the blog

At the end of 2018 and start of 2019 I had a really slow season in my business. It was crickets, I had not had a new project enquiry in a couple of months and I had really started to panic.

I set my business up in 2016, but I did some full-time and part-time design agency work alongside it for a while. 2018 was my first solo year and I earned only half (about £12k) of what my full-time ’employed’ salary had been.

It all came to a head in January when I seriously considered getting a part-time job to supplement my income, or completely quitting altogether. I felt so lost and completely stressed out.

Thankfully, I didn’t quit. In hindsight we all go through slow seasons in business. Truth bomb – sometimes it’s our own fault. Sometimes it isn’t and it’s just the way the market goes, but sometimes it’s definitely our own fault. We can be our own worst enemies.

I realised that my own slow season had been my fault because I’d just been drifting along. I’d got too comfortable in the easy-ness of clients filtering through to my website via Pinterest and Instagram. I’d got lucky that my work had been popular on the two platforms and I kinda stopped working for it.

I hadn’t sent an email to my mailing list for months, and I had taken down my opt-in freebie – I can’t even remember why. Probably imposter syndrome about it not being good enough. January put things into perspective, and I realised that I love my work and owning my own business too much to quit and I just needed to find the magic again.

I needed to explore what I really want this business to become in the future and how I could start to be more intentional about the way I was working rather than just drifting along expecting the work to keep on coming to me.

Here are a few things that I worked on, and that you can do too to get the momentum going again if you find yourself in a slow period.

First things first – don’t panic.

Most of us are really lucky to have family and friends as a support network, so do not panic. The mindset you’re in when you’re panicking is not helpful to anyone. You’re not thinking clearly or rationally and you’re likely to start looking up jobs at the local Aldi like I did. I’m sure working at Aldi is lovely, but you’ll have much less time to do the work you love. Maybe a part time job is the answer, but it doesn’t have to be the only way.

Ask for help if you need it. Paying bills is more important than your pride.

Take some time to get your numbers in order.

Instead of panicking, sit down and work through some numbers. How much have you got in the bank, how much do you need, what bills are due soon? Facing the numbers head on is the only way to move forward. How much do you you need to earn for the year to be comfortable?

Work backwards from that and see how much that equates to each month. How many products do you need to sell to hit that, or how many projects do you need to book in?

As a small business owner you probably have some kind of accounting software (I use freeagent* – it predicts my tax bill, my bank transactions get added automatically and I can file my self assessment return directly through it 😅) or an accountant, but I find it’s good to have a separate spreadsheet somewhere on my computer where I simply track my cashflow each month – the money that is actually coming into my business bank account.

At the top I write my income goal for the year, along with a stretch income goal. I write Jan-Dec down a column on one side and add up exactly what goes into my bank account each month and write the values in the next column. I can see at a glance how far along I am to hitting my yearly goal each month.

Accounting software is fine and necessary for logging business bills and invoices and you can pull reports etc. but there’s just something different about having a super simple spreadsheet that I open often which gets me used to looking at my numbers.

Remember to work out how much tax you’ll owe on your income goal and have that value written somewhere so you can set money aside accordingly.

Because I book projects a few months in advance I ask for a deposit to book, and then ask for two payments during and at the end of the project. I have a section on my spreadsheet where I write how much each client is owing so that I can add all that up and see at a glance what is projected to come in over the next few months or for the rest of the year.

Again, all stuff my accounting software or project management software can do, but the act of typing it all in and looking at it on at least a weekly basis means I am more intimately aware of my money situation. There’s also a section with my (small) credit card debt – the act of reducing the number each time I make a payment makes me feel good.

Seeing all these various numbers together in a file I can just open quickly has majorly helped to keep me on track and stay motivated this year. If less has gone into my bank account than a previous month it’s in the forefront of my mind rather than buried somewhere in my accounting software.

I’m not saying you need to become numbers mad because there is much more to life, but do look at your numbers often. I also feel like it’s a bit of a manifestation tool, but let’s not go into detail about that in this post!

Nurture your email list

Here’s the thing. It’s a bit weird to talk about ‘owning’ people, but, you do not ‘own’ your Instagram or Facebook following. They are amazing places to build community around your brand, but if one of them goes down forever, or your account gets hacked and you lose your following, where would you be?

