Kelly is an ambitious, thoughtful and bright designer from Southern Ontario. She runs Front Porch Studio, an all-encompassing health and wellness geared design studio. She moved to Canada a few years ago and not only did she deeply resonate with my student and post-graduate challenges, she inspired me with hilarious and heartfelt stories on how she propelled her design career through important lessons. Caring, positive and extremely talented, as well as forward-thinking, she continues to build her momentum as a designer. Here is my reflection from our thought-provoking, fun and heart-touching conversation we had:
When I first met Kelly, I was a struggling student. I was struggling to keep up with my debts, my health, my family and friends. The struggle kept me feeling like a hamster on a wheel.
One day, I sent her a message and I had a strong feeling that I could ask her about self-care because she struck me as someone who greatly values her well-being, her health and her family. For some reason, I simply resonated with not only her design values but her genuine vibe.
She also holds a very authentic design style. I would describe it as minimal, timeless, slightly feminine yet still bold. She has a way with wordmark logos and also with timeless icon design. I just immediately respected her from the get-go, because through the world of Instagram she simply stood out as very genuine and a great designer.
Flash forward to our first chat, we talked about her self-care habits. She told me that she loves to run and she keeps things simple when times are anything but slow to keep herself healthy. She moved from the United States a few years ago and now holds her dual citizenship where she lives with her husband and young son (who is super cute! I always see videos of him on her story and their life seems fun and awesomely busy).
Kelly never hesitated, even despite not knowing me, to answer my questions. She simply held no motive other than to help a confused and learning early designer. That made me respect her even more. I never took advantage of the fact that she was so open and kind to me and returned her friendly responses with genuine support (as much as I could) through social media. By the way, I truly believe that supporting another respected person in the industry needs to go both ways. Asking some for a coffee is very smart, but at the very least to buy them a coffee in return or offer your services is a very smart and kind gesture 🙂
Well, flash forward again to two years later and here we are nearly post (let’s hope) pandemic in June 2020. She offered to (yay!!!) meet me on a Zoom call for a short call.
At first we talked about the conditions designers (and everyone is, let’s be honest) are currently living in. We are living in the middle of a pandemic. Kelly mentioned how she’s expecting in the fall and she coolly explained how things have been really busy between that and raising her son. I immediately admired her even more. We then talked about how there is pressure to maintain creativity and with the added pressure of the pandemic (lifestyle changes) and the unavoidable and natural ebb and flow of a creative lifestyle, things can (needless to say) be a little challenging yet her calmness amidst it all proves her resilience as a businesswoman and creative.
Here are five things that I learnt from my lovely chat with Kelly. By the way, she was being nothing but authentic and from-her-heart all-the-way and I just happened to find it it extremely inspirational!
- Having good values and defining your values means a lot to your connection with others (clients, etc,.) and overall success.
I like to ask the people I admire their values.
Kelly’s bubbly, friendly demeanour absolutely shines when it comes to her genuine love for design. At the end of our phone call, she was mentioning how much she enjoys her solo time to follow through on passion projects. For example, she mentioned how she told her husband she was so happy to have a night to simply work on a menu design. I completely understand, when you’re in the design industry and are very involved in progressing and understanding trends, designing is such a lovely skill to improve upon.
Well, with Kelly the question, “What values do you find most important to you and in business?” came totally naturally. And I absolutely loved her answers because they came out so naturally.
She told me, first of all, that giving back to the community is very important to her. When she says this, she means that sometimes it is good to work pro-bono and support a cause you love.
Secondly, she told me that helpfulness on a broad scale is very important to her too. For example, when you genuinely try to help others and act like a service; whether by going above and beyond and offering more than what is expected of you; that’s when the return multiples tenfold back to you. Hearing this, I immediately thought that in order for this to be true, it should come from a genuine desire and place in my heart.
Thirdly, it goes both ways. She wholeheartedly believes in respect going back and forth. To give to a client means a lot more when they are hardworking and respectful towards you. You can begin doing this by seeing if you resonate with your clients and if you are a good fit before taking on just any project. I will be writing more on this later, but, you can begin doing this by asking your clients what their why is. If you resonate with their values, move forward! If not, you are saving yourself a huge potential headache and a potentially misaligned creative project.
Truly, I believe that mindset also plays a LOT here. I also agreed and super importantly, I believe that if you 100% believe (this is something I talk a lot with my Dad about) in yourself, then will attract the people who respect and believe in you. And to never forget your skills, experience and true worth as a creative thinker and creator.
2. Balance is everything (as challenging as it can be!).
Kelly is the founder of a woman-led holistic and thoughtful design studio, Front Porch Studio which she created in her home. She has brilliantly created and forged the creation of her business through online marketing and word-of-mouth in her Toronto-area. I completely admire her because she seems like an amazing mother, wife and family member, as well as kick-ass designer who is balancing it all.
