Design Process

3 Actionable Steps to Get Out of Your Small Business Rut | Ballast Notes

When you're working solo or on a small team, it's far too easy to get stuck in a rut. I know that as a small business owner, I've fallen victim to overthinking business decisions, feeling anxious about a lack of (or too many) clients, and simply just get stuck in my own head. After a few years in the biz, I've had the time and experience to start developing tactics to deal with burnout and feeling like you're in a rut.

  1. Build your branding. 
    It feels a little contradictory to say -- as someone who works on branding for others on an almost daily basis -- that I didn't invest enough time in my own branding. Although I had a solid visual brand down, I spent countless hours writing a re-writing website content, email templates, and blogs. Looking back, it would have been much more wise to spend time nailing down what my written brand would look and feel like at very beginning. Your branding represents what you and your biz are all about, and it's important to invest time in it so your audience really receives your message. 

    And once you have your branding established, don't be afraid to make changes. It will be natural to make tweaks a couple times a year as your business grows, and is likely necessary to do a more major overhaul once every couple years. Just like your own self, your business is not stagnant. It will grow and change over time, and it's only natural that your branding will do that as well. 
     
  2. Develop a routine, but don't feel defined by a schedule.
    One of the main reasons I didn't feel productive in a 9-5 job was the schedule. As a creative, I wanted to work on my own time -- whether that meant working remotely, working late at night, or ending my day early if I didn't feel like I was being productive.

    When I first started Anchored Creative Studio, I didn't have a good routine. Because I wanted to buck that traditional job, I would often start work late and work slowly, only to realize in the late afternoon how much more work I should be completing that day. It wasn't sustainable for my work, and I was getting burnt out my working throughout the entire day.

    Building a routine is important, and help you feels like you have more of a "real" job, even if you might be working out of your living room. For myself, I wake up around 7:30 each morning, do some yoga, eat breakfast, and start working around 9:30. I might take a few breaks throughout the day to run errands or go grab lunch, but I always wrap up by 6:30 p.m. This is my routine -- but I try to not feel defined by a traditional schedule. If I've completed everything I need to do, I don't feel the need to clock in eight full hours, or to take only a certain amount of vacation days per year. The beauty of having your own biz is being able to make these big decisions for yourself, and creating your own routine is one of the most important. If you're feeling exhausted by your own schedule, figure out the best way to work smarter instead of harder. 
     
  3. Be authentic. 
    Another cause of burnout that I've personally experienced is pretending to be something you're not. In a wild world of social media, it's so easy to compare yourself to your peers, and to not be aware of the hard work behind the overnight successes. It's easy to try out tactics that helped others, but might not be the right move for you to make in your business.

    Being yourself and finding your own niche is one of the most important things you can do in order to make your business as sustainable as possible. Authenticity is important not only for that long-term sustainability of your business model, but also for your own personal growth. Being able to practice what you preach will help your own mental health and will keep passion in your business as it grows.  
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Using the 2018 Pantone Color of the Year (Ultraviolet) in Creative Graphic Design

When Pantone announced their 2018 Color of the Year as ultraviolet, I was initially a bit wary. All purples tend to make a splashy entrance, with the color historically being associated with royalty and the upper class. It's also usually viewed as a feminine color, and I often steer clear of it unless I'm working with a client who specifically requests purple. I tend to gravitate toward more neutral colors in my designs - but after a bit of time, I came around to ultraviolet. 

Over the past several year, muted color palettes have been all the rage. Ultraviolet is quite literally the opposite of that. Although that can be a bit jarring, I think that a major switch like this is the best way to signal a change in the industry. Pairing bright colors like ultraviolet with pastels, neutrals, and black and white makes a brand really stand out; and I think flashy branding is the way of 2018 and years ahead. 

BRIGHT & BOLD BRANDING

Bright purple is often associated with royalty, which makes it a great fit for a business that wants to communicates a bold message. A standalone purple can communicate luxury, while purple paired with other colors will seem future-facing and outside the box. Bright violet is a great main color to choose for your business in order to stick with both current trends and classic color palettes. 

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MYSTICAL IMAGERY

The first graphic I thought of when I heard "ultraviolet" was a rich, purple night sky. Using deep and bright purples is a great way to add a bit of mystery and magic to your designs. This style won't work for everyone, but space imagery is also very on trend in graphics today, so it would be a great to use if it's a good fit.

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NEON-INSPIRED LETTERING

I'm all about 80s-inspired branding and design, and am excited about the possibility of more retro design in the future! Neon-style lettering is a great way to make a statement, and a bright color palette truly catches the eye. 

