It’s one thing to rebrand an organization and hand over a strategic marketing plan; it’s quite another to actually support and facilitate the implementation of that plan. Black Lake did both with Lorence & Vander Zwart, helping them transform an abstract strategy into concrete success.
Black Lake specializes in guiding clients through a collaborative process to discover the core of their brand and the best way to communicate their values and purpose to their targeted audiences. Based on this information, we create branded assets that complement the sales process and brand messaging we have crafted for the client.
We went through this process with Lorence & Vander Zwart (LVZ), a financial planning and money management firm. Back in late 2014, we started the process of determining LVZ’s brand and where they were going. What we discovered was that LVZ had two distinct brands, one for their clients and one for their colleagues. When we delved deeper, we realized that LVZ had not two but three faces: their financial planning side, their advisors side, and the clients of the colleagues in their advisors side. We created assets to target each of these three faces, including websites for their financial planning business, advisors business, and client-facing business. You can see more of what we did with them here.
Here’s what partner Ryan Vander Zwart had to say about the process:
“We would highly recommend Greg and his team. The process led us to rebrand and helped us find our connection with our clients. The team conducted in-depth research and inquiry with all our partners and staff, along with focus groups with our clients. The process was thorough, and they brought a ton of valuable knowledge for us to consider. The results have been acknowledged by our clients and peers as a success.”
After these steps, clients can either run with their new brand and marketing materials on their own, or have Black Lake continue to assist in the creation of assets and communication of the message. LVZ is one such client that chose to continue to use Black Lake for monthly support. Since the end of the initial phase, we have updated sales materials, created a new series of one-sheets and proposal documents, and even built an integrated structure to save time and hassle for many of their spreadsheets and documents.
Because we created and improved assets and processes for them even after their initial creation, LVZ has been able to utilize the tools more effectively and has garnered positive acknowledgement from their own clients. Ryan Vander Zwart has this to say:
“We continue to work with Black Lake to stay on task and utilize their resources monthly. We continue to be pleased with their prompt service and guidance.”
As we continue to move forward with LVZ, we hope to keep making improvements and working together to help them grow and strengthen their brand. We’re excited to continue working with them and see what the future has in store as they further define the different faces of their business.
Ashley Helminiak, Creative Lead at Black Lake Studio, reveals how you can become that brand that engages powerfully with its audience.
When I say that you can be that brand that everyone’s talking about, I don’t mean that scandal with the spokesperson with skeletons in his closet. I don’t mean that one restaurant chain that gave thousands of people food poisoning. And I don’t mean that popular brand whose CFO got in trouble for embezzlement. I mean that brand that is all the buzz on people’s mouths, social media accounts, in coffee shops, etc. That brand that has its audience always expanding, with new users flocking to it and telling their friends about it. That brand that is everything you could hope to be as you grow your own business. In the end, audience engagement is one of the most important factors that influences the success or failure of your brand.
But how will you become that brand? Well, first you need to know what you’re all about. Then try implementing these strategies:
Choose the right channels for your audience.
You can excel at social media accounts, do special promotions, publish compelling content on your blog, and even engage in personal phone calls or meetings with clients and customers. But if your users aren’t the type to have social media accounts, then your carefully planned, excellently crafted posts will have no audience, and therefore no engagement. Know your audience and communicate with them in the ways they want to be contacted. Black Lake can help you plan ahead and craft a customized strategy.
Create content your audience is interested in.
Content should be relatable to the audience you’re targeting. Find out what they’re interested in and the types of hooks that appeal to them. If you have a high-end product and are targeting customers that are interested in high-quality merchandise, you may want to avoid accentuating cost or offering discounts. In this case, you should be focusing on the benefits of your product instead. We can help you figure out how to share relevant content and make it look super cool.
Offer something in exchange for your audience’s engagement.
It doesn’t have to be a gift card to Starbucks or a coupon for half-off barbecue pulled pork sandwiches if you come in between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. Often, choosing something related to your product or service is the best way to go. However, don’t underestimate a drawing to win a prize at a trade show! Black Lake can help you come up with effective incentives for your audience.