She really forged this belief I had of her as the truth when she told me that self-care is so important to her. She has always been inclined towards good health and self-care which I believe is so important to running a business or any creative pursuit!
At the end of our conversation, we were talking about hair appointments, visiting the farm and the weather. Having one creative skill is 100% OK in my opinion, however it’s important to focus on all the other beautiful kaleidoscopic filters of life sometimes.
3. Two words: Fried. Chicken. (Humbleness can account for a lot!)
Kelly’s drive is rooted in her story. If you haven’t already checked out her story and relationship with designing for one product, I highly recommend you check out her platforms to read more, because truly, there is soo much there to learn from her.
I am currently hustling and bustling and feeling all the insane amount of pressure it takes to prove yourself in the industry. Kelly was faced with this pressure right out college while working in Chicago, however she was designing with one product: fast food.
Forget a ton of creative control, Kelly forged through three years of photographing and designing for a limited product, something that isn’t seen as interesting typically and truly made some incredible work! She created timeless yet on-trend work. As much as she was stuck and limited and most likely dreaming of the day that she would get to have full creative agency, she kept her head up high and learnt a LOT of character: grit, strength, perseverance and look where she is: running her dream studio, a full-fledged holistic design studio that hones in on helping create other people’s dreams into fruition.
We can also think of this lesson during the pandemic, despite limitations, this sense of structure can either limit us or in return drive our creativity more than ever if we let it surge through us.
4. Learning grit when you’re not sure where you’re going, especially long-term, is never a bad decision.
Grit is a necessity. It’s one of those not-always-so-enjoyable years (that sometimes happen in the beginning) that help us build the character and forge lifelong qualities that build us up for long-term success. During those challenging years, Kelly learnt skills that helped her deal with challenges WAY more smoothly now, everyday in her business such as: communication, problem-solving, boundaries and working in tight deadlines while under pressure.
There is a LOT to be said about the attitude, perseverance and energy a person brings to the table when conditions aren’t so favorable. Imagine your attitude, drive positivity when you are eventually chasing your own dream?
For me personally, this means learning and doing a lot of things I don’t like necessarily doing right now. Sure, I put passion into everything I do but being able to do what I love (passion and business ventures) is truly what keeps me up at night. I know, however, that learning character while I develop a crystal clear vision of where I want to go now, well, that is character (ie. patience) I’ll keep with me for life.
So, my friends, believe in yourself and your skills and long-term dreams when the going is tough. But most importantly, don’t undervalue the skills and incredible long-term values you are building long term that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.
My musings from talking with Kelly.
4. Define and ask for your worth. Do not be afraid to do this.
This is a value that stood out as bright as day to me.
How can we chase our deepest desires, our strongest dreams and our lifestyle goals if we always cower to our artist insecurity? Of believing that we need to dim ourselves just a little bit to make someone else feel comfortable? Not to mention, the amount of expenses we simply need to account for (programs, supplies, business rent, etc,.).
She broke down a very smart way of breaking down our prices. As per her example, take the yearly salary you would like to make and the amount of clients you’d comfortable like to take on per month and then equate the price per project by this. This is exactly how she makes a great living and continues to grow as a designer and I think it is brilliant!
Kelly told me that at the end of the day, she needs to pay the bills but on a larger scale, she has a purpose and goals to live out in this short life. She simply cannot do this if she does not charge her worth. Even if you are starting out, our experience, skills and knowledge is worth so much.
If you are unsure, ask a designer or business person who understands the creative industry for their expertise. Model your prices off someone starting out in your shoes. Start somewhere, but always charge more as you learn more because we have a skill that not just anyone has!
As well, always position yourself as a business if you are serious about making a career out of design. Simply put, designing as a ‘freelancer’ merits others to take advantage of you simply by the impression that you are always available. People respect business owners with daily hours. Setting boundaries and establishing yourself is key.
5. There is nothing better than what we do, and talking to her proved this.
We get to craft people’s vision to life. When Kelly and I talked, we solidified that what we do is extremely important. We craft not merely logos, but brand identity guides that entirely hone in on a business’ proposition, mission and values and overall IDENTITY which is what gives a person confidence in their dream. Sure, visuals aren’t everything but at the end of the day we sure deliver a lot of value. We do live in a visual world, after all.
Recently, at work I was gifted with a book called, “What’s your why?” and the reason why is because we are all driven by a why and no matter that that is, it’s so important to know. Well, Kelly’s why shone so bright: she genuinely loves helping make others dreams come true.
I can never repay you for the time you gave me but hopefully I can return it to you soon. Thank you x10000 for the inspiration and warm support!
You can follow Kelly’s design journey at @frontporchstudioca