November 21, 2016
Back to the Drawing Board. Sort of.

Hi Little One Studio Front Door

This is the front door of the HLO studio. No, we don't manage taxes, or provide health insurance estimates, or do data entry. Inside is an incredibly creative, comfortable space I'm sure you're really like. This doorway isn't consistent with our brand you say? Welcome to my world!

I have been dying to redesign the site, since the minute it went live last year. Call it the plague of being a designer, or a perfectionist. Or is it the benefit of having evolving taste? Whatever the case, I’ve had this massive item on my todo list for the last 18 months and am finally making time to get after it.

The problem is, that when I start working on the site, I realize that the site is really just a symptom of what is actually bothering me.

The real challenge we’re facing isn’t just some navigation and styling changes to a website. It’s what I feel like is a lack of cohesiveness throughout every square inch of our brand. We’re close for sure, but not there. And it’s frustrating.

I’ve shared this before, but this snippet by Ira Glass describes my sentiments perfectly. It makes me feel empowered by this feeling of dissatisfaction, instead of like giving up because I’m not “there” yet. I really can’t overstate how much comfort and motivation I find in his words.

I was a marketing and graphic design double major in college. In both fields, professors would insist that their respective subject was the core, the source of any solid business.

"You find a market need, then build a solution."

"Every consumer shortcoming is a design problem—answer it and you have your business."

I’m sure the finance majors got the same lecture. What good is an idea without money to make it a reality anyway?

So where do you really start? When we launched Hi Little One, there was so much work to even get going that I glossed over many of the most critical elements—like our brand voice and perspective. We have a logo, sure, but not a complete identity. So many design choices were made as the need arose instead of being founded in a thorough platform. What typeface should we use on the website? What do we want our photography to feel like? What is our tagline?

These are the character building decisions you make upfront, not on the fly.

So why didn’t we finish the job before we started sprinting forward? Because it's a really challenging task with no immediate payoff. We need a brand platform, but we need a website. When there is a huge and ever growing list of to-dos, it's easy to push important, difficult tasks aside. 

What’s more, these challenges often feel like a chicken or the egg scenario. How can you hash out your brand’s voice when you haven't even written an Instagram post yet? So as much as I beat myself up for glazing over what I know to be mission critical, I know that it’s also a messy process. Like Ira says, the only way to close the creative gap is to keep creating.

This is what we’ve been doing the past 18 months. Working so hard cranking out product, developing marketing collateral, writing business plans, taking interviews, answering customer questions. Really getting to know our company.

So here we are. I've kicked this can as far as I can stand it, and it’s time to drive some stakes in the ground and set a real foundation to grow.

So before I can dive into the wonderful world of web design, it's back to the basics. Who are we? Why do we exist? What value do we add? What is our perspective? These questions still aren't easy to answer, but we certainly have more data and experience to work with.

An identity crisis never feels good, but creating a brand that you're proud of certainly does. I’m feeling inspired, motivated and capable in the trenches as of late, and I’m really excited about what's ahead.

Anyone else feel this way? Please share any insight / tips / articles / TED talks! It gets lonely working alone, especially when you realize you don't even know yourself ;) 

Nell Lindquist