Sep 14 2017

Content is Queen: A Case for Content-First Design

A letter without a message is just a blank piece of paper in a fancy envelope. (And who wants to look at that?)

How Design Communicates

When we build websites, draw logos, and make marketing assets, we’re using our (awesome) creative powers to help our clients share their message.

We use colors, shapes, letterforms, photo assets, and spatial relationships to communicate visually and optimize the message. You could say that design is a method by which we package and deliver content in a pleasing and accessible way, so that everyone who receives your message wants to learn more, sign up, buy, or donate.

Your Message + Our Design = People Compelled to Act!

Making Sense and Looking Awesome

When we know what content we’re working with, we can create intentional, purpose-driven design to showcase the message — tailored just for you. We don’t just drop your content into off-the-shelf themes or templates. Every design is customized for each project’s specific needs, which we help you uncover through Discovery and research.

Dialing in your messaging is so important here in the early phases of design. Whatever it is that you want people to hear from you, you’re going to need some words. The right words, even, that say what you mean with precision!

But Copywriting is Hard!

For most of us, even when ideas come easily, it can be challenging to commit them to precise, effective writing. We know that the Internet has a short attention span (are you even still reading this blog post?), and the pressure to get to the point and pack in all of the critical information is real.

A bit of planning now can save you from a big mess later.
Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash.

Often when you get into the thick of creating or editing your content, you will likely find that the words and organization change shape — you might need a second level of subheads, or block quotes, or inset boxes, or so many other things! These may seem like minor changes, but they can have a big impact to the overall way your content behaves on a page. If you’re designing for print, the addition of a subhead can add pages to your final count, or require a whole cascade of other visual changes to make the document work and feel cohesive.

Enlist help with your copywriting if you need it. A great editor can help you shape and refine your message without adding a ton of time to your project or to your financial investment. Approaching your designer with ready-to-use copy will save you time and dollars in the design phase.

Get Real

In book-publisher school, I learned that a nascent book moves from editing to design to production — in that order and in only one direction. While that’s a really great system, I have literally never received a project to design that was content-complete while working in the actual world.  For the first few years, it really bothered me.

By now though I have consigned myself to the reality that content may will change a bit during the design process, and I’ve committed to having some grace about it. When a client sees work that they’ve only known in a text editor come to life in a webpage mockup or sample chapter, some new revelations about aesthetic preferences and/or how the content is working often crop up — that’s a normal thing that we expect and build into our process.

So what should we all do? As a client, you should approach your designer with as much ready content as you can — this includes written copy, photos you have the rights to use, and anything that the designer won’t be creating such as logos, forms, and barcodes. Make a plan with your designer that clearly states who is responsible creating, editing and gathering each piece of content. Create a timeline. Understand that your designer can only get so far into a project without your real content. The closer your content is to completion when we start, the more seamless the design process, making the final product that much better.

Whether you are still working on your content, or it’s all ready for design, Team Upswept has your back. We’re a comprehensive creative studio, offering copywriting and editing services, graphic design, photography, as well as web and print design. Get in touch to learn more!

Aug 17 2017

Put the “Pro” in Creative Professional

At the beginning of August we introduced Janet Price, a Portland makeup artist we love. Janet had so much great advice for achieving professional success that we thought it deserved more than one blog post!

Process and technique can sometimes be hard to communicate to the average person, when you work in a creative field. Part of the puzzle is finding a way to educate your audience about why your service is particularly good or special. But, as a longtime professional makeup artist, Janet has learned a few other important ways to build trust as a creative pro.

Keys to Professional Success

Salamander Boy - creative professional tips
Salamander Boy. Makeup by Janet Price. Photo by Gary Norman.

