I know there are a LOT of virtual assistants out there who want to grow their design skills, either so they can offer a wider range of services to their clients or so they can start to charge more for their branding and design packages. If this is you, I want you to know that I absolutely love that!
Because we are freelancers and self-employed individuals, the best thing we can do is to invest in our skills. We have to give ourselves our own raises, and improving our breadth of knowledge is the key to being able to increase those prices and take home a larger salary!
There’s a lot of value in learning these skills because without a doubt, you’re going to use them. Most of the clients you’ve worked with as a virtual assistant have probably already asked you for some help with branding, right? Wouldn’t it be great to blow them away with your expertise in this area?
I know it can seem overwhelming to dive into something new, so let’s break it down into some easy, implementable steps!
First, Get a Good Design Program
I know a lot of people use Canva, and I do think it’s a great tool. However, it isn’t going to be able to do everything you need it to do as a brand designer. That’s why I use Affinity Designer. It’s not as well known as Adobe Illustrator (yet!), but it does essentially everything that Illustrator does at a fraction of the price.
I highly suggest downloading this program so you can get familiar with it and start using it to grow your brand design skills! It’s especially useful for making vector graphics, which Canva cannot do. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry. You’ll learn more about vectors as you learn about brand design!
Then, Find a Mentor
Some things are easier to learn on your own (like knitting or playing the guitar) and some things are pretty tough to learn without a teacher or mentor leading the way. When I was learning graphic design in college, I had some really great professors, but I would have LOVED to have a mentor as well.
In the classroom, there just was never enough 1:1 time to get the personalized help I needed. So, I often turned to the students around me who were a little bit more advanced for advice and they’re the ones who actually helped me improve my skills the most.
I love mentoring aspiring designers because I remember being there myself, and I always want to give back. I don’t believe there should be any gatekeeping when it comes to learning brand design skills! Every designer has their own perspective and their own vision to contribute to the world, so I believe the more, the merrier!
Invest in a Design Education Program
You don’t have to go back to college to learn design. There are so many amazing courses and programs that are made by designers that can help you learn and grow your skills so much more quickly than a full design program at a college or university.
As a VA, you can’t just pause your career while you learn new skills. You have to learn in the in-between moments, on your own schedule! Online programs are the perfect way to get the high-view instruction you need on an expedited timeline.
When you’re looking at options, make sure to look at the credentials of the person who created the course. Look at some examples of their work and make sure they can walk the walk. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you sign up for something. If they get annoyed, it’s time to walk away. A good design educator isn’t just out to make a quick buck. They’ll want to make sure you’re a good fit for each other just as much as you do!
Have Questions? I’m Happy to Help!
I want to see you succeed! If you have any questions for me about learning new brand design skills, design programs, mentorship, or design education, let me know!
If you found this post helpful, I invite you to check out my design mentorship resources! Here, I share links to my favorite design tools as well as some mentorship and learning opportunities!
If you want to dive in and learn with me in a virtual immersive setting, I have good news! I will be hosting my 3-day Brand Design Love Method Workshop starting on January 17, 2022. It’s absolutely FREE to join and my past students have learned so much!
Well, friends. We made it to 2022. How are you feeling about it? I’m feeling optimistic and I’m definitely enjoying the extra motivation I always feel at the start of a new year. It’s always my ritual to take some time at the beginning of the year to reflect on what I want for myself.
Once I do some serious thinking and journaling, I choose a word for myself. This word will act as my guiding light and north star as I move through the year.
Having a single word to come back to really helps pull things into focus and align my projects and work for the year. It helps me determine which things I’m going to say “yes” to and which I need to pass on. And, if I feel like I’ve gone off-track, it’s easy for me to remember what I wanted for myself at the beginning of the year so I can find myself again.
For 2022 I’ve chosen the word BELIEVE as my word of the year.
I chose this word for a few reasons but in a nutshell, I really want to instill a stronger sense of confidence in myself as I move out of my comfort zone of only serving clients to serving more aspiring designers with my design mentorship workshop and course.
This year, I want to:
✨ Believe I can do hard things.
✨ Believe I have what it takes to make my life a dream.
✨ Believe I can help others achieve goals.
✨ Believe I can do what I love and become financially secure.
✨ Believe that all challenges bring opportunities.
✨ Believe in miracles.
✨ Believe in myself.
Like a lot of people, I tend to hold myself back from doing things if I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out in the end. I need to remind myself that no one has a crystal ball, and we all face these uncertainties anytime we want to do something new and different.
So this year, I am going to believe that the outcome of my efforts will be positive so I can do more things I want to do. And I know that the more things I try, the more I’m going to realize that it’s not as scary as I’ve convinced myself it would be, and then it’s going to lead to so many more new ideas and opportunities!
I would LOVE to hear what your word or intention for this year is. Leave me a comment below and let me know! If you don’t do this as a yearly practice, that’s okay! You can still share a big dream with me or just anything you’re planning on working on this year. I love to get inspired by other people’s goals.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Wishing you all so much growth and magic in 2022!
Here we are at the end of another year, and I wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU for being here! Whether you’ve booked one of my design services, attended a workshop, joined my brand design course, or simply read my blog posts, your support means the world, truly.
I don’t know about you, but the end of the year is always a time of reflection, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do in the new year. For me, it is less hustle and more focus, less screens and more play, less doubt and more magic.
I’d love to hear what you are thinking about doing more of (or less of) in 2022! I would LOVE it if you leave me a comment below and let me know!!
But really, the point of this post is simply to say “thank you” and to wish you and yours a magical holiday season. I hope you find moments of peace and comfort, and make memories that will become treasures in your life.
What do Starbucks, Sephora, Disney, and Apple all have in common?
Yes, they’re all huge brands that basically dominate their respective industries, but I chose these companies because I think they all have an incredibly consistent brand identity.
Listen, I know my goal should be to write about super interesting stuff on my blog to keep you interested and entertained, but today I want to talk to you about consistency. Yawn, right?
As a graphic designer, I love playing with colors and fonts and all of that, but I would be doing my clients a disservice if I didn’t also spend a lot of time thinking about building them a consistent brand identity that will help them connect with their target audience.
A consistent brand is SO important because it helps customers recognize you. This builds that know, like, and trust factor that is crucial for getting more sales.
All of the well-known brands we obsess over understand this. Think about the brands I mentioned above:
Starbucks - I don’t know about you but when I see the green apron with the mermaid on it, I can practically smell the coffee beans. People are *obsessed* with collecting their cups and if you spend five minutes on Instagram, you’ll see at least one photo of someone holding a latte or frap. They’re an internationally recognized brand because they’re soooo consistent.
Sephora - Black and white stripes with a pop of red. It’s not a complicated brand identity at all, but it works! We know we’re looking at a Sephora store or shopping bag when we see those stripes! This is a great example of how simplicity can be super powerful in branding! You don’t need to constantly switch things up to keep people interested, and Sephora is proof.
Disney - Disney has a strong visual brand, but they also focus a lot on the “experience” element of their brand. When you go to a park or even one of their stores in the mall, you know you’re going to have a certain type of experience. I’m sure they spend a lot of money training their team members to deliver this kind of consistent experience and it pays off big time for them.
Apple - The entire reason that Apple broke through in their market can be traced back to their decision to keep things super simple. Their brand identity is sleek, clean, and uncluttered and you can see this in their products, their ads, and their stores. In my opinion, it’s one of the main reasons (or THE main reason) people pay so much money for their products!
I would never call these brands boring just because they have a consistent brand. Sometimes, I will have someone reach out who has lots of ideas and wants to incorporate a lot of colors, fonts, and elements into their brand design and I just have to educate them a little bit on why I don’t feel that’s the best strategy for their business. They usually end up agreeing with me, especially once they see how NOT boring a really great brand identity can be!
For example, check out all the different ways my client Stephanie Civitillo can use the brand identity I designed for her cajun restaurant, Roux, to create a consistent experience:
You know that quote by Coco Chanel that says we should remove one accessory before leaving the house? I kind of agree, but with fonts and colors! So many people who DIY their brand make the mistake of doing too much, but I think a simple and consistent approach is usually better.
Do you have any questions for me about branding and consistency? I always love hearing from you so feel free to leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
As someone who LOVES and lives by my planner, you can probably imagine how excited I was when Sprouted Planner creator Heather Liedl reached out to me to help with the designs for her planners. (Spoiler alert: I was VERY excited).
Sprouted Planner is awesome because you can plan out your entire week on one sheet (or daily if you prefer), and I especially love the monthly reflections (and the POCKETS)! 🤩 Sitting down at the end of the month to write out my achievements and the lessons I learned really helps me appreciate how far I’ve come.
Heather did all the design work on the inside of the planner, but when it came to the covers, she was stuck.
She knew the covers had to be show-stoppers because the design is what grabs people’s attention first.
✨ THE DESIGN PROCESS ✨
Time to get to work! After chatting with Heather and getting a sense of her vision, we decided on three different covers for the planner so people could choose the one they liked best.
Once I was done creating the cover designs, Heather asked if I could refine Sprouted Planner’s logo, packaging, and overall brand style as well. It wasn’t originally part of the project, but as we saw how the new designs elevated the brand, she wanted to keep going and elevate her entire brand design to match the planners.
“She went above and beyond, coaching and helping me think through my new business. That really wasn't part of the package, but I knew if I didn't have the right design that connected with my audience... there would be any sales. I wouldn’t be where I am without Karla’s designs.”
✨ THE FEEDBACK ✨
As this planner is being shared more and more on Instagram and other social channels, I’m having so much fun reading people’s feedback. Here are just some of my recent favorites:
I don’t share all this to brag, but I wanted to show how much design plays a role in a new product’s launch. I love that Heather is getting this kind of feedback because she deserves for people to love her planner as much as I do!
Collaborating with creators and innovators to make the vision they have in their head a reality is literally why I do what I do. I love it sooooo much!
Ok, so now I’m curious. What’s your favorite of the three planner covers I designed: geometric, leaves or watercolor? My favorite is the leaves one. It fits more with my personal desk aesthetic.
Also, I want to know on a scale of 1-10, how much of a planner junkie are you? I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a solid 10... I almost ALWAYS have my planner with me.
If you're not a 10 like I am, drop a comment below and tell me how you keep track of everything you have to do. I’m genuinely curious how you organize your days and your life!
Karla is an award-winning designer, branding expert and mentor. She has designed for brands including BRIT+CO, Discovery, HGTV, Food Network, Facebook, and more.