A Brand-Spankin’ New Website

As I smattered all over the Facebook and Twitter on Friday, I am BEYOND EXCITED for the launch of my new website!

THE OLD

What was my old website like? Before Friday, it was simply a Tumblr template redirected to a vanity URL. No diss to anyone who uses that method. It certainly worked for me! (It was free, and it took zero time to put it together.)

However, at the beginning of this year, I had a rash of requests for proposals that ended up with the potential clients not taking me completely seriously. They had found me through my website, and after great initial meetings and phone calls, when it came time to reviewing a proposal, they would be shocked – hell, even borderline insulted – when it came to the sticker price, despite my experience and portfolio containing work for fairly large and reputable companies.

It also strongly struck me when I lost out on a particular project earlier this year. I was so sure I had it in the bag. I had asked the potential client why he chose not to go with me, and said this: “You need to toot your horn a little louder.”

Aye.

He was right. I was too meek for my own good.

Clients want someone who is confident in their work. I am confident… but I needed to SHOW it.

My old site didn’t fit what I wanted to communicate to people. It was clunky and amateurish. It didn’t accurately and fairly represent the services I could offer to potential clients, and it didn’t fairly represent the work I had already done for so many of my amazing clients.

THE EPIPHANY

I did some soul-searching. I looked at my branding, my language. Ah HA! There it was.

I had resolved that my website was… not a real website – at least for a designer who was expecting to be taken seriously. I realized I had been wearing boxer shorts and a flannel shirt to interviews with Fortune 500 companies and then was shocked when the hiring manager asked me to work for less than minimum wage.

Essentially, I wasn’t representing myself the way I wanted to be treated. When I first started freelancing, I had quickly put together a website, naively resting on my laurels, thinking that my portfolio would speak for itself. Boy, what a cocky and foolish thing to think. A portfolio will only take you so far. The right clothes can take you further.

So I got serious and, with a pep talk and the help and dedication from a very talented developer, I got it done!

WHAT GETS IN THE WAY? A LOT OF TIMES, YOURSELF.

Getting the website done was also quite a feat, because after taking this project to a handful of developers already who couldn’t take the project home for me, 3 years later, my custom website is now a real thing. I had always intended to have a custom designed website, but I used my busy workload as the eternal excuse for not getting it done. This whole story is the classic cautionary tale that I relate to potential clients. How ironic that I didn’t heed my own advice.

But now, here I am, excited and proud to refer people to my site, instead of mumbling an apology/disclaimer.

The site was developed by my great friend and fellow lady entrepreneur, social media maven, and WordPress queen, Laura Oldham of El-Be Social Marketing. She brought my vision to life!! 😀 THANK YOU, Laura, for making this magic happen! (Seriously, as I was going through my list of custom plug-in requests and sent her my design, I was sure Laura would come back and tell me that I couldn’t do a couple of things. But no. She told me I could do all of those things. And better.)

THE FEATURES

As you can see, the website features a little bit about me, large images of my work as well as comments about each project, social sharing buttons on each project, a blog, and the ability for anyone to contact me directly through the website.

I’m also excited about the widgets at the very bottom of the website that connect you to my Instagram feed, Twitter feed, and also showcases friends’ and colleagues’ websites in my industry whose work I admire. (Laura did an AMAZING job with those widgets.)

I’m excited about this, because after years of slacking on a decent website (hey, clients get taken care of first!), I am excited to finally have myself look like a legit company. ;D I’ve been blessed with having great clients, and I’m excited to showcase them all on my website. I look forward to many more years of working with fantastic clients.

2012: THE YEAR OF SWAGGER

In January, when I was lamenting to Laura about the pitfalls of not giving my own branding enough attention, we had determined that we both are naturally inclined to hesitate talking too much about ourselves. Humility is great, but not when it’s detrimental. So we resolved to do better this year. As Laura awesomely put it, 2012 would be The Year of Swagger. Laura has been fulfilling her end of the bargain by working on more exciting projects with great clients… and I’m now finally happy to have begun fulfilling my end of the bargain.

Farmhouse Chicago: “Draughts for Drought”

I am happy and excited to announce that I’ve signed on a new client, and it’s a company I’ve been raving about ever since they opened in September last year: Farmhouse Chicago! 

