Visual Evangelism

Illustration, Graphic Design, Web Design, Identity and Branding

Alvalyn Lundgren is an independent, multi-disciplinary designer and narrative illustrator.  She has 35+ years of experience in creating unparalleled, effective design  solutions and illustration for businesses, organizations, publishers and authors. 

Her clients range from small businesses to corporations and government agencies, representing a wide range of industry sectors throughout the USA, and magazines and independent authors.



Narrative, Historical, Sports, Botanical, Likeness


Designing Influence. Drawing Attention.

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Graphic Design

Identity, Visual Branding, Web Design

Alvalyn exceeded our expectations and assisted us in developing products that we are proud to share and has helped us step away from the crowd by assisting us in telling the story about our methodology.

— Dave Johnson, ITG Consultants, LLC —

Are you ready to take your visual communications to the next level?


Creative Services

You can entrust your design or illustration project to me. I offer total project oversight, from concept through completion.

Narrative Illustration

Storytelling in visual form for picture books, story books, trade and nonfiction books., in a fresh, realistic style.

Logo & Identity Design

Your logo is the foundation of your brand strategy. Everything else emanates from it, and it’s applied to everything, from your business cards to your social media. It needs to be unique and specifically tailored for your business or organization and work for a breadth of platforms and media.

Editorial Illustration

Narrative scenes and environmental portraits for magazines, newspapers and journals.

Web Design

Fully responsive, built on the WordPress framework: for business, non-profits, magazine, portfolio, shopping cart, donations, blogging, and more.

Graphic Design

One-offs or campaigns, print or web, for advertising, editorial, direct mail, social media, web sites, signage, trade shows, events.

Brand Strategy

From a graphic audit to a branding plan that fits your goals, strategy is offered along with a design project.

Editing and Writing

Technical, narrative and descriptive copy based on your talk points, and editing of existing copy. Offered as part of a larger design project.


Original photographs in a photo-journalistic style — sports, concerts, events, street, documentary, landscapes. Subjects include locations, people, product and objects, using natural or available light. Available as part of a contracted design project.

Total Project Management

I take care of all the non-creative aspects of a project, including art direction, print management, web site management and set up, mailing services, and more.


My blog, Eye Level, is where I write visual notes and verbal sketches about what I know: design, illustration, drawing, freelancing, copyright.

Why Freelancers Should Not Pitch

May 17, 2016
As an independent creative, you get to decide how you will attract clients and projects. One option is via Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Whether or not you respond to RFPs is a choice, and I recommend that you make your decision a business policy. Having policies is simply good business. They act as your compass, keeping you on course. I decided years ago and made it a policy to not respond to RFPs or engage in pitching (essentially the same thing) for new clients. I receive a number of RFPs every year. In 2015 I decided to go ahead and respond to one RFP because it was from a former client. I spent more than a day preparing a multi-page response to the agency’s request. It got me an interview with their current marketing director, who inferred that she was happy with the current designer and was only going through the RFP process because the agency mandated it. They weren’t going to make any changes. Okay, then. Thank you for wasting my time. RFPs and pitching is common when large, long-term projects are on the line. If you’ve seen Mad Men or The Pitch on AMC, you’ll have a good idea of what a creative team goes through to win business by pitching. For smaller projects and clients, it’s becoming more prevalent, especially online. LinkedIn ProFinder, for example, allows smaller businesses and entrepreneurs to propose projects on which freelancers submit an initial bid based on minimal information. Since the proposal/pitch process is so prevalent, why did I make it a policy to not participate? I share a number of reasons here, in hope that you will find them helpful in deciding on your own policies. My purpose is not to deter you from pitching if you choose to, but to explain why I believe it’s not the best means to acquire clients. It omits the careful development of targeted prospects that you can uniquely serve, and requires that you give away your creativity – the reason you are in business — for nothing. Pitching is not good for business. In the pitching process creatives are expected to do their best work for an uncertain prospect with no compensation. Pitching is a huge expense in terms of time and effort, and is entirely speculative. It’s an “If I like it, I’ll pay for it.” scenario, which is speculative. If you win the business, that’s great. But f you don’t win, you are, in fact, working for free, and that is just bad for business. Pitching robs us of time, money and creative energy.  You have to decide: Do I want to compete for my clients or attract them? Do I want to give away my ideas? Pitching is a competition in which a prospective client assesses a number of creative firms by testing them with the same design project guidelines — the RFP. The prospect sets forth the parameters and sends it to many recipients. The recipients then scramble to develop creative concept on an unrealistic deadline and present it to the prospect in a

