How Indie Beauty Entrepreneurs Find The Right Graphic Designers To Shape The Look Of Their Brands

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 12 brand founders and executives: Did you use graphic designers when creating your brand, and how did you find them?

Heather Rogers Founder and CEO, Doctor Rogers

I am very fortunate to have a lifetime dear friend, Kellie Kalvig, who is my graphic designer. We met in sixth grade and she is remarkably talented, but also knows me well.  She designed my save the date cards for my wedding and, a decade later, when I needed to make the first label for my Restore Healing Balm, she was the person I turned to. Not only did she get what I was trying to do, but she was also comfortable telling me her honest opinion to keep me on the right path. 

About a year after I started my business, I hired a consulting firm to help launch the brand, and they had an in-house designer that they insisted I use. She was very capable and made some small changes to the logo and design, but they were changes I had not asked for, did not think we needed, and were expensive. 

Everyone has their idea of what they think is best, but, when I was working with Kellie, she was able to identify what was best for me and my brand. I needed to work with a team who respected that vision, so soon thereafter I parted ways with the consulting firm to build my own team with Kellie designing all of our packaging and branding collateral.

JENNIE FRESA Founder and Owner, Copal Clean Beauty

For the Copal branding suite, I worked with a local graphic designer, Jillian Sandrey. I always try to work with local women in business when possible.  Jill was an obvious choice for me because we’ve been friends for a long time and she understands my aesthetic.  

The creative process is always fun! My idea for Copal was born in Tulum, Mexico, so we pulled a lot of inspiration from the beauty of that area. I typically have some initial ideas to share in terms of color and feel. From there, I like to let the designer I’m working with follow her interpretation. Of course, there’s always some back and forth involved, and I’ve come to embrace this part of any creative journey.  

As a small business owner, working with graphic designers can get expensive at times. I try to work with qualified designers for large projects like my website, and use platforms such as Canva and Over for smaller projects like postcards, email marketing, packaging, etc.

Tina Rudolf Founder, Strange Bird

My graphic designer was more than just my graphic designer! Rebecca Hawkes was the first person I started working with at the very beginning of my journey. So, she was the person I'd bounce ideas off to refine my vision. She really helped me move the dream forward. Working with her was extremely collaborative, and it helped me refine my voice and my brand. 

We went through several iterations of Strange Bird to come to where it is today, something I'm so proud of, that really communicates our brand ethos. She truly became part of my team and my tribe, helping me put to life what was only in my head at the time. I can't say enough about her and am grateful to Lin Chen from Pink Moon for the referral.

JOAN SUTTON Founding Partner and CEO, 707 Flora

I have worked with dozens of designers over the years and am very fortunate to have award-winning designer Judith Blair as the sole designer for my brand, and even luckier to have her as a dear friend.

I met Judith in 1998 when we worked together for a large personal care manufacturer. I was the product developer and she the designer. We worked on so many brands together from logos and packaging to huge press events and trade shows. We understand each other and speak the same language so, when it comes to taking my crazy visions to artwork, she gets it immediately.

When she created my logo, I described to her what I wanted it to represent: the beauty of the cannabis flower, the science behind my formulas and overall well being. I also told her what I didn’t want: a cliché cannabis leaf or a hippie-dippie look. This needed to represent serious skincare, not a trend.

She was able to capture my vision and translate it into a logo that is my brand. It was the first time, even with her, that I approved a logo on the first submission. I’m a perfectionist so even she was surprised. Judith is a major part of my brand and, in her words, I am driving the car and she is painting the scenery along the way. Best road trip partner ever!

Cherie Hoeger Co-Founder, Saalt

We were very deliberate about finding the right design house for our brand and went through a handful of designers and concepts before landing on the amazing team who helped us create our brand.

To bring the menstrual cup into mainstream conversation, we knew we had to approach the design in a way that would overcome stigmas and present it as a premium product. We literally did a worldwide search, looking for the best boutique design companies regardless of location, and interviewed a dozen of them. 

When we spoke with Graphical House out of Glasgow and gave them our brand promises and what we wanted Saalt to represent, they just got it right away. They understood the problem and opportunity, and have been incredible to work with. They took our vision and crafted visuals that were both striking and elegant, and that inspired the exact response we were looking for. 

They also helped us craft our packaging in a way that is interactive and inviting, which has opened a lot of doors for us. They are open to give and take, and that process has been fun to be a part of. We continue to work with them as we launch new campaigns and products.

Jenni Tuominen Founder and Creative Director, Henua Organics

We used a brand design agency, Werklig, located in Helsinki, Finland. We knew they had done some amazing work, so we contacted them. From the very first meeting, we got the feeling they totally understood us, where we were coming from, what were our visions and dreams, and how they could help us.

We started off of a two-day brand strategy workshop to identify our brand idea, brand vision, brand values, brand tonality and factors for future success. Based on the results of the workshop, Werklig created visual elements for our brand. They completely understood what we wanted for our brand and products to look like and went beyond. However, branding is a never-ending creative process, and we are happy to continue with our amazing graphic designer Marina Vesikko.  

Lisa Levin CEO and Founder, Pharmacopia Natural Bodycare

As a design-driven brand, design comes first for us. Because I am a graphic designer by training and profession, I created our brand and all the supporting elements. While this worked for us because of my unique situation, if you don’t have those skills, I recommend finding a skilled graphic designer through referral. 

The design process starts with inquiry: What is the market. Who is the customer? Design is about problem solving, not just making things pretty. The best designers are big thinkers and will look beyond just creating a label to how the whole brand will present itself on the shelf, online, at trade shows, in sales presentations and against the competition.

