The thing I find truly fascinating about visual branding is the layers of meaning that can be brought into the design work.
Layers of meaning and symbolism can of course be used in all types of visual art, but in my opinion, it’s an especially important part of branding.
To be clear, what I mean when I talk about symbolism here is the use of imagery like the illustrations in your branding to represent ideas or qualities.
Symbols can come to mean something in retrospect, and that will be true for imagery used in your branding, that’s true for many big brands and was certainly true for my own logo design. Sometimes the image comes first and it gathers meaning as the brand grows.
But it’s also wonderful to make design decisions from the outset based on what has meaning for you as a business owner, and also what will have archetypal meaning for your customers or clients too.
Again to be clear…
“An archetype is a term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses. Archetypes are defined as recurring patterns of situations, characters, or symbols existing universally and instinctively in the collective unconscious of man.” Citation
When we use imagery that has universal meaning behind it we’re holding up little green flags for our audience that show that we’re the same as them, we think the same, we care about the same things. This is the very start of building up that ‘Know, like, trust’ factor with your audience.
When we add a layer to our branding that has deep meaning for us as the business owner, it means it’s more likely to feel right for us long-term. We do it once, we do it well, and we do it with meaning.
Take this Moth design for Helena Rose Photography; There is a layer of archetypal meaning with the design that like minded people will be drawn to.
The style of drawing, the witchy vibe of the elements, the Moth being a creature that is drawn to the light. This last point makes sense for a photography business where working with light is part of the skill of the art form. These are things that we intuitively understand as humans when we look at imagery, without really thinking about it.
And then we uncover the symbolism of what the design means for the business owner. It’s a deeper layer that might not always be apparent at first glance, but it’s important none the less.
Here the Moth represents the ethical and sustainable businesses that Helena works with; they are drawn towards the light in the sense that they are conscious of the how they impact the world.
If possible, we’re looking for something that works on more than one level, but you can always combine symbols together or weave meanings into other parts of your brand identity.
If you’d like to explore weaving symbolism into your brand identity with me you can can apply to work together in my Signature Branding Package called ?The Unfurling.
I knew that having a child would mean life would be a little different, but there were a few things that I really wasn’t prepared for. I guess it’s the sort of stuff you can’t imagine beforehand because you need the lived experience to really understand.
I’ve seen loads of people talking about the run up to having a baby, preparing their business, maternity leave, and even setting up once you already have a child. But I don’t think I’ve seen any one talking about having to change the way they were running their business after having a baby.
I didn’t prepare my business for having a baby. I feel like those people that were able to do that are in another league of being organised. I had some vague plans about setting up a digital product shop before giving birth and that earning a little money, but then the pandemic happened while I was a few months pregnant and it was honestly hard to concentrate on anything else other than getting my client work finished off. There was also a grey area with what I could earn while claiming self-employed maternity allowance from the Government (UK) and it was easier to be not earning so I knew I could claim the allowance.
Although it occurred to me that life would be different, I guess I thought I’d just pick up work again once I was ready. My husband had a really good full time job and I knew we’d be ok for a while without an income on my side.
Then Kieron got made redundant the week that Logan was born and our whole world flipped on its head. He was a Manufacturing Engineer and we’d thought that those sort of jobs were always safe. Of course with manufacturing of everything slowing down to a halt, his company had to make redundancies to keep trading.
We had spoken about how his heart wasn’t in engineering any more though and the redundancy turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We decided Kieron would stay home with us so that I could focus on my business still as I was continuing to get enquiries for work through the pandemic and my short maternity leave.
I thought that with having Kieron home full time with us, it would be really easy to just slip back into work and it be the same as it was before.
My God, that was not true for me!
It initially felt great starting back with work. It was something to pull me out of the fog of new Motherhood and it felt grounding to be doing creative work again.
With having an already established business that had been really active on Instagram and especially on Pinterest over the past 5 years or so, I already had built a bit of momentum for people finding my work and website, and enquiries.
With the pandemic, I’d had a spike in enquires through Pinterest because so many people were at home thinking about starting businesses on the side, or finally having time to dedicate to forgotten things like branding and marketing. I had bookings for work straight away and so that part was the easy bit.
It all felt almost too easy…
I soon realised that even with another parent at home, Logan would want me an awful lot, and that would mean I wouldn’t have the longer periods of focus I was used to.