No-Money Marketing Tips for Creative Freelancers

April 19, 2016
We are always marketing. From the quality of our work to how we talk about ourselves, we are constantly sending messages into the public square, positioning ourselves, and attracting or repelling clients. While we’re hard at work on a client project, we’re marketing through everything we do with that project, and setting the stage for acquiring future work. With that understanding, we can see that marketing and self-promotion do not require a big budget. They can be accomplished with a good degree of effectiveness with little or no money. Here are some suggestions for you based on my experiences: Word of Mouth My business took off  when clients began referring me to their colleagues. My best clients have all been referrals. One successful business relationship is the seed of many more. When clients start referring you it means you’ve served them well, met and exceeded expectations, were easy to work with and created effective work. When you create real value for a client, others will know about it without you needing to do much. One successful business relationship is the seed of many more. Word of mouth marketing is the best kind of marketing because you’re not doing it directly. You’re creating reasons for your clients to spread the word about you. It’s passive. It’s no-cost. It’s highly effective. Your role in the word-of-mouth effort is to ask for referrals. When you’re starting out, ask people you know and ask people who own businesses to refer their colleagues. After you have worked with a few clients, ask them for testimonials for your web site and for referrals. Two long-term client relationships began on the pool deck at high school water polo meets. In chatting with other parents, people learned about what I do. One parent became my client and we’re still working together. Another recommended me to someone else I ended up working with for several years. Return on word-of-mouth is not immediate. You never know who is talking about you at any given time, and what that conversation will turn into. In 2010 I developed a branding system for a client that was referred by one of my students.  Three years later, in 2013, I received an inquiry from a prospect and learned that the 2010 client had enthusiastically recommended me. Cold Calling No one I know likes cold-calling. I certainly don’t enjoy it, but it can work if you have a purpose, a plan and a script to follow. Scripts keep you from becoming tongue-tied, which is part of the awkwardness of cold-calling. As one who vehemently does not like making calls to strangers, I found that once I wrote out a script and made one or two calls with it, the activity got easier. Cold calling is almost no-money. There are no direct costs to it, just your phone bill. To do cold-calling effectively, you should first compile a list of prospects. Determine the number of calls you will make per hour, per day, per week – however