I am proud to be working with this wildly successful Midwestern tavern in River North (which has been getting great reviews across the board on Yelp and Open Table, by the way… check ‘em out!), but not just because of their success, but mostly because they stand by keeping everything local.

Farmhouse works very closely with farms and breweries in only Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana to comprise their menu, and they even salvaged all the interior from an old furniture warehouse. They are so serious about how local their food is, that on their menu, they even list how many miles the food and beer traveled to get to their kitchen. (Those numbers are pretty low. That’s a good thing.) 

I’ve always been a fan of Farmhouse’s whimsical and smartly irreverent brand design, and I am excited to be taking the reins in cultivating the brand look from this point forward, while working with the ever-amazing El-Be Social Marketing, who does a fabulous job on the social media and web development front.

My first project with Farmhouse was to design an invite/poster for their week-long-promo-culminating-into-an-awesome-party event: “Draughts for Drought.”

From August 6 to the 12th, Farmhouse took 50% of the dollars from a select list of local beers and donated it to Harvest Moon Farms. With the terrible drought this summer, our local farmers could really use the support.

“Draughts for Drought” event invite. (“Whoosh!” is what I think when I see it.)


When I first heard the idea from Farmhouse owner and general manager Ferdia Doherty, I thought, “Of COURSE he thought of a way to have a good time for a good cause.” He’s always been one one to do that. So I wanted to find a design concept that would come close to doing justice to the event idea.

As my husband and I were driving to get some really good sushi over one weekend, BAM! I got an image of a beer glass pouring beer-turning-into-water into an old farm water bucket, so I quickly started sketching.

“Draughts for Drought” invite concept sketch. Good thing I double checked the copy, because for some reason, I started writing “SEPT” for the date.


It’s a ridiculously literal idea, but it quickly and boldly communicates what the promo is about.

I then followed that design up with another that focused more on the D4D party on the 12th:

Follow up invite design, focusing on the D4D party on August 12.

For the look and feel, I wanted to retain the wonderful textured look that Farmhouse already has, but I also wanted to give it a breath of fresh air. I feel pretty great about accomplishing that here, and I hope to continue to achieve a comfortable familiarity yet freshness with the rest of the Farmhouse projects from this point on.

I hope you came out to support the cause!

Awesome giddiness alert: Even Stephanie Izard – Top Chef Season 4 winner and owner of Girl & the Goat – came out… and she even tweeted a pic of my design!! Then I dorked out, squealed in delight (and in the process startled my Boston Terrier, Angel), and tweeted about it out of unbridled excitement. :D!!!

If you did come out, maybe you and I were enjoying Farmhouse together on Friday, when the hub-hubs and I enjoyed some D4D brew (and snuck in their new gin cocktail, the Gin Claude Van Damme too). ^_^

And if you couldn’t come out, that’s okay. With Farmhouse always willing to step up and help a neighbor, no doubt you’ll get the chance to enjoy a brew for a good cause again soon.

Cheers, and thanks for reading!

Introducing: VeeV® VitaFrute™

This is the huge project I’ve been working on from the bottom up since… holy crap, January.

January!

VeeV Açaí Spirit® – The World’s First Açaí Spirit – is taking on the ready-to-drink beverage category and has launched VeeV VitaFrute™ Cocktails as of this month!

Check it: http://veevlife.com/vita-frute/

VeeV VitaFrute promotional poster.


Look at those colorful, delicious bottles!

I worked in conjunction with Spring Design Partners to complete the bottle label designs.

VeeV VitaFrute label designs.


I also had a hand in finalizing the logo, brand book, sell sheets, case design, and a number of other brand design components. 

VeeV Spirits has been so fantastic throughout the process of creating the VeeV VitaFrute™ brand, as they were with creating the VeeV brand.

VeeV VitaFrute™ is pretty awesome for the following reasons:

  • The cocktails are made with VeeV Açaí Spirit®.
  • They come in three flavors: Organic Lemonade (yes, really organic! Trust me, we had to go through a ton of red tape and specifics to make sure it was), Margarita, and Organic Cosmopolitan.
  • They’re ready to go, so all you have to do is pour over ice and drink up!
  • That means it’s super easy for parties… as well as those days where you just don’t feel like whipping out the cocktail shaker. (As much into mixology as I am, there are definitely those days! Haha, yes, first world problems.)
  • And um… each of the cocktails are under 125 calories. YES!