I was surprised at how long it took me to get back my focus each time and would often end up having Logan in a sling sleeping on me while I worked. I have lovely memories of wearing him in the sling when he was small, and at least while I was wearing him, I didn’t have to think about what he was doing or whether he was ok all the time, so that part of my brain could focus too!
There was the added stress of me now being responsible for paying the bills when it had never been a sole responsibility before.
With work enquiries coming in thick and fast I booked people in as I had done before, sort of always on the verge of being overbooked, but thinking it would be ok. The thing is, it had always been ok in the past because I had the time to work longer sometimes if I needed to. I never did too much that I was burnt out, and I guess it was a bad habit that I didn’t realise would need to change.
It didn’t take long before I was feeling perpetually exhausted, was overbooked, stressed and crying in the middle of the night.
I honestly had no idea I wouldn’t be able to keep up the same sort of schedule and work in the same sort of way I’d worked before (overworked masquerading as well-organsied). I had Kieron at home full time, I felt like I was failing and I should be able to do this!
Needless to say, something had to give. And of course, it was work. Over the course of the next year or so I slowly made some changes to make the business work for me rather than it running me.
A big part of my new ethos for my business is making it fit around my life seamlessly, and leaning into what feels good rather than overthinking and doing things the way they’ve always been done because that’s what people expect.
I moved almost exclusively to communicating with my clients via voice notes, texts, and videos that are sent asynchronously. Asynchronous just means ‘not existing or occurring at the same time’. So we send voice notes when we can and we don’t have to be available for a call at the same time.
I’ve felt more anxious since having a child probably due to hormones, plus I’m a relatively shy person anyway, and I just found myself really getting wound up about Zoom calls during the time when everyone was zooming in the pandemic. So I decided to stop.
I still do the odd call when it feels necessary, like I sometimes do training with current and past clients on design software. But as a rule, even discovery calls before a client books can be done by voice note instead. If a person seems to have a problem with it, they probably aren’t going to be a great fit for working together.
I’ve built some structure into this for my different packages and have specific days where we chat and plan and specific days when I’m doing the design work. I’ll go into that more in next point.
The real benefit is that I have ultimate flexibility with communication – Having a baby or toddler means your schedule can change last minute if they didn’t sleep well the night before, or they’re poorly, or they’re just having a day where they want Mum. I wanted to be able to lean into this
An unexpected benefit is that this works so well for clients I have where there is a time difference! I get clients from all over the world thanks to Pinterest and Instagram, and it allows us to communicate in a personable but flexible way.
As I mentioned I was accidentally overbooking myself and you might wonder why I would do this.
A few things were at play. Firstly, I’ve always had a very flexible process where there is a loose structure, but I don’t set dates because I found it hindered the creative process. Instead I’d keep the client in the loop along the way, giving an idea once I was into the design work when the draft would be ready to review etc but still keeping to any deadlines they had in place.
This is the hard way of doing things, and it was always a bit of a juggle to work different projects round each, but it felt right at the time. I had the extra head space to be agile with what I was working on day to day and switch between tasks.
Now I most certainly do not have that extra head space. That space is filled with toddler stuff! I can’t quickly switch between tasks and I have to give myself realistically just the one thing to work on each day, my attention span is much shorter. Just a quick note that this will probably change in the future too, but when talking about running a business during the baby and toddler years, this is definitely the case for me.
I am a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, and so at first, even though I knew I was finding it harder to focus on multiple projects, I didn’t want to let people down. I thought that if I told people when they were booking in the process would be a bit slower, it would all be ok. It wasn’t and the work built up and it just added to the stress.
I found I didn’t want lots of projects going on all at once any more, I wanted to be able to finish a project in a smaller timeframe, with the process more clearly defined. But I did need to keep a lot of that flexibility.
I’d heard about Day Intensives, where you plan beforehand, and then get all the specified work done in one day. I liked the quick sound of this, but I wanted to have the balance of it being quick…without the stress of only having one day.
And so I came up with a 2 week Design Intensive package. Usually with a day intensive the research and exploration will be done during the days before the intensive, and you’ll kick off with a call. I didn’t want to do calls and I wanted everything to be contained and explained inside the process.
I developed a process where during week one we chat via the voice messaging app Voxer to plan what I’ll be designing during week two. The pacing is the key for this package. There is enough space during the two weeks to check in with the client each day and work through thoughts and ideas, but as long as I haven’t got a load of other things booked in at the same time, it leaves room for life to happen.