Janet credits her success as a professional to the following three keys:

  1. Be Dependable and Honest. Janet says it’s critical to show up on-time to do the thing you are committed to do (ie Don’t be late to your job!). Just as important, she says, is being honest about what what your skills are as well as what you can’t do — in contrast to the popular fake it to make it mentality, Janet has always been clear and open about what she can do well and what would be better left to someone else. She says she’s never felt penalized for declaring her limitations.
  2. Do Good Work, Stay Current. Do a good job, of course, and continually push yourself to keep building your skills. Don’t rest easy on your current skill set or position.
  3. Don’t be a weirdo! While Janet is always herself on the job, she says it’s important to remember that she is not the focal point of the job. With anyone you work with, employ discretion, refrain from gossip, and respect the privacy of others.

Being A People Person

Getting close enough to another person to apply makeup to their face can be a very intimate act, especially if her clients aren’t accustomed to it. Janet says that some people are more comfortable with this than others, and often one of her first tasks in beginning a job is to establish rapport with her subject.

Creative professional tips - Makeup artist applying makeup to a woman's face
Janet Price at work. Photo by Gary Norman.

Indeed, Janet is very easy to talk with, whether that initial conversation is about the shade you like to wear on your lips, her love of Marilyn Monroe, or your opinion of animals with people names (Janet’s house cats are Greta and Sammy, so she’s all for it). Rapport is very important, Janet says, and she usually has to build trust with the people she is working with very quickly, especially with film and television jobs when the pace of the work is quick and time is usually short.

Diplomacy is important, too — sometimes the person who gets makeup is not always the client to whom Janet is responsible, and she must balance the needs, wants, and comfort of both client and the person whose face she is painting.

Sometimes Janet is the only makeup artist on the job with full creative control, other times she works as an assistant on bigger projects, when it’s her job to execute the vision of an art director. The more players in the game, the more great communication, personal rapport, and professionalism need to be spot on. Her approach is to emphasize each individual’s unique beauty and work in partnership with talent, production, and crew.

Oh, the Humanity!

Whether you are a makeup artist like Janet Price, a fashion designer and small business owner like Tori Tissell, or any other creative professional, you know that the work is more than making a great product: at some point you’re going to have to come out into the daylight and talk to other humans. Janet Price makes it look easy, and with her advice and some practice, we know you can too!

What’s your next creative venture? Let’s talk about discovering your authentic and compelling brand story that will help you connect with your ideal audience. Start your branding project by scheduling a Free Clarifying Consultation with Team Upswept.

Aug 04 2017

Portland Business Spotlight: Janet Price, Makeup Artist

Janet Price is a Portland-based professional makeup artist with over 13 years experience in film and television, as well as print, stage, and theatre makeup design.

Janet Price grew up in Los Angeles during the reign of Mouseketeers and The Gong Show. As a kid, she felt surrounded by the entertainment industry — it was normal for people she knew to go in for auditions, and shows that she saw on TV were being produced right down the road. Her involvement in the industry felt natural. It wasn’t strange to think she’d  grow up to be a Mouseketeer, because that’s what LA kids did.

Artist applying makeup on a woman's face.
Janet Price at work. Photo credit: Gary Norman, www.garynormanphotography.com

In 1984, Janet moved to Oregon with her family and got involved with high school drama productions. Fascinated by the parentally-forbidden art of makeup, she studied library books to teach herself how to work with theatrical makeup while secretly painting her face at school and making sure to arrive home before her dad did to wash off the evidence of her artistic rule-breaking.

While Janet chose not to pursue makeup artistry as a career, she continued to expand her knowledge about new products and techniques as a hobby she couldn’t shake off.

Some years later, Janet was flipping through a Northwest School of Film class catalog and found a 3-month intensive Makeup for Film + TV class and was excited to get formal education. The class instructor, Christina, began to casually mentor Janet after the class ended, no doubt seeing Janet’s talent for the work and her affinity for the industry. Christina was preparing to retire, so she gifted Janet makeup and tools that she wouldn’t need once she retired. Christina recommended Janet for her first job as an assistant makeup artist, on a Paramount Universal film that was shooting in Portland. It took just the one recommendation from a veteran artist, and Janet’s work as a makeup artist  took off from there, booking jobs of all sizes in film, TV, theater, and studio settings.

Janet Price Logotype by Upswept Creative, 2016.
Janet Price Logotype by Upswept Creative, 2016.

