As 2017 draws to a close I had the urge to write a post on the past year in business. This year saw my 10th year in business as Northsouth Design and wow has it been a year!
I never expected 10 years ago to be where I am today. I was pregnant with my second child and had just been made redundant for the second time in my career in 1997. I walked out of that office and said to myself: ‘That’s it, from now on, I am going to control my own work and not have to rely on someone else!’
At the time, my plan was to continue freelancing in agencies in London as an overflow designer or art director. However, with a newborn and a toddler, this became difficult and I tended to take work that allowed me to work from home with the children. After the first year or so I started picking up direct clients and I realised that I loved this more than the agency work. Northsouth Design really started then. I loved helping new businesses get established and see their confidence grow when they had a professional branding. With all the skills I had picked up working on big brands I could use those skills to help new businesses. I also loved seeing my work locally, as a designer, it’s such a thrill to see your creations in print, on a sign or on the internet. I’m like a big kid when I see it and never grow tired of it.
10 years of Northsouth Design and still here
Fast forward 10 years and I’m still here and its growing every year. I’ve learned a huge amount and how running your own business has so many ups and downs. Having your own business is never easy. Its full of challenges and this year has had a few!
At the beginning of the year, I had to deal with a web supplier being taken over by another company. Their customer service to me went down rapidly in a very short space of time. As a business owner, you need to make the right decisions for your customers and I made the decision to cut my losses and move to another provider before things got out of hand. This move went relatively smoothly and I would like to thank all my clients who stood by me during this move and were patient with us whilst we made the changeover. It was completed during a weekend so there was no downtime or stress to our customers (though I have to admit we were a bit stressed by it all!) I appreciate those who gave me the benefit of the doubt and stood by me during this time. They are my awesome clients! The new providers have been amazing and the service I get has been second to none which means I continue to provide a great service.
Green is the colour
Also at the beginning of the New year, I suddenly announced to my husband, Shaun, that I wanted to decorate my workspace and make it MY Northsouth Design office! For the past few years, my office had turned into a dumping ground. My son’s smelly shoes, my husband’s homebrew and cycling gear were regularly scattered about! Enough was enough. I spend the majority of my working days in my office and it was time for me to have a nice relaxing space. I decided my lovely green branding would feature and I drove hubby nuts with my ‘green’ purchases (Green bin, green storage, green pencils, green coasters, green magnets for the noticeboard) and wanting to paint one of the walls a bright green.
I love my new office, it suits me perfectly. It has enough room for two workstations and another desk for meetings and looking at printed work.
The branding side of the business has continued to grow this year. I take an enormous amount of pride in my work and I will never just ‘bash out’ a quick logo for a few quid! The amount of effort that goes into creating a logo design is intense. I am the type of designer who always wants to wow my clients with my ideas. I have always wanted to create the best piece of work in my portfolio, but I also understand that the logo designs I create have to be right for the target audience.
It’s no good creating a logo that looks great if it doesn’t portray the business in the right way. I always say that I have to try and get into my clients head when creating their identities. It can be tough and I find meeting them in person and chatting with them is the best way of understanding what they want.
A client’s husband recently told me how amazed he was that I had managed to understand exactly what his wife had wanted for her new business. (He also said he’d been married to her for years and still didn’t know what she wanted!!) It really is all about the communication between us and me asking the right questions, its also about the client realising that as a professional designer with over 23 years experience they should trust my knowledge and the advice I give them.
My wonderful clients
I have worked with some amazing clients this year. I produced a colourful logo for a local heating engineer – Local CH & PS. Tom had an idea of what colours he wanted and he wanted to have a flame in the logo. I wanted to create something a bit different and not just have a flame and so developed an idea that reflected the ‘local’ part of the business by using the ‘pin icon’ as part of the logo.
Another great project to work on was the identity I created for a heritage consultancy. Janice Gooch Heritage Consultancy originally wanted a logo design that was based on a Georgian house. However, being the professional (rebel!) that I am, I turned this on its head and created a logo that just had a nod to the Georgian era rather than produce a complicated illustration which would’ve created problems when scaled down.
As the year closes one that really stands out for me has been the work I have done for a new beauty salon in Hockley called The White Room. I met Surà in the summer and she told me about her vision. We hit it off straight away and between us we have created a great brand. Surà was not afraid to try and be different and knew that quality could really make a difference in a brand. I think we both had a lot of fun drooling over lovely paper stocks! It was great to work with a client who shared a passion for great design.
The past few months I have developed the logo, the signage for the salon, all her printed materials and sourced bags, ribbon and coffee cups that would fit within the brand. The salon will be open for business in the new year and I wish Surà and her team the very best of luck. I look forward to producing their website in 2018 – my head is already buzzing with ideas!
I have several websites booked in for the beginning of the New Year already so I can see this side of the business increasing more in 2018.
This month saw a bumper selection of Christmas card designs for clients. I’ve always had a bit of love/hate relationship with producing Christmas cards. I really like producing something that is unique to the business and refuse to just slap a logo on a generic card. I will be producing a separate blog showcasing this year’s cards shortly.
Giving something back
I finished the year on a high by producing a logo for a new charity. This was for a charity called the Helena’s Hospice Foundation and is the brainchild of stand up comedian Luisa Omielan. I have followed Luisa on social media for the past few years and love her work. When her mum died suddenly from Stage 4 stomach cancer this summer it was heartbreaking to see her grief. She announced she was setting up a foundation in her mother’s name called Helena’s Hospice Foundation and talked about what she would like for a logo. I messaged her saying I would like to help.
The logo was completed a couple of weeks back. Last week, I got to see Luisa’s London show as a thank you and got to meet her afterwards. It was a lovely end to my 10th year and wonderful to be part of something that will help so many families around the country.
Thank you to all of those who stood by me this year. You have helped me to continue making a living doing something I truly love doing. Huge thank you to all my clients who constantly recommend me. Word of mouth is how I get the majority of my work. It means such a lot to me when Northsouth Design gets recommended. Finally, I would like to wish all my clients and suppliers a prosperous New Year. See you in 2018!