Jan 12 2017

Mistakes to Avoid When Building an Authentic Brand

SLG_5999-EditBuilding and nurturing a strong brand is a process. It take time and focus, and the process isn’t always clear. It’s easy to put your focus in the wrong places when you create a new business brand, or rebrand an existing business.

Here are a couple of mistakes to watch out for during the process, so you can make sure your precious time is spent on making your brand, and your business, as strong as it can be:

Focusing too much on the competition

A lot of business dreams start with a big goal. Maybe you dream of creating a product that’s as coveted as a Coach bag, or as innovative as Apple tech. You might be so focused on that big-dream success that you meticulously study your competition’s strategy. You’re starting in a different place than either of those companies, though, and your business journey will definitely be different than theirs. So, what works for your competition may not give you the same results.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s smart to occasionally check in on your competition. You can learn from their successes and failures, and use that knowledge to refine your own brand strategy. But, a big part of what makes a brand memorable is uniqueness. If you’re focusing too much on the competition, you can lose sight of who your business is, and lose your unique voice.

Instead, use your competition to help you highlight your own strengths. Ask yourself:

  • What’s special about your product versus your competitor’s?
  • What do you do better than your competition?
  • Is there anything your competition does well that you aren’t interested in doing?
  • What’s your secret sauce?

Finding that uniqueness is a great way to strengthen your brand.

Not knowing enough about your values

A big part of building your brand is being in touch with your values. Why did you start your business? What do you want it to do? What does success in your work look like to you? It’s important to know the answers to questions like these, so you can build a brand that supports your successful end goal.

What happens when you build a brand that doesn’t align with your values? You might miss out on customers who’d love your work, or attract customers who don’t see the value of what you offer. It could also create confusion about what your business does, leading to unhappy customers. Or, it could even build an audience for a product or service that you aren’t even interested in providing!

Running your own business isn’t easy, so at the very least, it should make you feel fulfilled! So instead, take time to think about your business values:

  • What do you love to do?
  • What projects inspire you?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How do you want to help or serve your audience?

Finding the answers to questions like these will help you make sure that your brand is a tool to help you, not hinder you.

Need more help understanding your brand?

Our Finding Your Brand Center workbook is free, and here to help you build your brand foundation. >>

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workbook_finding-your-brand-center

Nov 18 2016

Feel Good About Your Website

Creativity can be a boon in difficult times. Self-expression is an essential part of being human. Finding an outlet is especially important when the world around us seems intent to silence individuality. The image of the Artist mining their pain for the page or canvas is a popular one, but it’s important to remember that painting and poetry aren’t the only avenues for creativity. Many of us make inspired decisions in the course of day to day life, especially if you run your own business. Here at Upswept Creative, we help people express their true selves through their business ventures with innovative branding solutions, especially in website design.

Your website isn’t just a digital storefront, it is a visceral experience you impart to every visitor. Your web site is often the deciding factor if they become a paying customer or not. Taking a fresh look at your website design and incorporating new elements can feel liberating.

If you don’t have a website yet, planning is essential. Assembling a good plan and following through feels powerful and gives you momentum that can carry over into other aspects of your business.

Make Your Website Awesome

Not sure where to begin? Start by asking yourself these questions to nail down some basic elements of design for an awesome web experience:

Look at how the image size, top menu, and logo design all work in conjunction here. Does it make you want to order pie right away?

What is the goal of your website?

Is it to make sales? Have visitors sign up to your newsletter? Ask questions about your products or services? Try to be as specific as possible. Your goals shape the whole experience of visiting your website, and what a visitor sees first. Is it a mind-blowing splash graphic that sets the mood for viewing your art? Or would a horizontal-scrolling bar showing off featured store items be more appropriate for your goal?

How did visitors come to your site in the first place?

The answer to this might require combing through your analytics, but it can still be an important step in the planning process in the meantime. If you use your social media to promote click throughs to your website, you’ll want to have the relevant content front and center.

What kind of image content do you need?

