A Refreshing Tale of a Brand Refresh

February 4th, 2016

High-end, small-run business card printer, Moo.com, has been publishing some pretty cool stuff on its blog. For example, this recent post about 500px’s brand refresh.

I’ve written about brand refreshes in the past (When is it time for a brand refresh?) and have shown some of our examples (Announcing Our Newest Site Design & Build, Recent Work: GNO Refresh)but what makes the MOO article so rich is that it presents the specific challenges the brand was facing, then documents the process with photos and interviews—so you get a bit of a behind-the-scenes look.

Like Mix Creative, the firm selected for the brand refresh started with a discovery process, including a business and competitive audit, before beginning the design phase. Starting from this point, the goals of the project are clear, enabling the designer to define what a successful brand will convey and give focus to the creative process. Of course, simply having goals doesn’t always simplify the task at hand, as demonstrated by this quote from the article:

 “The mark had to ‘read 500px, connote the URL, focus on photography, and clearly evoke technology AND photography — and make the connection obvious.’”

As simple as that!

In this case, the creative concepting phase by the team lasted eight weeks and resulted in over 50 concepts. Here at Mix, we typically don’t have the luxury of such a lengthy timeline, but certainly this enables the group to fully explore and refine their ideas.

Example of completed brand refresh.

The selected logo and abbreviated mark work in tandem to convey the 500px brand. Image courtesy of 500px via Moo.com. Design by Focus Lab.

In the end, the client selected designs for a full-name logo and an abbreviated mark that could be used together to convey the brand. What do you think of the results?

Winner of 4 Design Awards!

November 6th, 2015

I’m incredibly excited to announce that Mix Creative won 4 graphic design awards for work we completed in the last year! Three are Graphic Design USA American Graphic Design Awards and one is in a new competition, the Graphic Design USA Health + Wellness Awards.

2015 American Graphic Design Awards

According to the letter that accompanied our awards certificates:

For five decades, Graphic Design USA has sponsored competitions to spotlight areas of excellence and opportunity for creative professionals. GDUSA’s American Graphic Design Awards™ is the original and the flagship, open to all in the community: design firms, ad agencies, corporations, non-profits, institutions, and more. It honors outstanding work of all kinds and across all media. Just a shade under 10,000 entries were submitted; a very highly selective 15% are recognized today with a Certificate of Excellence.

Here are the winning entries:

Affordamac.com Logo and Branding


Art Direction: Katrina Hase, Programming: Mix Creative with Evolve Systems
Special thanks to our client, Dave Netten

Matt & Nate Logo and Business Cards


Art Direction: Katrina Hase
Special thanks to our clients, Matt Stabenow and Nate Stabenow


Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop Logo Design


Art Direction: Katrina Hase
Special thanks to Aimee Pelletier and all of the participating businesses of the http://minnesotayarnshophop.com/


2015 American Health + Wellness Design Awards

According to Graphic Design USA:

The American Health + Wellness Design Awards are presented by Graphic Design USA, for more than five decades the trade magazine for creative professionals. The awards program honors the importance of design in communicating the value of health and wellness, and the organizations, people, products and services that foster better health.

[Mix Creative's HealthSource of Hugo advertisting campaign] was selected from more than 1,000 entries to the annual competitions, just a small handful of design and communications were selected as winners.

Here is the winning entry. You can also see it on the Health + Wellness Awards website.


Art Direction and Copywriting: Katrina Hase
Special thanks to our client, Dr. Erik Carlson D.D.S at http://www.healthsourcehugo.com/


The Price of Success

July 12th, 2015

It’s a question many a small business owner hears frequently:

“How’s business?”

My response in 2014 has more often than not been:


A response to which the non-business owner would inevitably smile and praise, saying something like, “That’s great” or “Good for you!”.

An experienced solopreneur may have a different take, such as, “Cool. How you holding up?”

You see, being a small business owner, you find yourself wearing a lot of hats: business manager, customer service representative, account manager, billing, vendor manager, purchasing agent, advertiser, social media manager….and of course, creative director and graphic designer (the thing you actually set out to do!).

When business is moderate, it’s fairly manageable to perform all of these duties well. Sometimes it gets brisk, so you push back billing a bit or maybe halt some of your marketing efforts until things slow down.