We worked with Janet in 2016 to create a new logotype, business card, and brochure website, which resides at http://www.janetpricemakeup.com/. She hoped to modernize her brand, and make her work easier to find. Now, when professionals in the film industry are planning Portland-based productions, they can easily find Janet’s work and contact her through her new website. That means less of her time spent looking for work, and more of her time spent doing the work.

What is your passion? Whether it’s a side-hustle or your main gig, we’d love to help make your brand shine and spread the word about how awesome you are. Whether you want to revise your website, change your branding, build a strategy for marketing more effectively, or you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with us to schedule your FREE consultation, and we’ll use our extensive online experience to help you get clear on your next steps.

Jul 20 2017

Analytics in Social Media Marketing

We’ve talked about how setting goals and tracking them is super important in planning  an effective social media marketing strategy. But how do you go about that? With analytics, of course! Analytics is simply gathering data and thinking critically about what that data means in context. By using analytics wisely, you can determine whether or not your overall strategy is working, and where tweaks need to be made.

It’s a Numbers Game

Social media offers a ton of data. Seriously, a lot. So much so that it can be overwhelming. This is where your social media goals come in handy. If you know exactly what you want from your social media presence – i.e. increased followership, more website views, lots of people viewing your posts, etc… – you can focus on collecting only the data you need to track those goals.

Establish a baseline by recording the time and date you post. Then, after a consistent amount of time has passed, (the consistency is what’s key here, so you can reasonably compare performance between posts. My rule of thumb is one week) record the data points relative to your goals. Did the post have an affect on your overall followership? What was the overall reach of the post? Over time, you will be able to see your progress, and make tweaks if necessary.

Facebook provides business pages with pretty robust analytics tools. Use them!

Experiment

If you are posting consistently and tracking your goals, but not making any progress, don’t be afraid to change your tack. A tweak in strategy might not lead to direct progress towards your goal right away, but it will give you more information, so your next adjustment has a better chance of succeeding.

Through the course of a social media campaign, I’ll do this kind of experimenting most often with determining the best time to make a post. Making a small change, like scheduling a post for lunchtime instead of the evening, can have a huge impact.

Eyes on the Horizon

In the world of social media marketing, your goals are always changing. You’ve either met your goal and are setting a new one, or you’ve reshuffled your priorities and determined a new course. Paying close attention to how your posts perform, and whether or not they are accomplishing what you want them to, can help strengthen your overall online presence.

 

An analytical approach to social media marketing can be intimidating. We can help you with that! We have several tiers of social media support, from providing a step-by-step outline for you to follow, to full and robust social media management piloted by yours truly. Interested in expert help? Learn more about our social media management services.

Jun 22 2017

Local Business Spotlight: Tori Tissell

Tori Tissell, founding owner of Storiarts, maker of literary soft goods, has the kind of internet success story that entrepreneurial dreams are made of.

It started with a personal project. For holiday gifts in 2011, Tori created her first run of book scarves — an excerpt from Pride and Prejudice silkscreened onto a square of super soft, off-white (think the pages of a classic book) fabric. She gave most as gifts and listed a few for sale on Etsy.

Tori in her home workshop cutting material for a scarf.
Tori Tissell cutting out some Alice in Wonderland in her workshop.

Tori had been living in Portland since 2008, when she moved here in pursuit of a career in fashion design. She was working four days a week at an office job in the dental field, and worked on her creative projects with her time off. The book scarves were the first item she’d put up for sale on the peer-to-peer e-commerce site, which focuses on handmade and vintage items.

As a fashion accessory, the scarves were a perfect statement for Tori and some of her friends. One of the things that she likes about designing wearables, in addition to the utilitarian aspect, is that “no matter what, what [a person wears] expresses aspects of one’s personality.” A self-identified bibliophile and introvert, Tori liked that she could spark connection over one of her favorite things though her apparel choices, and keep her neck warm in our cool PNW winters, too.

Screen printing a scarf with Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.
Screen printing a scarf with Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.