A good designer for your project will be one who gets your brand and will be able to create something visually compelling that communicates your brand ethos while answering all the questions developed in the inquiry process.

Your brand identity is your most important asset. Anyone can replicate the ingredients in your lotion or shampoo, but your brand is what makes it stand out and inspires consumers. The strength of our brand, backed up by our authenticity, helped us win some important accounts, including having our products in-room at Hyatt Regency Hotels globally.

Sheila Patel Founder and CEO, Graffiti Collective

I think establishing a strong visual identity is integral to helping consumers understand what a brand is all about, so it was really important to me to work with a professional. I worked with two incredibly talented designers that I met in my past life at Bath & Body Works. 

For the logo and product package design, I worked with designer-turned yoga instructor/doula Shamina Rao. For all of the digital creative and upcoming new launch package designs, I’m working with freelance graphic designer Ashley Baldwin

The creative process is a bit different every time. For the logo and initial branding, I had a mood board literally pinned to my closet door that I developed over the course of time as different images and ideas struck me. I took a picture of that and shared it with Shamina, along with other sources of inspiration, like hip hop albums and artist tags. My brand is strongly inspired by the urban art scene. She came up with several designs, and one just stood out to me. We went back and forth making some tweaks and shifting elements around so we had a few different variations and options to work with, but that was the winner.

For digital creative, this process is very different. I initially patterned sites and visuals that inspired me and shared that, but Ashley really took the reins and created a whole visual ID that was exactly the edgy, sophisticated and eye-catching aesthetic we needed across every digital channel from website to Instagram. For graphic design, from packaging to digital, a great designer will take your idea to new creative highs.

Natalia Bednarek Co-Founder, Herla

Luckily, before my grandmother and I started Herla, I worked in a large branding and design agency with clients in a variety of industries. As a strategist, this role exposed me to many branding and design challenges and helped connect me with people from the industry. 

Working with designers can sometimes be dysfunctional, so I made sure I picked great people to help us build Herla. The ones who understand and align with our vision and values were a perfect fit. One of my good friends, Marisa Balmori, helped us design our packaging. Since we worked together in the design agency, it was much faster to define our brief and explore various design directions and iterations. 

Being a self-funded startup, we didn’t have big budgets to spend on creative work, and we handled a lot of design work on our own or engaging friends that work in the industry. I share my life with a designer, so having access to him is a huge perk.  Also, as one of the graduates from the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, I have access to a great pool of people.

TESS TAYLOR Founder, Taylor + Tess

Shortly after establishing my brand, I contacted Dallas-based illustrator Alli Koch. She does beautiful florals by hand, so I knew she would be a great fit for our plant-based line. Several months later, Natalia Padilla added additional ingredients to the suite to create a scrolling banner of botanicals on our website. Natalia is a talented designer who I met through a mutual friend who knows everyone, especially creatives. I immediately gravitated to her free spirit and keen eye for design. Natalia also did the original designs for our packaging. 

My photographer and website developer, Marshall Cox, created our secondary mark, step-and-repeat banner design and so many other pertinent, tiny details of the brand leading to our launch. Marshall has a meticulous eye and an affection for clean, simplistic yet elevated design that I love. I am really grateful for having found these beautiful and talented souls, and they prove that the best people are found by word of mouth by people that you trust. Having genuine respect for one another makes working together much less painful than working with an ego.

I think clients should keep in mind that each designer has a different preference of communication and creative process. They likely have a few other projects going on or upcoming, so it is important to be cognizant of the availability of the designer when scheduling a project and setting deadlines. I have learned that it is almost always best to hop on the phone, FaceTime or Zoom versus overwhelming an artist with mile-long email threads. I would go as far as to recommend working with a designer that you can meet with in person every now and then. Things can easily get lost in translation via email and text. 

When we needed several pieces of work at once, utilizing a project management system was essential. We tried Asana, but I’m really into Trello now. Lastly, my iPad Pro has been immensely helpful because I can use the Apple Pen to annotate creative briefs and mocks to effectively and efficiently communicate changes that need to be made. If you don’t have an iPad Pro, I recommend using the mark-up feature on your iPhone.

Robyn McLean Founder, The Hello Cup

We did use a graphic designer, but we also had a very strong idea of what we were after before we contacted her, which meant the process was relatively quick. We were referred to Anouska Richard and immediately loved her. She’s a mum who takes on jobs that she can manage around her life, and we value that. 

Like us, she’s a bit quirky, but one of the best things about our relationship is we can discuss things we do or don’t like and go from there. She’s never pushing us into choosing something we don’t feel comfortable with or something we don’t absolutely adore. We’ve heard some dreadful stories of "it’s my way or the highway" graphic designers. So, we are grateful to have found someone who’s so easy going yet extremely talented. She’s definitely a big part of the Hello Cup family.

JAMIE STEENBAKKERS Co-Founder and COO, Busy Beauty

We did use a graphic designer when creating our brand, and we found her through referrals from other startup companies. We started off doing smaller projects with her because, when we launched two years ago, we only had one SKU, our Showerless Shave Gel. With her, it took us six months to design and develop the product and a month alone to just come up with the name. 

We used focus groups, surveys and brainstorming sessions to come up with about one design iteration per week. We would then take about 10 completely different options, narrow those options down to our three favorites, then come up with 10 more iterations of those three designs and so on until we came up with a design that focus groups and surveys were responding to positively. Once we made the decision to expand beyond our one SKU, we worked with our graphic designer to come up with a branding playbook that ensures the whole line looks cohesive.

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