One of the things I like to do to is to learn from my fellow designers. This post features my fellow friend and designer Chrystal Boulanger, the professional dynamo from Chrystal Faith Design…for Moxie Businesses. Read along as I pick her brain to see how she handles the life of a designer.
How do you measure your success?
For me, success means having the time and funds to travel and spend time with my family. I find that I feel richer when I’m able to experience things with the people I love more than I do when I have a ton of stuff.
What advice would you give to a new designer?
1. Never stop learning. 2. Connect with other, more experienced designers. 3. Be humble – no one likes a know-it-all.
What made you want to be a designer?
I don’t know that I actually chose to be a designer as much as design chose me. I come from a long line of artists so art has always been a part of my life, but was always more of an afterthought for me. When I was in high school, I focused almost solely on music and thought that was the direction I was going to go. I designed posters, flyers, and programs for the music department and other events without even thinking about it. Shortly after graduation, I got a job designing novelty socks that were sold in Target stores around the nation. I think the moment I realized that design is what I wanted to do was when I actually saw my Halloween socks on the rack. Knowing that there were people across the U.S. wearing my designs on their feet was almost like having all those people say they loved my work even though I doubt they ever thought about it. I suppose I’m just a kid that likes having their work hung on the refrigerator!
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of working as a designer is coming up with new logos and branding, especially when my clients are open to anything. For me, it is like trying to illustrate someone’s personality so the result is always different.
What is your least favorite part of the job?
My least favorite part has to be when I’m working on a project that doesn’t give me any type of creative freedom. Usually, the projects that fall in that category are the ones where the client that wants something that looks like something someone else already has.
What services do you offer?
I specialize in branding, logo and website design, but also offer a la carte design services for the extras any small business might need.
What advice would you give a new business in terms of marketing materials?
I think it really depends on the business, but recommend my Moxie Magic package for everyone that’s getting started. It includes complete branding from logo to business cards to a website with 5 pages.
What advice would you give a new business in terms of a website?
A well-designed website is a must, in my opinion. The first place most people go to check out or find a business is online. If your website looks cluttered or outdated, many people will associate that with the way you run your business without even realizing they’re doing it. Granted, there will be some who overlook it, but why scare away potential customers if you don’t have to?
What steps do you take to ensure a happy customer?
Whenever I start a new project, I take the time to understand exactly what my client is trying to achieve, as well as the intricacies of their brand. I keep all of that information in mind throughout the design process so that I can measure the efficacy of the final piece. Plus, my customers know that they can not only count on me for high-quality design, they also get honesty and quick follow-through.
What is your biggest challenge with clients?
The biggest challenge I face with clients is the gap in understanding the amount of work that actually goes into the design process. Although the result looks like it would be easy to do on your own, there are things that have to be done to make the design unique and reduce the likelihood of copyright infringement.
What advice would you give someone on how to pick the right designer?
Interview them! A little bit of research in the beginning could save you a lot of headache down the road. For example, ask about their education and experience, find out what rights and files are included in their price, and make sure they can actually do what you need them to do. Interviewing them will also give you an opportunity to see how they communicate and get a feel for how you might work together.
How many hours a week do you work?
That’s a hard question to answer because it depends on the number of projects I have at a time. I’m also starting a new life purpose coaching business so I basically have two full-time jobs. I can tell you that I work more now than I did when I was in the military, though, if that gives you any idea.
What is one of your favorite success stories or projects you’ve worked on?
Well, this may sound corny, but my favorite project is almost always the last one I worked on. For instance, I just finished a branding package plus website for a spiritual grief coach who is absolutely amazing. She is one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met! Anyway, I’ve found that my best design ideas actually come to me when I’m sleeping, to the point I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep until I’ve sketched them out. This project was the same, but multiplied by 100. The ideas for this project felt like they were poured in my ears because they were vivid and totally on point for everything my client wanted to accomplish. Her site and brand are beautiful and inviting without being gloomy like many others relating to grief.
What question do you wish clients would ask?
The question I wish more clients would ask is: “What do you need from me?” I try to cover everything in my consultations, contracts, and questionnaires, but I am human and can get wrapped up in the excitement of a project to the point that I forget to ask some things. Plus, there are some assumptions I (and other designers) make. For example, most of us assume that you know you’ll be responsible for supplying the copy and photography you need for, say, a website. That kind of stuff is important to have before starting a project because it can have an impact on the overall design depending on the work you’re having done.
Is purple your natural hair color?
