Dear JULIA,

Your important contribution of PAELLA to the International Brotherhood of Handy Husbands (IBHH) helps us to do good work these holidays. With your generous sponsorship we have been able to maintain a historical rural American home. Here are some of the exciting recent projects we’ve completed:

• fixing the fireplace insert fan
• aligning the hot and cold shower handles
• weather sealing the bottom of the barn office door

Your continued support will enable us to try bigger and better projects this year including:

• installing a laundry room floor and
• designing and building a sink enclosure.

Thank you for keeping us in mind this holiday season and for all you do for your very local IBHH chapter.

William
Your very local IBHH representative.

I’m currently enrolled in a 12-week class called The Certified Networker, held by the Referral Institute of Ithaca. In the class, I am learning how to develop relationships with people and create a referral network, which will help me grow my business. Part of this work involves enhancing my business image by developing a marketing communication strategy. This strategy includes developing a short introduction about who I am and what I do, and a longer, 10-minute presentation, which is what follows in this blog post. It should have an emotional-based marketing theme, and a call to action.

You know I am a graphic designer, and that I am owner of my business, Julia Reich Design. Let me tell you about myself and WHY I do what I do.

I grew up in NJ, in the suburbs. My father worked on Wall St. as a securities analyst, commuting over an hour each way into the city every day. I did not see him very much, and we were never very close. To this day I could not really explain to you what he did for a living. My mother (now retired), with whom I was closer, started out as a high school math teacher, eventually earning two masters degrees and becoming a learning consultant where she tested teenagers with learning problems – special ed kids – and making recommendations for appropriate schools or programs that would best serve their needs.

As a kid, my two main interests were animals, and drawing. When I went off to college, I thought I’d study to become a wildlife biologist. However, at about the same time I learned that scientists need to have an aptitude for statistics & math, I discovered environmental education – teaching nature to kids – which I loved. i was drawn towards education since i admired my mother and her career, so I went down that path, but in my own unique direction, based on my love for the outdoors.

In my 20’s, after college and then living in NYC, I was an environmental educator. In my last job in that role, I was education director of a nature center on the Hudson River. But more & more I found myself interpreting science lessons with art rather than science, culminating in an environmental & artistic tour de force that was a life-size, indoor, walk-through Hudson River marsh, that I made with my elementary school students.

Soon after, I took an evening class at the school of visual arts in NYC in graphic design, which really resonated with me. In a few more years, I left my education job to attend Pratt Institute, and got a degree in graphic design two years later.

In 2001 I started my own firm. I had worked briefly in a corporate setting, as an in-house designer, but the cubicle life was not for me. I found the hierarchies in those firms stifle creativity and meaningful personal relationships, and which make business development satisfying for me as a “solopreneur”.

Because I was familiar with the nonprofit world, this quickly became my target market, and remains to this day. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great organizations, educational institutions, and progressive businesses: Brooklyn Botanic Garden; GrowNYC (the org which runs the famous Union Square greenmarkets); Wildlife Conservation Society; National Environmental Education Foundation; Educational Video Center; Slow Food USA; Food Systems Network NYC; Hawthorne Valley Farm. These are the ones that have missions related to my own personal interests, that I feel passionate about, and are usually the most fun to work with. And that list hasn’t changed much since I was a kid – nature, environment, animals, and similar sectors – gardening, food, and anything that could be labeled ‘green or ‘sustainable’. And of course, education.

The services I provide for these nonprofits and progressive businesses include print design (such as brochures, reports, newsletters), web design, and branding. Branding is when I design not only a logo for a client, but create their entire identity, and often also aid them with positioning and messaging – how they communicate who they are in the marketplace. This is my favorite type of work because it is strategic and involves a deep Discovery phase, which is fun, because I really get to dig deep into who a client is – figure out their personality, what’s the story they want to tell, and then translate that into visual language. Once this is established, all those other things I just mentioned – reports, business cards, websites – will need to be designed using a consistent look, feel, and message. In essence, I help organizations create their identity from the ground up, by developing their character, logo, stationery and website – a strong visual gestalt that gets carried through everything else – packaging, advertising, eBlasts, and more.