Product photos, team member profiles, or the perfect website background are all major elements in a cohesive web design plan. Make a list of all the types of images you think you’ll need to show off the best of your business to the world.

Will your website be viewed by people on-the-go? Be sure and consider your design for mobile platforms as well.
Will your website be viewed by people on-the-go? Be sure to think about your design for mobile platforms as well.

Don’t you feel better after newly considering those aspects of your website? Now is the time to follow through. Upswept Creative offers free consultations to folks just like you – people who have put serious thought into their business and are ready to take the next step in accomplishing their overall branding goals.

We want you to know that no matter what message you’re getting from society at large, the team here at Upswept Creative knows that your individuality matters, and so does your right to creatively express yourself. Let’s hit your creative goals together!



Sep 26 2016

Building a Nest for a Happy Brand

When we first met with Emily of Happy Nest, she had a busy day-to-day of running her professional organizing business and caring for her young children. She had the start of an online presence, but her brand didn’t feel like a good fit. “It’s just… not awesome,” she told us. So, we made a plan to turn her disappointment into excitement, and rebuilt her brand from the ground up.

Photography: a view into a brand

Professional Headshots Portland
Professional headshot of Owner, Emily (hair/makeup: Jessica Belknap)

Our photography session was a great opportunity to get to know her work and what drives her. When I moved through the spaces she’d organized, I could quickly see how her organizing work could make an entire lifestyle more orderly. And, as a mother of three (including twins!), she clearly had to be smart and creative with her solutions to keep her own life running smoothly.

Emily’s work is about creating balance and ease, rather than rigid rules. So, “helping you create a more calm and peaceful nest,” was a great way to capture that ease and show that her solutions are designed to fit your life.

Logo Design: making a nest modern

Finding the right look for Happy Nest’s logo was no small feat. The first logo had a flat, illustrated look to it, but we soon learned that Emily craved a cleaner look that wasn’t quite so literal. After a few rounds of design, we arrived at a logo that felt like just the right fit for Happy Nest.

Website Design: simplicity and structure

The Happy Nest web site didn’t have complicated needs, but, “simple,” doesn’t mean, “boring.” We wanted to create a clean look that echoes the structure that Happy Nest can bring to your life, and we’d learned a lot about Emily’s personal style and aesthetic during the project. We saw pleasing colors and clean geometric patterns in her own decor. So, we let photos from our photography session set the tone on her homepage, and framed it with patterns and colors that spoke to her.

Then, we did rounds of testing to ensure that the site worked well on mobile devices, because her clients are often busy, on-the-go people. The end result is a site that communicates her brand more strongly, and makes details about her services easy to find. (and really, if there’s anyone should have a well-organized, easy-to-use web site, it’s a professional organizer! 😉 )

Desktop web site
Desktop web site

Mobile site
Mobile site


Jul 06 2016

Take Better Product Photos and Make More Sales

Can Better Product Photos Help You Make The Sale?

IMG_1354You have a killer product, and you know how much time and sweat you put into making it just right. But, making your product amazing is only part of the battle. Showing off your products with beautiful, high-quality photos can also make the difference between getting that sale or losing it.

When you’re selling your goods online, perceived value helps you make that sale. When your product photos are of good quality, you build trust in your customer. And, if you’re selling on marketplace sites like Etsy or Amazon, or selling via Pinterest, you need to stand out. A good product photo makes online shoppers want to choose you over all the others.

Take Better Photos and Make More Sales with Product Photos Made Simple.

Team Upswept is working on Product Photos Made Simple, a whole collection of simple, do-it-yourself tips that anyone can use to create better product photos, more consistently, and in less time. Even if the only camera you have is a smartphone, you can get photos that make your products more crave-able, so you make more sales!

Take Better Photos and Make More Sales!

Get Product Photos Made Simple! »

This guide is designed for you–not for pro photographers.

This guide is NOT for professional photographers! Product Photos Made Simple is a How-To for busy small business owners and creatives who want better-quality photos with minimum fuss.