This is something I am still learning myself, I rely heavily on Instagram for business, but we all need to make sure we have a business and a community outside of these platforms. Your email list is important because it’s a list if people that have let you into their private inboxes.

You can export that list of emails at any time and move to a different email provider. See the difference? These people are really valuable to you, so nurture them.

During my slow season I created a new freebie download for people who signed up to my list. I made sure it was really valuable and jam packed with information and I released it to the world. I said “not today, thank you” to imposter syndrome and just did it.

I placed the ‘download my free branding guide’ button in prominent places on my website and I promoted it (and continue to promote it) on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Social media is fun and necessary, but try and use it to drive people onto your website and email list as often as you can, rather than just being happy with a growing social following.

With an increasing email list comes the need to nurture that list. Most mailing list providers will allow you to set up a sequence of emails that get sent out automatically when people sign up at any interval you choose. Set up a sequence of emails with some valuable content that goes out automatically, and then email your list at least once a month with updates and helpful things to build that sense of community with your audience directly.

Work on your client or customer experience

A sure-fire way to get people talking about your business and create a buzz around your brand is to provide a top-notch client or customer experience that wow’s people. It’s not just about delivering a great end product, it’s about each touchpoint with your business being professional, or beautiful, or personal – whatever suits your brand.

For me this meant making booking easier, especially for oversees clients where it’s not as easy to just bank transfer money, and thinking about how I could better explain the process to clients in the beginning. I set up a template web page with all the information they would need for their project once they’ve booked in.

Now I duplicate the template page, change names and timeline dates etc, and send the link off to them. They feel that they have a personalised, dedicated space where all their project info lives and I also add all the work I do to the page so that it’s always in the same place and no one has to go hunting through emails to find things.

I did some research and got my brand discovery questionnaire up to date so that I’m asking the right questions at the beginning of projects – this means I can deliver thoughtful and well considered design work that hits the mark more often than not on the first concept.

If in doubt, research, refine, and improve. None of the changes I made to my client process cost any money – just my time and effort which I had plenty of during my last slow season 😅

Get your website up to date

Got projects you’ve done but not blogged about yet? Get those case studies up on your website and promote them like crazy. Research what other people in your industry are blogging about, don’t copy, but it should at least give you some ideas of what you could blog about yourself.

New blog posts means there is new content on your website which Google likes. I am no SEO expert, but what I do know is that the Internet likes websites that are kept fresh with interesting new things to read. Don’t let your site get stagnant, even rewriting your homepage or services page is helpful.

Repurpose content you’ve sent out to your email list into blog posts. Repurpose instagram posts on the same subject into a blog post. Whatever you can do to get more content on your website, do it. Promote. That. Content.

Think about spending a little bit of money on a website audit if you need help. It doesn’t have to be expensive and sometimes you just need a helping hand. You can get pointers on what to improve with the user journey and the flow of the site. There is a lot of information out there on the Internet about SEO, do some research and try to improve things yourself, or speak to an SEO expert.


All these things that I worked on helped to build my confidence back up. I gathered momentum and soon I was receiving lovely replies to my newsletters, people were enquiring about working with me again, and I managed to book projects in for the remainder of 2019.

Remember that nothing changes if nothing changes. Do the work, try something new, and stay positive.

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Before we dive into the elements that make up a strong brand, let’s first recap what a brand actually is. It’s a big buzz word, but what does it mean?

What is a brand? In simple terms, your brand is what you mean to people, or what your business means to people. It’s not your logo or your colour palette, it’s more of an abstract thing. it’s the substance below the surface of all the visuals – without substance and meaning, your logo is just a pretty book cover.

Your brand is what your customer thinks of when he or she hears your business name. It’s an experience that’s not repeated by any other company they interact with, and is guided by a set of values that they understand and that resonate with them.

There are 7 basic attributes of a strong brand – when you get these right your brand will naturally flourish. You may currently be strong in many of these areas and need only to tweak a few in order to grow the number of loyal fans and customers you have!

Clarity

“If you confuse, you’ll lose.” ~ Donald Miller That quote is a pretty blunt way to put it, but it’s true. It can be tempting to use flowery language to describe what your business does and what you stand for. In reality, people have perhaps already spent their daily quote of brainpower elsewhere that day – they don’t have the time to decipher your meaning.

