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It all started the week before the world shut down. The last in-person group event I attended was my local chapter of The Rising Tide Society. We met at the The Narrows Restaurant in Bucks County, PA. The theme was “Elevating Your Brand” to be led by Kristen Good of Kristen Good Collective, her company that specializes in small-business branding. (Look how much fun we had! The photo above was from that night and taken by Juliana Wall)
In advance of this meeting, I had offered up exit343design to be an example used for the group. Kristen had sent over a worksheet for me to do some deep-thinking about exit343design. This included things like writing down my business vision, my ideal client(s), my values, and my visuals. I returned the worksheet back to her along with my URL and awaited for our meet-up in March.
I had known I needed a general visual refresh, something I’ve done a handful of times before. But having a third-party branding expert walk me through the basics of what was and wasn’t working was a real eye-opener! I came away from that night with a new to-do list. Then, when the idea of quarantine became real almost overnight, I suddenly had a little more time to dedicate to said list. Here are the main concepts I identified and worked through:
This is knowledge I had begun to absorb during a day job that dealt with licensing. We used licensing info sheets that contained details such as the primary logo marks, submarks, the specific fonts to use, as well as the associated PMS colors. After that time with Kristen Good and a course on copywriting through PTP Labs, I also learned that it can include the words and phrases as well. That’s a lot to think about! Branding isn’t just the visuals that folks encounter, it’s the feeling they get when interacting with your company. This suddenly went from a one-week job to a many-months exploration.
After having some third-party perspective, it became painfully obvious: what I wanted my branding to say versus what it was actually conveying were two VERY different things. Exit343design is about making colorful products with fun messages or playful imagery! The logo on the other hand? I made it using one of my favorite fonts and some neutral colors. At the time, it was a refined upgrade from previous iterations but it was no longer serving me or my customers.
My website was a step up from my artist portfolio site of yore, but it still wasn’t a true retail-ready website and I had outgrown its capabilities.
Because I sell at live events, I have a variety of signage that I use in my booth. Nothing really matched- some things were drawn by hand, some were printed. I often used a teal color but it was whatever teal I selected the day I designed. Tablecloths were mismatched colors. Everything had grown organically and haphazardly and I needed to step back and be intentional.
Just as with my products, I try to infuse my sense of humor and playfulness into the copy on my website. This was evident in my “about me” page and buried deep on a secondary homepage on my website . . . and precisely no where else. This was a huge takeaway from that mini-session with Kristen Good- I needed to add more of my voice everywhere!
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I should say that I’m no branding expert so everything is always a work in progress. And for a lot of professional folks, they would not recommend doing your own branding yourself. But, I like a challenge and love to learn so I just went for it! And now, it’s time for the fun part: seeing the exit343design transformation . . .
Roger that! I developed a whole brand sheet, refined my colors, and developed iconography to use throughout the brand. I took inspiration for the format from this brand guide I found on Pinterest. This sheet is now the guidelines for all that I do going forward:
This is when I had to do the deep thinking about my logo. You can see the finished product above. I ended up using one of my favorite fonts as the base, but moved the letters around to add movement and playfulness. Once the positioning was set, I went in and hand-traced the letters as an extra touch to make the font less stiff. See what a difference that makes?
If you know me, you know I love patterns. I try to sneak them in to nearly every custom project I do (just scroll this page and you'll see what I mean). I set out to design a pattern I could use for future packaging and sprinkled throughout the website. This was what I started with- a smattering of fun icons that represent me and my brand:
And here is the final result, in exit343design brand colors:
I spent a whole day working on new booth signage and splurged on new tablecloths for the booth. Here's a photo of it from last weekend:
Branding visuals is one thing, branding the copywriting is whole other beast. This is still a work in progress, but I have been updating my copy EVERYWHERE. I started with my website email templates- the emails that get triggered when someone places an order, when an order ships, etc. Of course the copy on my main page got a refresh, but so did ALL of my product listings- or they will be, it's taking a while! I looked at my marketing as well- one of my favs is this postcard that goes in with every art print: