What does branding have to do with diversity?

The year is 1996. Over 10 million people are now using this new thing-y called “the internet”. Dance clubs are filled with Macarena maniacs. Mad cow disease is scaring the bejeezus out of everyone.

And I’m finishing up my master’s degree from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium.

My classmates are an “interesting” combination of artists from 12 different countries. Every day we simultaneously clash and make magic, which is an inevitable consequence of sticking a bunch of creative people together. Due to our different cultures and viewpoints, we eventually feel bridled by the traditional, structured art training found at the Academy. We came to explore various ways of expressing our personal stories and visions, not to be stuck in a box.

So what did we do?

We rebelled. We stirred the pot. We bucked against the system.

I “blame” most of our rebellion on Fred Bervoets. He was the “wild child” of Belgian’s art scene and happened to be our instructor. Fred had an unusual way of teaching that involved hanging out at the local pub together. Our beloved watering hole was a bar named De Jezuiet. It was a cooking pot where ideas, philosophies, absurdities, and musings about art, painting and life simmered and melded. Through the din of dialogue and debate, Fred taught us about the power that comes from diversity.

Fred Bervoets at Gallery “De Zwarte Panter” in Antwerp, Belgium.

“Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.”  ~ Jacqueline Woodson

When I hear the word “diversity,” I think about my days at the Royal Art Academy. Sure, we were there to learn technique. Each student had an incredible drive to paint. But we were also there to express what made us unique. We were diverse not because of our skin color or nationality or gender, but because of our distinct points of view and desire to stand out from the norm.

When I think about diversity in business, a strategically crafted 10-point mission statement is not what comes to mind. Diversity in business is about brands adding something unexpected to humanity’s cooking pot, stirring things up, creating magic. They figure out what makes them different. They express and measure it against a totally different yardstick than what the world uses. Like an artist with her clay, they shape their differences into something people crave.

Wondering about your own brand’s diversity? Ask yourself these questions:

  • How does your brand stand out? Does it look like everyone else’s?
  • How does your brand give people an experience that is memorable?
  • What does your brand give to the world that’s never been seen before?
  • How does it break free from the traditions and structures of society?

“We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”  ~ Jimmy Carter

I’ve just returned from Antwerp where I participated in an art show with my old classmates. Hanging out with them for five days made me realize what a beautiful mosaic we created during our time at the Royal Art Academy. As we gathered 20 years later, brought together by our current collective exhibition named Duikboot, I saw how our differences back then helped transform our work today. Thanks to our diversity, our friction, our need to deviate from the norm, each of us carved out our own space in the world. When we reunited, something magical happened…

We figured out how to walk through this world together.

Exhibition “Duikboot”. My “Magical Art Wear” piece up front.

THE ONE THING I KNOW ABOUT CHANGE

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”~ Robin Sharma

I know how to make kale taste good and I know how to play drums. I can tell you all about Dutch art and how to grow your own vegetables. I  know how to make brands stand out through good design. But…

Out of everything big and small crammed into my brainspace, the one thing I know most of all is this:

Change is inevitable.

Just the other day, Linkedin reminded me that it was the five-year anniversary of Bright Light Graphics. What the what? How has it already been five years? I look back at that half decade in sheer wonderment. Everything has changed… my logo, my clients, my vision. I cringe when I think about my first website. It’s gone through several iterations since hanging out my shingle in 2011.

Those changes that emerged from figuring out who I was and how I wanted to show up in the world? They were often grueling to work through as I waded through the muck of self-doubt. Thanks to five years of listening to the questions, concerns, fears and dreams of my clients, I’ve grown as a person and business owner.

One of the most important skills I have learned… and the one that has changed me the most… is how to communicate with people who are radically different from what I know and am used to. They come to me with different backgrounds, different experiences, different views and different expectations.

Those differences used to sneak up on me until I threw myself into the mosh pit of humanity and learned how to authentically connect with other human beings. I even studied conflict and what can be learned from it. Once upon a time, I never imagine putting myself smack dab into the path of contention in order to learn from it.

Now I welcome conflict because it invites me to take a deeper look at life and gives me the opportunity to make changes. As a business owner, rolling with change (and doing it in a graceful and charismatic manner) will be one of the most important skills you can learn.

Someone who is well-versed in connecting with people and maneuvering through potential conflict is my friend, client and author Robin Sol Lieberman. She’s a “Charisma Specialist” and recently released a new book, The Charisma Code: Communicating in a Language Beyond Words.

Robin refers to charisma as “the currency of connection.” I can’t think of a better way to describe this intriguing power we all have. Check out Robin’s book trailer to see her charisma in action. The Charisma Code teaches people how to tap into their innate charisma so they can genuinely connect with others and communicate more effectively.

Charisma is not just for the rich and famous. (You know who I’m talking about… those clever people who seem to effortlessly glide through life.) Anyone can boost their charisma skills. You just need to know how.

Robin has a Charisma Type Quiz that will help you uncover your charisma style. It’ll give you a good baseline for communicating who you are to the world.

“Just when I discovered the meaning of life, they changed it.” ~ George Carlin

Change and I are reluctant soul mates. I map out the trajectory of how I want my life to be, believing that everything is good to go. Then I hear a rap on my door and know that Change is standing on the other side, suitcase in hand for an extended stay. It waltzes in, plopping itself down in my favorite chair and asking if I have anything to eat.

As some of you might know, I moved to Portland, then to Bend, Oregon and then back to Portland over the course of the past two years. As of November 1st, I can add to that list “… and back to Bend again.” That’s right, I’ll be back living in the Bend community, breathing in the crisp Juniper air and breaking out the puffy jacket. It’s one of the most amazing places I have ever lived. I’m excited to deepen my friendships and connections there, but I will miss Portland deeply.

Call it crazy. Call it doing what’s good for the soul. Change is the only constant in life and I choose to embrace it with everything I’ve got.

What about you? What changes have unfolded in your life lately?

 

The Power of “Touchable”

Have you ever held a postcard or business card in your hands and thought, “This feels so dang special”? The words are meaningful. The image is stunning. You run your fingers over the silky smooth paper and smile. It just feels… good.

In today’s digital world, where we are bushwhacked by online pop-ups, banners and flashy graphics, we often forget about the power of “touchable.” It’s a different kind of energy to hold something in your hands versus stare at it on a screen.

Let’s talk about a few ways you can create that tangible experience for your clients and customers.

Photo Books

I’ve designed many photo books for clients in the past. Each book is a collection of memories and stories preserved as a beautiful display of images and text… like a high-end photo album. They are often used to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings or other special events. In business, photo books can be used to showcase art portfolios, drawings, recipes, travel photography, or social media stories and snapshots.

Photo books make the best gifts because they are highly personal. They aren’t something you raced down to the store to purchase in bulk. With a little bit of effort and butt-in-the-chair time, you can create a professional-looking photo book for your clients this year.

Here are a few of my favorite photo book resources:

Create paperback, hardcover or calendar-style photo books with gorgeous full-color imagery.

Tell your story with a professional-quality photo book. Choose from soft cover, hardcover or hardcover with a dust jacket.

All of your cherished memories in one place. Choose a custom layout or a templated arrangement of photos and text.

Postcards

I love getting surprises in the mail, don’t you? Opening your mailbox and discovering something that isn’t a pile of bills is like finding a $20 bill in your pocket… completely unexpected and awesome. Postcards are an easy way to let people know you are thinking of them. Simply scribble a short but thoughtful message, slap on a stamp and make someone’s day. While you can send postcards any time of year, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to start a new tradition of pen-to-paper gratitude.

Postcards can be a cinch to design yourself. A beautiful image on the front, with perhaps a little bit of text overlay, is all you really need.

There are two resources I like for postcard and business card printing:

I’m a sucker for great customer service. Combine that with superb products and you have my business for life. Moo offers a fantastic selection of paper and finishes for your postcards and business cards. They also offer an option called Printfinity, which allows you to print up to 10 different designs in a pack of cards at no extra charge.

As an affiliate of Moo, I have a link that will give you a discount on your first order. Simply send me a message if you are interested. (Please write “MOO discount” in the header.)

GotPrint prints pretty much anything. The Quality vs. Price ratio is good. If you’re on a tight budget yet still want a quality product, GotPrint is a great choice.

Business cards

Let’s talk business cards for a moment. Have they gone the way of the Dodo? Do business owners still need them? Does anyone actually save the business cards they’re handed? No. Yes. Yes.

I love having nice business cards to hand out. I encourage my clients to do the same. Business cards are a tactile way to help people remember who you are and what you do.

As October creeps in, so begins the season for All The Gatherings. While the introvert in me wants to run and hide (read this for more on that topic), I know that if I work up the courage to attend these social events, I have the opportunity to actually BE social and connect with others.

