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.

Apr 13 2017

Portland Business Spotlight: Katie Proctor, Owner, Books with Pictures

Portland’s Katie Proctor is on bold mission to bring comics to everyone. Her nearly year-old shop in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood, Books with Pictures, has quickly become a community hub with an explicitly inclusive mission: to be a space that is welcoming to people who love good stories without regard to age, race, sexual orientation, gender expression, or disability status. We loved collaborating with Katie in creating branding assets for the shop in support of that mission, and we’re such big fans of her shop that we wanted to shine a light on our favorite local comics seller.

Books with Pictures Logo by Upswept Creative, 2016.

On Radical Inclusivity

The shop — it’s spacious layout, bright lighting, and friendly displays — the diverse stock, and Katie herself are all tuned towards making entry into comics an easy and stress-free experience, making it OK for adults to not know anything about comics when they come in, or for parents to come in to get a comic for their kids and not know what they are looking for, or should be looking for. You don’t have to feel like you are already part of the “in” crowd, is the thing. Because at Books with Pictures there is no “in” crowd, just folks who like to read books and connect with each other about it.  

Heroes are for Everyone Sandwich Board
Recently shared on Books with Pictures Instagram Feed

Katie says that comic books have forever been full of stories of misfits overcoming the things that set them apart from mainstream culture to find their own power, and there is a lot happening in terms of diverse content, identifiable storylines for people who feel like outsiders. Most of her customers are new to comic book stores, and it’s clear that a big part of Katie’s passion is in creating a safe and welcoming space where there’s a book for anyone who comes into her shop, whether they are looking for the mainstream offerings, or something else.

Katie has a diverse background which includes information design, bike advocacy, biomedical ethics, sales enablement programs, computing cultures, and history of science. She has been reading comic books since since adolescence, but really got into them after having children, who are five and seven now.

On Being So Much More Than a Bookstore

Katie Proctor Headshot
The One and Only Katie Proctor. Headshot by Upswept Creative, 2016.

It’s a daring thing to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore, but Katie says the key to being successful and vibrant is to be a resource for the community that it can’t get online. In addition to carrying the less-mainstream titles (Yes, she has more than one book for kids in which the princesses fall in love with each other), a big part of this mission is fulfilled by the many events the shop hosts every month.

There is some kind of lecture, signing, panel, or class every Wednesday night, Yarn with Pictures, a monthly knitting group, as well as events and programming in partnership with University of Oregon, Portland State University, and Helioscope Studios. In keeping with her community-oriented theme, Katie is excited to foster synergy between our city’s comics luminaries and its up-and-comers.

Books with Pictures is the kind of local business we love to work with, one with a clear message of inclusivity and positivity that makes a real effort to be present in the community it serves. Katie Proctor has built something beautiful for all fans of comic books, and we are proud to highlight her talent and hard work.

Mar 30 2017

Social Media Management 101

Online marketing is so widespread, it’s hard to imagine a business today without some kind of presence on social media. But how do you even get started? It can be a lot to tackle. What is a good social media strategy? How do you manage posts across platforms? What does success even look like? This post will bring you through these basics of social media marketing.

A GOAL WITHOUT A PLAN IS JUST A WISH

The first step in any cohesive social media strategy is to formulate a plan. Start by asking yourself, “what do I want my online presence to accomplish?” At first, you might simply want  to increase followership across platforms, getting your other brand assets in front of as many eyes as possible. Another goal could be to increasing website traffic, which is a good goal for online retailers. These goals will form the basis for the rest of your social media strategy, so feel free to take some time, do some research, and really think about what you want out of a social media presence.

PUZZLING PLATFORMS

There are so many social media platforms to choose from!

Once you’ve set your goals, you can identify the platforms your company should be active on. Facebook is a pretty universal option, but it doesn’t always need to be your main focus. I Growing a presence on LinkedIn could be valuable, if you run a business-to-business operation. Instagram is ideal for visual-heavy businesses, like fashion designers or photographers. Twitter allows you to quickly reach an audience and link to out-of-platform content like a blog, or ticket sales site. Crossover content between platforms is ok, but it’s important to take into consideration these strengths and weaknesses when creating content.

