Graphic design and visual branding for entrepreneurs and businesses according to BRAND BOXES, an easy 9 step approach

Interview with Hanne

How long have you been doing what you do?
How come you call yourself a “Virtual In-house Graphic Designer”?

To answer you fully on that question, I think we should go somewhat back in time.
I am originally trained as a classical musician, but have always had both a “musical part” and a “drawing part” of myself. Visuals have been an important part of my life since childhood; I still don’t travel or go on any vacation without drawing materials in my suite case. To reflect visually is very important to me. As a young student of music and later in my professional musical career, I always served as the “advertising agency” for my fellow musicians. I made a vast number of concert posters and program folders during my years in the musical field.

However, life does not follow a straight path. At a point in time, I also felt the need to change tracks creatively. At quite a mature age I chose to professionalize even the “drawing part” of myself and trained as a graphic designer.

After this training I worked at Norwegian newspaper. At first I was doing customer advertising in the paper. Soon thereafter, I started to take an interest in the marketing of the very newspaper itself.  I came to see the importance of a consistent graphic profile in marketing. A managed and executed plan with great ownership by one or more empowered In-house Graphic Designers.

It was during my time at this newspaper that I had my “defining moment.” I think.  Even if it was not something that happened over night but was more like a raising consciousness over time. I defined one term during these years that still is the most important one in everything I do: Authentic ownership.

I completely identified with my workplace and its product.  I started to exceed what was acceptable for an employee who did not have a single subordinate but rather several layers of bosses between herself and the halls of influence. It was very frustrating fighting my lonely battle for the importance of a Consistent Visual Brand. Also, it was painful to see managements neglect of the critical connection between branding and the corporate reputation and people management; the corporate soul.

I experienced the frustration of having ideas on a strategic level, without having the ability to make them happen. My employer was not comfortable with a low level employee sharing and suggesting ideas for change – even improvements. During this time, I also learned that it should not be taken for granted that a boss have any more vested interest, ownership, and loyalty to a company than an employee. The boss is only payed several times an employees’ wages without any additional sense of loyalty or obligation to the company…

The culmination came in 2011 when I did the Key Note presentation of my examination report in “Strategic Brand Management” at IHM Business School. After I had finished my presentation, my tutor and examiner said: “You talk like you were the CEO of this newspaper!” This was only partly great because I had my nearest boss from the paper, as an observer to the presentation. However this review concluded THE most enjoyable and meaningful studies of my life. When in this study, the whole branding puzzle really started to come together for me.

Later I understood what came shining through in my speech that day. What it’s called when you have so much ownership, identification and passion for what you do. It is called entrepreneurial spirit. I was not aware that I “suffered” so much from that during my years in the corporate world. It means you don’t have a choice. You do what you do because you love it and know that you are able to help others by it. It became clear to me that I am best at helping people who have the same amount of ownership and engagement as I have. There is something at stake for entrepreneurs, work is not just something they do for the paycheck. I am indifferent as to “where I work” and at the same time it does not matter at all where I work in a physical sense – I work virtually and can serve my clients everywhere.

This is how I became a “Virtual In-house Graphic Designer.” I take advantage of my extensive in-house experience which has given me an instinctive ability to identify very closely with my clients helping them with their visual branding and graphic design challenges.

Who are your clients and customers?

My clients are often entrepreneurs running some kind of coaching or educational service in different genres. Among my clients are companies that want a product or a service to have a consistent visual profile.

What kind of requests do your clients typically have?

Many of my clients contact me because they want to have some graphic design done for some particular visual touch point. This can be anything from a business card to a website. When having a conversation with them on how the rest of their marketing materials look, they often see the need for having a consistent visual appearance across all touch points. The result is often that they decide on a co-creative process with me, taking their business to a new level by applying a new, consistent graphic profile that makes their business recognizable in all areas.

I am seeing more and more that my clients want to produce their own materials. This is very understandable. Things change very quickly these days and the client wants to be able to edit a product brochure, handout or educational materials to fit a certain context. My clients are in need of good templates where they can edit or replace the content themselves when necessary. They also need guidance on best practices for typography and layout, to make sure they create materials of a professional standard that their prospects, clients and customer can trust.

What if you have not worked with someone in my niche before?

I always start every co-creative process with a very thorough interview with you, to get to learn about your business and field of expertise. I want to hear everything about your values, visions, missions and goals (besides the practical work in the business) along with the means of delivery and where the current touch points are located.
This, of course, may vary a great deal according to the various businesses. One VERY important part of what I do is to help you articulate the core message of your business in a simple way. It is necessary to answer these questions: Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter? The answers to these questions have to be communicated clearly to the customer.  It is the core message of the brand. We then go on with the visual representation of this message, which should be consistent, no matter what niche or size or nature of the single touch point, business cards and outdoor banners alike.

What separates you from other Graphic Designers?

First and foremost it’s my great ability and will to identify with you and your business.
I always think and say “we” – even before I get the assignment. We are a team from our first point of contact going forward into our business relationship.  I look upon myself very much as a “graphic coach”. I want to teach my clients how to “see” why one solution is better than another. I want you to learn the creativity with layout and typography when you are on your own.

