Working with Clients and Finding Inspiration with @AlvardoCreativeCo!
After a two week hiatus, we’re back on this week’s #designlive with Cortney Wood of @alvaradocreativeco! Cortney is a graphic designer and branding extraordinaire! Read on as we dive into the ins and outs of working with clients and how she goes about finding inspiration.
Q: Introduce yourself! Who you are, how you got started, and what you do
A: My name is Cortney Wood. Amongst many other things, I am a graphic designer. I got into the world of design unexpectedly. The mom of the family that I nannied for was a very successful blogger and graphic designer. Her business started picking up right when social media was becoming a tool for brands and advertising. She was like “Oh my gosh, I’m not familiar with the social media world. You’re young. You gotta help me out. Do you think you can do it?” I think I only had Facebook at the time. It was definitely past the MySpace stage, but I definitely did not know how to use social media for marketing purposes or anything. So I was kinda thrown into that.
Fast forward a year later and I was running her social media. I was enrolled in design school and I had become her junior designer, which was totally unexpected and I think the reason why it was so unexpected was because I had no intention in being in the arts at all. I just didn’t feel like I was good at school, I was an average student, but I didn’t feel connected to school. I just didn’t feel that it was my thing. So design school, I was like, ‘This is so awesome!’ and I was into what I was doing. I think that was the moment I was like “Oh my gosh. I think this is where I’m supposed to be.” So I was just nannying and all these things came about and I ended up having my career as a graphic designer. Also seeing her as a mom who was running her own business and being successful, that was a thing to me that I was like “Oh my gosh, that’s doable.” I can do that too and that opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could do.
Q: What gave you the push to take the risk?
A: I think to me it didn’t feel like so much of a risk and I guess it helped that I was working for my first client as a nanny, while I was still able to get familiar with the world of owning your own business. I was handling communication with clients and seeing how she dealt with difficult clients, how she dealt with success and failures and all those things, so it didn’t feel like a fully black and white transition.
Q: What are the big takeaways you’ve learned for when a project isn’t going as smoothly as you wanted it to go?
A: I try being as transparent as possible and sometimes it’s hard for me not to be. There’s always going to be times, I feel, as a graphic designer, that you’re presenting options, we get tied to an option that we love and we see all the potential that it has and it’s hard to sometimes take our hat off and give it to the client only. There are times where they want a change made that I don’t think is the best possible thing for their business and I communicate it as much as I can, while still not telling them what to do… but I am opening a conversation and allowing them a view from a different perspective, while trying to still be very respectful. Sometimes that really helps and it’s a gentle way that I do it, so that I’m giving them the opportunity to either look at it that way or continue on with the way they want.
It’s always up to them, but I think that just being transparent and really using your voice as a designer and letting them know and being able to explain why you feel this other direction the route to take. That comes with experience. That does not come easy and it isn’t always easy to me, but I’ve realized that it’s super helpful when you start to gather that skillset and you’re able to talk to clients transparently and you’re able to share what you’re feeling. You’re not building up resentment by not saying things.
Q: How do you come together with a client to pinpoint their style and their vibe?
A: Sometimes it can be difficult when a client isn’t even really sure of their style or vibe or they’re going off of other people in their industry and what’s popular. But first of all, starting off and getting all of those initial questions and not just basic answers, but really diving in to how their answering and asking follow up questions to their answers and just getting to know them too as a person, that can really help. I’ve worked with several photographers and I started noticing that all of them wanted a floral stuff in their photography logo and I was aware that was a popular style at that point in time and still kind of is, but it wasn’t necessarily representative of their business, so I think you can really find out someone’s vibe and aesthetic when you take it further than just having them say what they want and getting to know them and talk to them and break down really what it is they want for their business, what’s important to them as a person and as a business.
Q: Do you have a favorite type of client or favorite type of industry where you could just do the work all day?
A: I grapple with this question so much. Every time I hear this question I always wonder why it’s so hard for me to answer. I think that as much as I would like to say that ‘I would like to work for sustainable brands’ or something specific. I’ve noticed that in terms of enjoying ones more and filtering it that way it’s always client driven, not project driven and that might have to do with personality type stuff. I love clients who value and respect me the same way that I value and respect them. When I’m receiving that, I can do almost anything they want me to do and I will be happy and I’ll want to work for them forever. I think that’s where I’ve landed in terms of what I enjoy working with most. It’s more the person vs. the project.
Q: Who inspires you? Where do you go for inspiration?
A: I’ve been inspired lately by a lot of fine artists and I’m not a fine artist by any means and I would never describe myself as a fine artist, but there’s a local San Diego artist, Jennifer McHugh, that I had been following along with her and I loved the color palette and the textures in her work. Another artist I follow is Lucy Mahon, she’s London based and she does really cool line art. I think it’s just with a black tip pen. She does work that I love! Also Sally King Benedict! I think she’s in the UK, is another one and she has just crazy cool artwork and it’s just different and fun. So I’m finding inspiration with fine artists a lot. Other than that, just generally, nature inspires me, whether it’s traveling or just in my yard watching nature.
Q: What is the most overlooked part of brand design?
A: The brainstorming that happens before any concepts ever get delivered or all of those pauses in between creation are some of the most overlooked or unnoticed parts of brand design! A lot of times we think about the delivery phases, the mood board or the color palette, or the first round of concepts, but there’s so many unseen things that go into brainstorming, whether that’s researching whatever is in the industry that you need to research or doing market research on whatever demographic you’re trying to hit, there’s so much that not even the client will even grasp because it’s overwhelming to be like “Okay, here’s everything I’m going to go do.” I think clients who value that and they can understand that before getting something is a huge part of the process and it’s a big part of the success of a brand, all the hard work that goes unseen into the whole brainstorming and creativity process.