Creating Freelance Road Trip

April 12, 2016
Filling the Gap Between School and Career So you’ve gone through school and developed a creative portfolio. You’ve tweaked it up one side down the other until it perfectly represents your capabilities. You’ve developed a body of work and accomplished a lot during your student career. Now it’s time to launch yourself into the world of professional design. So what do you do now? There is a gap between what you’re taught in school and what you need to know as a design professional. School does not teach you how to market yourself, how to get a job, or how to create a freelance business. >What school is excels in is developing that portfolio. My intention is not to demean the role of a formal creative education. Education will make you a better designer, illustrator or photographer. If you have the opportunity to do so, invest in a formal education. Where the Gap Is Schools tend to focus on grooming students to get hired by creative firms. Hiring rates help schools market their programs. There’s no problem with this. But not every student wants to be a staff designer somewhere. Some want to launch their own businesses. And that’s where the gap is. I experienced this gap myself when I graduated from Art Center. I had my portfolio and my degree and no idea what to do next. My desire was to be self-determined. I ended up a learning how to freelance from experience, but it took a long time — years. I had to piece things together, seek out my own sources, and devise my own plans of action. The bottom line was, I couldn’t go back to school because there was nothing there to help me. I went through a lot of trial and error. A few non-paying clients, a few projects where I tragically under-charged,  and I gradually became knowledgable in how to run a freelance business. It’s 35 years later, and I’m still in business. That gap between school and work still exists and it’s looking bigger than ever. One thing that’s different nowadays from when I graduated is that the economy has changed. There is no real security in landing a full-time design job. There is a strong push toward entrepreneurship and self-determination. Yet independent creatives find themselves competing in a global marketplace with few business skills that will create longevity.  So what is the creative, who has invested so much in a quality creative education, to do? And if you didn’t go to art school? Even if you didn’t go to school, you still need to learn. Your task is even bigger. In addition to learning the principles of visual and verbal communication and the necessary technical skills on your own, you need to learn how to do business well if you want to be successful. This is why I am standing in the gap by creating Freelance Road Trip. What I have learned through experience, I share with you so that you can enjoy a smoother road to success than I did. Sure, there are other great resources and courses available. Freelance
branding design

Making the Invisible Visible

April 8, 2016
There is a phrase: ex nihilo nihil fit. It roughly translates from the Latin as from nothing, nothing comes. Generally, this is a true statement; you can’t create something from nothing. Unless, that is, you happen to be a designer*. We designers are in the business of creating something from nothing. A client has the need for something that does not yet exist. They have an idea of where they want to be (they want to introduce themselves to the world, they want to grow, they want to expand into a new market, they have a new product or service) but they aren’t there yet. It’s so far only an idea. I take hold of that idea and begin drawing ideas. I call this process thinking out loud. Doodles and quick sketches cover many pages until they start to look like the something that does not yet exist, but is starting to. The seed of an idea has been planted and it’s taking root on paper or a tablet. It’s becoming tangible. I translate it onto my computer, bring it to maturity, and send it off as a completed design. My job is to look down the road in faith and envision what the client will be in due time and design to that end. It’s similar to faith in that faith is confidence in something that is not yet visible. I know it’s there. I believe in it. I do the work of fleshing it out until it is fully formed. I take ideas that cannot be seen and make them visible. It takes no faith to see what already exists. My job is to look down the road in faith and envision what the client will be in due time and design to that end. I get to imagine what is possible for my clients. I see them not as they are now but as they will be in 3, 5 and 10 years. I invest my time, thinking, imagination and creative effort in what does not yet exist. If I look only at where my client is positioned now, my work is futile. Because success is best measured over the long term, I anticipate a realistic future for them that is bigger than they are now. And they should expect to grow to fulfill the intention of the designs I create for them. Think of it this way: if the client is currently a single cup of coffee but wants to be a full carafe, the design has to accommodate the capacity of the carafe, not the cup. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimensions.” If he was correct, it can follow that an organization or business, once stretched by effective design, will never return to its former state. *We can expand the title, designer, to include all visual artists who create original work. Where will your business or organization be in 3 years? How about in 10? Are your current design assets able to accommodate your goals? If not, we