Of course, I could be delivering pieces that were ready for print and have the clients come back and pay again if they wanted to have something changed. This is NOT what I want to get payed for. I want to be valued as a graphic and branding coach, who helps the clients help themselves. Of course I will create anything you, as the client, need my assistance with. I will also do everything to help you manage on your own in practical uses, I will always be available to make your edits for you if you wish.
The modern entrepreneurs live in a constantly changing world and need to trust their own choices. I have no fancy boutique-style agency, no sales person between the client and myself. I’d rather work directly with the entrepreneurial “boss,” looking them in the eyes, even if it is only on Skype.

What types of personality do you work best with?
What is expected from me as your client?

I would rather work with you if you have a great passion for what you do. I use my own passion to help others who have an important message they want to get across. Graphic design is all about structure in communication, – not decoration. I work well with people who want to take their business to the next level and are willing to invest to do so. And by “invest” I don’t mean just in an economical way. To be able to help you, I need answers to many different questions and going within to find and share these answers can be challenging and even uncomfortable. You will have to reflect and be honest. If you come on board with one of my packages, I will expect you to do the part of the work that makes it possible for me to help you. It is not possible to “brand” anything if you don’t know what it is, and you have to tell me! You also have to be ready to take on a pair of “new shoes” and want change.

For what persons are your packages and way of working NOT suited?

If you are not ready for a change in the way you look at your own business, and do not have the “visual courage” to stand up with your new profile, you should not work with me.

A visual branding process is a proactive action with the goal being to make it easier to recognize your business and signal its uniqueness and authenticity without any “filter”. If this seems scary to you and you are reluctant to show off, you should not be working with me either.

You must have a wish for, determination, and courage to be visible. If you expect a one-way “deliverance” from me and are reluctant to be co-creative and reflective, I am not your person. I don’t work well with people who “give orders” about “what they like” and “what they want”. I am not an order taker, and if you are not willing to put your customers’ preferences before your own, I will kindly ask you to seek help elsewhere.

What are BRAND BOXES, really? What is the content of the boxes and how do they work?

BRAND BOXES are a simple 9 step method that makes starting and executing a visual branding process quite manageable. Comprehensive, but broken down to digestible modules, the BOXES deals with all the essential parts of a visual branding process. Taking one step at the time, in a certain order.

Originally the system was only a “recipe” that I used myself to keep track of the work with the client. When I started to share this recipe with the clients and let them have an active part in it, I observed that they became much more engaged and grew a stronger ownership to the results. They learned how to maintain a graphic profile. The method includes educational materials and assignments. Especially in the first THREE BOXES, your engagement and reflection is very important.  The findings here are crucial for the quality of the work in the later boxes.

Is this method really working? What results will I get?

Yes, if you have an open and unreserved approach to this work, it will result in strengthening your business and its marketing. You will have a set of consistently looking and authentically communicating marketing materials, which will have a positive impact both on your prospects and on yourself. Because you can trust your marketing materials to be professional, you will gain a higher level of confidence. Last but not least a visual branding process with Brand Boxes will leave you with a greater understanding and consciousness about your own business.

May I contact people that have been working with you and ask their opinion?

Yes, I absolutely recommend that. Please click here to visit the Testimonials page on my website and feel free to contact any of the clients who I have worked together with.

How soon will I see any results of our work together?

Results in the form of increased consciousness, pride, and ownership will be present almost as soon as we start the work on the process. Visual results will appear as an extension of this when the findings and results of the 3 first boxes starts to manifest themselves visually as a logo, a color-palette and consistent typographical practice. Every person, business, and branding process is different and will vary in time. How fast and how well you move forward in the process is also very dependent on your own efforts.

How can I be certain that I will reach my goals?

Have the right mindset and be able to visualize yourself with a new proud visual identity.  Participate whole-heartedly and unreserved in the process, do the assignments.  Your own efforts and desire to co-create are crucial for an optimal result with the wanted result.

Based on what I have heard so far, I realize that I would want to work with you, how is this done, practically?

You will book a GAC-call here or you can contact me by e-mail to book a call. During this call I will interview you to get to know as much as possible about your business and your current situation and needs. I will then present my different packages and we will determine if I am the right person to help you. After the call I will e-mail my package sheets to you, and you will be able to choose which package is best for you. After you have a few days to review the packages, we will plan a call to go through the details and schedule a day that we can start the program.

How long is the program, really?
It depends on you. First, you decide how fast you want to go by choosing a package of 30, 20 or 15 hours a month. You will make a list of the touch points you want to create during that time. If we can create all your wanted touch points during you purchased hours, also very much depends on you, how fast you can give me the input and the feedback I need to do the designs. A visual branding process is a very co-creative effort and you should choose a package that suites the level of intensity you are able to reach. We will discuss this in our first call, and I will advise you.

Do you accept credit cards?

Yes, you can choose to pay by credit card, PayPal or get a bank invoice.

Ok, I also know which package is best for me, how and when can we start the work?

As soon as possible! Please send me an e-mail, call me or (the best way is to) make an appointment on my online calendar, so we can go through the details and schedule a day to start. The start-up will be dependent on our mutual calendars and my work capacity at the moment.

In case I am uncertain, how can I have a sample of your program and find out if it is the right thing for me?

You are welcome to download my free report “Brand Boxes – Visual Branding in 9 steps” This report will give you an overall impression of the content and progress of how I conduct a Visual Branding Process.

I am ready to invest in my business, but I have some questions that I would like to discuss with you, can I call you?

Of Course. If you still have questions, please contact me. The easiest way is to book a time on my online calendar to ensure my undivided attention is focused on you without any interruptions.  You can always send me an e-mail or call as well. Please observe that I am in the central European time zone 🙂