I run my design firm as a “virtual” agency. By “virtual” I don’t mean “fake” – as I have an office, in Aurora. What I mean is that I work with a collaboration of experts that I hand-pick – professionals such as designers, developers, and photographers – but they mostly work offsite. These are teams of high-level talent that are custom-assembled for each client and project. As compared to a traditional brick & mortar office – with staff – I believe the benefits of a virtual model are manifold:

• Senior level talent. Each person has at least 10 years experience, and because they are all independent consultants, it allows for a more focused application of each expert’s individual skill set.
• Flexibility. To organize a top level team and do it quickly; and to change the team from project to project.
• Personalized service. One of my clients told me recently that the large branding firm they’ve been working with for several years sent their top execs to the first few meetings, but after that, meetings and phone calls were run by staff members who did not seem to be familiar with the client or the project. With the virtual agency model, there is no bait & switch from a senior team member to a junior-level person once the project is awarded. As creative director and project manager, I am always the point person.
• Value. Since I’m dedicated to working within my client’s budget most efficiently, my virtual agency rates are more reasonable and competitive as compared to medium and big firms.

I am growing my business, and maybe you, dear reader, can help me. One of my current clients is the Cornell Small Farms Program. To work with them, I became a “preferred vendor”. Now I can work with any department or program at Cornell, so I’d like to ask – if you know someone who needs graphic design services at Cornell, or knows someone who makes these kinds of purchasing decisions, would you be willing to introduce me to them? I would welcome the opportunity to talk to them about my business and how I may be able to assist them, and would be most grateful for your referral.

Once again, I’m Julia Reich, owner of Julia Reich Design, and I help organizations tell their stories, visually.

And if we ever went for a hike together, I could also teach you to how to identify birds by their calls, plants growing along the trail, and animal tracks in the snow. Oh, and anything you’d like to know about Hudson River marshes.

a logo design must be flexible enough to adapt to various media...

I’ve got branding on the brain – because I’m in the midst of several branding projects and also because I gave a workshop last night on the topic at Alternatives Federal Credit Union in Ithaca, NY. Here’s a short excerpt from that talk.

….

If you are in the process of working with a design firm on a new logo design, here’s a handy list of criteria to determine whether your visual brand identity is effective or not. Is it:

Flexible?
Meaningful?
Authentic?
Differentiated?


The Nike "swoosh" is based on the wing shape of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory

1. Meaning
Meaning may not always be readily apparent. I think that’s OK, as long as the meaning is there and the logo is not mere eye candy. For ex, do you know what the Nike logo represents? That famous Swoosh represents the wing in the Greek Goddess of victory, Nike.

Fort la Présentation logo

2. Authenticity
The design must be appropriate to your company, your target market, and the business sector in which you operate.
So for example, when I designed this logo for Fort la Presentation Association – a small regional association that is in the heritage tourism sector (they are reconstructing an authentic French & Indian war fort on the St lawrence River in Ogdensburg, NY) – I probably don’t want it to look like a logo for a contemporary art museum. This is reflected in the STYLE of how the logo is constructed – typefaces I chose; colors; even how the icon is rendered.

The brand should reflect your personality and be appropriate to your industry you’re in and your client’s expectations. Are you:
-an innovator? show Creativity & flair
-experienced and reliable? show Quieter and conservative
-high cost/high quality? show Visual elegance, rich imagery

(thanks to fellow designer Lauri Baram for her inspiration here!)

GrowNYC shwag

3. Flexible

Your visual identity must work well across media, scale, in black and white, and color.

In this example, we designed this logo for an environmental organization in NYC who has started to offer several products featuring the new design. We’ve also spotted it around town on kiosks, canopies, a carved pumpkin, and even the side of a building!

proposed GrowNYC ad on the corner of Broadway and Houston

4. Differentiation
In marketing speak, this is sometimes knows as your Unique Value Proposition or Unique Selling Proposition. For instance, if you consider water bottle packaging – those companies have done a good job convincing consumers there’s a difference amongst waters that by now have been revealed to mainly be tapwater. But generally there IS something unique about your company, and you need to identify what it is.

More on how to arrive at THAT realization in a future post –

Negotiating financial discussions with clients is rarely fun, and often fraught with difficulty. I tend to overthink how I phrase these kinds of interactions.

Recently I had a conversation with a production artist who is interested in doing work for my firm. When I inquired about his rates, his response was:

“My hourly rate in $xx-$xx depending upon the nature/difficulty of the work and the client’s budget. I’m flexible and see it as a friendly discussion arriving at a fair rate on a project by project basis.”

