.

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Above is a screenshot of my current Asana board. On the left, I’ve organized personal, business and client boards, all of which are displayed on this calendar view by due date. It’s a great way to eliminate a to-do list, and get a visual idea of what’s coming up next. You can also view each individual board on their own and as more of a checklist. For me, I love this as a central place where I can keep track of blog ideas or social media posts.

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And the client experience is just as awesome. As soon as a client has signed off on a project, the first thing I do is built out and send over their Asana board. It can be viewed as a checklist (pictured above), or as a calendar, showing what is due when. This way, there’s never any confusion about what comes next - you also have the ability to assign each task, clearly setting boundaries about who is responsible for what task.

For Client Offboarding: Loom

Loom is one of those products I didn’t know I need until I found it. Loom is a video recorder that operates as a Google Chrome extension, and is amazing for recording and sending videos to clients. I personally use it when I’m sending over drafts of work to clients, and want to include a rationale of some of my design decisions (I personally prefer to do this via video instead of phone call, so they can check it out on their own time); as well as for offboarding. Especially with website clients, I’ve found videos to be the best way to communicate any final steps and walkthroughs of how to edit their site.

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I also love Loom because it operates via Google Chrome extension - which means you just need to click one button in your browser to start recording. You can also upload it right to your general channel or a folder where you can store all your client’s videos. It’s incredibly easy, and eliminates the need to find a place to store those giant video files. And best of it - it’s totally free!

What do you guys things? Any favorite client tools you can’t live without?

Branding: St. Demetrios Preparatory School

Formerly St. Demetrios High School, this historically Greek high school located in Astoria, Queens, was re-examining its visual identity after losing its traditionally Greek audience to more suburban schools. In an effort to attract more families from the neighborhood and of non-Greek lineage, we engaged them for a full brand strategy and rebrand.

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Nonprofit Design: John F. Kennedy Library & Museum's New Frontier Network

We love working with organizations that make a difference, and the John F. Kennedy Library & Museum's New Frontier Network (NFN) is definitely one of those. The NFN approached Anchored to create new donor materials (both corporate giving and individual membership pieces) for the organization, which focuses on young professional membership of the library and museum, as well as new stationery pieces with the NFN’s existing brand.

Working with brands to reconnect them with their audience is one of our biggest passions, and it was a pleasure to work with an organization that is doing so much good. Scroll below to check out a few items we collaborated on, including letterhead, business cards, thank you cards, and an individual membership pamphlet.

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