Respond to your audience when they talk to you.
If someone comments on your content, respond! They’re giving you their feedback and opinions, which is exactly what you want. Interact with them and offer more of your own insights. This will help you gain traction. Communication is a two-way street, after all. Black Lake will equip you to communicate effectively.
Here’s a sneak peek at the Christmas decorations we’ve put up for Downtown Holland’s event tomorrow. Up on the Rooftops is an opportunity for the public to tour through downtown businesses and residences that they wouldn’t normally have access to. We’re excited to be participating for the first time this year. Black Lake has been partnered with Urban Found, a super-cool local shop that offers a wide variety of necklaces, earrings, watches, bracelets, clothing, shoes, and industrial home decor. They’ve helped our studio get into the Christmas spirit, and we’re excited to show it off tomorrow. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Caraline Visuri, Designer at Black Lake Studio, reveals how you can be that brand that has a super cool and effective visual identity.
As discussed in last week’s blog post, after establishing a strong foundation composed of an extensive discovery phase, the creative portion of the process can begin. To build a brand that can stand on its own, communicate what it’s about, and appear visually striking, this foundation is absolutely key. By establishing exactly what a brand stands for, designers can more easily translate a client’s value proposition, competitive advantages, mission, and their users’ needs into something unmistakable.
To be that brand that looks super cool, your brand must be more than just a design trend (hey hipster stamps!) and more than something that you feel simply looks neat. A brand that looks super cool is so much more than a logo; it’s deliberately crafted to convey certain emotions, connotations, and reactions that represent what you stand for and what you want your target audience to feel.
Other than relying on your brand’s already established foundation, there are many questions to take into considerations when building visuals for your brand:
- Is it unique? Is it easily recognizable? Looking at competitors, are there too many similar elements? Does is stand out among a group of competitors?
- What types of emotions or feelings should it induce? Emotions can be evoked through color choices, typography, and layout. Consider who your audience is and what they would respond best to.
- Is it readable at different sizes? Do size changes evoke different feelings? Is the brand easily identifiable at different sizes?
- What are the meanings behind the visuals? What are you referencing? Again, logos and other visuals should always be backed up by a sound foundation that audiences can easily understand.
- How are your visuals going to look five, ten, or twenty-five years from now? There are always a handful of design trends that are tempting to jump on board with, but they will quickly feel very dated and not allow for uniqueness when standing against competitors.
- What do elements look like in black and white? This can help you identify if elements are too complex and if you need to simplify things.
At Black Lake, we keep these pointers and more in mind when we craft visual brand identities. After a few rounds of design, a masterpiece is born that conveys your identity in style.
As a designer, it’s always important to have a bank of design resources to pull from. You’ll need to use them when your well of inspiration is running dry, when you’re looking to learn a new technique or program, or when you’re just looking to stay up to speed in the design world.
Where can you find these things? Look no further: I have compiled some of my favorite resources across many platforms for your viewing pleasure and (hopefully) unending learning.
- Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield—A really quick read that highlights typographers, type foundries, type crimes, and yes, even Comic Sans, chapter-by-chapter. A great combination of information and humor!
- How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman— A series of interviews with famous designers who lend tips to young designers starting out in the industry.
- Graphic Style Lab: Develop Your Own Style with 50 Hands-On Exercises by Steven Heller—A really fun instructional book with fifty “assignments” relating to different design movements that help you establish or further develop your personal style.
- Graphic Design Thinking by Ellen Lupton—A great resource on how to improve your design process and how to think through problems to reach the best solution.
- Little Book of Lettering by Emily Gregory—Eye candy! A beautiful examples of hand lettering from designers like Jessica Hische, Marian Bantjes, and Louise Fili.
- Graphic Design: A New History by Stephen J. Eskilson—A complete history of design that shows the evolution of different movements, styles, and inventions ranging from the Gutenberg Bible to Swiss Style.
- Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML by Eric T Freeman—The cheesiest, easiest way to break into the world of web design.
- Adventures in Design with Mark Brickey and Billy Bauman—A no-filter, hilarious podcast talking about the print side of design, gig-posters, and what it’s like to work for yourself.
- Design Matters with Debbie Millman—A podcast about design and an inquiry into the broader world of creative culture through wide-ranging conversations with different designers.
- pinterest.com—Used cautiously (there is just as much bad design on Pinterest as there is good), Pinterest can be a great place to find inspiration and learning tools to integrate into your own design.
- behance.net—This site showcases work from designers all across the world in many different fields.
- instagram.com—A good way to get a healthy dose of design in your newsfeed (Follow Louise Fili, you won’t regret it).
- twitter.com—Are you on Twitter? Get on Twitter. Follow everyone.
- dribbble.com—Another great show and tell site for designers.
- AIGA.org—The American Institute of Graphic Arts’ site is full of design tips, professional work, and job postings.
- howdesign.com—It’s easy to spend hours exploring this site. It’s full of inspiration, articles, and beautiful work.
- typography-daily.com—Home of unending typography!
- creativebloq.com—Similar to howdesign, this site is full of design articles that you will spend far too much time browsing.
- fastcodesign.com—From the infographic of the day to free typefaces, fastcodesign won’t let you down.
- thedieline.com—This site displays beautiful examples of packaging design.
- photoshoptutorials.ws—The importance of this site lies in the Photoshop knowledge you can gain by completing different tutorials, not how ugly the design of some projects actually are.
- lynda.com—An online education company that offers thousands of video courses in basically anything you could imagine.
- skillshare.com—A “learning community for creators” similar to Lynda, it’s a fantastic place to learn new things and share your knowledge, too!
Want to spread the design love? Share your favorite sites, books, or any other resources with us!
Here at Black Lake Studio, we’re always striving to improve our own website. Not only does it help us communicate our own story better, it also allows us to try things out and sharpen our skills so we can build better websites for our clients. To that end, we’re excited to launch a new Black Lake website. Here are some of the outstanding features:
- An eye-catching new look
- A new process page that explains how Black Lake can help you think strategically so you can communicate effectively
- A detailed discover page that walks you through our discovery process step by step
- A revamped and expanded portfolio page with case studies that highlight our work with entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and thought leaders
- A development and fundraising page that showcases our work with nonprofits
- A new websites page that allows you to browse our diverse web portfolio
- A new publishing page with details on the books in our portfolio, including sample spreads
Let us know what you think!
When we craft brands and design assets for clients, we are always thinking about strategy and communication as well as aesthetics. Form and function work together to create the best experience for users, no matter the medium or industry.
Audio Scripture Ministries (ASM) is one such client that we had the pleasure of working with. Among the assets we built for them was a new website. Not only did we build the site with user experience and interface in mind, we looked further to meet industry-related requirements—namely, Charity Navigator.
Charity Navigator is an organization that rates nonprofit organizations based on their financial health and accountability and transparency, with a maximum rating of four stars after averaging the scores of the two categories. Many people check Charity Navigator scores and reports to determine if their donation is going to a good organization and being used properly. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to continue giving; if they don’t, they may well take their donation elsewhere.
We noticed this lack and brought it to ASM’s attention. We then added all of this information in the spring during our rebrand and redesign of the website. As a result, we have helped ASM bring their three-star rating up to a four-star rating. They now have a 100.00 rating in the accountability and transparency category. Paired with their already excellent financial health score, this pushed them up to a four-star overall rating.
Whatever type of client we have, including nonprofits, we are always looking to meet and exceed industry standards so they can put their best foot forward. Our collaborative workflow and strategic process allows us to create solutions that help capture our client’s vision and apply it in an intentional, business-minded way.
See ASM’s Charity Navigator Report: www.charitynavigator.org
Visit ASM’s website: www.asmtoday.org