I priced it relatively low at the beginning and each one went so well and had great feedback. I’ve increased the pricing now so that I can almost block off the last 2 weeks of each month specifically for one of these projects. There is a really well defined timeframe, so it’s great for cashflow – I’ll often be booked a few months in advance for these, and I know that what I’m charging for that is enough to pay our bills.
Then I fit a larger branding package in, one starting every other month, and work it around the design intensive. I try to plan it so the two weeks of the design intensive are less intensive weeks of the full branding package, so the part when I’ll be doing refinements rather than the full on design work.
I’ll be creating a training all about my Design Intensive package soon!
I know it’s really important to be super organised with everything now. I use Notion as my project management software – it’s not the same as other project management tools because you can set it up however you want to. It has the balance between flexibility and rules that I seem to be craving ?
Here’s a Notion template and mini course I made that you can access for free
As well as getting really organised with Notion, I have hired out for help on things like brand strategy for my own business and my end of year accounting!
All of this just means there’s less in my already full head and I can concentrate on what I do best. Previously I really hesitated spending money on things but I’ve now seen how much time and headspace it’s given me!
Laney from Silent Goddess Art Jewelry got in touch via Instagram after seeing the work I’d done for fellow jeweler Rosy Revolver. I’m always so pleased to be able to work with jewelers because I specialised in jewelry design and silversmithing in my Art degree. I later got into branding and graphic design via a corporate role – it’s so much fun to be able to combine my knowledge and expertise in these two industries and create beautiful, multi-faceted brand identities that really show the heart and soul of my clients’ work, but that also allow them to grow.
This is exactly what Laney needed – a brand identity that felt true to her work now, but that would allow her work to evolve and grow over time.
Here’s the summary of how Laney’s brand needed to feel:
A BRANDING EXPERIENCE that MAKES YOUR AUDIENCE FEEL CALM and REFLECTIVE as they DISCOVER YOUR JEWELRY PIECES and products – an identity that is CLEAN but WARM and NATURE-DRIVEN, with a DISTINCTIVE edge.
(This addresses 2 key things to help keep your brand consistent and strategic: (1) how you want to make people feel and (2) what words that you want them to associate with your business.)
I put together the mood board below first, before diving into the design phase.
I was able to create a brand identity that Laney loved during the first design phase! See part of the process of bringing it all together below, plus a closer look at each element.
After working together Laney said:
From the first moment Meg sent over a preview of the branding package she created for me, I’ve been pretty speechless and I find myself in that same predicament as I’m writing this. I HIGHLY encourage you to reach out to Meg if you are interested in branding for your business. She did such an outstanding job and is so wonderful to work with. Meg, I continue to be in awe of the package you created for me. You are incredible. Thank you ⚒️???
If you’re looking for stunning, professional branding head on over to my services page to see the packages I’m currently offering.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions, the chat box in the bottom right of the page is the quickest way to chat to me!
Safiyyah approached me via Instagram and asked me to create a Brand Identity Design for her business and I couldn’t wait to get started working with her!
Safiyyah is a British born artist and textile designer based in Birmingham. She specialises in floral print and pattern, taking inspiration from her original art work.
Her unique watercolour style embodies the magical unexpected beauty and wilderness found in nature, with all its imperfections. Safiyyah’s style encapsulates nature in its entirety as she strives to transport you to a world full of enchantment and beauty through her art.
Her audience for her beautiful nature inspired artwork had grown quickly on Instagram and so she wanted to make sure her website and the packaging for her paintings and products was professional and created a beautiful client and customer experience.
Here is our goal for how the Safiyyah Studio Brand Identity needed to feel.
A BRANDING EXPERIENCE that MAKES YOUR AUDIENCE FEEL ENCHANTED and SOOTHED as they DISCOVER YOUR ART – an identity that is TIMELESS, with an IMPERFECT and APPROACHABLE edge.
This addresses 2 key things to help keep your brand consistent and strategic: (1) how you want to make people feel and (2) what words that you want them to associate with your business.
After we were on the same page about how the brand identity needed to feel, I put together a mood board to show the direction.
After the mood board phase I was excited to dive into the design and I managed to create something Safiyyah loved during the first design round!
I created a unique typography logo, hand-drawn the leaves and branches, and overlaid them with Safiyyah’s own watercolour work and photographs.
I used overlay effects in InDesign so that the different layers of the background somewhat blend together to create this gorgeous textural effect. It bridges the gap between Safiyyahs floral artwork and her landscapes and feels distinctive without taking the emphasis away from her art.
See the process video of the brand identity I designed for her, along with a closer view of all the details below!
