Reflecting on 2018: Design Studio Year in Review

Whew! This year honestly flew by. Like most years it was a mix of highs and lows, but was overwhelmingly a wonderful year and I have so much to be grateful for looking back on the past 12 months. I am a forward-thinking person who loves dreaming about the future, so I went through a pretty rigorous goal setting process for 2018 and ended up accomplishing 9 of the 15 goals that I set for myself. I would say that a handful of them were in the “lofty” category so I am feeling pretty good about that number – much better than if I had mailed it in with safe goals and crossed off 15/15.

My business has evolved greatly in the past year and a half. In June of 2017 I stepped back into running my studio full time after working as the Creative Director for Love Your Melon. I came out of that role with a newfound sense of determination, armed with the knowledge and experience that I gained while living the startup life at LYM. I immediately began to take a much more strategic approach to my work and started to see some dramatic results. This year has been an extension of that strategy coupled with a bit of balance as I slowed down on several occasions to enjoy time with friends and family, away from work and social media.

It’s hard to talk about this year without talking about the loss of our friend Graham. In July my husband’s best friend was killed in a tragic accident and it shook both of us to the core. Our lives changed in an instant and we continue to grieve for our friend Liz and their three beautiful children. Graham was vibrant, fun, and generous – a family man whose priorities were spot on and whose energy and enthusiasm were contagious. To be frank, Graham’s passing completely reoriented my entire life. I have spent the past five months reevaluating who I am and contemplating what values I want to live by both personally and professionally.

I figured I’d do a little bit of a rundown of the year – what worked and what didn’t and a bit of everything else in between.

A Few 2018 Studio Stats

Received 193 inquiries

Worked with 43 different clients

Located in 14 states and 5 Countries (USA, Canada, England, Bali, Australia)

My 2018 Mantras Were

Dream Bigger, Dig Deeper

Take Action, Try Harder

Take 100% Responsibility For Your Life

Streamlined Systems

One major change that happened this year was streamling the systems I use in my business. I eliminated Bonsai and Asana and now use Dubsado (client management), Google Drive (file delivery, computer backup), and Creative Cloud (Creative Suite), to run my studio. (I also use Run by ADP for payroll processing but it is not something that I am using on a daily basis, so I don’t really count that!)

Dubsado is an amazing client management system that definitely has a learning curve but has really streamlined my organization and how I manage my client process. It’s incredibly easy to categorize leads and projects, organize them by their status (ex: pricing sent, initial phone call completed, etc.). We utilize tasks boards and their calendars, and it also processes payments and functions as a (simple) accounting software. Plus, contracts AND it has a scheduler system as well. Honestly, I am probably using about 15% of the capacity of the system, but still feel like it is a gamechanger for the studio.

Hired a Studio Manager

The number one reason that I am able to use Dubsado successfully is because of my studio manager, Kiara, who is a Dubsado pro and is constantly following up with inquiries, sending contracts and invoices, scheduling calls, and keeping the entire system running smoothly. She is so talented and I am endlessly grateful for her! Outside of keeping the studio organized and on-task, she’s also encouraging and patient. It can be really isolating to run your own business, especially when you work from home, so I am grateful for the ability to bounce ideas off of her every day. She adds an incredible amount of value for clients, who feel taken care of and are able to get in touch with her quickly each day should they have questions about any step in our design process.

Said No

Turning down work is not easy. In fact, it’s so hard that for years (and years and years) designers will ignore red flags and gut feelings because we haven’t gained enough confidence to say no to a project even when we have a bad feeling right from the start. I booked my first freelance clients 10 years ago and I can honestly say that this is the first year I have felt confident enough to say a firm no to projects that are not a good fit for the studio. It has been simultaneously terrifying and liberating. Being a bit more selective has allowed me to be more creative, inventive, and emotionally engaged in my work.

Made Mistakes

This is a constant every year – we are human, after all, and mistakes and difficult moments are inevitable. We are in a line of work that involves people critiquing what we do, to our face, every single day. I am much more durable now than I was 10 years ago, but it still isn’t easy to navigate some of the tougher moments in this profession. As I get older these simple truths have gotten me through some dark days:

  • Be open minded

  • Take responsibility

  • Make things right

  • It gets better, time heals all wounds

So, what’s next? 2019 is right around the corner (how did that happen!) and I am feeling over the moon about the coming year. Right now I am working on implementing a variety of different tracking measurements to gather data about my clients, process, profitability, and growth and sustainability for the future. This year we are launching a formal blog structure as well as an email structure for monthly studio emails that will give a bit of a behind the scenes look into the studio and will also have some fun freebies as well. I am also doing some significant strategic work with the help of my husband, whose spends his days directing data systems and performance improvement for several hospitals in the Twin Cities. He is incredibly data-oriented and experienced in strategy deployment and I am excited to have him on board.