The Pride and Prejudice scarves sold quickly on Etsy, and Tori received many requests for more. The scarf got shared on Pintrest as well, further boosting interest. After three months, Tori was able to leave her office job and make scarves full-time.

Rising Action

Since 2011, Storiarts has expanded their catalog to celebrate more than 27 titles on scarves, fingerless writing gloves, t-shirts, pillows, and baby hats. Staying rooted in the Pacific Northwest is a key value in the company, and most of their products are printed, cut, sewn, warehoused, and shipped in Oregon, with some milling and cutting happening in LA. All of their products are handmade in the US, even though production has scaled up quite a bit since Tori made everything by hand in her garage. Now that the manufacturing is off her plate, Tori can focus on design of new products, as well as drawing all of the illustrations for their scarves, writing gloves, and t-shirts.

Though Storiarts was born through e-commerce sales and continues to sell through several online retailers, it wasn’t long before they expanded into sales at brick-and-mortar stores. The Library of Congress shop was the first to approach Tori about carrying book scarves, and today you find them in the New York Public Library as well, along with dozens of other libraries and boutiques across the US, and in Australia and New Zealand. 

To Be Continued…

Woman reading a book outside a coffee shop.
Amber modeling a lightweight summer scarf outside of our neighborhood coffee shop.

Upswept Creative does much of the marketing photography for Storiarts, from clean product shots to lifestyle photography like this one featuring Amber Nicotra, wearing a new scarf from their Spring 2017 collection. 

We love working with Tori and her co-owner and husband, Chris. Their company embodies so much of what we value in working with independent businesses — from their commitment to keeping it local, to the thoughtfully-crafted, pleasantly nerdy products they sell.

What’s your next creative venture? Let’s talk about discovering your authentic and compelling brand story that will help you connect with your ideal audience. The first step to schedule a free clarifying consultation is clicking ➡︎ here. ⬅︎

Jun 08 2017

Social Media Management 102

A few weeks ago, we talked about some basics of social media marketing. In that post, I went over how to set goals, decide which platforms to use, and urged you to stick to the plan. Now I’d like to get into another aspect of social media marketing that’s just as important… what the heck do you put out there on social media!?

SET YOUR TONE

It’s part of our brand to be a little cute and cheeky, so I’ll often make fun posts like this one.

Deciding on the tone you’d like your social media presence to embody is a fundamental aspect of any online strategy. It’s also one of the most difficult things to nail down. Tone comes across through word choice in your posts and profiles, the actual content of your posts, and how you engage with followers, comments, and private messages.

While the voice you use on social media should be similar to the tone of your website, it shouldn’t be a carbon copy. Social media is social after all. Find a voice that encourages engagement, whether that’s a “like”, comment, or click-through to your website.

A PICTURE IS WORTH 1000… LIKES

Across all social media platforms, posts with pictures get the most attention by far. This blog did an informal study that showed tweets with images garnered 89% more favorites than tweets without images. But you shouldn’t just attach random images. If you can, create or commision your own visual content by taking product pictures, crafting digital graphics, or snapping some thoughtful photos while at a work-relevant event. When using images created by a third party, make sure you have permission!

Giving a peek into the behind the scenes of your business can be very engaging. This is a shot Sarah snapped during a recent photo shoot.

 

The benefit of having in-house visual content is that you can make sure it’s all on brand. It will naturally feel a part of your overall brand identity.

GET THAT GOAL

Social media platforms are fantastic for bringing your brand’s tone and personality to the fore, and getting your name out to a lot of people. They aren’t so great as a place for information dumps, or straight-up advertisements — those fit better on a company website, and something people will be more prone to absorb if they’re already interested. Cast a wide net with your social media presence. Strike a tone that’s personal, use visual content that’s on brand and engaging, and craft content that makes people want to click that link to your website, ticket sale, or product page.

I like to think of a social media presence like a digital storefront, and the overall strategy as the decorations and window displays. The goal is to get as many people in the store (onto your website, online store, etc…) as possible. Once they’re inside, it’s much more likely that you’ll make that sale!