I Didn’t Get the Job

April 5, 2016
When you’re in business for yourself and you are regularly seeking new clients and projects, you will come across all types of prospects in your search. Some you will probably remember well, but not because things went well. This is an account of one initial consultation I had, and in hindsight, I was happy to not have been awarded the project. I will, however, always remember this meeting. Not every prospect is going to make a good client and not every project is worth the effort. How the client presents himself or herself in your first consultation is usually a good indicator of how the working relationship will go. It is wise to think twice before pursuing or accepting a client when red flags appear during your first encounter. I met with a prospective client who had been referred by a colleague I have a good relationship with. The prospect contacted me to schedule an appointment, and we met at a Starbucks. When I arrive, the prospect was not there, but I discovered she had also scheduled with another designer, who had arrived early to get some work done. Be wary of a lack of professionalism. The prospect arrived more than 45 minutes late in arriving to our meeting. She had made no effort to contact me to let me know she was going to be late. She arrived just as I was preparing to leave, so I stuck around to meet with her. The other designer also stuck around and moved across the room. The prospect sat down across the table from with no apology. She was dressed in workout clothes, and her hair appeared to have been wind-swept.  She was the executive director and founder of a professional women’s organization, which needed to improve its visual communications and brand  message. In presenting her organization’s needs, the prospect mentioned more than once that she had already worked with designers who were unable to provide what she wanted. After reviewing my work, she asked me to create 3 samples showing how I would approach her project. Be careful of requests for speculative work. Since it is not my policy to engage in speculative work without compensation, I told her I’d be happy to generate a number of concepts for a reasonable fee before she made a decision to proceed with the full project. She wanted to get back to me on that. I made several follow up efforts via email and phone. Once I was able to connect, I was informed that, although she appreciated my good business practices in declining to do spec work for free, she deemed me cocky for declining to do spec work for her. Her stated reason was that she didn’t trust me of being capable of providing what she wanted. Ah, but I had offered to do the speculative work for an agreed-upon fee. I was not unwilling. It is against my policy to provide that kind of value without receiving value in return. It was not an issue of my ability but of her unwillingness to return value for value. Everyone considering working with a

Tactics for Better Business Networking

March 15, 2016
If you are a self-employed creative, business networking is a significant part of your marketing mix. While designers, illustrators and photographers naturally get together with other creatives for mutual support and trend watching, creative industry events will not necessarily put you in direct contact with potential clients. If you want clients, you need to hang out where your potential clients hang out. One tactic utilizes networking events. In-person networking works differently than online networking (such as LinkedIn). Business networking events are presented by chambers of commerce, trade and professional associations, referral groups (TEAM, BNI) and Meet-Up groups. No matter what your target focus is, there are effective strategies you can implement to make the most of your networking time. What follows are some dos and don’ts to help you succeed with your in-person business networking: Do your research. Before you attend, learn about who the event is for. Unless you want to work with medical professionals, don’t go to their events. You are the one who determines where you spend your time, and what will and will not be profitable for you. Be selective. Dress the part. No matter what event you attend, clothe yourself in attire that allows you fit in with other guests. If your market is businesses, wear business attire. Don’t show up in blue jeans and Vans if you are reaching out to accountants or attorneys. From appropriate attire to post-event follow-up, professionalism is vital. Use business cards. An actual card is a necessary and expected item to have on hand at a business networking event. Although younger creatives like to share their contact information digitally, the physical card is still preferred by most business pros, no matter how technically savvy they might be. It’s easy to forget someone who’s share only digital information. A business card provides an automatic series of encounters. People will ask you for them, and there is a reciprocity policy. If you ask for someone’s card, give them yours in exchange. Don’t be a salesman. Attend with the idea that you are making introductions, not closing a sale. Don’t go with the idea that you’ll come away with a new client. Networking is not about selling, but connecting. Business people do business with people they know. Therefore,  go with the intention of starting relationships and conversations, not selling your services or landing your next commission. Listen for clues. Focus on listening to gain insight on how you can help another with their problem. You want to look for clues to what a person’s struggle is, or what their business is dealing with in the marketplace. With a problem identified, you can offer a solution and gain a client. You’ll also want to listen for what’s going on in an industry as a whole in order to address those concerns with potential clients in that industry. Mind your Ps and Qs (pints and quarts). Many networking events include a bar. Be careful with your consumption. Inebriation is embarrassing, awkward, and not what you want to be remembered for. Follow up. After the event, connect on LinkedIn, follow

