Small Business Profile: Visible Logic

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of visiblelogic.comA well-designed message can position your organization, product or service to look unique, capable and strong enough to go head-to-head with any competitor of any size.  That is just what Emily Brackett (founder of Visible Logic) strives for with a talented stable of high performing freelancers, contractors and vendors that scale to any project. 

Before opening Visible Logic, Emily worked at several successful studios in the Chicago & Boston area. At these full-service studios she completed a broad range of design work, including B-to-B marketing collateral, annual reports and identity projects. Early in her career Emily worked in print production and as a print buyer in the book publishing industry. This foundation in print management allows her to troubleshoot the production side of projects.

“I always knew I’d start my own design firm, but I had to get the right experience before going out on my own. I got laid off in the summer of 2001 and decided it would be better in the long run to start my own business rather than search for another design job.” – Emily Brackett

The Challenge?Small businesses require someone who really understands their business; they cannot afford to mis-communicate to whatever precious audience they are able to amass. Businesses of any size can take a lesson (particularly in this climate) to adopt a consistent brand from one media to the next. Working with a lot of start-ups and entrepreneurs, Brackett also observes many often scramble to identify their brand along with their business so they can build a livelihood. The Opportunity?Visible Logic views design as a business tool, helping businesses by providing a useful web site or a memorable identity. This enables businesses of any size compete on an even playing field. Emily views graphic design as something that is equal opportunity. It doesn’t have to be hugely expensive, but can make your small business look professional, established, cutting edge, large, etc. She designs for both print & web (logos, book covers, marketing materials, web sites), and frequently works in more than one media for any given client. Graphic designers can work in several areas of design, but being able to work across media allows her to be more helpful to her clients and brings Emily the most satisfaction. Making things readable and usable through good design—establishing a clear hierarchy of information—makes things easier to understand.

Emily Bracket, Visible LogicWhat interested me most about my interview with Emily is her authenticity in reflecting that she didn’t start out with a plan to land where she did. She had always enjoyed art, color and type—but didn’t know what to do with it. Like many people, she wasn’t really aware of what a graphic designer did. So, I took the long route getting to where I am. I have a liberal arts degree, then I worked in book publishing. That’s where I realized exactly what graphic designers did and finally figured out where I belonged. Then, I went back to school at Massachusetts College of Art to get a degree in graphic design. Best decision!

Hence the name: Visible Logic. Some more from my interview with Emily from Visible Logic:
What are your sources of inspiration? 
In this business you do need inspiration. I have the typical trade magazines and award annuals, and those can help. I also keep a bulletin board with inspiration items tacked to it. They are not necessarily professionally designed, although many are. For example, I have a menu from a small family-run restaurant I went to in Tuscany, Italy in 2002.
What’s the worst thing about running your own business
Feeling like I can’t say “no” to a client. Therefore, working late or at least thinking about things late at night.
How did you fund your business in the beginning? 
Just my savings. Luckily, graphic design firms do not require much capital.
What’s the biggest dream you have for your business? 
Growing the firm so that I have more experienced partners to come together on projects. Currently, I partner with developers or writers, for example, but they are not full-time part of the team.
What’s the darkest moment you’ve had? 
In 2008 I had several clients go out of business and stick me with uncollected invoices. If I went through the issues I went through in ’08 in my first year, I wouldn’t have survived. 
Do you ever think about giving up and getting a job? 
Are you happy? 
Yes. A bit stressed, but happy.
Where will your business be in a year? In 10 years? 
I think 2009 is a turning point. I made small, but steady progress from 2001 to 2007. Then I took off time to have a baby. So in addition to the recession, I had taken time off and definitely not done as much marketing as I should have. Now, I’m reinvigorated.
What makes you get up in the morning?
Have you ever failed?
Lots of little mistakes and failures.
What have you learned from failure? 
I try to verbalize to myself, to my staff (or to my husband) what went wrong, so I can avoid repeating it.
If someone who was about to start a business asked you for advice, what would you say? 
Don’t skimp on design. Too many people start a business and start marketing it before they’ve developed their identity and brand. Just like you would not show up to a job interview without a suit, you should not show up without a business card & web site. These basics of your identity form the foundation for your brand. There are ways to keep in simple and low cost, but still be effective. 
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