Why Design Matters

Prioritizing Long Term Planning in Your Businesss

This post originally appeared as a guest article in the Rising Tide Society's October 2017 Creative Entrepreneur's Guide to Business Planning

As a solopreneur or small business owner, it’s easy for long-term planning to fall off your to-do list. Seeking out clients, promoting your business and doing client work becomes a priority during your day-to-day work, and without the right business planning in place, you can get years into your work and realize you haven’t taken the right steps to evolve your business to the level you want to be at. There has to be a better way to long-term plan than just writing ideas down and forgetting to act on them, right? The only way to achieve those long term goals you want in your business is to properly plan for them. As someone who is not naturally organized, that idea might make you want to immediately scroll right past this article and never look back. But I promise these steps are simple, non-painful ways to build structure and make big strides in prioritizing your long-term business planning.

Set up a time each week to review your ideas and prioritize them.

Sometimes I get blindsided by a great idea and want to act on it immediately. But when I look back on work I did quickly after inspiration hit me, it’s not as refined and as well thought-out as it could have been if I’d worked through it more thoroughly.

Make an idea wall.

So, what to do with those ideas you’re not going to act on right away? Store them! I need things in front of me to remember to actually do them, so I have a physical idea wall next to my desk. I have running paper lists of blog ideas, social media posts, and bigger ideas for my business. Also, I’m an avid Pinterest pinner. Whenever I see colors, branding, illustrations, and more that I’d love to use, I make sure to save them on my Pinterest boards. This way, they’re tucked away in one place so I can look at them whenever I need them.

Keep yourself in check with monthly and quarterly goals.

For all of those larger business goals, I have monthly and quarterly check-ins with myself to tackle them. As a small business owner, it’s often difficult to prioritize those big picture ideas; I use these check-ins to break big goals into manageable pieces. At the beginning of every quarter, I map out an overarching goal for my business, with smaller action items for each month of that quarter. Usually, the goals for my months and quarters evolve organically through what I’ve been putting on my idea wall and to-do lists, and fit in with the needs of both my clients and my business. For example, I already know my main Q4 goal will be to create more content through courses and blog posts. One of my smaller monthly goals might be to complete writing and designing a course for clients, or to create a social media content calendar for the upcoming year. Although priorities may change depending on extenuating circumstances, it’s often easier to set your business priorities with a clear mindset when you know what you’re choosing to focus on that quarter. Establishing clear goals and strategy for your business will help you achieve goals and see true growth in your business.

Build long term goals into your payment structure and hourly time.

Last, but certainly not least. One of the biggest (and easiest!) mistakes an entrepreneur can make is not making sure they have the time and money to allow themselves to prioritize strategically growing their business. Be sure to work at least a few hours a week growing your own business through checkins and website, social media, and blog management. Figure out the best way for build those hours into your payment structure so you feel comfortable spending non-billable hours on yourself. Building this into your long-term structure will allow you to be more organized when it come to growing your company, and not letting that growth fall by the wayside.


Why Design Matters: Branding

This post is part of a larger upcoming series on why design matters. Branding is the first part in three (or more!) posts, so look out for more to come!  Why Design Matters

Branding is the foundation upon which every company in the world is built. When starting a business, many people believe that their brand is just their logo, or their mission statement, or perhaps the colors they use. But branding is much more complex than most people realize. The definition of branding I like the best is how you represent your company (or yourself) to others. Your brand is how your company looks, what it sounds like, the vibe people get from it, how it's represented on social media. Your company is synonymous with your brand.

Kind of intense, right? It's important to understand what branding is and how it works, because it impacts everything you do as a business. If your company has a strong brand, it's much more likely to do well and for your audience to truly understand what you represent.

Design truly matters when it comes to visual branding. The visual elements of your company are usually the first thing that your customers will see when they encounter your products. Here are a few design elements to think about when pondering a new branding or rebranding project.


Like I said earlier, branding isn't just about your logo. But your logo is the centerpiece that the rest of your brand is built around. This is on all your projects and should be clear, crisp and entice users to learn more about your company.


Even if you know nothing about Target, you know they are a bold yet approachable company from their logo. The iconic bullseye implies that this company hits the mark when it comes to what they're selling, and can be the one-stop shop for your products. The logomark is simple and can stand alone, and the word "Target" can be reconfigured easily into a horizontal logo. This is everything a logo strives to be - simple, versatile and to the point. At the end of the day, it makes you want to know more about a company.


The type (or font) that a company uses can visually say a lot about them. Simple, clean type communicates a message of modernness and forward thinking, but could also being contrived as plain or unimaginative. Handwritten or older style type can show that a company is classic and rooted, or could be seen as outdated.


This logo changeover didn't work so well for Gap. They famously ditched the new logo in record time, returning to the original logo (which they still use today). Gap was attempting to modernize themselves, but went too simple with this logo. Their personality and all-American persona is completely lost in the stark rebrand they attempted.


Here's an example of a good logo change. Netflix's new font is more readable than the skinny, outdated looking type they previously used. They ditched the drop shadow and red background, going for a more clean look that is much more straightforward while still keeping with their established brand colors.


Finally, here's a logo that utilizes handwritten typography super well. MailChimp is an email marketing system that markets mainly to small businesses. Their logo is simple yet approachable, using a handwritten font that many makers and entrepreneurs who are launching their own storefronts and businesses would connect with.

Elements Beyond the Logo

There's nothing like finding a company that you think "gets" you. One of the most effective ways to do this is through packaging and experiential design. Taking your visual brand and incorporating it throughout all of your produced materials will equate to a consistent experience for your users.


Brown can seem drab, but not for Chipotle. Promoting organic and local, Chipotle shows an environmentally-friendly identity with their Cultivating Thought series, which has been wildly successful. Plus, they give you something interesting to read on the back of their bags!


Whether you love or hate Apple, you have to admit that this company is iconic. Known for being clean and modern, you could be dropped in any Apple store around the world and know exactly where you are. This is something every brand should strive for - being able to be noticed by their visual elements from miles away.

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I really enjoy Starbucks' branding because they use a large variety of visual elements that somehow always seem cohesive. Their style incorporates a lot of illustration but also feels clean, using lots of brown and green to appear down to earth. Using these colors and tone from marketing materials to storefronts to packaging, they're incredibly unified.

Using these elements above can almost guarantee a strong visual identity for your organization. And all of these can be applied to your personal brand, as well. Combining strong visuals with solid content and brand messaging with create success for what you want to market. How do you think your visual brand identity stacks up?

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