But… I want those connections to be more than swapping boring business cards. I want them to be meaningful, especially when people inevitably ask that most common of questions, “So, what do you do?” I want to be able to tell people what I do in a thoughtful sentence or two and then gift them my beautiful business card.

I once received a card imprinted with the words “You are a wonderful person.” I loved it! I still have the card tucked in my wallet. I remember who gave it to me, where we were and what we were talking about. That was over three years ago. It was a small gesture that made a big impression.

A business card should spark conversation, trigger questions and create a memorable interaction between you and the folks you meet.

A business card doesn’t need to be the traditional boring design printed on white linen. You know what I’m talking about… the prim corporate logo in the upper left corner with contact information in the bottom right. Make your card your signature piece. Design something fun for the front… a question, a quote, a captivating picture… with your contact info on the back.

Make it memorable. Make it something a person will hold on to for three years. Make it smile-worthy.

Designing your own photo books, postcards and business cards can be a fun way to experiment with your inherent creativity. Design tools such as PicMonkey and Canva can help you with simple layouts.

Of course, if you have no idea where to start or are overwhelmed by All The Things, Bright Light Graphics is always available to help design and polish your visual identity.  Contact us today for that extra bit of “oomph.”

What’s the Gameplan For Your Website?

Marsha had a great idea for a business. She dreamed about it every night, thought about it incessantly every day. She bought the domain name and chose a lovely shade of green for her logo.

Weeks went by. Then months. And Marsha began to lose enthusiasm for her project. WordPress themes. Graphics. Actual words. Opt-ins. Newsletters. Analytics. They danced through her head like high-strung Sugar Plum Fairies. What started off as “this is going to change the world” morphed into “I’m sooooooo overwhelmed.” Her idea stayed just that… an idea, tucked away safely in a Moleskine journal. In a box. In her garage.

Don’t be a Marsha.

The tasks involved in creating a website should never prevent you from putting your awesome thing out into the world.  It all begins with a plan.

WHY PLANNING MATTERS

You wouldn’t build a sailboat without first drawing up some kind of plan. “This goes here. That goes there.” Follow the instructions and eventually you havea boat. AN ACTUAL BOAT! Heck, even Ikea provides a manual for putting together a side table. Four legs and a top seems pretty straightforward, but we still refer to the instructions to make sure we’re doing it right.

The same is true for a website. You need a plan, an instruction manual.

I’ve noticed that people tend to view website creation as a finished masterpiece rather than a work in progress. “Look at Davey Dinkleshort’s website. It’s so shiny and savvy.” They become frustrated by how much work they think it takes to make it all come together like Dinkleshort. What they don’t know is that Mr. D’s current website has been reinvented 12 times.

So… where should you start? Instead of choosing some random element and cobbling everything together so that it “kinda-sorta fits,” I recommend working through two big questions first.

  1. What do I want my website to do?

You think the answer would be as simple as “make me lots of money.” While a fistful of dollars can be freaking fantastic, the answer is a bit more complex than that. Do you want to build an email list? Sell products directly? Educate potential clients?

How you answer this question will determine the direction of your website.

  1.  Who is my audience?

Please don’t say, “Everyone!” This is the wrongest of all wrong answers. Your audience should be a specific person with specific needs.

What is the pressing problem they want to fix right now? How do you solve it for them? Is your audience tech-savvy? Or do you need to keep things uber-simple?

Over the years, I’ve consoled dozens of clients who’ve struggled with their websites. I knew that I needed to create something that would help take away the pain of website overwhelm and break the process down into bite-sized, digestible chunks.

So I designed a Website Planner, an interactive tool that helps people design the look feel, and tone of their website while keeping ALL THE THINGS organized.

It’s yours and it’s free. Seriously. Sign up here to download it: 

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I believe that with the help of this guide (and some quality butt-in-the-chair time), your website will come together swimmingly.

If you’re ready to kick your business up a notch, check out my new 35-day course, The Art of Creation. Together we dive deep into creating your brand identity and build a strong foundation for your business.

art-of-creation_small

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do for your brand is  put it out into the world. Keeping it hidden away until it’s absolutely perfect means no one will benefit from your awesome thing. Lives won’t be changed.

So start today. I’ve got your back.

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Getting to the Soul of Your Business

Redesigning your current website? Developing your brand voice? Publishing a book? Launching a marketing campaign? Keep reading, friend.