 

At Upswept Creative, we’re a one-stop-shop for branding, web design, and social media marketing. You can get all the elements you need for a successful online presence from our small-but-fierce firm. Check out our variety of service offerings, designed to meet the needs of business owners at different price points. We’re looking forward to chatting with you!

May 25 2017

Meet Sarah Giffrow, our fearless Creative Director and Benevolent Overlord!

Sarah steers the ship at Upswept Creative, deftly serving up smart branding solutions and building beautiful, usable websites that make sense and look awesome.

Sarah Giffrow HeadshotSarah created her first webpage more than two decades ago, when she taught herself HTML to stave off boredom over a summer in high school. In college, she ditched her journalism major and decided to make a go of it in the then-fledgling industry of web design.

Before launching her own creative studio more than five years ago, Sarah was doing web design and management in the non-profit / education sector, and side-hustling in wedding and portrait photography. Motivated by a desire to explore different avenues for her creative skills, solve new problems, and feel more connected to clients, she decided to go out on her own, giving rise to Upswept Creative and, indirectly, this blog post you’re reading right now.

Creative Convergence

Driving her own creative endeavor allowed Sarah more time to get to know local creators and business owners. She observed gaps in their marketing and online presences, and began to figure out ways to help them.  

“Getting to see their work close-up and experience it in-person, I knew how skilled and passionate they were, and I wanted to help them show that to others, and get the kind of die-hard fans they deserved.”

That connection to the vibrant independent business community remains a priority in Upswept’s work as we expand our service offerings and grow our team. On her hopes for the future of Upswept, Sarah says, “I’d love for us to really become known as a resource for independent businesses, so we can keep helping people grow their passions into their livelihoods.”

Being Yourself

Sarah has faced many of the challenges typical of creative work, and lessons learned along the way inform her strategies to help clients better, particularly in figuring out how to differentiate herself in the local market bursting of talented competition.

To attain success, Sarah says, you must “understand deeply what sets you apart in your industry. Communicating that authentic expression of who you are and what you do in a clear way is critical.”

Though thriving in such a lively market can be tough, Upswept Creative wouldn’t be the same studio if it existed in a different city. One of the values Sarah identifies with in the Portland creative community is a “deeply-held belief that, if the service or the product doesn’t already exist, we can create it! We [Portlanders] place a lot of value on supporting businesses with local roots, and we aren’t afraid to try something that hasn’t been done before.”  

Beyond Work

Sarah on Skates!Outside of work, Sarah spends much of her time involved in roller derby with the Rose City Rollers, as a skater, official, and juniors coach. Sarah loves to bake, much to the enjoyment of anyone who’s attended an event at Upswept HQ, and this year is enrolled in the Google Academy of Organic Gardening.

Your Turn!

Now that you know a little bit more about Upswept’s leadership, we’d love to get to know you better, too. We like to kick off every new project with a get-to-know-you meeting, so we can assess your unique business problems and craft an elegant, beautiful solution just for you!  Get started by scheduling your free clarifying consultation and see what kind of awesome Sarah and rest of Team Upswept has in store for you.

May 11 2017

DWP: Good Design Solves Problems

On April 28th, Upswept Creative hosted a panel discussion at HQ as part of Design Week Portland. What started as a fun idea tossed to the group in one of our team meetings very quickly evolved into a fully realized, (and totally booked!) event. Creative Director and Benevolent Overlord Sarah had been thinking a lot about design, and what makes good design really work. So we assembled a diverse set of design professionals for our panel and happy hour, to help us explore the topic, “Good Design Solves Problems.

Our hope was to represent perspectives on design from multiple design disciplines, so  panel consisted of Design Scientist and Innovative Strategist Stef Koehler, Architectural Designer Callie Coles, Apparel Designer and Founder of Hubris Apparel Rita Hudson-Evalt, and Upswept Creative’s very own Sarah Giffrow, who specializes in website design and branding.

THE DISCUSSION

 

Design Week Portland panel
Our wonderful panel, from right to left: Stef Koehler, Rita Hudson-Evalt, Callies Coles, Sarah Griffrow, and the moderator, Josselyn Haldeman.