VeeV VitaFrute™ case stack mockup. Look out for these in a liquor store near you!

Where can you find some?

Keep up with VeeV on Facebook and Twitter for updates. I know as of today, VeeV VitaFrute™ is currently available in New York with steady distribution continuing throughout the country.

My heartfelt thanks to VeeV Spirits for the honor of trusting me with their brand new baby! I have no doubt they’ll match if not surpass the success of the VeeV brand with this new endeavor. 

Mmmm, Margarita… hey, it’s Friday! ;P Cheers, and thank you for reading!

‘Egg & Dart’ Menu Design

It’s been all about menu designs in July! And I love it.

I designed the full menu for a rustic Greek restaurant in Miami, FL called Egg & Dart.

A Greek restaurant named Egg & Dart? Shouldn’t it be named… John Stamos or something? (Yes, I’m demonstrating my expansive cultural awareness right now. 0_0)

Well, after looking it up (apologies to my Art History professor for not paying attention to this in class, if this indeed WAS covered in class, ooooooh!), I found out “egg-and-dart” refers to a Greek ornamental device that uses alternating egg and arrow shapes.

I figured the owners must get that question a lot, so I thought it would be neat to put that definition up at the top of the menu.

The owners of Egg & Dart had a good foundation for the menu design, but it didn’t quite reflect the rich and elegant rusticity of their restaurant. It was set in a basic Word doc. Print. Distribute. For a restaurant that took its time crafting their food, you want to communicate that same dedication to detail in the menu.

Egg & Dart’s drink menu. Before.


Egg & Dart’s drink menu. After.


I kept this super simple and utilized the beautiful egg-and-dart device that was in their wonderfully designed logo and used that as a border all around the tabloid-sized document, while taking care not to have it completely dominate the page. 

To further communicate the authentic Greek cuisine, I thought it would be good to accompany each menu section with the Greek translation of that word. So even if you couldn’t understand the Greek translation, its presence was still effective. (I preemptively asked the owner for forgiveness if I had any of the Greek words incorrect, since I was using an online translation service. It’s been approved with no admonishing, so all is well!) 

Egg & Dart’s food menu. Before.


Egg & Dart’s food menu. After. Small bites, salad, main dishes, and dessert. Seriously. YUM. This is torture.


The real challenge of a menu is fitting in the copious amount of information in an organized and visually appealing way, while also taking into account legibility, readability, and even the lighting in the restaurant. A beautifully designed menu is nothing if the guests can’t read it. 

I feel fabulous about this project, and I hope you enjoy its beautiful simplicity too.

Because I’m located in the Midwest, I’m sad that I won’t be able to enjoy Egg & Dart’s cuisine in Miami. But next time I’m in Florida, I know exactly where to enjoy deliciously crafted and rustic Greek cuisine – and now you do too! 

‘The Village’ in Studio City, CA

On July 19, Chef Frank Leon of Bokado, La Loggia, and Next Door restaurants, opened his latest and most delicious dining endeavor: The Village, a gastropub in Studio City, CA.

According to their press release, Chef Frank “sought the advice of La Loggia and Next Door’s loyal, young-Hollywood patrons, including Jessica and Ashley Simpson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Shia LaBeouf, and Ashley Tisdale. From those conversations, The Village was born.”

Here’s what Eater L.A. had to say (yes, they’re getting great press already!):

Cocktails and beer are listed on chalkboards throughout the venue, all specialty drinks were named after American authors known for their boozy habits. The Rum Diary is made with rum, Applejack, maple syrup, lemon, orange, and peppermint; meanwhile Churchill is composed of Armagnac, orange brandy, egg white, raw agave, and nutmeg.

Thirsty yet? 😉

I was most honored to work on several projects for The Village, including a photo booth, menu design, and Grand Opening invite. 

Here’s the freshly completed photo booth, before it was transported to The Village. Thanks to Hayley at Photo Illusion for sending this snapshot!


