Brand Identity

Design Debrief: Branding with Isa Adney

I recently had the joy of working with Isa Adney to design the logo and branding for her personal brand and side-projects. Afterward, I had a chat with Isa to ask her about her experience finding and working with a designer, and the design process itself!

HI ISA! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?

Hi! I’m a writer and author! I interview dreamers and artists and share stories and strategies to keep other dreamers going, even against all odds.

AND TELL US ABOUT CREATIVE TEACUP AND THE KEEP GOING CLUB. WHAT ARE THEY AND HOW DID THEY COME ABOUT?

Creative Teacup started after I saw two-time Oscar-winning songwriting team (e.g. Disney’s Frozen, Coco) Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez speak on stage at a conference. Bobby sat at the piano and Kristen sang. They also played for us some of the songs they wrote that got “trashed.” In other words, the songs that didn’t make the movies. The songs that were “not good enough.” And of course, they were still good. But just not right for the movie. This was years ago now and at the time it was a complete revelation to me that professional artists like them would have piles and piles of “trash songs” that were rejected.

Around this time I was a year or so into researching my next book - I was an artist through and through, but I didn’t know it yet. I was slowly starting to realize that I really was an artist and that I had everything it took to create something really wonderful. Because, hey, I can create trash too! I can get rejected! Let’s go!

So I wanted to give others that same experience - I wanted to interview professional artists and share their stories, and their struggles and rejections, to inspire other creatives (and artists who don’t even realize they are artists) to keep going, keep creating, to move forward on that big dream and know that the painful parts are totally normal.

The Keep Going Club came a little later, inspired by a text a mentor would send to me often after asking about how my book was coming along. Sometimes I’d just get a text that said “keep going!!!” even after I explained that things were going slow, or I was stuck or frustrated. I wanted more. I wanted advice. I wanted answers. But I realized, like all great Yoda-like mentors, “keep going” was the answer, it was the wisdom.

(That mentor also designed the Creative Teacup logo. His name is Don Hahn. He produced my favorite movie of all time, Beauty and the Beast. But also his documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty and book Brain Storm are revelations).

Another fun fact: a few years after starting Creative Teacup, I interviewed Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez for Creative Teacup.

I had known I wanted to reset my email strategy to prepare for this next book and turn my blog readers into subscribers, but I was stuck for a while trying to figure out what I wanted to do, how I could really help my readers. And then, one night, #keepgoingclub just kind of came to me like magic. I remember that feeling, sitting at my desk, creating my ConvertKit form (I work at ConvertKit too!), and planning out my newsletter. I thought - why not give my readers the same motivation I got via text? Even if they didn’t read the email every week they’d see that “keep going” in the subject line once a week, and maybe that alone would be enough.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO TAKE THE LEAP, MAKE THE INVESTMENT AND HIRE A DESIGNER TO CREATE YOUR BRAND AND WORK WITH YOU ON YOUR BRANDING?

In my job at ConvertKit, I get to work with the incredible designer Charli Prangley. I plan webinar content and she would design the slides. I started to not only see but feel the power of design and branding consistency. I was also working daily with incredible creators and inundated with all their beautiful branding. The pros had consistent branding, colors, fonts, through and through. It was something I’d never invested in. I’d just used whatever came standard with whatever website theme I’d purchased. Once I knew it was time to start preparing for my next book, it was the first investment I wanted to make. My book won’t be out for a long time, but I wanted to begin with a solid branding foundation so I could start telling that story and building that visual relationship with my future readers.

Also - once you start to have good design in your daily life (as I had with Charli) you start to develop taste and you can honestly never go back.

ONCE YOU HAD DECIDED THIS, HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT FINDING A DESIGNER?

I asked Charli who she’d recommend. :)

BEFORE WE MET, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM A DESIGNER AND THE BRANDING PROCESS?

I had some artists design logos for me for fun, without my asking, and give them to me as gifts (like Don designed the Creative Teacup logo and Charli designed the Keep Going Club logo), and it was such a delight. So I expected to repeat that delight only this time I knew I’d probably be more involved in the process of letting the designer get to know me as well as those friends, and understand my vision so she could use her talents to put it into a cohesive brand (as well as bring together the branding elements I already had that I wanted to keep).

DID YOU HAVE ANY GOALS FOR THIS BRANDING PROJECT? OR A SPECIFIC AIM? WAS THERE A PARTICULAR PROBLEM YOU WERE WANTING TO SOLVE?

The biggest problem to solve was needing to bring all the branding together. I had a blog logo, a newsletter logo, and needed to develop a new writing website (isaadney.com) and create a logo for myself as a writer. Each thing needed to have its own feel but also work together as a cohesive brand.

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NOW HAVING BEEN THROUGH IT, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE BRANDING PROCESS?

As the most fun thing I’ve ever done related to business? Seriously. I am still thinking of new branding projects because I want to do it all again. I loved the process so much. It also gives you so much clarity when you tell a designer what you are going for, what your vision is, what you need. It helps you articulate things, in some cases, that you’ve never articulated before. It helped me get clearer on what I wanted and where I was going as a writer and who I wanted to help, and then seeing it all come together with visual assets creates this tremendous momentum (I even wrote about the effect it had in a #keepgoingclub newsletter!). In short, seeing your dreams translated into visual branding reminds you that this is real, that you are doing this, and that you are moving forward. It’s powerful, and it actually kickstarted a lot of writing for me.  

DID YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PART OF THE BRANDING EXPERIENCE?

The pre-design phone call with you where you just asked me incredible questions about who I was as a writer, what effect I wanted my writing to have, who my readers are, and how I want to help them. I’ll never forget it.

HOW ABOUT A LEAST FAVOURITE PART?

Oh gosh that’s hard. Probably just incorporating the assets into my website and figuring out how to get the fonts working and all that. But luckily I was able to hire you to help with a lot of that too! Woo!

YOU TOLD ME WHAT YOU EXPECTED FROM A DESIGNER AND THE BRANDING PROCESS BEFORE WE MET, HAS THIS CHANGED AT ALL NOW THAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED IT?

It was what I expected and so much more. I had full faith I would come away with incredible colors, fonts, and logos. What I didn’t expect was how it would change how I feel about my writing, my audience, and what I’m capable of.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEBODY ELSE THINKING ABOUT WORKING WITH A DESIGNER ON THEIR BRAND?

Do it! If you are serious about your dream, not only will it help you add that professional layer to everything you do, but it will inspire you and remind you that this is real and that your voice matters. I know that sounds crazy when just talking about branding but seriously that is what it did for me. It is an investment but what’s amazing is once you have these assets they are yours forever!! The return is incredible and I would do it again and again.

Thank you so much to Isa for chatting to me about this experience! Please check out Isa and her work at isaadney.com and if you’re interested in seeing more, you can view the branding work I did with Isa here.

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Hollie stands resting her hands on the white desk behind her, wearing a black t-shirt tucked into orange pants and clear glasses, and smiling into the camera.

by hollie arnett

The brand coach for creatives, hand-lettering artist for herself, and cup of tea lover forever.

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