Obviously not every situation will allow for this kind of flexibility, but I thought this was a great response which invited further discussion and immediately put me at ease. Note the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘friendly’ and ‘flexible’, which tells me that I am dealing with someone with integrity. In the future I will try to incorporate them into discussions with my own clients.

Would this approach work for you?

Expanding Your Consultancy

I’m a member of a creative design business-focused discussion group, where every other week I join a moderated phone call with other ’solopreneur’ design firm owners. Together, under the tutelage of Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor, we work on our business challenges.

On a recent call we had the pleasure of welcoming super-polished and inspiring guest Heathere Evans-Keenan of Keenan PR, which provides integrated marketing/media relations services. We invited Heathere to join us to discuss the notion of running a virtual agency, whereby teams of high-level talent are custom-assembled for each client and project, teams that may be geographically remote from the team leader, the client, and each other – and how to unabashedly and eloquently introduce and explain the clear benefits of this concept to our clients, prospects, and referral partners.

The topic originally arose because all of us in the MM group recognize the need to grow our agencies beyond ourselves, but do not want – for a myriad of reasons – to run a traditional brick-and-mortar agency with employees, workstations, and all that this entails. What is the next step once we have too much work to do ourselves? Heathere coached us to:

1. Identify our services range and where we want to grow. Beyond graphic design, this can include social media, web & software development, brand strategy, full-service marketing, public & media relations, and more.

2. Identify our preferred partners/subcontractors within that list of new offerings.
How do we find good people? She suggests we strive to keep our network alive – these are people we know or once knew, and people we meet. Surround ourselves with those we know and trust. Keep tabs on good people we knew from the past. For instance, I just recently became re-connected with a woman I worked with years ago on a website project, an excellent new media consultant. This took place through LinkedIn, when she saw and responded to a tweet I posted on Twitter – since my tweets get funneled to LI as ‘updates’. Social media makes this easier than ever before.

But what if we need a person in a field of expertise we are not that familiar with? This is riskier. Heathere advises we reach out to local and national networking/membership groups, like the PR Society of America, the PR equivalent of our professional organization, American Institute of Graphic Arts. Top contributors in any field are members of these kinds of professional groups. A lot of the effort is just talking with people – but we’ll find that word gets around.

3. Position our firms.
Define ourselves. Proudly and unapologetically use the term “virtual firm” (or as they say at thebauhub.com, a variation on the creative agency model, “Your global collective of senior creative minds”). The benefits are manifold:
Senior level talent. Each person has at least 10 years experience.
Flexibility. To organize a top level team and do it quickly; and to change the team from project to project.
Personalized service. One of my clients told me recently that the large branding firm they’ve been working with for several years sent their top execs to the first few meetings, but after that, meetings and phone calls were run by staff members who did not seem to be familiar with the client or the project. With the virtual agency model, there is no bait & switch from a senior team member to a junior-level person once the project is awarded. The team on the original call is the team you work with for the duration.
Value. Virtual agency rates are more reasonable and competitive as compared to medium and big and firms.

Some clients will always be more comfortable working with a firm in the conventional model of a Landor or Edelman. Let them go. A client who ‘gets’ the benefits of a virtual agency model is a client we want.

Since we’re all now thinking about how this translates into day-to-day details, Heathere shared a few tips on logistical details. At Keenan PR:
• each team member operates as part of the brand name of the firm
• they have their own phone number, but get a Keenan PR email address
• team members are 1099s subcontractors
• team members have a partner agreement, with a noncompete clause
• they utilize free or cheap online services that facilitate working within a virtual community, like dropbox.com, a free-portal for large file sharing; or efax.com, where faxes get sent to your email in-box

Her final suggestion: read The Distance Manager: A Hands On Guide to Managing Off-Site Employees and Virtual Teams

What is your experience running a traditional firm or a virtual one? Or are you on the client side, and want to share the pros and cons of working with one or the other?

I had a lovely chat today with a friend who runs the communications dept at a small liberal arts school. Among other things, we discussed summer in the Finger Lakes (wonderful but busy), local winery marketing (mostly abysmal), her design needs (bountiful yet budget conscious), and my business (growing).