The panel dove right in, addressing the question at hand. How does good design solve problems? Kohler spoke on her practice of making the problem bigger, “see all the parts,” she said. “Look at it as a system. Don’t make it simple, complexify it.”

A major piece of creating beautiful, problem-solving design is finding out exactly what a client’s problems are–and that can often be tricky. The panel agreed that most clients don’t have the language to communicate exactly what they want, and that means it’s a designer’s job to pull it out of them. “The client may not know what the problem is. Get ahead of the problem…Make the dress that lets them feel like themselves,” said Hudson-Evalt.

Sarah chimed in with an approach all of the panelists could agree with: communicate with your client. “Have a conversation. Engage with the client to pull answers out.”

As an architectural designer, Coles described how she will go into a space to observe how people use it. When do people start looking confused? Where do they look for direction? “[There is] no substitute for observing what people do real space,” said Coles.

“[Create a] balance between ‘brand’ and what the user actually wants to get to. First impressions- big photos, catchy phrases- can get in the way of finding the pie or buying the shoes. What is the interaction the end-user wants?” said Giffrow.

Design Week Portland nametags
Professional name tags. So fancy!

This touched on a major theme of the evening, empathy. To get inside the end user’s head, a designer has to be empathetic to that experience. Hudson-Evalt suggested, “Talk to people constantly, what they need from the dress/what they want. Realizing themselves in the mirror.”

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Team Upswept Creative had such a blast putting on the event, and we hope everybody who came out enjoyed themselves, too. Thank you to all of the panelists, Design Week Portland, and our lovely audience for braving the heat to make it out to our little event.

Apr 27 2017

Cherry City: A Case Study in Design Work

Working in web design can be a complicated process. A lot of creative decisions need to be made while working under a deadline, and within a budget.  Both functionality and the client’s needs have to take  priority, all while looking prettier than the previous iteration. So how do the pros do it? We’d like to give you an example from a recent web design project we completed for Salem, Oregon’s roller derby league, Cherry City Roller Derby.

STARTING OUT

Cherry City came to us with an outdated website, in terms of both content and design. The platform on which their site was built made it difficult for league leadership to post updates. Key information for a roller derby league would get buried in the design. Upcoming events like fundraisers, bouts, and recruitments  were hard to find. League sponsors were also not prominently featured, making sponsorship a less attractive prospect. That can be a big problem for a non-profit!

ROLLIN’ UP OUR SLEEVES

We knew we wanted to build the site on WordPress. This would be a big usability upgrade for Cherry City, and would help them keep  the site’s content fresh and up-to-date. But, we also had to consider how to organize the content in a more beautiful and less confusing way.  Upcoming events needed to be easily accessible, and presented in a consistent visual format.

All of the important elements, front and center on the first page.

We drew on our experience working with Portland’s roller derby league, Rose City Rollers, to find approaches that we knew worked with this kind of content. We knew that public bouts needed to be at the forefront of their online presence, so we made their games the star of the show. But, Cherry City also puts emphasis on recruiting, and makes a special effort to be a welcoming league that keeps its members and volunteers engaged, so we created space in their Events area to highlight Recruitment events as well.
Keeping track of Sponsors at different levels would be important to growing their sponsorship base. We also knew that the same individuals could be involved with multiple teams or committees. We created structures for both Sponsors and Team Members, so Cherry City could easily manage those details all in one easy-to-find place, instead of updating multiple pages.

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

Make sure your site works on mobile, too.

To get the visual and functional improvements we were all looking for, we communicated regularly with Cherry City’s all-volunteer Board of Directors about our design inspirations. We shared with them our wireframes and graphic mock ups, ensuring that we were persisting in the right direction on the project.
After many rounds of feedback, and all of our tweaks made, we were happy to launch their brand new website near the beginning of April!  Their league leadership is quickly gaining comfort with the new structure we’ve built, and they’ll be able to keep their fans, future skaters and volunteers, and sponsors engaged with ease.