Case Study: How Business Strategy Drove a Brand Design

by Darren Schwindaman | Principal / Designer

Michael Gentry came in for a logo refresh for his landscaping business, Southern Shades of Green. During our initial discovery when exploring goals for what he wanted out of the redesign, he talked about his business goals. The lawn care business is highly commoditized and competitive, and Michael really wanted to work on larger-scale projects with more creative flexibility. (That part was easy for me to relate to.)

The conversation really got into the ability of what we do to solve real problems for people. Michael’s range of skills as a certified landscape horticulturist weren’t being used to its fullest. That was leading to stagnant energy and less satisfaction with the business. Michael wanted projects where he’d be able to work with homeowner and commercial clients who’d trust him to give consultation and design advice from the beginning. We started talking about what would appeal to contractors, high-end homeowners, and commercial development clients. We kept coming back to Michael’s approach: extremely consultative, customized to each landscape and taking into account aesthetics, natural sunlight and water flow, and how the space would be used.

The answer presented itself: rather than hiding behind a business name to seem more professional, Michael should be leaning into his own name to depict himself as an expert that should be trusted with high-end projects. We decided to start working with Michael Gentry Landscape Design as a brand more suited for the type of work Michael was going after.

Logo Design

Here’s an early monogram we did, playing with a high-end look and plant-inspired forms.

During our research, we got really excited coming across some of these landscape design diagrams:

We incorporated those forms into a G, and started coming up with a cool, unique G:

From there, we did several rounds of tightening, checking how the logo scaled, etc. We ultimately settled on a rich, dark green that hit the right balance between luxury and organic. The background support element of the topographic lines appears on the business card and letterhead package.

Finally, we created sales materials that’ll give Michael everything he needs to spark conversations with his desired audience. It’s just the beginning of his journey, but the brand strategy sets him up to enjoy his business more and build a clientele that’ll allow his full set of skills. I’m proud of this process from start to finish: identifying the role of branding in transforming how he’ll experience his business.

One Year Update: I caught up with Michael recently, who says that the new identity has changed his business “basically overnight.” He’s getting more of the jobs he wants and expanding the construction side to build more elaborate outdoor spaces. We love hearing these types of results!

Get us involved in strategy as early as possible! Contact us to talk about your project.

Reflections on My Social Media Marketing Internship

by Meg Fontaine | Fall 2014 Social Media Intern

Some of Meg’s work: Scouting outfits at Goodwill and copywriting the Gear Up & Give campaign title for Upton Tire Pros.

This fall, I have had the good fortune to intern with Creative Distillery as the social media marketing intern. As I am nearing the end of my time at Creative Distillery, I have so much to reflect on!

The Learning Curve

Learning about the advertising and marketing business while simultaneously writing copy and creating content for clients has provided me with countless opportunities to gain new skills. My time spent at Creative Distillery has challenged me to dig deeper to find ideas below the surface level and reach for something more meaningful and effective.

I have loved being able to see how my psychology background plays into the world of communications. My research in a social psychology lab while at the University of Mississippi focused on biases, judgments, and perceptions, and it has been fascinating to see how these psychological factors play out in real-world scenarios. This base knowledge has been reinforced at Creative Distillery because I’ve realized just how much attention to detail is required to ensure that the message you are crafting is specifically tailored for a client’s target audience. The ability to put myself in a consumer’s shoes to imagine how he or she might perceive an ad or social media post is both incredibly interesting and equally challenging, and this is a skill that I am hoping to refine more every day.

Reflections on Team Work & Caffeine

The whole team at Creative Distillery is very knowledgeable and talented in what they do and, in turn, generous with their time when relaying information and explaining new concepts to me. They have graciously let me have my hand in many of our client’s projects, which has given me the chance to expand my range in terms of understanding and communicating the message that each client wishes to convey. I’ve learned that a supportive environment is certainly not something to take for granted.

I have also really enjoyed the laid-back yet structured atmosphere of Creative Distillery. Team meetings are insightful and autonomy in the office gives freedom for in-depth exploration and creativity. It is evident when you walk in the loft that innovative ideas are buzzing, and it’s hard not to be inspired in such a fantastic space. And, luckily for me, I am surrounded by people who understand the importance of a good cup of coffee (or two!).

Onward Bound

From debating what to name our team meetings and deciding on a blood drive campaign name to researching perfect proposal spots across the nation and putting together Goodwill “Glam Girl” outfits at local Goodwill stores (and everything in between), there has yet to be a dull moment throughout this internship, and being able to shake it up has always kept things exciting and entertaining. The level of creativity that this type of position allows for is something that I never imagined a job could have, and this makes me enthusiastic to continue pursuing a career in communications.

I will take away many invaluable lessons from this internship, and I am grateful to have had so many wonderful opportunities for growth and learning with patient guides to help me through the process. Whatever the future may bring, I will look back on my time at Creative Distillery with fond memories of my time spent there and thankfulness for the knowledge that I have gained.

How the Project Manager Benefits Clients and Creatives

by Ashlee Brown | Project Manager

When I applied for the job of Project Manager at Creative Distillery, I might have said that the role is to “talk to clients and schedule things.” After six months in the position, I can tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth.