But in 2014, business stayed brisk. And my, oh my, I had to start shifting my priorities big time! At first I struggled, I’ll admit it. I realized that I needed a new solution for some of my systems that were in place for handling a smaller business load. To start, I exchanged my part-time web developer (don’t worry…he’s doing just fine with his own work!) for a partnership with a full-time web development firm that could work with Mix to build new sites and to provide excellent technical support for existing sites. I put in place a project-tracking system that utilizes Basecamp to assign tasks and milestones and communicate more effectively with clients. And I learned to say no to new projects that were outside of my target expertise, so I could focus my work on existing clients and new work that utilized my knowledge and skill sets best.

I haven’t got it all figured out just yet…my website needs an update, my Facebook page is a virtual ghost town, and my e-newsletter is circling the drain. But my clients’ needs are being met, and I’m proud to say that my quality of work has never suffered.

The lesson here? Being busy is good. But being busy and having the help and systems in place to handle the workload is better.

Here’s to a better 2015!

Succeed at Failing

May 12th, 2014

I recently spoke at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s portfolio show (really amazing, by the way…you should check them out!). Melissa Hickert asked me to speak on what happens after graduation and to offer any words of advice to the graduates.

My answer was to put together a speech about turning failures into success. Why? Because in those first few years (and beyond!) after graduation, I made quite a few mistakes. But instead of throwing in the towel, I took to heart Arthur Gordon’s wisdom in the book A Touch of Wonder and used my failures to inform me how to improve my decision-making, my processes and my business.

It was great fun sharing my faux pas with this very talented group. May all of their failures bring them great success!

Here’s a pdf of my presentation for anyone who’s interested.


RIP, Williams Company Store Site

April 4th, 2014


Williams Company Store award-winning website design by Mix CreativeSometimes, for reasons beyond our control, a company changes hands or goes out of business all together. While it’s certainly primarily the business owner’s concern, I find myself mourning the work we’ve done to help them shine. After all, a lot of work goes in to each of the brands we create! We sweat over each and every color, font, photograph and piece of code.

When a site is published, it’s like sending a child to school for the first time, with all of the worry and expectation on how it’ll be received. In the case of the Williams Company Store’s site, we not only sent our child off to school, but it went out and excelled—and came back with a Graphic Design USA American Graphic Design award!

And now, as the business has changed hands, the new owners have opted to make their own mark on the Williams Company Store brand, complete with their own designers. And without so much as a eulogy, our site design has been discarded into the great pixel bin in the sky.

So, I’ll remember the site here and thank former owner Pam Williams for the opportunity to create something together that had a bit of an impact in its short, digital life. Adieu! (*sniff!)

Google Places

January 21st, 2014


A quiet change happened a little while ago that can have a big effect on your ability to be found by your customers: Google Maps became Google Places. While this may be a good change for businesses in the long run (new features allow you to communicate with those searching for your business in a more graphic and current way), a little work up front is necessary to take advantage.

There are quite a few videos out there on YouTube to help you set up your Google Places page, but here’s the gist of it:

• You’ll need to create a personal Google + account, then create a Google Page for your business from there

• You’ll need access to your original Google Maps account, which means you’ll need the Gmail login information you used when you set it up

• You’ll have to verify your listing, which can take several weeks

Here’s a little video to introduce you to the world of Google Places. Good luck!

Mix Owner to Speak at Freelance Design Class

October 4th, 2013


I was delighted to be asked by Bill Hendricks of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Graphic Design and Visual Communication program to come and speak to the Freelance Graphic Design class again this year, on October 31st. Last year’s students had some really great questions for me, from how to register your business with the state to how to find new clients.  I’m planning to talk to this year’s class about:

• How to determine what to charge for your design services

• How to market your design business in social media


2013 American Graphic Design Awards

September 16th, 2013


We’re SUPER excited to announce that Mix Creative has been selected to receive two 2013 American Graphic Design Awards from Graphic Design USA. This is Mix Creative’s third consecutive year to receive this award.

The winning entries, honoring outstanding work of all kinds and across all media, were selected from more than 8,000 entries submitted from across the country. Award applicants were from advertising agencies, graphic design firms, corporations, associations, universities, government, publishers and more. Only 15% of entries receive a Certificate of Excellence.

Mix Creative was honored with two awards for the same company, Mama Luna Natural Apothecary in Stillwater, Minnesota. The awards were presented for:

Mama Luna Natural Apothecary Logo Design

Graphic Design USA 2013 Award of Excellence for Mama Luna logo.

