Case Study: D Conti Living Brand, Web, Social
I first met designer and Feng Shui expert Dorothee Conti back in December. In her first email to me, she knew she wanted to start a business in the North County San Diego area offering Feng Shui and Interior Design Services.
Feng Shui meets Interior Design
PREP WORK: Mission, Vision and Ideal Client Avatar
Getting started with a new business idea can be exciting but also a little unsettling. When I first met with Dorothee, she was unsure of what to name her new business. This was a job for a proper business coach, so I recruited the help of Lauren Allen from Right Hand Business Coach to help Dorothee decide her business name, and more importantly help her narrow in on her mission statement, vision statement and ideal client avatar. Lauren defines these as: MISSION STATEMENT, VISION STATEMENT, IDEAL CLIENT AVATAR.
Why is this important in design? How do you design with mission, vision and ideal client in mind? Here’s how I approached it.
A business’ mission statement most likely includes some of your core values. For D Conti Living, the mission is: D Conti Living utilizes Form and Compass Feng Shui as well as Interior Design principles to transform homes and workspaces into the thriving and beautiful environments you desire. The D Conti Living vision statement is: We believe in creating spaces and environments that provide harmony, joy, and abundance.
A vision statement covers how the business will approach and execute the mission. This is important because it more directly informs the consumer about how the company functions. This kind of text will be prominent in the branding, particularly in print collateral and showcased on the website. Vision statements easily translate to icon sets, graphics, and illustrations. The three adjectives that are used in the mission statement are a springboard for the logo design.
Whenever I am working on a design, I want to keep the business’ ideal client avatar at the top of my mind. This is the crowd that they want to target, to whom they want to sell their products and services. Who are they? What other brands do they identify with? What aesthetics are correct for that audience. For example, D Conti Living is catered toward homeowners who are interested in Feng Shui and have the income to spend on a very personalized service. They most likely also enjoy wellness, physical activity like yoga, and artisan goods. Just from these small bits of information, we can gather that they are most likely more drawn to a softer pastel and earth tone color palette than highlighter colors or darker primary ones.
Doing this kind of basic business planning before we get started on the design work helps me to design more efficiently and effectively. I take great care in making sure that the designs I create are not only beautiful but functional!
Dorothee and I started her project with a brief phone consultation to review what she worked on with Lauren. After our call, I created a Pinterest board (see it here) separated by photography inspiration and graphics inspiration. Pinterest is a wonderful tool that I use with all of my clients to ensure that we agree on the aesthetic direction of the brand. The images are what we use for the moldboard for the branding and the graphics give us a springboard from which to get started with the logo design.
DRAFT 1: A Giant Brain Dump of all the Possibilities
My logo design process includes 4 total drafts. The first draft is totally a brain dump of all the possibilities of fonts, symbols, icons and combination marks that will get the branding process started. I always design the first draft in black and white for these specific reasons:
Color can be super distracting. We have natural and unavoidable reactions to color combinations and sometimes our judgment of a mark can be clouded by pretty colors (shiny object syndrome).
You’ll always want to have a version of your logo that functions as one color. Adding too many effects like shadows and gradients can look great in digital media, but when something like a t-shirt or sticker or pen being printed is limited to one color, you don’t want to lose the integrity of your logo mark.
The first draft, I will usually present anywhere between 12-20 potential logo sketches. I say sketches here because I want to share that these are not finalized, but merely ideas that we can narrow down from.
In this first round for D Conti Living, I presented three dartboards with logos based on typography style: namely serif font, sans serif, and script. When we had our initial consultation, we discussed briefly Dorothee’s interest in astrology and numerology, which came in to play on the second artboard, trying to incorporate the earth and the moon. Although these ones didn’t make the final cut, I really enjoyed manipulating the letterforms to create some reference to celestial forces.
After the first draft, the idea is to manipulate the concepts that weren’t a good fit and keep the ones we were still curious about for Draft 2.
DRAFT 2: Refine and Design
Draft 2 continues in similar fashion, we expanded upon the concepts, typography and graphics we liked from Draft 1 and continued to manipulate letterforms, arrangements and icons.