CONSISTENCY IS QUEEN

Now that you know your active platforms, you can start drafting content. Posting regularly is the most important thing, so be sure to come up with a posting schedule you can actually stick to. A consistent stream of content, even if it’s just three posts a week, shows people that your business is active. You can also use social media tools like Hootsuite, which allow you to schedule multiple posts at once, to help you manage multiple platforms.

STICK TO THE PLAN

One of the most difficult aspects of social media marketing is determining success, but you’ll never be sure if you’re succeeding if you change tactics too often. It takes time to grow a strong social media presence, so practice patience. Use the built-in analytics tools most social media platforms provide, and keep track of your goals as the weeks go on. Experimenting with different types of content, posting schedules, and platforms is all great, but make sure to give each plan enough time to see if it’ll catch.

If this all sounds like a lot of work, you’re right! Many small-business owners get overwhelmed by the nitty-gritty details of ongoing social-media management. It’s ok if you’d rather spend your time on other aspects of your business! Upswept Creative has our very own Online Marketing Maven in Josselyn Haldeman, who will allow you to do just that. If you’re interested in her services, be sure to say so when you reach out.

Mar 17 2017

Code is Poetry: Why We <3 WordPress

There are so many options for website management and building these days, it can be overwhelming. Customization, flexibility and ease-of-use are all important to consider when choosing a platform. With these qualities in mind, Team Upswept chooses WordPress as the platform for nearly all of our clients’ website redesign needs. Here’s why:

WordPress HeartEase of Use

The WordPress Dashboard makes it easy to manage and update your own copy and images so that your website is always current and can evolve as your business evolves. The Dashboard is clean and easy to use, and there’s lots of support documentation if you have questions — making it simple and painless to  see and edit your content, view traffic statistics, and manage your e-commerce.

Mature Software & Blogging Capabilities

 WordPress is a mature and stable product, which has focused on elegant user experience and responsible web standards. Launched way back in 2003 by Matt Mullenwig and Mike Little, WordPress began as a personal blogging platform. Blogging capabilities are dialed-in and rock solid making it easy to maintain a business blog and get more eyeballs on your site.

Infinite Extensibility

 There are almost fifty-thousand plugins for WordPress, allowing us to add simple features to your semi-custom website quickly, and affording us huge advantages in building fully-custom sites as well.

Three plugins we love to keep in our pockets

Contact Forms 7  is a great example of a quick plug-in to create a contact form.
Advanced Custom Fields lets us customize and simplify how you manage your content.
WooCommerce is a great comprehensive plug-in for E-Commerce needs.

Search-Engine Magic

 WordPress is great with search engines, and a lot of SEO-friendly code structure is built right into the platform. This gives us a leg-up in driving search-engine traffic to when your website is new.

WordPress Heart Logo
WordPress Heart by Foomandoonian

Seriously, we love working with WordPress. The customizability through plug-ins and access to back-end organization is a dream to work with. The platform’s user-friendly layouts and interfaces also allow us to be confident when we hand over the management of a site to our clients after the site goes live.

Want to get started on your website redesign with WordPress? Schedule a consultation with us to find out how we can bring this magic to your business!

Mar 02 2017

How to Give Feedback to Your Designer

Designers have a reputation for being fussy, opinionated, and disinterested in client feedback, or even for needing to have things their way concerning your project. But your pals at Upswept are here to say that when you work with us, that is simply not the case. We believe that design is a collaborative process between client and creative, and not some mystical and unquestioned transformation that happens in the secret chambers of our studio.* When we put our expertise to bear on your project, we need to hear from you along the way to ensure the end product be everything you hoped it would be at the outset.

Whether you are working with us or another design firm, we present below some advice on how to make the most of giving feedback to your designer so that it can be pleasant and productive for you both.

Define your problem; discuss how you’ll measure success.