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CONTINUED USE OF FLORALS

Florals have been enjoying their day in the sun, especially in delicate, feminine branding as well as event collateral such as wedding invitations. Although pastels are usually the colors most often seen in this type of design, violets and other bright colors are used from time to time. These bolder hues provide a pop of color that help invitations really stand out. 

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DRAWING ATTENTION AMONG A MUTED COLOR PALETTE

Bright purples are often used among very muted colors, usually as the accent color among black, grey and white. This is a trend that I can see continuing, and I can also see bright, bold colors in general used as accents being a trend that continues to grow. It's a great way to brighten up print and digital design, and to add information blocks that draw the user's eye to the most important information

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What do you think of Pantone's 2018 Color of the Year? As a creative, how do you think you'll use the color in your work this year? 

All images via Pinterest and Unsplash

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Design Tutorial: Creating Solid Backgrounds in Photoshop

It's my cat's birthday today! For anyone who knows me personally, they know that Roscoe Santangelo is my little BFF that I spend an inordinate amount of time with since I work from home most days. A few days ago, I set up a little birthday photo shoot for him so I could get a good picture for social media, complete with confetti (which he kept trying to eat). I wanted the background to be white, so I set up a couple pieces of white posterboard, but it didn't totally come out the way I wanted to. 

Most people assume that if they can't get the background they want in a photo, it's a lost cause. This couldn't be further from the truth, because it's actually super easy to do - all you need are some basic Adobe Photoshop skills and about 15 minutes.

Here's the steps you need to make it happen:

  • When you're setting up your photo, make sure you have something in the photo that you can base your background off of. For me, it was the while posterboard. Even though I couldn't get it all in the frame, it's still a large part of the image. And most importantly, I wouldn't have to edit the background of any of the main elements of the picture (the cat and confetti). Basically, be sure that it's easy to remove all the parts of the photo you don't want to use.
  • Once you import into Photoshop, create a Layer from your Background Layer use the Lasso Tool to select the parts of the photo you want to take out. The best way to do this is to select big swatches that include very little of the background color you want (white, in this case). This way, Photoshop can tell that you're going to want that background to look white. Once selected, hit shift + F5, or Edit > Fill to use your Content Aware tool. Make sure "Content-Aware" is selected before hitting "OK."
  • It will probably take some trial and error before Photoshop figures out what you want the background to look like, but your background will look much more natural once it gets the hang of it. After most of your image is done, you're likely going to have a few parts the Content Aware tool can't figure out, or just look a little funky. To get rid of these, use the Clone Stamp tool, which you can access in the main Photoshop toolbar or by hitting "S." Make sure you have the correct layer selected, and simply click and hold down Alt in the area you'd like to copy. Then, use the tool to paint the cloned area. Just like with brushes and Erase, you can change the opacity and brush size of this.
  • The Smudge or Blur tool is also great to use if you need to smudge up an area. 

And that's it! It's relatively simple exercise to make a big difference in your photos. Check out the video below to see my process and the finished product - it only took me about 12 minutes to remove my background and add some text to the image. 

Design Decoded: Why Do I Need a Vector Logo?

A vector format logo in all of our brand services at Anchored Creative Studio, and it's something that is purposefully listed first in all of our services. To me, it's the first thing any business should look for when evaluating the branding work a graphic designer is planning to do for them. 

So, what's so important about a vector logo?

There are two types of graphics: vector and raster. I wrote more about the difference between the two in a blog post earlier this year, but the basics are that raster graphics are composed of pixels and are a set size, whereas vector graphics are composed of vectors (intuitive, yes?) and can be scaled up or down to be as large or small as you would like. 

Because raster logos are composed of pixels, they become pixelated and blurry when scaled up or down. Pixels are tiny boxes of color that take up a tiny box (which is called a pixel).

Sounds great, but what does that mean for my business?

A pixelated and blurry version of my company logo

A pixelated and blurry version of my company logo

You know what I was saying about graphics becoming pixelated when you try to size them up or down? When you do this to a logo that's saved as a raster graphic, it gets very blurry, very quickly. Having a pixelated logo can make your organization look unprofessional or amateur. 

Always having a vector format of your logo on hand is important so you can hand it off to any organization that's using your logo for events, or in the case you need to make a change to your logo in the future. If you don't have that vector file, it's difficult to make changes to your logo while still maintaining its original integrity. With a file logo, your logo can be blown up as large as a billboard or as small as a matchbox and still look crisp and clear. 

How can I tell if a file is saved as a vector?

