Behind the ScenesCase Studies

The Evolution of Wild Olive Branding
A Case Study of my own New Brand
or
What I’ve Been Doing all Damn Year
Existential Crises on the Cusp of my 30th Birthday

I started planning an official business right after my daughter was born. Large chunks of my days were spent lying in bed with her, trying to keep even my hair from moving so she wouldn’t wake up from her numerous naps. I was swimming in postpartum hormones, so it’s not surprising that my first idea was to ditch design altogether and go become a midwife.

Some soul searching and a few reality checks later, I realized that I actually still loved design and brought my planning back into familiar waters. Instead of delivering babies, I would deliver visual identities for holistic health and birth professionals!

To the organic-label-obsessed, green-smoothie-drinking, no-medicine-allowed-almost-ever brand of new mom that I was, this felt like a great way to use my skills to change the world.

Before Wild Olive was officially born, I meticulously planned every single detail of the brand around my audience. I chose my business name with them in mind. I dragged my photographer out to vast grassy meadows and misty Oregon forests for headshots that made me look like I was at one with earth. I created a logo, chose colors, and picked out fonts they would like.

It took some time to get the ball rolling… and then when I finally felt like I was hitting my stride, everything changed.

I blame two clients, one visual culture nerd, the news, 45, some documentaries, and a handful of existential crises messily crammed into a single year.

The short of it is: I decided I want my work to help the people making bigger-impact social-justice-aware shifts in our world.

Because while I still believe in holistic health and and natural birth and green smoothies as the right choice for me (right now), I can also see the glaring limitations of the industry’s burning spotlight on individual choice and personal responsibility.

The message is that the entire world is counting on you, yes, little old you, to stop using those handy plastic sporks every time you order a chalupa… and only buy organic bell peppers… and make sure your sheets are organic cotton… and to always remember your reusable bags… and somehow all that will take down big pharma and oil and Monsanto and save the whales.

My point is, the bigger picture is more often than not sacrificed on the altar of becoming a better version of yourself… whatever that means, anyway. It’s all about bettering your own life and health while ignoring that these problems have deeper roots at the systemic level.

And to be completely honest, in a world plagued by racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and all of the damn inequalities keeping most of us on the margins somehow… organic kale smoothies just don’t seem as world-changing anymore. That is, unless they come paired with a good dose of smashing the patriarchy and dismantling white supremacy.

So, obviously, the earthy mama brand I’d been trying so hard to create had to go.

Because not only was it trying to change the world in a way that could only immediately benefit the people with the most privilege and burden those focused on surviving in the margins… it was also playing a nasty little marketing game rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy. It all had to go.

And so, I began a gruellingly long and overwhelmingly introspective self-rebranding process. (How many existential crises have you spotted so far?)

 

Unearthing the Brand Vision

My first step, of course, was to fill out the same Brand Visioning Workbook I send all my full branding process clients… and then to cast it over to the farthest corner of my desk to collect dust.

Seriously… all my journaling and research and brand values on post-its sat there for about 4 months. This shift into new branding felt so huge! And I couldn’t figure out how all the pieces of it fit together.

It’s always felt relatively easy to look at someone else’s workbook answers, with all their side notes overflowing into the margins of the page, and turn the mess into a Brand Vision that makes sense…

But it felt completely impossible to sort out my own jumbled mess of random words.

So I enlisted help! It started as a free hot-seat style coaching call, which led to hiring Sarah Dew, a successful business owner and coach who’s all about doing business the people-centered way. Not only did she help me craft a new marketing plan, she also helped me to finally find the words I needed to wrap up this first design stage:

 

I help world-changers, do-gooders, and revolutionaries create visual identities that match the magic of their work so that they can connect with the right people and spread their message effectively.  

My ideal clients are businesses and organizations that are making an impact and taking a stand for social justice causes. They can be non-profits, coaches, teachers, artists, speakers, or writers. They have been in business for more than 2-3 years and are in a period of transition or growth where they are exploring how their website and brand are expressing the work that they do.

  • They are doing work that matters.
  • They have something to say and are taking a stand.
  • They put people first.
  • They are a little bit rebellious… or a lot rebellious. And they own it.
  • They are visionaries who know they can make a difference.

 

Talking all this out with someone else made all the difference. Where I’d been stuck for months, Sarah came in and made it all finally make sense so I could move forward. And that felt completely amazing!

 

Setting a Direction

This is the part of the process where I usually take a set of tone and value words that the client and I have agreed represent the essence of their business and turn them into mood boards which begin translating the abstract concepts behind their brand into visuals.

