#Designinthetimeofcorona has given me the opportunity to step back and connect with several artists and creatives that I have personally worked with to build my business or for client work. I love pulling back the curtain a little bit on how things really work and this first interview is no exception!

I worked with Esther of Esther Clark Co on my branding. When I was searching for creatives to partner with Esther was at the top of the list! She is local to Minneapolis, has amazing calligraphy + hand drawing abilities and her previous work really spoke to me. Previous to starting j miller interiors, I didn't have a need for branding work so this was my first foray into hiring someone to execute my vision. Of course, Esther didn't disappoint! I had the opportunity to "sit" (virtually, of course!) with Esther and ask her a few questions about her creative process and how she continues to support brands in a variety of ways!

jmi: Tell us how your career in branding and calligraphy got started?

esther: I first started my business when my husband and I moved to a new state. I had wanted to start my own business for a long time, but never had the courage to go for it! In our new state, I had a part-time job and didn’t know anyone, so I had lots of extra time on my hands. It was the push I needed to finally get going! I started out with small commissioned illustrations - mostly botanical designs for people who wanted to get tattoos. I taught myself calligraphy so that I could be more marketable and that helped me get started in the branding industry. I went full-time about a year after I first started and have been freelancing ever since!

jmi: We’d love to know where you gather inspiration for your projects.

esther: I graduated from college with a BFA in Fine Art, with an emphasis on painting and printmaking. A lot of the inspiration for my botanical work is inspired by my favorite flowers, but also by the relief printing and various painting techniques I learned at college. I’m also very drawn to French Impressionism, the Flemish and Dutch still life masters, and natural textures and earthy colors.

jmi: For those of us who haven’t worked with a branding agency before, tell us how it all works! What information should a potential client present to get the most out of the process?

esther: The branding process is so much fun! I always start my process by asking a few questions that are designed to help me understand the feel you want your visual identity to have, while simultaneously making you think deeply about what you’re looking for and why. It’s important to know what your business goals are over the next few years, what your ideal target audience is like, and the visual elements that you are and aren’t drawn to. Once we have a plan, I create several different design concepts for you to choose from, and then we start the revision process to really refine and hone the final product.

jmi: This might be silly, but could you tell us what the difference is between ‘branding’ and ‘logo’ creation? And how do I know which one I need?

esther: Not silly at all! A logo is a single design that is used to identify your business. By contrast, branding is a full visual identity. A logo is usually just your business name styled a certain way, while branding also includes other marketing collateral such as business cards, Instagram templates, your website, and any smaller pieces that represent your business. If you’re just starting out, I usually recommend a logo design. Logos are more temporary and aren’t as much of an investment as a full brand, so it makes sense for a young business who will probably grow and change a lot over the first few years of being open. If you’re an established business who is looking for a refresh (or perhaps if you’re opening a second or third business and already have experience running a company) a branding package is what I would usually recommend. After you’ve been operating for a little while, you will inevitably be more sure in your own style, work, and identity, and you’ll also have more resources to invest in a long-term design. Side note: this is the amazing branding that Esther created for the very lovely District Rug Shoppe!

jmi: We’d love to know about your various packages and what clients can expect to receive with each service.

esther: I currently offer three different logo packages, although that will probably change over the next few months. I offer two logo packages and one branding package. My simplest offering is a text-only logo package, which includes either typeface or calligraphy for a classic wordmark design. I also offer an illustrated logo package, which incorporates a drawing or painting along with the wordmark. My branding package includes either style of logo and two additional branding items, such as business cards, thank you cards, templates, etc. All three packages include research and discovery, a style board, a logo, a secondary mark, and a branding board (which is a simple visual summary of the final designs).

jmi: What are the key ingredients for a successful brand/logo?

esther: It’s really important for a logo to be legible as well as beautiful, and it’s equally important for the aesthetics of a brand to be consistent across all elements of the visual identity. I always encourage simplicity in a logo design so that the focus can be mostly on the name of the company, which will help it stand out and feel memorable. I always find that my best creative work is done when the client really trusts me to guide the process, rather than trying to direct me every step of the way. Trusting the artist’s expertise and creativity allows for the most unique ideas to surface!

jmi: How long does the branding process take?

esther: The process depends on which package you choose. A text-only logo usually takes 2 - 3 weeks, while a branding package takes more like 4 - 6 weeks.

jmi: Do you also help with printing or creating related documents such as business cards?

esther: Yes I do! I’m happy to facilitate printing if you’d like, although it’s not required. I love seeing a client all the way from the brainstorming phase through to the creation of tangible pieces!

jmi: Do you specialize in any specific industry or branding area?

esther: I definitely specialize in working with small businesses, although there isn’t a specific industry that I stick to. I’ve worked with quite a few photographers, florists, and interior designers, and I’ve also done a few designs for companies in the food industry.

jmi: Any other information we should know about your work?

esther: I’m in the process of pivoting my business, which is why I mentioned earlier on that my packages will probably be changing over the next few months. I also have an online shop where prints, cards, wallpaper, and original paintings can be purchased. I’m working on a lot of product development at the moment, so keep your eyes open for new things coming soon! :)

Thank you so much, Esther! Be sure to find more of her work and services on her website or Instagram! She also just launched wallpaper, don't miss it!

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