Vector files will have the file extension of .ai, .eps, .svg or .pdf. And that's it! If you have a logo saved in .pdf format, I would recommend verifying with a graphic designer that this .pdf is a native file, since a .pdf can also be a raster file. A "native file" is the original file the designer created the graphic in, as opposed to a copy of the file in a different format. All vector files can't be viewed on your computer unless you have vector software, like Adobe Illustrator. 

So, should I ever use a raster version of my logo?

Yes! There's a huge value to raster versions of your logo. Vector files are important for long term usages, but raster files are the versions you'll be using on an everyday basis. Raster files include .png, .jpg and .gif files, which you are likely familiar with. These files can be opened on all computers and smartphones, and you don't need any special programs to look at them. 

Any other tips your average person should know about vector files? 

When starting a new brand, have as many logo files as possible! You only need one vector file per each type of logo, but it's helpful to have large, small, and social media-sized logos for each color and variation of your logo. Most of Anchored Creative Studio's branding packages include up to 16 logo files at the end of the branding process, so the client is armed and ready to go with everything they need.

Questions? Shoot me an email! I'm always happy to chat about design questions!

 

Design Tutorial: Placing Photos in a Shape in Photoshop

It took me way too long to figure out clipping masks in Photoshop. I'm a little embarrassed to say that for a long time, I was cropping images to the size I wanted them to be in a separate Photoshop file and then placing them. This does not have to be the case! Clipping masks can quickly become one of your favorite Photoshop tools, and will expose you to some of the more advanced ways to make awesome graphics for your brand.

Why use clipping masks? For the purposes of what I'm explaining today, it's an awesome way to place a photo or other graphic in a certain shape. This could be a simple rectangle, or a circle, line, triangle, star, or other shape you can easily make with the Shape tool in Photoshop. If you want to get fancy, you could place an image or graphic over other graphics like handlettering or logos (as long as it fits into your brand's guidelines, of course), and even text. This is an amazing way to utilize brand patterns and make fun graphics for social media and other digital communications.

But to keep it simple (like the GIF in this post says), let's start with a photo collage for social media. For the small business owner or nonprofit that's looking to DIY some of their design work, this is a quick way to make a professional design that doesn't take a ton of time. Doing design yourself doesn't mean your design can't still look great. 

Here's the steps:

  1. Create a new document in Photoshop; make sure the background layer is color you'd like it to be.
  2. Make your shapes. If you have several shapes you're placing images or graphics in, I would recommend making each into its own layer group. It makes things a little less confusing and makes sure you don't accidentally mix up your shapes!
  3. Place your graphic(s). Save the images to your computer if you haven't done so yet. Then, go to File > Place Embedded and place your first graphic or image. Make sure the graphic layer is placed on top of your shape layer. You can move the layers around in the layers panel if you need to.
  4. Right click your graphic layer and choose "create clipping mask." Ta-da! You've created your clipping mask! If you need to move your graphic layer around to make it look better, you can do so with the Move tool, and can make it larger or smaller with Transform (command + T, or Edit > Free Transform; hold down shift to keep proportions).

Below is a short video to see exactly what it looks like in action, specifically steps 3 and 4. Any questions? Drop em in the comments! Hopefully this tutorial is helpful for your small biz.

Design: Club Creedmont Crew

When a friend approached me to create a shirt design for her bachelorette party, I knew we could create something for this fun day leading up to her wedding. The design was for a tank top given to all attendees during the party, which was at her family's pool. With the location of the party affectionately referred to as "Club Creedmont," and a theme of pink flamingos, I loved the way the final design turned out. Club Creedmont 3

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Club Creedmont 1

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Design: Ponya Bands

Some of my favorite design work that I've done recently is for Ponya Bands, an athletic wear company headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Ponya Bands manufactures non-slip headbands and absorbent sweatbands that are both functional and fashionable. I've been able to do both print and digital design for platforms including their newsletter, website, and printed marketing materials. Here a few of the projects I've worked on with them this summer: IMG_2416

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Q3 2016 Headband Rotator

 

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Visit the Ponya Bands website to learn more about their awesome products - and even see a little more of my work!

 

Design Process: Elegant Watercolor Wedding Invitations

A few months ago, I was approached by a friend's sister to help design her wedding invitations. The wedding is an intimate gathering hosted at a Kentucky orchard this fall, and the bride wanted to utilize the wedding colors of ivory and navy to create simple yet elegant invitations for event. I was so excited for this suite that I now have a version of it listed on my Etsy site. I created three versions of the invitation, and we designed from there:

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The couple ended up choosing the design with the navy background, but also loved the other two designs, so we ended up incorporating them into RSVP and accommodations card.