My hope for this year is to keep growing and evolving and to do so with an open mind and wide open heart. I am so eager to serve our clients in bigger and better ways in 2019. Cheers to the new year!

Olivia Herrick Comments
How I Select Brand Colors For My Clients

One of my favorite steps in the branding process is selecting a color palette for my clients. Color is incredibly powerful — a complete language on its own. Color sets the tone for a brand, so I find it critical to consider the meaning behind what I select for my clients. 

This process is what works for me, and while there is certainly room for a bit of interpretation when it comes to meaning, the truth is that we are hardwired as humans to respond to colors in specific ways. Each color creates specific emotional responses that must be considered when crafting a visual identity. Does that mean we can't push the envelope and challenge those meanings? Of course not. My greatest joy comes from creating something both effective and unexpected. But the best way for me to serve my clients is by putting significant thought into the colors that make up their brand identity, and having a concrete reason for selecting each color. 

I spend time reviewing my client's inspiration, survey, and notes from our initial phone call to determine the type of feeling we are trying to achieve. Southern hospitality? Feminine rebellion? Natural wellness? I write down the initial colors that come to mind. Often I "see" a color palette in my head before I even touch my computer. 

I do a little Nancy Drew work and survey all of my client's competitors (I ask for this list in their client survey). At this time I am taking notes — Does everyone use the same colors? Are there specific and obvious trends in their industry? What is working for the competitors and what isn't? Determine when it makes sense to follow a trend and when it makes sense to push the envelope. 

I am constantly taking photos of colors that I love in the real world — magazines, advertisements, billboards, bus wraps, packaging, book covers, restaurant menus. I start with these photos when it is time to create a palette, then begin to pull together swatches in Illustrator. I select five colors for my clients. Two dark, two light, one neutral. I typically create 2–3 versions of a color palette, and then combine/eliminate until I have it boiled down to one palette concept that I am confident in. I provide my clients with CMYK, PMS, and HEX color values. 

Next, I determine which colors will be used for what, and what acceptable color combinations are. I select which colors will be used for background colors, typography colors, which colors can work together (right amount of contrast) and which should stay separate (if there's not enough contrast). 

This is the most important part of the process. Along with their logo concepts, I include a description of why each color was selected for their brand palette. I do this for two reasons. 1) I want my clients to understand the thought and intention behind the colors I selected and 2) I want them to be able to speak confidently to others about why their brand looks the way it does.

Olivia HerrickComment
Olympics Scavenger Hunt + Coloring Sheets

Download the Scavenger HuntDownload the Coloring Sheets

The Olympics are here and I could not be more excited for the next two weeks of nonstop coverage. I will definitely be clocking some serious hours on the couch, crying pretty much the entire time. It is such an incredible thing to watch athletes living out their dreams on the greatest stage in sports. I'm a pretty emotional person, and the entire olympic journey puts me way over the edge. The montage videos of athletes growing up? The entire P&G ad campaign? It's too much. And I love it. 

As a grown adult I have no problem laying on the couch for hours at a time, but based on my limited knowledge of children, I believe the same can't always be said for our smaller counterparts. While we don't have any kids yet, I am so lucky to have five amazing nieces and nephews who inspired this little Winter Olympics project. Print these off, plop the brood down, give them a washable marker or two, and settle in for at least 10 minutes of entertainment. That's how parenting works, right?

Olivia HerrickComment
Gratitude Printable

I love reflecting on all that has changed over the course of the past 365 days. As I have grown time has begun move a bit more quickly and I find myself requiring more intention to slow down. I have journaled my entire life and find that taking even a few moments a day to express gratitude makes me feel more at peace, especially this time of year. I think this would be a sweet activity to do with children or family — stash it in a drawer and take a peek when we find ourselves on the eve of 2019. Click here to download the PDF

"It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning, in this broken world." - Mary Oliver


Olivia HerrickComment