We’re working on Product Photos Made Simple because we know how it can be when you’re just starting out. We’re thinking of Etsy sellers, startups, small businesses, emerging fashion designers, creatives who do custom commissions… the list goes on. A lot of you out there may not be ready to buy fancy photo gear or hire a professional photographer yet, but we want to help you get there, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.

That’s why Product Photos Made Simple is designed to give you the knowledge and techniques to get cleaner, more consistent product photos in less time. Even if all you have is a smartphone, you’ll get tips you can use to make better photos easily.

Here’s a sneak preview of just some of what you’ll get:

  • Lighting basics to help you get great shots without equipment
  • Do’s and Don’ts for getting consistent results
  • Ways to control or even build lighting without stressing your budget
  • The best photo apps for your phone, and how to use them to get the best possible results
  • Tips on how to do product styling when you don’t know where to begin
  • Knowing when it might be time for you to hire a professional, and where to start

Support the Product Photos Made Simple IndieGogo campaign, and you’ll be among the first to get this super-helpful guide! Click the button below to get the details and reserve your copy, or pick up one of our extra-special campaign rewards!

Get product photo tips that help your business grow, all in one place!

Pre-Order Product Photos Made Simple! »


Jun 24 2016

Why Letting Purpose Drive Your Brand Makes Your Business Stronger

13346343_1196444653700637_7813261431133060895_oJessica and I recently enjoyed a panel discussion at Pull The Weeds, an exhibition and event centered around purpose-driven branding hosted by FIRNW. Kirk SouderThom Walters, and Jen Michaelis Van Arkel shared their thoughts about what drives branding when social good is at the center of the organization.

The most obvious purpose-driven brands are the ones that are engaged in social change–particularly organizations in the non-profit sector, organizations that do good. But, purpose is important to every brand. Walters commented, “we’re moving into an economy of influence and experience.” Today’s consumers are active and engaged, and they choose the brands that align with their own personal values. In our digital world, access to a company’s values and impact on the world is merely a click away. Consumers won’t fall for a veneer of good–they’re informed and insightful, and they demand authenticity.

Many small businesses and entrepreneurs also set out on their path because they have a hope to live out their own purpose, and do work that aligns with their own values. Walters believes that, “brands are living entities; they have souls,” and they’re constantly evolving. And, that makes a lot of sense, because your business is also constantly evolving.

Simply put: what your business brand needs right now may not be the same as what it’ll need a year from now. And, as Souder phrased it, “the alignment between the soul of your brand and the soul of the people,” is key to building a brand that’s strong and that will grow with your business. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself every so often, and see if and how your business and your values have changed.

And, when you connect your business with doing good in the community, you’re doing something that can have an incredible and lasting power! Many non-profit organizations that focus on community work can only do it through grants and charitable donations, but a business already has an income, and is already self-sustaining. As Souder notes, “if you can tie a plow to [for-profit companies] to do good… they’ll be able to do it without a constant influx of philanthropy.”

And, as Michaelis Van Arkel stated, “it’s not necessarily about size.” To her firm, the size of the business is less important than the strength of their desire to do good. When your potential clients and customers share your values, they’ll still be drawn to you and be more likely to choose you, no matter how big or small your business might be.

Considering your company’s impact on the world isn’t just good for the world, it’s also good for your bottom line. By addressing society’s challenges, you have the opportunity to create shared value. You have an opportunity to create an economy of sustainable change by looking for what’s culturally relevant, and tapping into that.


Jun 06 2016

Use Your Web Site to Make Your Business Findable

Summer is upon us in Portland, and that means tourism! People from all over come here for vacations, explore our city, and fall in love with it. You might be making special plans to get ready for the buzz of tourists, especially if you have a storefront or tourism-based business, but there’s one thing you might be missing: is your business findable online?

If you have a web site, take a moment to make sure your web site is ready for summer: here are just a few ways to make sure people can find your business and buy into the amazing things you’re offering!

Include your address on your web site, somewhere.

If you’re looking for walk-in customers, it’s hugely important that your physical address be on your web site, and that it’s easy-to-find. Just one example of why: a recent technology study revealed that 64% of smartphone users convert their search for a restaurant into an actual visit by the end of the day!