She said she constantly receives materials from creative professionals such as designers and writers, and admitted that if their promotions look too good or too slick, she tosses them, assuming they are too expensive. This is eye-opening for me, since my promotional materials need to look as professional as possible in order to communicate that I am in the business of design & marketing. Yet I also work with nonprofits and businesses that are on a limited budget. I will never be the cheapest design firm out there, but nor am I the most costly. I believe in getting fairly remunerated for my work, and understand how to help my clients gain as much value as possible from our business relationship and the products and services I create for them.

So here’s the dilemma. if you receive my promotions (via direct mail or online) or visit my website, you’ll see my firm does great work. But how do I effectively communicate the value I bring to an organization or institution? How can I prevent the next Communications Director or Marketing Director or Executive Director from seeing my stuff and thinking – ‘hey that’s beautiful, but I’ll never be able to afford it’ ?

How can I help them understand that the investment they make in strong, effective brand strategy and visual communication will help them save time & money in the long run?

UPDATE, 8/9/10: I met with the organization, wrote the proposal, and my firm has been shortlisted for this project.

Lately I’ve been writing a lot of proposals, but they have not been yielding good results. I’m determined to vet the proposal-writing process more carefully, instead of jumping into it with a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” attitude, since my proposals are carefully considered and thoughtfully written, and as such, take a lot of time.

This morning, an opportunity landed on my desk, and I am trying to decide how to approach it. The RFP is for a branding project in a neighborhood in Rochester:http://southwedge.ning.com/forum/topics/seeking-proposals-for-graphic

I think my firm would be appropriate for this project because:

1. My business is located close to Rochester

2. The neighborhood in need of branding is ethnically diverse, and I have demonstrated work experience in ethnic & international sectors

3. I have strong branding experience

4. Description includes enhancing the business district, and as the President of the Aurora Arts & Merchants Association in Aurora, NY, I’m in a leadership position committed to enhancing business development in my local community

…..

OK, now here’s the red flags:

1. scope of work is undefined (“cost should include design of logo and other branding materials, such as a tagline”)

2. budget is not defined

3. RFP is publicly available; it was not submitted to my firm directly

3. and here’s the biggie: they request work on spec (“submit 2-3 project ideas”)

…..

So how to proceed – I will call with questions, for sure. Should I also request an in-person meeting? Discount it entirely since it requests work on spec?

HeARTworks at Cipriani's 42nd St, NYC

special performance by Tommy Tune, Broadway legend

Bright lights, lofty architecture, free-flowing caviar and champagne, silent auction items in the thousands of dollars, the most dedicated and talented medical researchers and surgeons in the country, Mayor Bloomberg, and Broadway legend Tommy Tune – all came together last month in support of the National Marfan Foundation’s 10th Anniversary Gala, at Cipriani 42nd Street.

Gala invitation, designed by Julia Reich Design

My design firm created all the collateral for the event (invitations, signage, program, and much more), so I was fortunate to be able to attend this fabulous event.

Julia Reich and Hoda Kotb

I even got to meet Hoda Kotb, news anchor with the Today Show and Dateline NBC!

About Marfan and NMF

The National Marfan Foundation is a non-profit voluntary health organization dedicated to saving lives and improving the quality of life of individuals and families affected by the Marfan syndrome.

Marfan syndrome is a connective tissue disorder that affects the heart, blood vessels, eyes, bones, joints and lungs. It is often, but not always, characterized by a tall stature and disproportionately long legs and arms. Other skeletal manifestations are curvature of the spine, a protruding or indented chest and loose joints. The most serious problem associated with the Marfan syndrome is its effect on the aorta, the main artery carrying blood away from the heart. In affected people, the aorta is prone to progressive enlargement, which can lead to tears in the aortic wall that require surgery. If aortic enlargement and tears are left undetected, the aorta may rupture, leading to sudden death.

Approximately 200,000 people in the U.S. have Marfan syndrome or a related connective tissue disorder. In most cases, the condition is inherited; one-quarter of people with Marfan syndrome are the first in their family to be affected.

While it is still too soon to gauge how successful this year’s gala was in raising funds to support for Marfan syndrome research, individuals and families affected by the disorder, and public awareness and education, in past years HeARTworks has raised nearly $7 million for The National Marfan Foundation.

Nonprofit Giving

Recent surveys show that giving has slowed – for instance, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that online giving, at least, continues to grow but at a slower pace. And findings from Convio’s Online Nonprofit Benchmark™ Study show “an increase in gifts drove fundraising gains” and that “Donors were still giving, but giving smaller amounts”. I myself was impressed to witness several individuals gifting BIG moola at the gala. Is recession relief in sight?