It’s so important that they understand what you do quickly and with ease. As soon as they feel a little confused, or that they need to use some brainpower, they’re likely to leave your website, shop, Instagram profile etc.

Assess the way you talk about your business everywhere. Ask a friend or family member, or better still, a customer. How can you simplify things? Do you describe your business the same way everywhere? Make sure you use simple language that’s free of jargon.

Relevance

Not everyone is your customer, so you do not need to appeal to everyone. You just need to be relevant to the right people and understand how you help them with your product or service.

Do you understand your customers’ situation and where in their life or day you come in for them? Make sure the messaging and content you share is relevant to them.

Sometimes it might feel like you’re repeating the same things over and over but I assure you, the repetition is necessary to help strengthen your brand.

Difference

You must have something that makes you or your business different to your competitors and makes sure you highlight it often. Maybe it’s the way you create or manufacture your product, maybe it’s how or where your materials are sourced from. Maybe it’s a personality trait and the way you show up on social media.

Your unique mix of brand values and the reasons you do what you do are also a differentiator. Point out or illustrate your differentiators often so that they stand out in your customers’ mind.

Make a list of the ways you and your business are different and start weaving them into your messaging and content.

Passion

When you’re truly passionate about your product or service it’s plain to see. I think this is the area that most small businesses have no trouble with. We’re all here because we’re passionate about what we do, right?

Making a success of your business is hard – you must have passion in order to move past the knock-backs and the things that go wrong and keep ongoing.

Credibility

It’s important that your people believe that you’ll deliver on your brand’s promise. There are many ways you can increase your credibility, such as:

  • Gathering reviews and testimonials, both experience-based and results-based
  • Talk about your business journey, what makes you qualified to do what you do, and how did you get here?
  • Collaborate with other businesses, when you support each other it shows that you believe in each other and so your customers will follow suit
  • Show your process and the behind the scenes of you actually doing the work

Visibility

The reason that social media is such a valuable marketing tool now is that it helps your business to be more visible. You can pop up in the news feeds of your followers on a daily basis, keeping you front and centre in their minds.

People are much more likely to buy what you’re selling after they’ve interacted with your brand multiple times. Having social media accounts and a mailing list so you can pop into the inboxes of your customers are both so valuable for visibility of your brand.

Visibility of you as a person also counts, showing the face or faces of the people behind the brand. People buy from people, they want to get to know you and hear about your story.

Consistency

Last but definitely not least, we have consistency. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be consistent with everything you do. I’m not saying you cannot pivot or fine-tune things, you absolutely can and should as you get further along in your business journey, just build that consistency back up again. If you take nothing else away from this article, make ‘be consistent’ your mantra!

Be consistent in:

  • How often you show up
  • Where you show up
  • How you talk about your business and products
  • The content your share
  • Your brand identity (logo, colour palette etc)
  • Your brand photography

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I have questions asked of me over on Instagram often by fellow designers as well as small business owners. I always make a list of the questions I get asked so that rather than just answering once, I can create blog posts like this that help more people with the same questions! I also have some digital products and online masterclasses in the works right now so keep your eyes peeled for those launching in a few months time.


If you’re new to the world of branding, or are a designer looking to learn more about what the ‘best practices’ are when designing a brand identity for a client, I really hope the following tips are helpful to you. As I said, digital products I’m creating at the moment will expand on all this knowledge, but in the mean time, here are 4 ‘best practices’ for creating a brand identity design.

1. Gather inspiration from more than one place

During the research phase when you’re gathering imagery to inspire the look and feel of the brand identity, it can be tempting to only look at other logo designs that have already been created. Worse still would be to look at only logo designs from the same field of business.


Of course you need to know what else is out there in the field of business you’re creating the identity for, but there is SO MUCH MORE to see, and I don’t just mean on Pinterest. Really dive deep and think about the story of the business owner and their journey to where they are now.


Are there little ‘story’ elements you can pick out, are there themes you can build on, are there any images that come to mind when you’re reading all the information your client has given you? It’s important that a logo design has elements that feel familiar and not totally ‘out there’ but that it also feels like it has something ‘new’ to offer.

The most original designs come from combining different inspiration sources together. For example, combining a style of typography or text layout you may have seen in another logo design with some interesting angles or shapes inspired by a tiled floor pattern that gave off the right vibe for your clients’ brand.