Consultation over coffeeEven before you set to work on space and color, meet with your designer and. Your problem may be as simple as, “My business has grown and we need to update our logo and branding.” Or more complex: “Our website is 10 years old and looks clunky and outdated, so it needs a contemporary look and a new content hierarchy, since our focus has shifted from written to video content. Six board members have to approve the new design, and we need it live in three months.” Budget is often a big constraint, as is turnaround time. Be forthcoming about your needs and constraints and expect your designer to do the same. Starting work on a poorly-defined project often leads to frustration as well as wasted time and money.

Extend this problem-solving philosophy into giving feedback.

Instead of talking about what you “like” in a design, stay focused on which aspects are solving the problem most effectively.  Of course you have to like what your designer creates for you — really, you should love it. But framing feedback in terms of affection isn’t all that useful in refining your design. No matter the nature of your redesign, the product needs to be both aesthetically pleasing and do the job you need it to.

Avoid design by committee.

Often a project has multiple stakeholders who need or want to weigh in on the project. Take a moment to consolidate everyone’s feedback, whether you are meeting with your designer in person, or sending an email with notes. Putting your feedback into one unified voice will make it much easier for your designer to understand and tackle your list, and help to mitigate communication overload.

Get curious.

Every element, from font choice to color, should be chosen intentionally by the designer.  If there is a component that you don’t like or just don’t “get,” it’s OK to ask your designer to explain her thinking behind that element. You don’t have to agree with the result of your designer’s cognitive process, but approaching critique from a curious place instead of a critical one can help illuminate the path towards brilliant success for both you and your design team.

Slow down.Ask More Questions image

First impressions of the design will be important when your design is working in the wild, so they should hold a lot of weight in the feedback phase.Your thoughts on the design may not change overnight, but you may have an easier time delivering concise and useful feedback once you’ve slept on it.

Mention the good parts.

Not only is it practically useful for us to know which elements you think are working well, it also feels nice to receive positive feedback before we get into what still needs adjusting.

Let’s work together.

You are the expert in your business and your knowledge and feedback are critical to the success of your project. Design is our jam, and together we can uncover the problems that must be tackled in order to propel your business forward with find effective, bad-ass looking solutions.

*Sadly, no real secret chambers here.

Feb 17 2017

Climb the Google Ranks with SEO

WHAT IS SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of building your website in a way that makes it easier for a search engine to find it, and give it a high-ranking in search results. Think of it as improving your website’s communication with search engines. I’m not going to lie, implementing good SEO can be technical and tedious. That’s why I’ve written this simple guide for some SEO basics. Besides, good SEO principles overlap with qualities of a user-friendly website.

PAGE TITLES

Most search engines utilize tools that transpose key information from your web page into readable, user-friendly search engine results. For example, a page’s title tag will often appear in the first line of a result if the content matches the user’s inquiry. This is a great place to have additional information about your business. Try to think of what someone might search online when looking for a service or product you provide. This might include the name of your business, a quick summary of what your company does, or some services you offer.

 

 

EASY URLS

A good URL often means one that a human being can easily recite from memory without confusing anyone. Most people keep this in mind when choosing their URL, but page titles are just as important! URLs are included in search results, so you have another opportunity to include relevant terms people searching out your business might search.

Many web hosts make this easy to achieve by letting users define static URLs for individual pages. In WordPress, for example, you can find this feature by logging in as an Admin, navigating to Settings > Permalinks. This will display your options for how to structure your website’s URLs.

GOOD CONTENT

It seems obvious, but having good content on your website is an essential first in enticing the right people to visit. Everything else I’ve talked about in this guide won’t be as successful as it could be if your web content falls flat. Make sure your subject matter is directly related to your business and brand goals, and use good web-design principles. Now that’s good content!

Good design is what Upswept Creative does. We’re offering a new packages, all centered around helping you build your brand with elegant design:

  • Brand Essence to design your perfect look and authentic brand message
  • Online Smarts to infuse your online presence with beautiful branding
  • Empire Builder to tailor your web site to YOUR specific goals, so you can step up your business game!