As we worked through the process, Dorothee expressed interest in incorporating an orchid illustration into the logo design, which is why you see them here in Draft 2. This proved a bit difficult for a few reasons… Whenever you add florals into logo design, it lends itself pretty feminine. Knowing that D Conti Living was to appeal to both men and women, this wasn’t going to be a good fit. Additionally, the details that make the orchid look like an orchid prove difficult to scale. A good logo should be equally legible at a quarter inch scale and a 4-foot scale. If you are dead set on having a flower in your logo, consider instead using imagery of florals throughout your branding.
This came up once before with the branding of Right Hand Business Coach. It seemed obvious that the logo should be a hand given the name. We played with countless variations of the hand drawing in the logo design, but in the end, they were all reading much too cartoony, and lacked the polish and professionalism that Lauren was looking for. As a result, we ditched the hand from the logo mark and used it in other spots in the branding like on the website, for example. We expanded on this idea more and developed a hand gesture icon set that fit the brand.
On this draft, we also revisited earlier concepts without the orchids, playing with the orientation again. With the fourth draft being the final, it was important now to really narrow in on which logo mark was going to be the best fit.
After careful review, we decided that the serif logos were the strongest and here's why:
The typography was clear to read, and the serif communicated a more refined and elegant look that the san serif options. The lowercase letters kept the design more casual
The stacked D Conti and Living created an interesting shape and the connected “n” and “l” made the mark unique.
the added lines came to represent the mission and vision statement in a more abstract way. The lines are concentric quarter circles that emirate from the center of the logo like ripples — communicating a flow on energy (important in Feng shui) and a reference to nature
DRAFT 3: Color and Mood
Now that the logo was decided, it was time to revisit the original inspiration on the Pinterest board. The dusty pastels became the color palette, inspired by cooler tones of water, crystals, and sand. Dorothee communicated that texture is always important in her designs, so we pulled images of velvets, linens, and other textiles. Her interior design and feng shui approach take great care to create spaces that become sensory experiences, so we incorporated florals (as a nod also to her love of orchids). Dorothee was apprehensive at first with the color palette, so we explored a few other variations (see above) but ended up right back where we started with those moody, dusty pastels.
All of these elements together create what I call “Brand Style Guides.” A Style Guide is a multipage PDF that becomes the toolbox for everything you create for and with your brand. From web to print, social media to digital marketing — the style guides become a rule book of sorts to creating brand consistency. TO READ MORE: See my blog What the heck are Brand Guides and Why your Small Biz needs Them.
We built the D Conti Living brand website on Squarespace. I love designing websites on Squarespace for my clients because I don't believe in being the gatekeeper of your site. Squarespace is super intuitive and easy to use because almost everything is drag and drop.
We organized Dorothee's site by the services that she offers: Interior Design, Feng Shui Consulting, Home Staging, Home Organization and the Artists' Shop. The icons for each were developed in the brand design phase, and display wonderfully here on the home page of the website and on each of the services pages.
The design elements you see on the website are pulled directly from the branding guides. The colors, fonts, icons and photography style create a consistent aesthetic for the user and develop D Conti Living as a recognizable brand. The D Conti Living mission statement is prominently displayed on the homepage so there is no confusion for potential clients!
As Dorothee was in the process of getting her first clients, we came up with a blogging/content marketing strategy that would expose her ideal clients to her aesthetic, her voice and help to showcase her design and feng shui knowledge.
To get the D Conti Living Social Media started off on the right foot, I managed the facebook, instagram and pinterest accounts for the first 3 months.
The social media strategy was to introduce D Conti's ideal audience to her brand style and aesthetic. Since she had limited portfolio content to work with, we opted for a combination of graphics, testimonials, collages and stock images.
We upcycled the testimonials from the website into social graphics, added backgrounds to the icons and used the brand colors to explain her services. The few instances we used stock photography, I was use to select images that matched the color palette and aesthetic of the brand we created.
Getting started with social media can be really tricky, as it takes time, effort and strategy to create social media pages that engage with the right audience and drive qualified leads to the website, and ultimately your inbox. It can be discouraging to not see the following that you want right off the bat, but all the more reason you should Never Buy Followers.
I share LOTS of social media strategy, advice and hacks in the Small Biz Start Up Guide (launching this summer). Be sure to get on the pre-launch list!
In all, the D Conti Living brand is one that inspires peace, harmony, abundance, clarity and joy for the clients it serves. Communicating this visually and consistently from brand to website, website to social media was a challenge I was up for! And, the result, I'd say, was a successful experience for myself and my client! Best of luck to D Conti Living and all the success headed her way!
Interested in something similar for your brand? Let's work together!