Today I'm chatting with local graphic designer Katie of Rotanz Design about all things Branding + Logos + Website design for the small business people out there! We're in a different situation than the big guys, we're not rolling around in money so we make tough decisions about our investments, especially in the beginning.
Let's get her profesh opinion to help guide you through your choices!
Katie! Give us a quick run-down of what you do + who you are!
Hello! I’m Katie Rotanz, Owner/Graphic Designer of Rotanz Design in Asheville. I help small businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs stand out in the market with beautiful, modern, minimal designs. I design logos, websites and print pieces such as brochures, catalogs, rack cards, business cards and labels. I strive for simplicity and clarity in all my work and enjoy the challenge of finding the best solution both visually and functionally.
I moved to Asheville about 6 years ago and worked as a waitress until I was able to land my first design job. I’ve since worked for two agencies in town and have been working for myself full-time for a little over a year now. I’m super excited to be moving into a shared office space with some other freelancers in the River Arts District!
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
One of my favorite parts about this job is the relationships I’ve made with my clients. There’s something really special about working with other local business owners and creatives that are passionate about what they do. The energy that surrounds them is contagious and it’s so fun to be part of their business journey. I have to say my favorite moments are seeing my logos and designs out in the wild on t-shirts, hats and cars… I have to hold back from fist pumping in public!
What's the value in a branded identity that includes a logo and custom website? What are ways a website can make or break your small biz?
Having a strong brand can improve recognition in the marketplace as well as build trust amongst your target audience. If people see that your brand is consistent across all platforms, there’s a sense of quality and professionalism that not only helps your reputation and referral network, but it helps you stand out from your competition.
A website is such an important tool for your business! Think about how often people are on their phones and computers, Googling and researching exactly what they are looking for. I think the best thing you can do for your website is be authentic and provide as much information about your business and services as possible. It’s also important to make sure your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate and is up-to-date. If visitors struggle to find information or can’t easily understand where to go on your site, they’re going to bounce right off and find another website.
What advice do you have for small biz on a budget? They have the same goals but maybe lack funds this year.
While it’s ideal to have a logo, website and all the things when you get started, I can totally relate to the financial anxiety of starting a business and prioritizing your funds. If you have to pick one thing first, I would suggest building a website. A website is an incredible tool to hold all the information about your business and can work for you 24/7. If you can’t afford a web designer then I would recommend starting a Squarespace site on your own. Squarespace has a wonderful library of video tutorials and guides that can help you get started. When you’ve saved up some money, you can hire a designer to begin the logo/branding process and then take your website to the next level.
Another important piece is a business card. I have those things on me all. the. time. You never know who you are going to run into in a coffee shop, bar or networking event who may need your services or products. I’ve worked with people to design a card before they dive into a full brand design and can charge for an hour or two to put together a nice “interim” card before they begin the branding process. You can also design cards on Vistaprint or other online services if necessary (although some of the designs can be quite cheesy).
The goal here is to have something to hand out to people AND have a place for them to go to learn more about you and your business. These two items are great first steps.
What if a small biz has no ideas on branding and needs help from all angles, what should they nail down before working with you?
While you don’t have to have a business plan, a marketing strategy or a mission statement to get started, I do I prefer to work with people who can quickly and easily tell me what their services are and who they do it for. In order for me to create effective design, it’s important to focus on who we’re targeting so I can design accordingly. It’s difficult for me to work with clients that are indecisive about their business goals because if their mind changes after finishing a brand, they may need to start over depending on the new direction of the business.
I also don’t specialize in business naming, taglines or trademarking so my clients will definitely need to have their business name figured out and legally checked prior to working with me.
*Side note: I highly recommend taking classes at Mountain Bizworks if you’re just starting off. I took a class called Foundations and it really helped me figure out the direction I wanted to go with my business.
On the flip side, if a business already has a website but they want to hire you and switch to a new host based on your recommendation, do you help with the transfer over?
Absolutely! I only work in Squarespace, but if a client has a website in Wordpress, Wix or another platform, all I need to do is point their domain (url) to the new website I’ve built. I’ll then give them instructions on how to cancel their old hosting. If someone already has a Squarespace site then all they’ll need to do is invite me as a contributor and I can hop onto their site and make specific changes or find a new template and redesign it completely.
What advice do you have for someone worried they'll change their style + branding within the next year or so? They're still figuring it out!
I think the most important thing to do is be consistent.* Oftentimes businesses will change their mind on design direction and branding and will make little changes here and there which causes brand confusion. My advice is to own your brand, stick with your color scheme, fonts and style and if/when the time comes to rebrand, then you can make that decision and go for it intentionally.
If you’re new to your business and not quite sure which direction you are going to take, then it’s okay to be patient and wait to invest in branding when you have a better idea of where you want to go.
*Chelsea note: Check out this video from Marie Forleo all about consistency - it's SO important when developing an audience!
Do you have a certain style you like to stick with when it comes to design or do you love a variety?
I definitely prefer simplicity in design. I find that minimal design catches my eye and stands out against the noise of the streets, screens and magazines. My logos are especially minimal, but that’s to ensure they work across all platforms from large billboards down to a tiny Instagram profile picture. The more complex the logo, the harder it is to be effective in really small applications – and harder to be remembered! I work with lots of different types of businesses and can still accomplish a very different look and feel for each, but I certainly have a modern style and always make sure potential clients have checked out my logo portfolio to make sure my aesthetic is what they’re going for.
My websites also have a minimal look to them and while that’s clearly my preference, functionality and usability is always what I focus on first. You can land on a beautiful website, but if you have no idea how to navigate it, then it’s not doing the job.
Who's your dream client?
My dream client is a small business owner, entrepreneur, or creative in the Asheville area. My favorite clients have gone through my logo and website process and then check back any time they need other branded materials such as signage, brochures, stickers or other print pieces. I love that aha moment that I see in my clients when everything starts taking shape. There’s a real sense of pride and excitement when they can SEE it coming together.
Where people can find ya to keep following along your work, journey and tips?
Thank you for including me on your blog, Chelsea! I’m honored to be featured and hope these answers can help new or existing business owners understand the world of branding and web design a little better.
If anyone has additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can check out my website at rotanzdesign.com and find me @rotanzdesign on Instagram!