Create Better Color Schemes By Using Proportions

March 8, 2016
Color schemes work best when the amounts of the colors used in the design are not equal. A variety of proportions creates more interest, and you can set the mood and energy level of a design or illustration simply by which colars you use as dominants and which play an emphatic or accenting role. If you create a design using 1/3 red, 1/3 yellow and 1/3 orange, you limit your ability to use color to create emphasis or focal point. Also, the color scheme can become discordant and lose its appeal or miscommunicate. IT can also be perceived as static, even if the colors are warm in temperature and fully-saturated, as in the example below. To create interest using 3 colors, try a 1/2:1/4:1/4 [50:25:25] ratio. This give the larger proportion dominance, and allows the smaller amounts to serve as accents. If your design uses 4 colors, one rule of thumb is to assign 1/3 of the design space to one color, making it the dominant, and then break up the remaining two-thirds of the design into smaller, unequal areas: 1/3:1/6:1/6. The color that is used least can become the accent if it is lighter or darker enough in relation to the other colors. In the above diagram, notice how much more engaging the color scheme on the far right is compared to the scheme on the far left. Use color to support the purpose of the design. There are no set rules for distributing color throughout a design. Your decisions about color should be based on what you are trying to achieve with the design and who you are trying to reach. Design is not art. It is not creative expression. Design communicates. Purpose and audience should drive all of your color decisions. One method for learning how to use color effectively in your designs is to observe how others have used it. Look at any visual design or illustration that intends to communicate, attract or engage a user. What is the message? What colors are used to communicate the message? What hue families and color qualities were chosen? Are the colors mostly light? Intense? Dark? Are they warm or cool? Are they subdued or neutralized? Are the differences among colors subtle or obvious? A little awareness of how color is used in your everyday activities can help instruct you. Keep your eyes open. Related: Seeing Red 2 Ways We Mix Color 7 Ways We Respond To Color

Does Formal Design Education Matter?

March 8, 2016
Aesthetic sense and talent are raw materials. They amount to nothing without discipline. Education forces you to add skill, discipline and expertise to your talent. And in order to meet project deadlines, you learn to steward your time.

What Is Eye Level?

March 1, 2016
A proper understanding of eye level goes a long way when you want to draw something accurately. When asked,”What is eye-level?” the common reply is, “It’s the horizon.” or “It’s where the horizon is.” Some say that it’s a sight line, station point, or point of view. While the concept of eye-level is really not any of these exactly, each of these ideas relates to it. Eye Level Is Based On Where You Are In fact, eye level is simple to understand. It is the distance from the ground plane to your eyes. It is a very major contributor to your point of view, station point or sight line. We we always perceive the horizon at eye level, so that is why those two things are so closely associated. When we cannot see the horizon, we still have an eye level. It is the point from which we view the world around us. Eye level is always horizontal, never vertical. Linear perspective is based on eye level. If the horizon (where sky and ground meet) sits at eye level and receding planes (converging orthogonal lines) meet at the same point on the horizon, then eye level is essential to how space and forms are depicted and understood. We know where we are in space because of eye level. Eye level is not a fixed distance. It changes depending upon what we do. We lower our eye level when we sit, and raise it when we stand or climb stairs. Our perception of shape and form depends on our vertical distance from the ground plane. If we are on high ground, our eye level in relationship to that ground remains the same as when we’re in the lowlands. Everything on that particular ground plane is perceived based on the distance from the ground at our feet to our eyes. If, in the panorama of our visual field we see things far below us, we’re on high ground, but the foundational “ground” is the original ground plane. We see the bottoms of objects above our eye level, and the tops of things below it. Whether above or below eye level, the closer an object is to eye level, the more foreshortening is perceived. A circle foreshortens to an ellipse as it approaches eye level from above or below. It is only when an edge of something sits exactly on eye level do we see it and draw it as a straight line. When we draw or photograph anything, we are creating or capturing that image at our own eye level, and everyone who views the drawing or photo will be forced to assume our eye level. We use eye level to control how we want people to see things. How we use eye level communicates in an effective way. We make something seem small and insignificant or huge and heroic.   Try it. Draw or photograph (or both) the same object at eye level, from above at an angle and from below at an angle. Study your

What Kind Of Freelancer Are You?