Mama Luna Natural Apothecary Corporate Branding Program
Graphic Design USA corporate branding program design award for Mama Luna Natural Apothecary

Kiva Sherr-Nelson

We gratefully share these honors with our client, Kiva Sherr-Nelson of Mama Luna Natural Apothecary. Kiva came to me with a beautiful vision for a store that provided a safe and welcoming atmosphere for mother and families to select and purchase botanicals, nutritional supplements, organic and natural children’s products and handcrafted gifts. This lovely store is now just over a year old and a favorite among local mothers.

Special thanks also to Steven Ray, Mix Creative’s web developer, for his great work in bringing the Mama Luna Natural Apothecary website to life!

More Design Profession Q & A

August 28th, 2013


Here’s another interview I recently completed for a student at the Art Institute International MN. Enjoy!

1.  Tell me about your career path. How did you get to where you are today?

I went to Winona State University and graduated with a major in Psychology. I went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota to work toward a PhD in Neuroscience, but left after two years (and straight As!) to take a job at the Science Museum of Minnesota as an exhibit developer. I led the development of new exhibits, working with copywriters, builders, programmers, designers and marketing professionals.

In the process, I fell in love with the design aspect of my work. I enrolled in the Graphic Design and Visual Communication program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College to pursue an AAS in graphic design while still working my full-time job at SMM.

I graduated in 2005, and worked for a year as a freelance graphic designer for a number of Twin Cities design firms. I later landed a job as an Art DIrector at a St. Paul-based advertising agency. It was a dream at first—great digs, fun clients and challenging work. But later, I realized the owner was over billing, encouraging us to cut corners on the design to make a quick buck, and not providing the type of service our clients deserved.

So in 2007, I left that job and founded Mix Creative, with a commitment  to provide clear, effective and consistent brand communication across media, while delivering top-of-the-line service with integrity.

2.  What is your job like? What challenges do you face as a designer?

My job is rewarding and demanding. I love getting to know my clients and their businesses and feel a great reward in being a part of their success. On the down side, when you’re good at what you’re do, you become in demand. It’s difficult to manage my time and projects to keep everyone happy at once.

Read the rest of this entry »

Design Profession Q & A

July 8th, 2013

I was approached today by a design student, asking me if I could answer three questions about being a graphic designer. I thought it might be helpful to other aspiring designers out there if I published my answers here.

Q. Could you describe one of your typical workdays?

A. A typical workday for me breaks down into four types of tasks:

  • 20%…Communication: reading and responding to emails from clients, answering the phone and returning calls
  • 5%…Marketing: Posting to my blog or Facebook page to stay in front of my current audiences
  • 60%…Design: Working on projects —by sketching; researching (studying clients’ target audiences, looking at trends, finding stock photos); designing comps using Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign; editing websites using Dreamweaver or WordPress; posting social media updates for clients
  • 15%…Project management: keeping track of projects in progress, adding new projects, billing completed projects

Q. What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?

A. Skills required for the type of work I do include:

  • Technology: fluent in CS5.5, Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver; proficient in CSS and HTML; Very knowledgeable in using/customizing/best practices for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, email programs (Constant Contact, MailChimp); proficient in using and troubleshooting hardware such as Mac computers, iPhone, external hard drives, printers, scanners, online faxing
  • Personal skills: Need to be able to communicate effectively with clients, which translates to being able to listen and reflect back what you hear, then present potential solutions.
  • Business skills: Need to be comfortable with being your own salesperson—some knowledge of sales techniques is extremely helpful.
  • Organizational skills: Need to be able prioritize your work and organize it well in your calendar and on your computer. Need to be able to coordinate the work of your vendors, as well.
  • Communication: Need to be able to provide progress/status updates to clients and communicate any additional costs before they incur. Also need to be able to communicate needs to vendors.
  • Design skills: Need to have a solid understanding of the principals of design and typography. Should have a very good understanding/background in the principals of marketing as well. Additionally, it’s very helpful to be a good writer and proficient in grammar.

Q. Why do people leave this field or company?

A.  Why people leave this field…

I’ve known other designers to transition from full-time positions to freelancer positions, then back to full-time positions again. It has a lot to do with the balance of earning a steady paycheck vs. creative freedom. Others I know who have transitioned from this field retired to pursue their own fine art or teach design. I don’t know anyone who just left graphic design to do something completely different. Honestly, I think once you’re in it, its hard to imagine not having your fingers in how the world around us is presented. It kind of runs in the blood after a while!