Here’s the drinks side of the menu. Menus were printed on Kraft paper to fit with the intimate and carefree feel of the tavern.


You can’t have a Grand Opening without people! This invite gives a wink to the chalkboards inside The Village that list menu items. I wanted the invite to give the guest the feeling that The Village is a cozy and fun place to spend an evening. I’m happy to report that they were so happy with the invite that they plan on using this design for all future invites and announcements.

What was wonderful about working on The Village was first and foremost, their people. A great restaurant can’t open successfully without great people. They communicated what they were looking for while giving me the right amount of creative freedom.

I also loved the rustic-yet-sexy approach of the place. This allowed me to go with a simple and clean direction that had a nod to the relaxed personality of this hot Hollywood destination. 

One disadvantage of having great clients on the West Coast is that since I’m in the Midwest, I miss out on fabulous events like these! I can’t wait for my next visit to L.A. to run down the cocktail list and get my ‘Literary Lesson’ from The Village.

If you find yourself cruising around that area, let me know what you had to drink and eat and describe it to me in great, excruciatingly torturous detail, so I can drool until I can make my own visit! 😀

Where’s ‘What’s A Rerun?’ What’s Next?

For those of you keeping up, you might be wondering what happened to the weekly collaborative installment of ‘What’s a Rerun?’ My brother, (award-winning writer/filmmaker C.J. Arellano) and I decided that, while responding to creative pieces WITH creativity (artwork and analysis) is fun, we wanted to have the freedom of total creativity beyond just responding to someone else’s creative endeavors.

That said, ‘What’s a Rerun?’ isn’t going anywhere. You can still read C.J.’s incredibly insightful reviews and view my geeky fan art on the site. And for anyone who wants to contribute any art and analysis to the site may still do so by emailing us at whatsarerun@gmail.com. We’ll continue to update the site whenever we feel inspired to write a review on a classic TV episode and create some great fan art for it.

Sure, we’re going to leave ‘What’s a Rerun?’ on the shelf for a while… but we decided we really loved collaborating with one another.

So we had a meeting last weekend to chat about what’s next for us siblings. 

And what we came up with is pretty exciting. 

Come launch time, we hope you’ll agree. 

I can’t wait to spill the beans on it, but for now, we’re working hard to bring you creative bits of awesomeness that we hope has a great sharability factor.

We enjoy our creative endeavors, and we’d like you to enjoy them too.

For now, stay cool, enjoy the summer, and thank you for staying tuned!

“Can we have the design files so we can work on it ourselves?”

Last week, when a long-standing client asked me this, I internally reacted something like this:

Let me explain to those of you wondering what the big deal is: When a client asks for design files, it’s like when your boyfriend suggests you start seeing other people.

I went through the 12 steps of grieving in a matter of 5 minutes.

Why did I get over it so quickly? Maybe it’s because over the past couple years, there have been signs that it was over:

  • consistently late payment on my invoices
  • light ‘how’s business?’ conversations that become dark and worrisome
  • the client asking me if I could ask the printer to reduce his price

After considering these points and being reassured by the client that my service has been impeccable, I realized it’s an okay reason to break up: it’s the client’s budget limitations, not your skill/service limitations. 

Although it’s easy to get offended when a client asks for files, they do have the right to them. (Of course, check your original contract… and if you don’t have a contract, 1. Shame on you, and 2. That’s a whole other blog post.)

The main thing here is to protect yourself.

To avoid your (ex)client from excessively calling/emailing you for tips and tutorials on how to use the design files to the point where it would’ve been more time-and-cost effective to have you work on them in the first place, have them sign a file release form before you hand over the files. Include the stipulation that once you hand over the files, any additional work on it on your part will incur a consultation fee. 

Of course, it’s also important to leave it open for you to jump back on projects with them in case they realize you’re the best man for the job. 

In work and in life, protect yourself, but don’t burn bridges. 

Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with a client that asks for design files?

Dissecting the Successful Business Card

I’ve been in the midst of rebranding my own look, I’ve been seeking inspiration, and I found this infographic that gives solid, basic pointers, so I thought I’d share. It also covers business card etiquette from around the world. (Note: I saw from comments on the original blog that the flag for South Korea is incorrect.)

What do you look for in a great business card?