2. Know what the businesses goals are as well as the specific objectives of the design/rebrand

It’s important to know what the future goals of the business are so that the new design can be aligned with this. You brand for the future of the business, not the past or present.


If the business is looking to expand in some way, an objective of the new brand identity might be to diversify the overall design so that there is scope to add more product lines or service offerings. More design elements might be needed for product packaging, or set colour combinations for each new service for example.


If the business is looking to target a slightly different customer or an additional type of customer, an objective of the new brand identity might be to elevate the overall feel of the brand to bring it in line with the revised target market.
Always discuss goals and objectives so you have a marker on which to judge the effectiveness of the new brand identity.

3. Make sure the logo stands out against the rest of the identity design

There may be more than one font used within a logo design, but the main typeface or font used should not then be used in other parts of the branding like for headings.


There are always exceptions to the rule – sometimes if your logo has illustrative elements or has had lots of customisation done to the text, you could feel that the same font is going to work best for headings. However, as a ‘best practice’ try to find a heading font that blends nicely rather than using the same one – or at least use the logo font very sparingly. This will make the overall brand identity look and feel much more professional.


In addition, you might think that adding more elements to a logo design will make it stand out more, but this just makes things complicated. The best logo designs have one or two ‘wow’ elements (this could be an illustration and custom letters in the text for example). Don’t try to add too many ideas into your design so that it becomes confusing or too busy.

4. Think about where the logo will be used – make sure it will work for these scenario’s

Make sure you think about (or talk about with your client) all the places the brand identity and logo’s might be used. If you go ahead and start designing using a really thin weight font in part of the logo and then it’s decided that the logo needs to be letterpress stamped onto stationery, it can be impossible to make a stamp at certain sizes to get the desired printed result.


Similarly if the logo is going to be blown up very large onto a shop sign, make sure it’s going to look perfect at this larger size! Hand drawn elements can sometimes be tricky at larger sizes and may need a bit more tidying up so they don’t look too messy.

Another example would be involving colours – some blues and turquoises don’t replicate well from screen (RGB) to printing (CMYK) and you may need to use Pantone printing to replicate the correct colour. Same with neons – spot colour printing is the only way neons are possible in print. Make sure your client is aware of any colour printing limitations if they are keen to use colours that might present problems and try to explain Pantones and spot printing if you can.


I hope these tips have helped you get clearer on some aspects of designing a brand identity. As ever, if you have any questions for me or things you’d like me to cover please do send me an email at meg@lemonandbirch.com – I’m always happy to help!

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When creating a logo design either for yourself or as a designer for a client, in some cases, all you really need is some unique typography to bring things to life.

Sometimes it’s best to keep your logo design type based so that you can bring in illustrative elements in other parts of the branding like on product packaging or as elements to build into a website design.

Or, you can combine typography with other elements to take your designs to a whole new level.

There are so many amazing things you can do with typography alone to make it unique and interesting, so I’ve pulled together my top 6 ways of being creative with type for you!

All of the examples below are my own work and have been created inside Adobe Illustrator (or as a combination of the Procreate app on my iPad and Illustrator on the computer).

The same effects could also be achieved in Affinity Designer which is professional design software that only requires a one-off purchase and works out much cheaper than Adobe Illustrator.

1. Type onto a path

Typing onto an open or closed path in Illustrator is such a fun way to bring movement and fun into your typography!

In this first example for Tea and Crafting I’ve used this effect in each part of the text. For the main logo typography in pink, I created a wavy path with the pen tool and typed onto it. Then for the tagline I’ve typed onto a circular path.

The second word of the business name here was much longer than the first, and so adding the tagline in a circle to the left balances things out.

In this submark example for Susana Torralbo I’ve typed onto two wavy paths to create a playful and energetic look. I created a few different text layouts, then sent these layouts to my iPad Pro and opened them in the Procreate app – this allowed me to draw the faces around my typography so they fitted perfectly!

I drew in black at a high resolution, sent the png image back to my computer, ‘image traced’ the faces to turn them into a vector, and combined them with my wavy vector typography.
In this last example for Kate North Kinesiology, spirals were a big part of the brand design concept. To create this unique looking submark I carried the shape of my spiral vine on and typed onto the path I made. Simple but effective and it fits in so well with the rest of the branding!