February 29, 2016
Did  you know that there is more than one way to be a freelancer? Independent creatives — freelancers — can choose a variety of working scenarios and operate in more than one at the same time. What they all have in common is that they are not employees but work independently. They pay their own taxes and insurances. Instead of a W2 they receive a 1099. They can choose when, where and how they work. Freelancing opportunities are increasingly plentiful. Businesses and organizations which formerly maintained in-house design or marketing departments have been reducing their creative staff maintaining or increasing their project load. This means that many are choosing to outsource to skilled freelancers. There is no one way to freelance. Whether you’re an illustrator, designer, photographer or writer, you will generally encounter one of 5 common models described below. Which is your favored mode? The Total Independent This is the pure freelancing type. She works project-to-project and client-to-client. Working from home, from co-working spaces or an office, the independent is responsible for all of the creative, marketing and business aspects of her enterprise. The total independent can easily scale her business into a small creative firm with a few staffers. The Represented Independent This is the total independent working with an artists rep or literary agent who does most of the portfolio or manuscript submissions and marketing. For many illustrators and photographers, this is the preferred situation because the rep handles the contract terms, books the projects, shows the portfolio, connects with editors or art buyers, and hounds the freelancer to meet deadlines. Expenses for marketing and promotion are shared. Reps and agents receive a percentage of the creative fees. In some cases, the rep invoices on behalf of the creative and pays the creative after deducting his percentage. Directory of Illustration The Workbook The In-House Independent The in-house freelancer is a contracted consultant rather than employee. He works at the client’s place of business, part-time or full-time, on a designated project or for a specific duration. These types of gigs often support a launch of new product or service, fill-in for a regular employee on vacation or leave, or support a special project. He invoices the client for work performed. Once the contract term has been fulfilled, he is free to move on. Robert Half  The Temporary Independent The temp freelancer is contracted and placed by a temp agency. Gigs can be a few hours or several months in duration. Similar to the in-house model, the temp moves from company to company, working in-house or remotely. Depending upon the type of contract the temp agency offers, this freelancer is paid by the client or by the agency. Temp agencies may require exclusivity, meaning the freelance works only through that agency. The freelancer is expected to be available and on-call, but jobs are not guaranteed. Temp agencies will look at portfolios, and may also require skills tests in various software and operating systems. The agency matches the freelancer to the job. Creative Circle Artisan

Creative Freelancer Q&A: Do Business, Not Favors!!!

February 24, 2016
Avoid awkward moments and misunderstandings about getting paid for your freelance work. Prepare written agreements for each client that outlines the type of work you will do, how much you will charge for it, and how you want to be paid. You cannot make a living by doing favors.

