Ben, can you please tell us about your business, AreCreative and about your role within the business?
AreCreative is a design agency based here in Port Macquarie that services pretty much everywhere that gets the interweb, as well as some places that don’t.
We can look after all of your brand, web, digital, print, social media and point of sale design needs, and we’ll do it quickly and efficiently. We’ve been operating full-time for about eight years now and really enjoy the work/life balance we’ve been able to achieve here in Port Macquarie.
My roles within the business are many and varied, though they consist mainly of designing all the above-mentioned goodies for my clients. Or when things get really hectic, directing some other creative types in the designing of those goodies, to make sure there’s no lag in production. That, and making sure the toilet rolls are as plentiful as the coffee and the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription is always up to date. I also sometimes do the accounts and other general bookwork (while grumbling) which then enables me to purchase more toilet rolls and coffee …
Like anyone who’s running their own gig knows, there’s a lot more involved in the day-to-day operation of a business than meets the eye. It never sleeps, and it pretty much always needs feeding, but at the end of the day it gives me the freedom to enjoy life on my own terms.
You recently travelled around Australia, along with your wife and three kids. I travelled with you vicariously and loved witnessing all of your adventures. Amazingly, you also managed to maintain running your business while you were travelling. What were some of the challenges and highlights of this experience?
Our lap around Australia was the best thing we’ve ever done as a family so far. It wasn’t always easy juggling business and adventure, but we made it work and would go again in a heartbeat. In fact, my wife, Erin and I didn’t want to come back at all and would have been quite happy to go straight through the doughnut and keep heading south again. There’s definitely something very addictive about the open road. As it was, we had a window of opportunity with the kids’ schooling situation that made the timing ideal, and my work situation meant I could operate from anywhere with a half-decent signal.
That was probably the biggest challenge we faced, making sure we had a signal, so I could set up shop when it was required. Then it was making sure we were getting our feet good and dirty off the grid when it wasn’t. As for the highlights, they are countless, but after many a lengthy family discussion, we’ve settled on our top five spots from around the country. 1. Karijini NP in the Pilbara, WA; 2. Ningaloo Reef and swimming with the whale sharks, also in WA; 3. Uluru; 4. Kakadu NP and last but not least is number 5. Litchfield NP, just below Darwin. All of these places are just incredible, and if anyone is thinking of a trip, my advice would be, don’t hesitate.
As a designer, how do you approach designing a brand for a business?
The first step of the process involves working through a brand brief with the client. This involves getting inside the client’s head by asking the relevant questions to establish a clear direction for the project. These questions are around the client’s target customer demographics, current competitors, long term goals of their business etc. We’ll also ask more fundamental details, such as whether the client has any colour preferences and preferred font styles. I always make it clear that the more information I start with, the better the end result will be.
Once this is done, I sit down to go over the information and start to brainstorm and develop a type of mind map based on the information provided. The purpose of this is to land on a number of concept ideas, ideally generating some visual connection to the brand that I can then drill down on to create some initial proofs. Only then do I grab a pencil and start getting some thumbnails down on paper.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that businesses can avoid when it comes to branding and design?
In terms of branding, one of the biggest things to try and avoid is inconsistency. Bringing a brand to life involves a lot of moving parts. Implementation of the brand is a major element. Considerations of how the brand will look across the countless social media channels that the whole world can see, to the vehicle or shop front signage that only those in your area are able to notice, presenting the same brand image consistently is key.
A mixed message or an unclear, undefined brand identity can seriously hinder a business’s potential. This is a fundamental part of any design work that a business undertakes, and it’s one of the first things designers will address when commencing a project.
What have you learnt about building relationships in business?
Relationships are key. The better the relationship you can develop with your client, the more attuned you’ll be to what your client needs and what they prefer. A good working relationship means the more comfortable everyone will be with each other. This then leads to fewer inhibitions if and when it comes to having difficult conversations. The more comfortable a client feels, the more likely they will be to speak openly and frankly about the work at hand. More effective feedback results in a better overall outcome.
What’s one thing that you wish someone would have told you before you embarked on being a business owner?
It’s not always going to be cake and ice cream. You’ll lose some sleep, possibly a lot of sleep, and you will fall down. When you do, just remember that getting back up results in standing tall. You’ll be doing it on your own two feet, and it’ll be that much sweeter because of it.
And finally, if you could invite three business people to lunch, who would they be, and why would you invite them?
I’m assuming this is theoretical and as such, I’m going to say Steve Jobs for obvious reasons. The guy was a genius. He radically changed the world and would be a very interesting person to have a conversation with, to say the least; plus, there’s a couple of things I’d like to run past him.
Melanie Perkins, the founder of online graphic design tool, Canva – because we have things to discuss.
Jordan Belfort (former stockbroker) … because let’s face it – that would make for one helluva lunch!
Thanks for your time, Ben.