ON DESIGN + BRANDING
In this episode, Phoebe sits down with Meredith Canciall, the Design Director and Owner of Quixotic Design Co.—a remote design agency. Focused on all things branding and growing business, they dive into the tools that every small business needs to create and grow their own brands.
Meet Meredith Cancilla, Design Director + Owner, Quixotic Design Co: a remote design agency based in Sacramento, CA with an emphasis in brand, package and web design for women-owned businesses. Her design team shares a common love for progressive design and pushing the envelope. Together with her team, she develops businesses into memorable, stylized brands with custom logo, package and web design solutions.
With a mother for an artist, Meredith has always been an illustrator who loved creating. But, her path to becoming a designer launching Quixotic Design Co. is a little untraditional—in fact, Meredith never originally planned on becoming a designer. Post-college, Meredith was set on having a career in communications research and eventually becoming a professor. What changed with the original plan? During the summer before graduate school, she began designing as a side hustle, and one of her first real projects was to redesign a new menu for the restaurant she was currently waiting for tables. She fell love in love with the project and designed a full rebrand for all of the restaurants and menus. After freelancing for a bit, she worked at a few agencies for a couple of years and enjoyed the fast-paced environment but felt like her creativity was being stifled. So after a family crisis, she decided to quit her job, with no prospects, no offers, and no interviews lined up, and for two months, she thought about what exactly Quixotic would be. Since launching in 2016, Meredith has been steadily growing her business with a variety of clients in Sacramento, her home base, and across the nation.
WHAT DOES YOUR BUSINESS LOOK LIKE TODAY?
Over the last four years, Meredith has worked with a variety of different types of clients from many different industries, but there are two things that they all have in common. First, clients are ready to invest in their brand identity and are open to handing over creative control to Meredith. The second, is that much of her clients are women owned businesses.
WHAT DO YOU THINK CREATES THE “WOW FACTOR” WHEN CREATING A BRAND LOOK?
As a designer, Meredith tends to look at a brand's identity and think, ‘what’s missing?’ Right now, what she sees is a lot of brands doing a lot of the same things, using the same fonts, and really just following the trends instead of truly making it personal. “The wow factor is molded after your brand’s message,” Meredith says. She believes that instead of focusing on trends, you should focus on creating something really special that is true to your brand's soul is going to last.
HOW DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION WHEN YOU ARE CREATING BRANDS?
Pinterest! But aside from that, she has a folder filled with different print pieces she's saved over the years, and uses these designs from different decades as references and inspiration pieces. Meredith’s biggest suggestion for finding inspiration is to keep an open mind and look for reference artwork outside of the genre that you’re working in.
Comparison-itis is so real, but you’ve just got to do your best to take it day by day and focus on your own projects, your own content.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CREATIVES WHO WANT TO DO THEIR OWN BRANDING, OR EVEN WORK WITH SOMEONE ELSE, BUT DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT THEIR LOGO TO LOOK LIKE OR THEIR COLOR SCHEME TO BE? ANY TIPS ON HOW TO GET THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING IN THIS REALM?
My number one suggestion is don’t try and do it yourself—hire someone! The reason why? When creating your own work, especially if this is your first time, it’s going to look unprofessional and not cohesive. Instead of jumping in and trying to create your own branding, safe images, artwork, and typography, that really speaks to you and take them with you to your meeting with a designer to show as inspiration.
If hiring a designer isn't a feasible option at the moment, here are a couple of tips for Meredith:
Don’t use websites like Fiverr
If you’re going to design your own logo, try and pick a font that is really simple and timeless to communicate your brand's aesthetic. Meredith recommends using sites like creativemarket.com.
Create a solid color palette using coolors.co.
Remember to be careful with your brand. If you’re presenting something unpolished or unprofessional it can really backfire in terms of getting new clients and customers.
WHAT ARE THE 3 BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU SEE ON A WEBSITE THAT CAN PROHIBIT BRANDS FROM MAKING SALES?
1.Mobile responsiveness: If you have a slow mobile website you are missing out on tons of sales.
2.Design utility: Your website needs to be beautiful, cohesive, and true to your brand identity. But it also needs to be user friendly. A beautifully designed website that’s hard to use won’t help you make sales.
3.Too many options: Our brain is hardwired to accept two to three options, any more than that and we get confused. If your website has too many menus, buttons, and such, you are confusing your customer and making it harder for them to purchase your product.
WHAT ARE 3 THINGS THEY CAN IMPLEMENT TO MAKE THEIR WEBSITES EASY TO NAVIGATE AND EASY TO CONVERT?
Sales page: Create a page featuring reviews, images, and content regarding your product to help users feel comfortable about their purchase from your store.
Seamless checkout page: Go through the check out process as a user. When a person does this they have to ask themselves is this something that's easy and seamless, because if it’s not people will leave.
Buttons colors: Use a single color in your brand’s color pallet specifically for buttons on the website. This trains the user to know that anytime they see this color that they need to click on it to purchase or sign up for something.
YOU DO SUCH A GREAT JOB CREATING ENGAGING CONTENT ON INSTAGRAM, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BRANDS TO MAKE EYE-CATCHING CONTENT THAT CONVERTS?
When Meredith was first starting out with her Instagram content, she really struggled with what to post and what her captions would be. To ensure that everything was consistent across all of her social media, she broke it down into pillars and came up with four: behind the scenes, client work, educational (teaching entrepreneurs about design and hacks), and business (tips for growing a small business). Once Meredith nailed down her pillars she started creating content using Canva and would then use Planoly to schedule it for later. If you’re stuck on what to post, Meredith suggests taking notes at what others in your space are doing and what their users are enjoying and start applying it to your audience.
WHAT BRANDS INSPIRE YOU
Go Live HQ: They have website templates for a great price point and do a great job of hosting workshops for creatives and small business. They were one of the first to be on TikTok and do such a great job keeping up trends and infusing it into all of their content.
Theblogstop: They also sell website templates, and the owner of this company does a fantastic job of keeping everything to the brand. They also have such great content that really helpful for me.
YOU ARE SO ORGANIZED! I KNOW YOU ARE A BIG FAN OF CREATING SYSTEMS IN YOUR BIZ, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT?
For all small businesses owners, Meredith’s biggest piece of advice when it comes to systems is investing in an automating process software. Her favorite is Dubsado. Using Dubsado, Meredith has set it up to handle all of her lead generation, client proposals, contracts, invoices, and workflow setup. Other products that Meredith recommends for setting up successful systems are:
Flodesk: They’ve made email marketing so easy for her business.
Asana: Used internally, Meredith and her team use it to keep everyone on task and have all of their tasks in one place.
Trello: Meredith uses this software to organize all of their social media and blog content. This platform houses all of Quixotic Design Co. content pillars, scheduled for when posts are going live, marketing emails going out that week, and what will be posted on their blog in the coming weeks.
HOW DID YOU KNOW IT WAS TIME TO HIRE HELP?
Meredith admits that she hesitated for so long when it came to expanding her team, because like many small business owners, she was afraid of having overhead, but it’s quickly become the best decision she’s made for her business. Now instead of focusing on small tasks, she can focus on things that actually make her money. When it comes to looking to expand your team, Meredith suggests looking for someone to help your marketing as that will help bring in more business.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
Right now, Meredith’s company Quixotic Design Co., just launched their website template shop (which GGC fans can receive for $100 off with the code GGC2020) as a way to bring in more passive income. In the future she hopes to scale the business to multiple six figures and bring in a new designer into the team.