Here’s what Safiyyah said about working with me:
Meg from Lemon & Birch was a joy to work with. She just completely understood me and my brand and created something that was full of magic and soul. She helped me create beautiful cohesive brand packaging that evokes a feeling of enchantment!
If you’re looking for stunning, professional branding head on over to my services page to see the packages I’m currently offering.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions, the chat box in the bottom right of the page is the quickest way to chat to me!
May will soon become June and this year (2020-2021) has certainly been one I will never forget. I’ve had some amazing opportunities to work with some incredible businesses and had my largest earning month to date in March, but there’s also been a couple of things that really didn’t go to plan.
I had to terminate the contract for one project I was really excited about working on. It’s the first time this has ever happened to me and I’ll be honest and say it really knocked my confidence. The client paid a deposit, we had our kick-off call to make a start which went really well, but there was information I was waiting on.
I asked multiple times for the information I needed and in the end really couldn’t wait any longer. After not hearing anything for over a month I offered to restart the project at a later date (with no restart fee) but have had to shelve it for now with the earnings from it I was expecting to make crossed out of my books. I still haven’t heard anything!
That, coupled with the easing of lockdown in Britain where everyone is happy to be able to see friends and family again (and rightly so) has made for a slower couple of months in terms of earnings compared to my mega month in March. I’m STILL learning, after 4-5 years in business that this is just the way it works.
It’s an ebb and flow, a seasonal rhythm, yet it still catches me off guard. You have times where your business makes you feel like you’re on the top of the world, and then something shifts, and you’re second guessing whether you’re doing the right thing, whether you’re really cut out for running a business.
I’m learning that everything moves with the seasons – my business tends to be busy for bookings from late Summer through to Spring, it’s that ‘back to school’ energy where everyone is hyper focused on starting new things, and it’s the same with the new year too.
That energy runs all the way until about now, where everyone seems to just slow down. It makes sense now I’m thinking about it, Summer is to be enjoyed, it’s for relaxing and going on holidays (staycations this year maybe!). And I think I need to let myself ease into that too. Soon enough the energy will shift again, and if I don’t let myself rest and be at peace with the season I’m in, I won’t be ready to be swept up in all that energy again.
Sometimes though, it gets to the point where you just need a little sign from the universe that you’re in the right place and it’s ok to rest for a little while.
My sign came in the form of a message through my website:
“I came across your website last year & was COMPLETELY wowed by your work & your warm approach, WHICH SHINES THROUGH ON YOUR CORNER OF THE INTERNET. I wasn’t ready to “take the leap” in my own business then…but I am now. So where did I head to once I made this decision? Straight to you!”
A few days later, this lady has booked into my calendar and we’re looking forward to working together soon. It flowed with ease, no back and forth about scope and pricing, just warmth and excitement and it’s been an exchange that will stick in my mind for a long time.
It reminded me that the seeds you plant now might not bloom straight away. But some time in the not too distant future those flowers will spring up and you’ll realise the things you put in motion in the past made this happen TODAY ?
A potential client and customer that finds you will likely not book or buy straight away. They need to see you and hear from you multiple times until they’re at the point in their life when they ARE ready. Then you’re the obvious choice if what you’re sharing resonates with them and they’ve been reminded about you enough times.
Keep showing up, keep shining. You are seen even when no one ‘says’ they see you in this moment.
I was super excited when Anna Dunleavy got in touch with me about her branding via Instagram. We had been following along with each other for a while and I loved all the work she was doing. I knew she was a personal branding photographer and had recently set up her community – Fearless Hustle Collective.
Anna created the Fearless Hustle Collective to provide a supportive community of likeminded female creatives where everyone can help each other on the way to achieving their goals.
There are a few different elements within the Fearless Hustle Collective. There’s the super valuable paid membership club where Anna provides group coaching calls, monthly expert sessions, accountability calls, downloadable worksheets, and a closed Facebook group.
She also has monthly in-person meet-ups in Nottingham (UK), and a podcast where she talks to other business owners and creatives to share their stories and the nuggets of wisdom they’ve learnt along the way.
Anna felt that she was struggling to grow her reach because her branding wasn’t memorable enough and didn’t stand out. She wanted a look that other female business owners would feel connected and drawn to. Anna has a real spiritual side (like myself) so we were inspired by sun and moon symbolism and I dived deeper into other symbols and their meanings in parts of the branding too.
