Jessica Ibbett is a graphic designer specialising in branding for small businesses. Along with her graphic design qualification, she has a degree in Interior Architecture and worked as an interior designer for a number of years before opening a home & lifestyle store in Surry Hills. During this time she would do freelance interiors and illustration projects, and then once she closed the shop and had her 2 daughters, she focused her full attention on graphic design and branding.
Not able to sit still for too long (or just focus on one thing at a time), she recently launched Kicks Brewing, a craft beer company, with her husband, and co-founded a community group called Creative Women’s Business.
I took some time out of Jess's day recently to look back on the Clare Makes rebrand and discuss her approach to graphic design.
Graphic design seems like a fun job, at least from the outside. What do you enjoy about what you do?
It is a fun job! I really enjoy delving into the industries my clients are in and gaining more knowledge about things that I might not know a lot about, then converting those ideas to create a visual solution for whatever a particular client is trying to achieve. I also just get a thrill out of the challenge of coming up with something that’s both meaningful and pleasing to look at.
With the Clare Makes rebrand, tell me about your approach and how we eventually got to the logo & label design that is in use now.
My approach to branding always starts with a lot of research. For Clare Makes, we had a good chat about the candle and home fragrance industry and I got a feel for what you wanted to achieve with a re-brand, and then went away and continued to explore further. I think it was evident that, because it’s such a competitive market, candle brand logos and label design can start to look quite formulaic. I wanted the logo to reflect the handmade nature of Clare’s products and also represent the Make in Clare Makes, so I created the logo from custom hand-lettering.
For the candle labels, I looked to wine labelling as inspiration and sought to create a clean, vibrant, modern design to contrast with the hand-lettered logo.
The use of colour was really important to not only represent the fresh Australian native flora used in the scents, but also to create a sensory correlation between colour and smell, and the large geometric shapes allowing for big areas of colour ensure that this emotional connection can be made.
One challenge I had when contemplating the rebrand was trying to ensure my labels didn’t look like every other candle label on the market and with your help I think we’ve achieved that. How difficult is it for you to continually have to come up with fresh ideas for clients that want something different?
Glad to hear that! This is the challenge that I love, so even when it’s difficult, I enjoy the process. I can get pretty stressed when something hasn’t clicked yet but am getting better at knowing that eventually it will if I just give it time. I believe if you do your background research well, there will always be an idea that communicates what you need hiding there waiting to be picked up.
Are there any red flags when working with clients? Have you ever had to say no to anyone?
I haven’t been working for myself in a graphic design capacity for that long so I’m still discovering red flags! I will say that, so far, I find the biggest red flag is when someone doesn’t respect your work/life boundaries; constantly texting, DMing on social media etc when it’s the weekend or outside of work hours is not great.
As a designer and freelancer, how do you find work/clients and build your business? Is it word of mouth or are there other ways?
I think most designers in the early stages of freelancing have trouble with this. Luckily, because I juggle work with parenting my two young kids and the business I run with my husband, as well as my role at Creative Women’s Business, I am not often actively searching for work – the work I get from referrals keeps me busy enough for now. I know the answer to building a larger client base probably lies within networking and connecting more, but the introvert in me struggles with this a bit! (This is part of the reason Katie and I founded Creative Women’s Business, in fact!)
How do you balance your responsibilities at home with your work commitments, especially in lockdown? How do you take care of your mental and physical health?
Balance is really hard with little kids! For me personally, as much as I enjoy how it feels to be working on and in my business, my kids, and being there for them, is 100% my priority - I fit work in around their lives, not the other way around and I’m lucky to be in a position to do so. As for mental and physical health, it’s something that I’m always working on to be better at. I make sure each week I’ve done things to increase my heart rate, gotten outside for some sunshine and tried to eat well. Basic stuff, but it does work. A good night’s sleep is next on the list but not if the kids can help it.
You work with your husband on Kicks Brewing (which we are a huge fan of around here). Tell me about what it’s like working with your partner and how you manage the business.
It’s been a dream of ours to work together for ages. We have done so in the past when I owned a homewares shop but he was still working full-time. Now we are in it together and it’s been great so far. We have complementary skills so we work on different things within the business, and I think that’s why it works. We are also really similar in a lot of ways so our dreams for growing the business are very much aligned.
You also founded Creative Women’s Business with Katie Kaars. Tell me a little bit about that and how people can get involved.
During last year’s lockdown Katie, who is a freelance photographer, and I started chatting regularly just about life and working and the challenges of lockdown. After a while we realised that it would be great if our chats grew to include more of the creative freelancer and small business community and so we started to work on creating a space where that could happen. At the moment, we have a members group on Facebook and an Instagram account.
We have also recently launched our website with terrific interviews with some creatives that I, personally, really admire. We had an in-person event last year at Saint Cloche which was awesome and hopefully, if COVID backs off, we’ll be able to do that again later this year.
What do the next 12 months hold for you?
Oh gosh… well, it’s a bit dependent on what happens with lockdown at the moment. But, we are hoping to release a bunch more beers at Kicks and I have a LOT of can labels to design for these. At CWB, we will be bringing a lot more interviews and small biz resources to the website. I’ll continue to work on fun and interesting design projects, and hopefully we’ll get to go on holidays at some stage!
Let's get personal…
1. What else are you passionate about besides your work?
I like to think I’m pretty good at holidaying. Travelling, camping, bushwalking, gardening… anything that involves going on adventures, being out in nature, learning new things or eating delicious food. I’m also really interested in movies – not just watching movies but the film industry in general and how movies are made. I’ve been known to choose watching a full length behind-the-scenes ‘making of’ over the actual movie on more than one occasion.
2. What is your most treasured belonging?
All the photos of my loved ones, some of which are in albums, but most of which are on my phone!
3. If you weren’t a designer, what would you be doing?
Spending more time pursing my art practice. I try to paint in my free time, but haven’t had much of that lately!
4. What's one thing in your home you can't live without?
My bed. I need more sleep. Always.
5. In 10 years, I'd like to be...
…working in our upgraded brewery and designing on weekdays, and on weekends building a sustainable holiday shack on a bit of land somewhere near the coast, hopefully with the teenagers joining in on the fun. Ultimately, the goal is to be happy, healthy and living a full, rich (and maybe slightly slower) life.
Want to find out more? Follow Jessica here
Every Monday, Clare Makes sits down with an Aussie creator or business owner to discuss their life and work. These articles are curated with you in mind, to enjoy alongside a cup of coffee and your favourite scented candle. If you'd like to be interviewed for the blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org