I’m pretty sure it was meant to be…I feel more like myself when my hair is purple! A celebrity stylist I worked with said she’d never told anyone to leave bright colors in their hair, but recommended I keep the color because it fit me so well. Unfortunately, I do have to let my hair rest every few months so I’m brunette for half the year and blend in with “normal” society.
So, when you AREN’T working — what are you doing?
I’m usually working on my next art piece or watching a foreign flick…sometimes both depending on the language.
Why makes you different from other designers?
I think my background is really what makes me different from other designers. It may seem like I was wishy-washy, but every job, class, and experience I’ve ever had has shaped me into someone that is very open-minded, organized, and, dare I say, knowledgeable. My military experience alone gave me insight into security, networks, server administration, applications, training, quality assurance, and more. My education covers Information Technology, Project Management, Graphic Design, various coding languages, and Entrepreneurship plus some psychology. I suppose that makes me a Jane-of-all-trades. Because of that, I try to keep my clients informed with the most up-to-date information and do everything I can to make things happen, even when someone else tells people it’s impossible.
Why should I hire you instead of going to 99designs or Fiverr?
I do everything in my power to make sure my clients get unique pieces that give are representative of their brands. Although you might get lucky with 99designs, many of the designs from Fiverr are generic and use free clipart so copyright infringement is a real threat. Not only that, your brand won’t stand out.
What, if anything, goes into the colors you choose to use in your designs?
Color decisions are based less on what the client likes themselves and more on who they’re trying to attract and the message they want to send. For example, take a female relationship coach whose target market is divorced men and favorite color is pink (stereotypical, I know). How many divorced men do you think are going to click on imagery that uses pink? Whether we like it or not, there are certain messages associated with each color. I try to integrate colors that the client likes, but put more emphasis on color psychology because the whole point is to send the right message to the right people.
What should potential clients have prepared before starting a design project?
I think it’s important that clients really understand what their business is about, who they’re targeting, and the message they want to send before they even think about hiring a designer. Many designers have questionnaires that not only help them understand the client’s business, but also help the client get clear on the details that will have an effect on the design. I’ve worked with a couple small businesses that were not clear on their mission, market, or message so they were unable to choose the designs that would really fit their business. Ultimately, we spent triple the amount of time the project would normally take because they flip-flopped several times before making a decision. Even then, they came back 6 months later because they decided to change their business’ name!
It’s also a good idea to have the copy and imagery for your project ready to go before the project starts. If you plan on using stock imagery, your designer may have access to less expensive options and be able to help you choose photos that will support the message you’re trying to send.
What’s your favorite video game?
I LOVE Assassin’s Creed, but I’m a sucker for any video game where I get to be sneaky and solve puzzles.
What are your thoughts on brand new designers positioning themselves as all-knowing professionals?
I think it’s important for everyone, regardless of their experience, to realize that there will always be more to learn. Positioning yourself as all-knowing opens you up to a lot of heartache if it turns out that you sell a service to a client and it goes sour because you didn’t really know what you were doing. Plus, you spread yourself really thin if you tell people you do everything. I think it’s best to be honest about your skills and always open to learning more.
If a client asks you for a service you don’t usually offer, how do you reply?
If the service is something that I think other clients might want, I respond by letting them know I’ve not done it before or have limited experience with it, but can learn and give it a try. Then, if they’re willing to give me some extra time and leeway, I do the work for a heavily discounted rate. Depending on what it is, I even include the option to refund if certain milestones are not met. If it’s not something I want to add or they’re not willing to give it a try, I keep a list of other designers that I can refer them to.
If you couldn’t be a designer, but could do anything else in the world, what would you choose?
I’m not sure what the title would be, but I would love to travel the world speaking and holding workshops that help people get in touch with their creative side and, ultimately, discover their unique value. It is so easy to beat ourselves down when we feel the weight of expectation, whether real or perceived, and that fear of failure can squish us into roles that make life miserable. I wasn’t born to live a mundane life full of work and heartache…neither was anyone else, in my opinion. When we understand our value and recognize what makes us light up, life becomes worth living. If I couldn’t be a designer, I would want to leave people knowing who they truly are, the value they can add to the world around them, and that life is an adventure.
Chrystal Boulanger is a web and graphic designer with nearly 20 years of experience. She has worked with solopreneurs, small businesses, non-profit organizations, the US Air Force and more — producing websites, logos, and marketing media. Chrystal loves working with passion-driven solopreneurs who have the moxie to break free from visual monotony, stand out, and show the world who they really are.