But that’s not what I did when I designed my own visual identity… Because it was too hard.

And honestly, even now I’m not sure what set of words summarizes the essence of my business/work/contribution to the revolution.

What I did instead was join a visual exploration cohort hosted by Amy Walsh over 4 introspective months where I got to explore more of the deep-dive questions around who I am, what I’m here to do, and how the heck that all translates into my business visuals.

I cannot even begin to explain just how much Amy’s brightly shining genius helped. Not only in those 4 months… not only with my business visuals…

Working with Amy helped me clarify my vision for change in the world and led me to finally owning the role I can play in creating the world my soul wants to see. She gifted me the initial question that led me on this quest to reclaim my roots, my culture, my mission… my wholeness.

And she helped me rediscover the fun of image making! She helped me bring back the magic of gathering images that don’t make sense and playing with them until they turn into something that does.

And she gave me the gift of permission to create a flexible, changing, limber visual identity that is designed with room for growth and evolution at its core.

So, instead of the usual 5 moodboards, I played with images, created visual responses to big questions, and gathered tons of stuff that made no sense at the moment. All with the goal of eventually finding the innate visual language operating in the background.

I also started to slowly experiment with different visuals on Instagram and it felt so refreshing to just try things to see how they’d land for me and my audience there.

 

Designing the Visual Identity

After all that internal work, you’d think it’d be easy to make a logo and choose colors. But that wasn’t the case, of course.

My first challenge was the Wild Olive name. I knew it had to go, but I had no idea what to replace it with. After exploring several different paths, I finally settled on going with my own name (I’ll share a little something about that decision soon).

Once that was figured out, the giant task standing in my way was trying to make sense of all the visuals I had created and gathered. How did they all fit together? What was the thread that connected them all? How could I turn this into a visual identity that would communicate what I’m about in a way that resonates with the right people?

Again, I completely broke away from my usual process and decided to just keep playing. I tried a ton of different layouts to figure out what might work.

 


After running so many experiments, I found a solution that felt good. For my logo, I created a simple hand-drawn signature wordmark. It is based on my own handwriting and gives my entire visual identity the feeling of personal connection I want all my clients to feel when they work with me. After all, I’ve turned most of my past clients into good friends!

 

 

For my colors, I chose a collection of bright red, pink, purple, and blue based on one of my favorite assignments from Amy’s class. The color scheme shows my love of color as a designer and brings the right amount of energy into my graphics. It also gives me a ton of hues to play with and explore as my brand grows and changes.

When it came to fonts, I have to admit I was at a bit of a loss. I knew I wanted fonts that felt approachable and friendly. And, as Amy subtly suggested, to reflect a revolution that doesn’t have to be angry and always wearing red and black.

I wish I could say I was a bit more strategic, but I kind of tried different fonts until I found a pair that felt right. Sometimes it works out that way. I especially love the soft curves of the e’s and the rounded serifs which give the headline font it’s friendly feel.

 

 

I created my website first, since I’d used it as my lab for visual experiments and it was already pretty much done thanks to that! With the help of Stella Orange, I decided on a one-page website that leads visitors who are ready to request a video call with me. This made it so much easier to write and be done!

 

 

Next, I created new business cards that I’d actually excited to hand out! I decided to keep the information minimal so that people aren’t overwhelmed with decision fatigue when they want to get in touch. And since I had so much space left over, I was able to fit in my elevator pitch on the back so that the people I meet will remember who, exactly, I am.

 

 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly working on creating an intake guide to send to new leads and on redesigning my 50+ page workbook. It’s taking a little longer than I’d like, but there’s nothing like designing long-form documents to help really solidify visual identity guidelines.

 

 

In conclusion

It feels like a huge relief to have a fresh visual identity after months and months and months of this gruelling season of personal growth. Looking back on the last year, I can see why this took so damn long: I had a ton of big foundational things to figure out for myself.

Now that the waters are feeling calmer and I can think clearly again, it’s amazing to have a visual representation of what feels like a new chapter in my life (and business, of course).

The brand I created for Wild Olive could only ever represent one part of me… the part that was palatable to the dominant culture which runs the holistic health space. It always felt like I had to play a very specific role to stay on brand.

My new visual identity feels a lot more like me… and while that might not be the best branding choice for everyone, it’s the right one for the kind of business I want to build… one which is in alignment with my deepest personal values, which has room for the growth I’m sure I’ll continue to experience, and which allows me to be my whole self.

Plus, people really love my business cards.