6 Freelance Contract Mistakes and How To Fix Them

February 15, 2016
Most problems freelancers experience when working with clients are due to contract mistakes. Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? “I started working on the design and when I called client to show my concepts he told me he had decided to work with someone else.” “My client wants me to work up some ideas and then, if he likes them, he’ll give the his project.” “It’s been 3 months since I finished the project and the client still hasn’t paid me.” “My client says I owe her my working files.” “My client keeps adding new things to the project.” Most of the questions I get from freelancers are about getting paid, scope creep, and who owns what when the creative project is completed. I admit to becoming angry and frustrated when I hear their stories — angry because the client does not respect the freelancer, and frustrated because the freelancer does not know how to conduct business. For some reason, the business world has a tendency to not take freelance designers, photographers and illustrators seriously. Instead, it takes advantage of them. Sometimes this is willful, an attempt to get something for nothing. Sometimes there is a lack of awareness on the client’s part that the freelancer is a business person. We don’t see this so often in other professions. Perhaps it’s due to a perception that, since we are “creatives”, we’ll work for free for the love of it. When You’re a Freelancer, You’re a Business Owner. If the freelancer truly wants to earn income through their creativity, she needs to think like a business owner and not as an artist. There are few client-related problems that a freelancer cannot avoid if she will simply engage in good business practices. Even when she uses a written agreement, it may not be detailed enough to protect her time, her process, her property rights or her livelihood. These are common mistakes in freelance contracts: Contract Mistake 1: Not having a signed contract. Freelancers assume great risk in working on the basis of verbal agreements. With a verbal agreement, you cannot enforce anything. Misunderstandings can’t be settled when there’s nothing in writing. Neither the client nor the freelancer knows the exact scope of a project, the budget, the schedule, the terms or the rights to the work. Freelancers should never work without first having signed agreement. This is especially necessary when working with friends and family members. The fix: Develop a contract template that you can modify for each client and project, and DO NOT START WORKING ON A PROJECT UNTIL THE CLIENT SIGNS IT. Contract Mistake 2: Not requiring a down payment before beginning the work. In our culture, we show respect with money. Without a down payment, the freelancer is working for free. Working for free does not create revenue. On the client side, a down payment shows that they are serious about the project and respect the freelancer as a professional. The down payment puts the freelancer and client on the same level

Why You Need To Love Your Tools

February 9, 2016
A colleague recently switched from the PC to the Mac, from Windows and Android to OS X and iOS. There’s always a bit of a learning curve when you’re on a new system. But my colleague seemed to have an extraordinarily difficult time of it in learning the Apple operating system. He would call me for help (since I use Apple tools) and consistently complain about how things were not working, or he couldn’t find things, or things were not the way he was used to, and he was ready to toss the machine into the trash bin. I have always been an ardent proponent of the Mac for creative and business work. I consider it the best machine for design, writing and other creative pursuits. In my opinion the best software is written for the Mac. Integration is seamless across all the devices. So I would get irritated with my friend for being so irritated with this amazing operating system. The frustration had spread to me. Uh oh! To learn something new, you need to let go of existing assumptions and methods. Listening to his complaints during the most recent incident, it dawned on me that he really needed to change his attitude toward his tools. It seems like his complaining was exacerbating the problems he was having. I pointed this out and suggested that he needed to start loving this machine instead of fighting it. This machine is his ally. All his business and livelihood endeavors are made possible with this machine:  Software, email, Internet access, video chatting, social media, webinars… Everything about his business and much of his outreach was facilitated by this machine and he was ready to throw it in the trash. So I thought about that. We as makers, creators and writers need tools in order to engage in our craft, whether it for enjoyment or to make a profit. If we hate our tools we will have trouble succeeding. Your tools are your allies in your creative work. Having taught design, drawing and color theory for over 27 years, a common myth is that the tool is all that matters. (Just learn the tools software, shortcuts, get the best printer). The tool does not make you a designer. But you can’t design without the tool. Just having a tool does not mean you’re good at what you do. A tool gives you an ability that you don’t have naturally. If we fight our tools, we contradict our efforts and spend more time in the battle then in the creative process. Just last week one of my students informed me she was terrible at cutting boards and at drawing – both necessary skills for any designer to master. When I inquired how she was going to handle this problem as a professional, she said she would hire someone else to do the cutting and drawing. I wondered, if she is unwilling to do the work of becoming skilled and these simple tools, what was she going to do when she came