Design of the Gala Materials

NMF approached me to design their gala materials because they knew about our reputation working in the nonprofit sector. They showed me past years’ gala materials with the request that this year, the 10th Anniversary design needed to be more polished, more corporate, more festive. After presenting them with several options, the invitation design they chose featured celebratory fireworks bursting forth with hearts (hearts are a long-standing theme for the NMF gala) and stars. The invitation was printed in gold and silver foil on thick paper stock with a gorgeous column texture, and placed in a gold metallic outer envelope. All the other collateral for and at the event – down to the placeholder slide on the overhead screen and above the stage at Cipriani’s – utilized this same look and feel to achieve a branded consistency that felt worthy of a gala with seats starting at $500.

I care about the causes my firm promotes, and find meaning in the work beyond monetary rewards. My clients trust Julia Reich Design to help them achieve their mission, in many cases as long-term partners, since our values are aligned. I understand the clients served by my firm because I’ve been on “their side” – prior to starting my company I was an environmental educator who worked for various nonprofit education centers and museums. Through my company, I help organizations like National Marfan Foundation tell their story so they can have greater impact with their audience.

Kudos

The materials you designed for our 10th Anniversary Heartworks Gala truly achieved the look we were hoping for! We received so much positive feedback from our guests – the fun and festive, yet elegant design really helped to convey the feel of the evening. We were so pleased with the results, and felt that changing the design used in previous years helped create new interest and peak the interest of those that have been supporters for years.”
—Kristin Braun, Development Associate, National Marfan Foundation

Branded signage

Mayor Bloomberg, Corporate Host Karen Murray, and "Hero with a Heart" Duke Cameron, MD

PHOTO CREDITS: Timothy D. Joyce

This morning I found out I did not win a project located in Tompkins County, NY, in spite of the fact that the client contact said my proposal was “the most professional” and my “prices were competitive”. The reason I was given for losing the project:

“Your location and other work outside the community influenced the executive committee’s decision to “stay” local.”

I live and work in Cayuga County, about 30 miles north of Tompkins County. Tompkins County is a 30-minute drive away. I am a member of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce; I do most of my shopping in Tompkins County; and much of my leisure & professional activities take place there. I come to Ithaca at least once a week.

Last fall, The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce President recommended my design firm to the Ithaca Times (a local newspaper), for their special feature on small businesses. They declined to interview me since I was not in the same county.
Last month I did not win a project with Cayuga County. One of the reasons given was that my work was not recognizable in the community (most of my clients are based in the metro area).

Sometimes I feel like giving it all up and moving back to NYC. Today is one of those days.

The first-ever IGNITE event took place in Ithaca this past tax day, April 15, 2010. Dozens of people, including entrepreneurs, technologists, DIYers, creative professionals, grad students, and other brainiacs gathered at Pixel Lounge in Collegetown to view fourteen presenters, who had just five minutes to convey their ideas, using 20 slides that automatically advanced every 15 seconds.

The IGNITE network is a global one – “a force for raising the collective IQ and building connections. And, via streaming and archived videos of local talks, local Ignites share all that knowledge and passion with the world.”

I was one of the presenters, with a talk entitled “Sacred Cows: Anatomy of a Recycled Logo Project”, a narrative of my experience working with a farm client, who hired Julia Reich Design to design their new organic yogurt cup packaging.

Other illuminating talks included:

Dave Cameron – ”Sandwiches: Food of the Geeks”

Ed Cormany – “Why Nobody Ever Taught You How To Write Good (and what you can do about it)”

Bob Picone – “Childhood Dreams: Why They Are Important”

Matteo Wyllyamz – “How to Forget You’re a Human Being”

Tom Mansell – “Think While You Drink: Appreciating the Science of Wine”

Soon, video of the event will be posted online so everyone can see the presentations. I’ll update this post to include that link. Until then…learn more:

About Ignite, the global movement

Ignite Ithaca on Facebook

Ignite Ithaca website

List of presenters (including your truly)

Follow on Twitter (or search #igniteith)

Flikr photo page of the event

Before the event: article in the Ithaca Journal, April 9, 2010

After the event: article in the Ithaca Journal, April 16 2010 (including mention of my talk, the branding of organic yogurt)

Hackers and Sharers and Tweetups and Mittens

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