Maybe you’re a coach, a wellness worker or an author. Business cards have been ordered. You’ve created an Instagram account. There’s a cup full of brand new pens on the corner of your desk. Each morning you open your Mac, ready to do #allthethings. And then sit there. What should you write? Should you be calling someone? Will another inspirational meme on Facebook light a fire under your crowd’s hineys? You re-fresh your inbox every ten minutes, only to find 3 new email newsletters from other businesses that seemingly have their shit together.

It’s called “being stuck.”

You want to connect. You want to serve people. You want to stand out.

But you have no idea how to make that all happen.

It’s something I see over and over again with my clients. Most people are too close to their business… their baby… to see beyond its intricacies and dive deeper into the actual “brand.”

Running a business without a clear idea of what your brand represents is like building a car and forgetting to put the engine inside. You just sit there, wondering why it isn’t going anywhere.

Building a brand is a unique, mysterious and often confusing process. You see,  a brand is something you earn. It’s based on other people’s experiences with your services or products. They form a story inside their heads based on how you make them feel and the values they believe you have. They create it. They experience it. A brand is their perception of your company’s soul. While it’s partly out of your control to determine what others think, you can set-up a brand poised for success by gaining a clear understanding of what drives your business.

What’s the core? What’s the why? What’s the grand vision?

Without this awareness, it will be difficult to express your brand identity visually or know what will connect your business to its right crowd.

I have a strong desire to make life easier for business owners. I understand how overwhelming it can be to build a brand and keep it in front of people. The world is a competitive place and standing out in it takes work.

It’s why I created a new 35-day program called The Art of Creation. I wanted to give business owners insights into their unique story, as well as the ability to wrap their brains around the brand creation process.

“The Art of Creation offered me the structure I needed to develop my business plan. My brain works intuitively and nonlinear which is great for inspiration, but when it comes down to getting all these ideas structured I needed some help. The Art of Creation gave me exactly that.” Ingelise van Tijn, Founder of Heldenreis in Praktijk (Hero’s journey in practice)

I’m super proud of this program because it’s not just another wimpy e-book telling you what to do. Instead, it approaches brand development from seven different vantage points. You are forced to think deeply about yourself, your business, your crowd and your vision.

Lieve, I need some brand clarity. Let’s do this! (Click on the book image below)

 

The Art of Creation is an invaluable tool for building a brand identity. If you are taking on an overwhelming project such as building a website, diving into a book project, crafting a logo or creating a promotional video, The Art of Creation will be the anchor that restores focus when your work is tempted to drift.

  • You’ll dive deep into the creation process and learn about what drives your business, who you’re talking to and where you’re heading.
  • You’ll know who your ideal clients are, where they hang out and    how to inspire them to take action on what you offer.
  • You’ll have a clear idea about the visual aspects of your brand and how they are used to express the soul of your business.
  • You’ll walk away with a list of comprehensive, practical action steps for building your brand.
  • Workbooks, Skype calls and a heavy dose of inspiration are all part of the program. Together, we’ll formulate a plan for building your brand.
  • At the end of the five weeks you’ll have more clarity about doing good work in the world. You’ll know how to infuse your passion and unique talents into your business without losing chunks of your soul in the process.

That’s what building a brand is all about.

“One of the reasons why The Art of Creation worked for me is that as a participant you get set time frames in which you’re invited to finish the different sections. Each section lasts five days. These five days gave me enough time to freely think about the questions and enough time to write it all down in some logical order. A deadline helps…” Ingelise van Tijn, Founder of Heldenreis in Praktijk (Hero’s journey in practice)

If you’re tired of spinning your wheels and not seeing results from your brand building actions, this program will help you immensely. Imagine drilling down to the core of why you do what you do and consciously building (or re-building) a brand that perfectly captures your essence and connects to the right crowd.

“I’m a retired Reading Specialist that had an idea! Something I developed at the end of my career. Given lots of time to ponder I decided this idea could be a benefit to many! I didn’t know where to begin and how much of my retired life I wanted to work. When The Art of Creation was presented to me, I thought, perfect! It will be like taking a inservice training. It turned out to be much more than a training! ~ Cheryl Brooks, Founder of Mr. Hip’s Reading Tips

Yes! I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and begin The Art of Creation. (Click on the book image below)

 

There are a few givens in life. Death. Taxes. Bad hair days. Sunrises and sunsets. Freedom to change the path you’re currently on. You get out of life what you put into it. The same is true for crafting a compelling brand. The Art of Creation is a worthwhile brand journey that works when you fully commit to the exercises and the process.

I can’t wait to help you create!

Lieve

© 2017 LIEVE MAAS · BRIGHT LIGHT GRAPHICS

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