2. Embellish your type

Sometimes you’ll find a font for a logo design that feels like it is almost perfect…but there’s just something missing. In this case, think about how you add add to your letters to create the exact feel you’re looking for.

Maybe this means cutting bits off letters from another typeface and adding them into the typeface you want to use. That’s totally ok to do and is a lot of fun! To find what works you’ll need to spend the time playing around with different things.

You can also try adding illustrative elements either by drawing them or adding details with the pen tool in illustrator.

In this first example for Folk Rose Beauty, I found two typefaces that I liked for the design and wasn’t sure which was going to work. In the end, I took those curved embellishments from one typeface and added them to the other to create the perfect balance.

I also drew in some dots and the other detail on the K to add some more interest to the other letters. It’s important to not go overboard with adding your embellishments, they don’t need to be on every letter! 🙂

In the example below for The Prairie Wellness Co the font I’d chosen was very minimal and I knew we wanted to include some Prairie wildflowers in some parts of the branding.

It looked like far too much to add flowers to every letter, but the word Prairie was luckily the perfect length to add flowers to every other letter! I took an image of my typography into Procreate on my iPad to draw the florals, then ‘image traced’ the flowers to turn them into vectors.

3. Combine uppercase/lowercase or different font styles in a unique layout

When you need to create something really unique you can try combining uppercase and lowercase letters, or perhaps regular and italic letters. You’ll often need to work hard on the layout of these letters to make sure things look balanced and are readable.

In this example for Susana Torralbo it took a while to combine things in such a way that the text was readable still. All you can do is keep combining things in different ways until the composition feels balanced. Also notice ‘Torralbo’ typed onto a wavy line from my first tip, this follows through the the submark design.

Ask other people whether it’s readable still! My husband is a great help to me, he’s not a graphic designer and so he sees things in a different way. He can instantly tell me if something looks forced or if the text is no longer legible.
In the example below for Caro, I’ve spliced a couple of fonts together, created a completely new letter A, and combined them in an interesting way for this secondary logo. Having the A almost italicised and having the straight line on the right created some nice symmetry with the letter R which makes this layout work. It also works well with the text being laid out in a straight line for the main logo.


4. Create your type from scratch

Don’t freak out when I say that, we’re not talking about creating your own serif typeface here. You can create some pretty awesome typography just with monoweight lines in illustrator.

For this example below for Artificially Intelligent Claire, I couldn’t find a typeface that had the right balance for her brand. So I created my own letters just using lines and those little squares. There is so much you could do with this especially for a brand that will suit a minimal type design and it doesn’t only have to be for techy brands like Claire’s.

5. Keep it minimal

Don’t feel like you need to go overboard with the type customisations each time. Sometimes all you need to do is make some minor adjustments to your letters.

In the example for Louise Howarth below I disconnected the middle line of the H and A, and edited the curve of the letter R. The design is super simple, and there were other logo versions that provided some more visual interest. To create a ‘high-end’ logo less is always more.


Similarly with the Balance Hot Yoga logo below, I changed the middle line in each letter A to point upwards. This made me think of a yoga pose in a very subtle way and was enough to make the logo typography unique when paired with other elements in the branding.

6. Combine letters together

This can work nicely with so many different types of fonts. Some typefaces will have extra glyphs or ligatures (in Illustrator go to Window > Type > Glyphs to access the panel that will show you any extras that came with your font) where letters are already combined for you, but you can have some fun with combining things yourself too.

In the example below for Huma Qureshi I’ve combined the U and M in the first name – be careful with customisations this and make sure each letter is still legible in it’s own right! I’ve also combined the A and H after I lined them up to fit perfectly together, play around with your spacing to see if you can get things to line up.

Again, ask others who aren’t aware already what the words say if you’re unsure if you’ve gone too far with your design.

In the example below for Brilliantly Visible, I used some extra glyphs that came with the font but customised them to fit those little dots underneath the L and E.


I hope this has given you some fun ideas to play with for your next project. Remember to always seek balance with your typography logos and to not go overboard with embellishments and customisations. You never want your work to feel forced. Always ask for a second opinion if you’re not sure if things work 🙂

Find me over on Instagram at @lemonandbirch if you need advice on your typography!

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