Matchmaker, Matchmaker: Finding the Designer

Please give a warm welcome to Robert and Stacia Guzzo, founders of Handcrafted HoneyBee. This energetic #ahasmember business team has generously offered to share their recent, dramatic rebranding journey with our community. Here is Part 2, as told by Robert Guzzo, Co-Founder of Handcrafted HoneyBee.

The entire series can be found here:
read the prologue here
Part 1 (where they talk about their need to change) here

Part 2 (why it takes awhile to get a rebrand right)
Part 3 (what it's like finding a designer)

Part 4 (creating compelling content)
Part 5 (creating and using your brand guide)

Part 6 (creating compelling packaging)
Part 7 (juggling two brands at once)

Part 8 (building a homepage)
Part 9 (launching their new site)
Epilogue (why going through a rebrand helps you love your brand more)
AND read their designer's advice on getting better with graphic design here

Stacia and I both looked at the quote that we had just received from the designer. It was big. It represented more than we had made in our entire first year of business. 

We didn’t even think twice. We signed the contract and made the first payment that same day. 

About a month prior, we had just finished all of the work I described in the previous section. We had a firm grasp of who we wanted to serve and what we wanted to stand for. We clearly understood the business goals that we wanted to accomplish with a rebrand. 

It was time to find a designer. 

But how to go about finding one? This is probably one of the biggest questions my wife hears in her mastermind groups when a member is going about trying to find a designer. How do you find one? One thing we didn’t do—we didn’t google designers. 

We relied on word-of-mouth. We reached out to other entrepreneurs within our network of contacts. We asked if any of them had recently worked with a designer or knew someone who had. We got a list of recommendations and narrowed down from there. 

After developing that referral list, we checked out each of their websites. We looked at their portfolios. We read their blogs and case studies. We subscribed to their newsletters. If they didn’t post any case studies on previous work or didn’t have recent blog content, it didn’t matter how good their work looked. We scratched them from the list. Because without them writing about their process, we didn’t have enough evidence to suggest that they were capable of solving our problem.

We dissected the case studies to see how they tackled their clients’ problems. We read their newsletters closely, to see what they considered valuable information for their audience. 

After that, we took another look at their portfolios. We were looking for designers with experience designing for physical products & packaging (not just logos or websites). Also, could they develop a variety of visual styles, or did they stick with a signature look? Ultimately, we wanted confidence that they were focused on providing the best solution rather than just squeezing their clients’ needs into their comfort zone. 

Stacia and Robert Guzzo

Stacia and Robert Guzzo

After all that, we had three leads to pursue. Stacia wrote each of them expressing interest and she filled out their questionnaires to let them know what we were looking to accomplish. Just to recap, our goals were:

  • Develop a new logo and visual identity to effectively communicate the new focus of the brand
  • Design completely new packaging for all of our products to more effectively convey the value & benefits in a way that would connect with our target customer
  • Develop associated brand elements that we could use to attract our target customer in our content marketing
  • Design and develop a new website to streamline the customer’s online experience, align the online shop with the new visual style of the brand, and appeal to & attract potential customers who find the site
  • Position our business to be able to line up 60 wholesale clients before the peak buying season. (The kind of buyers we are considering make their Christmas purchases in September/October, which means that we would need branding & packaging about 6-9 months prior to that.)
  • The Big Goal: We want our kits to be on the shelf of a major national chain like Barnes & Noble by the end of 2017.

One of the three designers took three weeks to write back, but by then we had already made our choice. After we didn’t hear back within a week, we crossed them off our list. We knew that we’d need a designer who valued our time as much as we valued theirs.

The second designer on our list spent well over an hour on the phone talking with my wife to flesh out her goals. She asked Stacia a lot of questions, with one notable exception: “What’s your budget?” That topic didn’t come up until the end, when she had given Stacia a good amount of insight into our perceived market, general thoughts on rebranding, and a thorough description of her own methodology and process. Their entire conversation was focused on the goals of the project and what we could tangibly expect from working with her.

At the end of the call, the designer said, “I know that your target date is to have a rebrand complete and ready to go by Mar/Apr 2016. Unfortunately, my current schedule has me booked until May. I will still work up a quote for you and your husband to consider, but I completely understand if you need to find someone else given your timeline.”

Wow! Guess which designer we will give great word-of-mouth recommendations, even though we ultimately didn’t end up working with her? Her name is Geri Jewett, the Ontario based designer of Languid Lion. We were so very impressed with her.

The third designer was actually a design firm that we had been watching for a long time, Aeolidia. They specialize in working with small creative makers. We had gained a ton of value from their blog and newsletters for years (both written by founder Arianne Foulks), and had even run into Arianne at a craft show we did up in Seattle.

It was clear from the start that Aeolidia really understood what we were trying to accomplish. Another plus was that they had an entire team to work with us: a designer, a photographer, a developer, a copy editor, and a project manager to keep everything on track.

They also held to a strict timetable. They guarantee all deliverables within four days of deadline, as long as the client provides all content on schedule. 

When they gave us the quote, not only was it broken down into two parts (Brand, Logo & Packaging and Website Redesign), but it also had the entire proposed timeline completely laid out for us, a breakdown of everything we would be receiving, and a breakdown of everything that was not included in the package so we could be absolutely clear what we would have when everything was wrapped up.

The day that Stacia got the quote, she wrote me at work to say, “It’s a lot of money…but it could also be the tipping point. The thing that gets us to the point where we are making a living from this dream. And it’s a really good proposal. We have some talking to do!”

So, there we were, looking through the quote over dinner–the schedule, the deliverables, the team qualifications. By this point in our relationship with Aeolidia, we were completely sold on the value of what they were delivering. We knew that with this rebrand, we could easily double our investment in a year…potentially 4x our investment, and 10x the year after that if we could honestly be good enough to work with a major wholesale client with national presence.

We had saved up the money, so we knew we could do this without going taking on debt.

We made the decision before dinner was even over.

Next Time: How much work do you, as a client, have to do if you want your design project to be successful?  I’ll get into all the details, the tens of thousands of words we gave to our design team, how they managed a project of this complexity, and the tools Stacia and I used to collaborate and coordinate our efforts.