Having a mobile-responsive is critical, especially if you get a lot of customers from out-of-town.
Having a mobile-responsive web site is critical, especially if you get a lot of customers from out-of-town.

It’s common for people to search for your location on your web site while they’re on-the-go, so it’s absolutely to your benefit to make it easier for them to find you! Make sure your address exists somewhere on your web site Homepage, even if it’s just in the footer.

Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

Speaking of customers who search on-the-go, a web site that isn’t easy to use on a mobile device? That can really sink your business. This is doubly true if you depend on tourist business and out-of-town visitors, like Random Order Pie Bar does! Tourists are much more likely to look at your web site on a mobile device, so giving them the best possible experience will help them find you, and become your newest customer.

An added bonus: when your web site is mobile-friendly, it also ranks higher in mobile searches. So, having a mobile-responsive web site will also give you a nice boost in search engine rankings!

Does your web site need a mobile facelift, but you’re not sure where to start? If so, it might be time to hire a creative team to refresh your web site, and make it look its absolute best on every device.

Use prominent call-to-action links.

Whether you’re a walk-up business or an online shop, a prominent call-to-action does a lot of the work for you–an eye-catching message with a clickable button makes it easy for customers to buy in. One great example is Beer Quest PDX–there’s a “Sign Up” link built right into the top of the web site, so customers know exactly where to click to buy in, and sign up for a beer tour adventure.

What do your customers need to buy into what you offer? Make it easy for them to buy in: design your web site with an appealing call-to-action, and put it in a prominent place, so they can make that purchase the instant they decide to choose your offering.

Just Say No to PDFs.

Have you ever visited a web site and clicked on the link to their menu or rate sheet, only to be faced with a PDF that’s hard to read online? That can get pretty frustrating, right?

Imagine doing that on a mobile device? Even worse! The print is surely too small to read, and you have to clumsily swipe and scroll and search for the information you want.

Again, this is about making it easy for people to want what you’re offering, and to learn more about it. Using a PDF instead of a standard web page may seem easier for you, but is that worth hindering your potential customers?

I’ll admit, “No PDFs” isn’t the most hard-and-fast rule–PDFs can have their place on a web site, especially if you’re selling a e-books, or if your content is the product. But, for simple information that your customers and clients will want to access quickly, create a standard web page for that content.

What else can you do to make your web site do the work for you?

There are awesome brand and design strategies that can be built right into your web site, so you spend less time worrying about marketing, and more time doing what you love. But, that means getting more specific, and building a web experience that’s a perfect fit for your business. If you’re ready for a refreshed web site that does the work for you, just click on the button below and tell us a little more about your business. We’d love to hear from you!

Tell us more about you! »


May 27 2016

Getting Real About Timelines

Good design can't happen without content! What content do you have to work with?
Good design can’t happen without content! Do you know what content you have to work with?

It’s the end of a new client consultation. We’ve discussed your company and why you love what you do. We’ve talked about the features your new website will have. There’s just one question lingering: “How long will it take?”

The answer? “It depends.”

Not the most satisfying answer, we know! Timelines often vary at least a little, and it depends not only on the size and scope of the project, but also the flow of communication that you, the client, have with your creative team. While our creative team has internal milestones for our design and build process, there are also ways you can take an active role to help get your new website online on-time.

Communicate Your Timeline.

Have a desired timeline in mind? Let your creative team know up-front. Any good creative team will do its best to meet your timeline needs, especially if there’s a special event that corresponds with the launch of your website. Everyone would ideally like to have their website completed “ASAP”, so letting us know why ASAP is actually important to you helps us prioritize and plan. That way, we can ensure your project moves ahead at the right pace, and be certain that we’re all on the same page on launch day.

Make Time for Feedback.

When you embark on a major branding or web project, make sure you’re ready to set aside time to respond and give feedback. Your creative team wants you to go home happy at the end of the project, and that means you’ll need to let your team know what’s working for you and what needs refinement. The longer it takes for you to give feedback or sign off with your approval, the longer we’ll all have to wait before we can launch your new brand or web site.

