1- What influenced your decision to become a graphic designer?
I was an Advertising Art Direction major and was hesitant to go into the Ad Agency world because of all the horror stories of being burnt out at 30. I have also been super independent and working for myself has always been ideal. I worked at a cafe and my customers needed graphic work so I started designing for them and realized I could make a living this way and still use my education.
2- Tell us a little about your professional background in the graphic design industry.
Right out of college I began doing freelance work and then interned at a denim store where I did all of the graphics for the company. I also started working for a clothing line, Vintage Blue, branding and doing all the graphics and marketing as well. I became so involved in both companies I became a partner. I continued to do my freelance design work on the side. For the two years the denim store, Denim Society, was open I was completely focused on the two companies and my design work was put on the back burner except for the business design work. Once our store closed down I started really focusing on getting my graphic design career off the ground.
3- Michelle, what have you discovered to be the most important marketing tool for small businesses and home based business owners?
I'm a big fan of just networking- through the internet, in person, whatever. Make conversation with people because you never know who you are talking to or what they may be in need of. It never hurts to ask- but it sure will help you.
4- Tell all my home business owners out there the basic items they should obtain to promote a professional image.
Obviously the quality of your product is important, but your brand identity is essential to providing a professional look. There are far too many businesses out there that look extremely unprofessional and that will reflect on your business. Make sure you have a logo, color scheme, and overall look and feel that fits your business. Make sure it is readable to your demographic. Invest in a good functioning website and email address that ends with your domain name because the online market is immense and if someone finds you on the internet and has no reference for who you are you may lose them.
5- Besides being a graphic designer, do you use your expertise towards any other business ventures you are connected to?
Yes, as I mentioned earlier I am the sole graphic designer at Vintage Blue, an eco friendly sportswear line for women.
6- Please tell us more.
I have some other side projects that are in the works but they aren't ready to be revealed yet!
7- I once read something you said about a brand having a consistent look and feel. Please explain further.
It's so important for your brand to be cohesive. It needs to look like everything fits together and makes sense. So for example, Vintage Blue is vintage inspired but is also putting a twist on the old and making it new. Our brand is old looking, but still vibrant and exciting. If you went to one of the pages on our website and all of a sudden started seeing really masculine fonts and black backgrounds it wouldn't fit. Each element implemented in your brand whether it's an email blast, printed flyer, business card, or website should all mesh together.
8- In your professional opinion are there any standards for website design?
Yes, of course. Usability is super important. If you have a pretty site and no one knows where to go you will lose them, which defeats the purpose entirely. You also typically want to keep your main navigation simple and either horizontal at the top or vertical to the left. A really great reference is a book I read in college called Don't Make Me Think! by Steve Krug. It's about keeping it simple and making sense. But still make it look good!
9- What should a small business owner or entrepreneur look for in a graphic designer?
Make sure they click with you. When you look at their work look at the details- make sure they are clean and forward thinking. I think it's important to build a lasting relationship with a designer you can trust who can really get to know your brand. This will help it evolve.
10- Lastly, tell my readers how they can get a hold of you and where they can find you online