At Creative Distillery, the project manager can be aptly described as many things — glue, soldier on the front line, walking day planner; but this important detail isn’t to be omitted: I work on behalf of our clients just as I work for our agency.

Diverting Crises

Our clients benefit from having project management worked into their project estimates by having an efficient point of contact, who holds the master key to the creatives’ daily schedule. When the occasional unavoidable last-minute request comes in, I work to weave them into our schedule and out the door. Crisis averted. For long-term projects with many moving parts, I make sure the designers and writers work on milestones at the right times, and keep our clients updated on the latest happenings.

I’ve had the benefit of contacting potential and current clients as they navigate the process of retaining our services, from explaining our branding capabilities to small businesses who are ready to put their best foot forward, to assuring professionals that it is just fine to not be a social media expert.

My time at Creative Distillery has crafted me into an industry insider who regularly consumes design and can easily point out a misstep in a billboard or blog post that I see in the “real world.” Before May, I had no idea that pairing fonts was actually a mastery. Now, I am able to tune into my inner-Darren in conveying to clients that branding is Creative Distillery’s bread-and-butter and that a solid logo will propel a website forward.

An Internal Guide

As for our company, an adept project manager allows for each of the members of the Creative Distillery team to breathe easier and wade through busy schedules without feeling overwhelmed or lacking clear direction. Projects go out on time and according to budget, while still leaving wiggle room for last-minute changes.

At first glance, it may seem that the project manager’s organizational skills are the antithesis to the creative. However, there is an art to being able to properly schedule time for a graphic designer to let his mind run wild during the beginning of a logo project. It takes just as much skill to give a web developer a break from an intense website coding session with a window to work on new social media graphic concepts. And lest we forget, copywriters need to remove themselves from playing the role of real-estate investor by brainstorming for a humor piece. A good project manager knows how to find the ‘sweet spot’ between making the most of billable hours and keeping Creative Distillery from ever feeling like a factory.

Since I’ve grown into my position at Creative Distillery, I can tell you that I do much more than talk to clients and schedule things. I am the coordinator of chaos, the purveyor of patience, the synthesizer of systems — and I just happen to be pretty good at it.

Ready to talk about your project? Reach out to your friendly liaison between the world of business and the world of branding -  ashlee@creativedistillery.com

Hasta Luego y Muchas Gracias

by Gillian Burgess | Co-founding Partner

During my time as a partner at Creative Distillery, I’ve had the opportunity to work with incredible organizations and individuals. Darren, Melia and I started this company with the intention of doing excellent work for clients we believe in and want to succeed, and I see this goal realized every day.

I am so proud of the work we continue to do for our nonprofit and business clients and the talented team we’ve built within our agency. I’ve seen our baby company grow and advance and thrive over the years, and I’ve decided that now is the right time for me to pass the torch and move on from Creative Distillery.

Though our office is based in Jackson, I have been moving every few years - within the US and then to Naples, Italy and most recently to Barcelona, Spain. (Tough, I know.) The wonders of modern technology have made it possible for me to work remotely from seven time zones away from Mississippi, but the plan was always to return to the States in a few years. Well, this plan didn’t account for falling head over heels in love with Barcelona. My husband is in a year-long graduate program here, and we intended to leave after its completion in December. After a few days in the city, we realized that this wasn’t going to happen. A year is not nearly long enough.

The current plan is to stay in Barcelona for the foreseeable future, learn everything there is to know about tapas and pursue new opportunities (you can follow some of these adventures at TravelingToTaste.com). I’m excited about the future, and though I’m sad to leave Creative Distillery, I do so with complete confidence that our team will continue to do fantastic work and make me proud. Thank you for everything.

Case Study: Parents for Public Schools Jackson Website

by Darren Schwindaman | Principal / Designer

Responsive homepage for Parents for Public Schools Jackson.

Overview

We’re proud to have designed a new website for the Jackson chapter of Parents for Public Schools. PPS Jackson engages the entire community with what’s happening in Jackson Public Schools. I’ve been to several of their Ask for More Arts performances, and it’s so cool to see what the students are able to produce and learn.

Copywriting

We had an inspirational intake meeting with PPS Jackson’s Executive Director Carolyn Jolivette that left me feeling personally inspired and also clear about how their site should sound. Public schools can’t be pushed to the margins, but must be a commitment for the entire community.

PPSJ has incorporated the African philosophy of Ubuntu, “I am because we are,” into its work and it has in turn been adopted by all of Jackson Public Schools. It’s a beautiful concept that builds in the organization’s call to all of Metro Jackson to become engaged in what happens in Jackson’s schools. We wove that language in through every page, and included multiple ways for site readers to get involved whether they’re a parent, an educator, or a citizen.

Design

We let the information drive the design on this project. It helped us make decisions about visual hierarchy, how pages should be organized, things like that. The big color bands instantly communicate kids and learning without feeling childish. The typography is bold & confident to proudly declare support for public schools in Jackson.

PPS Jackson has great photos of the students and parents who get involved. Many of the photos are not taken by professionals, but they feel 100% real and that works well in this case. The site also looks great on smartphones with a fully responsive design.

We’re really proud to work with such a great organization and excited to help them amplify their voice to the community.

Whether you're a nonprofit or a business we can create branding work that captures your message and engages your audience. Contact us to get started.

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