Depending on what step of the process we’re on, you’ll want to reserve about an half an hour to an hour reviewing and responding to the work we send to you. And, if you’re the kind of person who likes to sleep on a decision before making a final call, build that into your timeline, too.

Don’t Forget About Content!

The minute you sign your creative project agreement, you should begin gathering and assessing what content you have to work with! Content is what drives any good creative project–especially when it’s a new web site design–and if you don’t already have strong photography, written copy, or content strategy, then you’ll have to create it. And, that can take way longer than you expect it to, so it’s good to start early.

Keep in mind that the content you create isn’t always set in stone–the web is a dynamic and ever-changing medium, and you can adjust content post-launch. But, if you’re able to make decisions about content early in the process, then your creative team can plan strategically to make the best use of your content. If content creation makes you feel stuck or overwhelmed, we offer copywriting, content strategy, and photography services to help you get it done right.

Going through a website redesign is a lot of work – for you and us. We know what it’s like to be a busy business owner, but ultimately, your new brand or website can’t help your business grow if it never goes live! It may take more of your effort than you’re expecting, but we’re always here to help guide you through the process. We want your business to look awesome, and we’ll be able to do that even better with your help!

Are you still struggling to get started? Share your struggle with us–we’d love to help you solve it:

Tell us about it! »

What ideas do you have to help make a timeline stick?

Have you used other strategies to keep projects on track? How do you prepare for a new project? What have you learned from past projects? Leave us a comment below and share what’s worked for you (and what hasn’t!).


May 06 2016

Bringing strong brand to web design for Random Order Pie Bar

The "Before" Picture: Random Order's old site didn't incorporate their updated branding.
The “Before” Picture: Random Order’s old site didn’t incorporate their updated branding.

When a once-humble pie shop gains a worldwide audience, a lot of eyes will suddenly be looking for it, especially on the internet--a lot of business dream of that level of fame, but not all of them are ready for it! It’s easy for a potential new fan to see you in a magazine or on TV, pull out their smartphone, and go online to find the best pie in Portland. That means the pressure is on your web site to make a great first impression, and give them what they need to find you.

Random Order Pie Bar was more ready for fame than some, when Travel & Leisure magazine first rated their Vanilla Salted Caramel Apple Pie among “America’s Best”. When the owner of Random Order reached out to Team Upswept, they had updated their signage, menus, and other brand assets with a bolder and more polished look, and they also wisely gathered high-quality photos of their beautiful and positively scrummy pies!

But, even with all of these assets in their hands, their brand refresh was far from complete. None of their new brand imagery was being used effectively in their online presence, and they were also losing potential customers because of their not-so-mobile-friendly web site. The overall look-and-feel of the old web site felt heavy and staid, which didn’t fit at all with the welcoming and active environment of their cafe. That’s where Team Upswept came in!

Our new homepage design made bigger, better use of Random Order's updated logo and gorgeous pie photos. (click to embiggen)
Our new homepage design made bigger, better use of Random Order’s updated logo and gorgeous pie photos. (click to embiggen)

Our first order of business was designing the new web site to make the best use of their brand assets. Their updated logo now shows front-and-center with a gorgeous, full-width photo of their now-famous pie, and brand fonts are also used prominently, to tie in with their printed menus and advertisements. Their “Pie to the People” tag line also appears in multiple locations throughout the site, so this clever catch phrase can stick in the minds of future tourists and customers.

We also updated their menus to highlight both their pie flavors and cafe selections, with prominent calls to action for special ordering your favorite pie, or visiting the shop for a coffee drink and a slice. And, of course, we incorporated more of the lovely photos of the food, drinks, and cafe space throughout the site, to share the quality of their hand-crafted treats, and the community they’ve built over the years.

Random Order's new mobile site achieves the goals of the desktop version and makes it easy to view for people on-the-go.
Random Order’s new mobile site achieves the goals of the desktop version and makes it easy to view for people on-the-go.