7 Reasons Why Freelancers Should Not Discount

February 9, 2016
With value pricing for design and illustration projects, I am able to custom-tailor my services and fees to fit each client and project. But even with the ability to customize, it happens that a client asks me to discount. Discounting does not pay my mortgage nor allow me to continue in my work. Nor does it allow me to serve my other clients well. If I end up not working with a client, that’s okay. I’ve learned that saying no to low-paying work is better for my well-being. There’s a psychology to being paid what you’re worth and to not feeling compromised or taken advantage of. I speak from experience here. I have identified 7 solid reasons why you should never discount: 1. You can’t increase your fees later on. Once fees have been established, it is unlikely that a client will allow you to raise rates on future projects. There is an expectation that you will always discount your work as an ongoing courtesy. 2. It reduces your ability to control your reputation. You won’t be able to charge appropriate fees with clients who are referred by the clients you offered discounts. I experienced the misfortune of a prospective client expecting the same discount I gave to the client who referred them to me. When word spreads about your low rates, you won’t be able to charge what a project is worth. 3. It lowers the value of your expertise, experience and creative effort. Getting to where I am and being able to do what I do in the way I do it took a lot of time, rigorous training and experience. I sure it’s the same for you. If I discount my fees, I discount my history and value to the client in my own mind and especially in theirs. If my client is working with an expert by contracting me, reducing my fees does not support an expert-level of service or problem-solving. 4. You are not selling a product. You serve clients and charge professional fees. You contract your creative vision and expertise to create visual assets that help your clients succeed in their business goals. When buying things, I look for sales and use coupons (a form of discounts). I want to get the best deal possible on a product. When I can’t find a deal, then I’ll pay full price. But I am not creating products. I provide valuable services to fellow business owners at a high level of expertise, craft and  knowledge. That service results in visual or written intellectual property. 5. You reduce your profit. Creative freelancers are owners of creative services businesses. While we love our work, we don’t engage in it solely for the fun of it. We have business overhead and marketing expenses just as our clients do. We have a break-even revenue amount each month that we need to meet. We also have a profit motive: We want to make money. The best clients don’t ask for discounts. They understand the value

How To Write An Effective Creative Brief

January 27, 2016
Organizations can save time and avoid miscommunication when working with a designer by utilizing a creative brief. Simply talking about project expectations will not result in the clarity required for an effective outcome. What is a creative brief? The creative brief (also call a design brief or an innovation brief) is a summary of a design project. It provides a road map for expectations and working relationships while the project is in development. It describes the purpose, parts and schedule of a requested design solution. It outlines the client’s requirements and how the designer will address them. It provides enough information for the designer to proceed confidently, but not so much that her creativity is stifled. While the use of creative briefs is prevalent in among corporations, it is better for the designer to write the creative brief. When the client writes the brief, it can fall short in providing the specific information the designer needs. An RFP is not a creative brief. RFPs describe needs but do not include how those needs will be met by the designer. The effective course is for the designer to write the brief and offer it to the client for review and discussion prior to proceeding with the design project. In this way, the designer becomes the project manager and navigator, which is reasonable and preferred, since it by removing management responsibilities from the client, the client is free to pursue their normal business duties. I implemented the use of creative briefs in my design practice years ago, and discovered that my clients trust me more because they have assurance that I understand and can address their needs. They also treat me as a professional peer and strategic business partner. While many designers keep the creative brief and the contract separate, others combine the two. I utilize a combined version because it is more efficient for my design process. I have a road map for the project but also a cost breakdown, terms of service and a signature, and I am able to start work with confidence. Word of caution to the designer: by assuming the role of manager, you are assuming responsibility for the project. Do all design projects require a creative brief? A single deliverable, such as a print advertisement or web banner ad, may be simple enough that a confirmation letter will suffice. Complex projects, such as the development of a web site, an app, an identity program, or a rebrand, should be detailed in a brief. When the client is a larger organization, corporation or agency, or managed by a board of directors, the creative brief outlines the roles of all the players. A creative brief is unique to a project and a client. No two briefs are alike. In my experience, a creative brief is unique to a project and a client. No two briefs are alike. I developed a loose template to use as my starting point, and modify it to address the needs of each project. Creative briefs vary in length according to the needs of the project, and can take several hours to compose. What should you include in a creative brief?
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