I also created the three sigils shown in the following images that incorporate the moon along with symbols of strength and support, clarity, and wisdom for each section of Anna’s business. A sigil is where you set an intention and then distill that message down into a meaningful image or design. The sigils feel like a tangible representation of the benefits of being part of the Fearless Hustle Collective.
After sending through the first brand design draft to Anna, she had this to say: “YOU HAVE BLOWN ME AWAY!!! The branding is everything I wanted and more. It couldn’t have felt more me if you tried! And I can’t tell you how thoughtful the sigils are. Thank you so much for all of your hard work. I’m honestly so so happy, and can’t wait to start using the branding. Thank you!”
I hit the nail on the head first time with this design and after a small tweak to the weight of some of the text, we were good to move onto collateral items such as business cards and blog graphic templates!
If you’re looking for a stand-out design for your brand please get in touch, I take on a very limited number of projects each month
Caro is an in-home family and newborn photographer who approached me via Instagram. She is also a passionate photography coach and mentor who is moving into the teaching world as another branch of her business.
With the shift in her services Caro knew it was time to update her branding so I created a bold, striking brand design for her that blends seamlessly with the stunning light and shadow play that is so distinctive in her photography.
Caro’s previous business name was Blue Cicada Photography – at the time of setting it up she was living away from her original home of Provence. Cicada’s reminded her of the summer months back at home and ‘blue’ came from the very unique blue of the Provence summer sky.
With a move back to France and a business that has evolved into teaching and mentoring alongside photography, Caro felt it was time to make her brand feel more like her.
She told me a story about how some types of Cicada’s stay underground in the dark until they shed the skin that has protected them while they were growing. Once that is done they come out into the sun and sing their hearts out. This is a beautiful metaphor for where Caro is at with her business – she’s ready to celebrate her hard work over the years and be the name and face of her business.
After reading this story I knew we had to keep Cicada imagery in Caro’s branding even though she was changing the name because it represents her business journey so well.
I put together the mood board below as a starting point for the project.
I combined hand-drawn Cicada wings with bold but refined typography that plays on the light and shadows that are a distinctive part of Caro’s photography. I overlapped the 2 hand-drawn wings to create the rectangular mark on the right shown below.
And below you can see a GIF animation of me creating the custom typography logo.
In the below submark, the word Caro is rising out from the circle to show that she is bringing herself to the surface. We chose colours that feel warm but dramatic to strike the balance between compassion and strength.
This was the very first concept I created for Caro following on from the approved mood board and she fell in love with it right away! She said: “It feels like you have materialised my vision…I feel elevated and energised!” To finish off, I also created some instagram templates for Caro, a business card design, and a keynote presentation for her training sessions.
Jess from Rosy Revolver contacted me via my website after finding me on Pinterest and we immediately knew we were a great fit for working together!
Jess is a Silversmith and a Jewelry Instructor with online courses – I studied some Silversmithing back during my college degree and so having some working knowledge of her industry meant I understood her business easily and intuitively.
At the beginning Jess said:
“I’m struggling to bring all the aspects of my business into one brand image – partly because I sell to jewelry consumers but also to other silversmiths. The one thing I know for sure about my client is that she’s highly create and individual… beyond that, I struggle with how to get started, finding the time to create the brand I know in my heart that RosyRevolver could be, and creating beautiful visuals that translate into the story that my jewelry and company try to tell…“
To unite all the parts of Jess’s business I created circular design that feeds into each of the logo varieties. It was so much fun to design with the wild rose theme and to make each design feel like a collection of trinkets – gathered, treasured, arranged.
Jess’s jewelry work is just like that – collections of repeating elements, sometimes including precious stones, vintage glass, African clay, and always with fine and sterling silvers.
She builds these materials into beautiful, wearable pieces that are bursting with stories to tell. It’s jewelry with heart and soul and history, ready for you to wear and layer with your own story and meaning after the many years you’ll treasure it.
Of course there was custom typography in this branding too – the little spiky thorns on the letters feed into our wild rose imagery. Jess has always had a rose motif within the branding for Rosy Revolver, we just shifted it to a Dog Rose – these wild plants grow by climbing up other plants and shrubs for support. This represents Jess’s online courses and resources and in person workshops where she helps others who have no formal silversmith training to create work they can feel proud of, supporting them through the process.
At the end of the process Jess said:
“I’m thrilled with the care and thoughtfulness Meg put into my brand design. Absolutely cannot recommend her enough – if you want something custom, curated, meaningful, and of the highest quality – Lemon & Birch is your best bet.“