And, now that Random Order’s reach extends far outside of its Portland, Oregon home, we made sure their web site would be easy to use for visiting tourists and local enthusiasts alike, by building a web site design that displays gracefully on mobile devices. With more and more people using mobile devices to learn about their pies–especially when traveling in from out of town–it’s absolutely critical that Random Order Pie Bar have a mobile site which is easy to use.

The new mobile site for Random Order achieves the same goals as the desktop version, and brings the brighter, more welcoming look to people on-the-go, and folks who are looking to sample a slice or a whole order of their famous pies can easily find their location or contact them with questions or special orders.

If you know me, then you know that I get more than a little excited about pie, so working with people who make some of the absolute best pie in Portland was a total blast. My only complaint? Looking at all of those photos made me so very hungry pie. Maybe that’s my cue to head up to Alberta St. and grab a world-famous slice for myself! 😉

Portland branding and web design by Upswept Creative


Mar 04 2016

Legal Marijuana and Changing Brand Perception

Branding is all about creating a memorable impression of your work that appeals to your ideal client. Sometimes, that means overcoming common assumptions about your product… and when it comes to public perception, legal marijuana dispensaries have an especially tough challenge.

Marijuana was legalized in Portland less than a year ago, and as a previously illegal product, it had a lot of less-than-positive sentiment attached to it. Dispensaries have a lot to gain from the newly-opened market, however, and they’ve taken a few different strategies to help ease our transition from marijuana as a taboo item to a desirable product.

Make cannabis fashionable and high-end.

new-vansterdam
New Vansterdam is a Portland-area dispensary that’s chosen to take the high-end approach to their branding.

One of the splashiest advertisements to pop up was the huge billboard for New Vansterdam, which I first encountered traveling eastbound on the Burnside Bridge. This particular marijuana retailer not only had to combat the stereotypes attached to our idea of the “average” marijuana enthusiast, but it also had to entice a Downtown Portland audience to travel up to the (arguably, not-so-hip) land of Vancouver to replenish their supply.

Making weed into something coveted and “cool” was their game. Their use of sweeping, dramatically-lit landscape imagery and clean, stylized logo design communicated a more exclusive feel at a glance. They also chose their language carefully–referring to themselves as a, “cannabis market,” calls out to the high-end audience that would choose to shop at boutiques with hand-selected wares over a big-box department store.

Emphasize the health aspect.

farma
Farma is one of several cannabis retailers that’s chosen to emphasize the medicinal aspect of the product.

The medicinal uses for cannabis have been a hot topic for years, and some dispensaries have chosen to double down on the health angle–the green cross symbol calls back to the medical connotations of the original red version of the symbol, and it has quickly become an easy, visual shorthand for marijuana dispensaries.

Retailers such as SE Portland’s Farma have taken that medicinal angle a step further, and built their brand using a clean design aesthetic, with an equally clean look to their facility. Even without going inside, a peek through the front window reveals an entryway area boasting clean, white walls, with modern graphic decoration in their iconic green. This all ties in seamlessly with their slogan of, “Dispensing Modern Medicine.”

Make marijuana approachable.

The transition from weed being illegal and frowned-upon, to being both legal and acceptable isn’t going to happen overnight. Oregonians are still getting used to the idea that they can talk about their marijuana use in public, and it isn’t an activity that’s only for ne’er-do-wells.

We can’t help but think that the owners of Hi Casual Cannabis had that in their minds when they created their advertising. Although their brand assets may not be as well-developed as some of the other dispensaries in the area, their sign design is intentionally approachable, using playful type and energetic color.

Their simple decision to use the phrase, “casual cannabis,” is also a smart move: it reaffirms the idea that marijuana is both something that is 100% okay to use, and that people can smoke weed without harming their overall lifestyle. “Casual Cannabis,” sounds more like an ice cream sundae or a double-bacon cheeseburger: it’s a Sometimes Treat that we can enjoy as part of an otherwise healthy lifestyle. 😉