Deb Has Clever Ways of Figuring Things Out

Dawn Klingensmith

Writer & Editor

The Situation

I wanted to take my business to the next level. I had been pretty successful and I’ve been making it as a freelancer, which is hard enough in and of itself, but I wanted to attract new clients, higher-caliber clients, and I didn’t feel like I had the professional presence to do that.

I had been operating for years and years and years without having my own website. People did find me and I was getting work but I realized that, in doing my own work, as I was researching so-called experts for various writing projects, if they didn’t have a website, they lost credibility with me. If they had a poorly designed website or a really amateurish one, that was almost worth than having no website.
It dawned on me that here I’m a writer and I don’t have any online presence and I’m selling myself as being able to provide website copy and stuff like that. So there was just kind of this big, glaring irony.

Why Deb?

Deb had come highly recommended by Kevin Weinstein. He is a friend of mine and I love the designs she did for him. I was more comfortable with the idea of working with someone who came highly recommended versus someone who didn’t have that kind of connection. I had looked all over the place for a web designer.

It was a random process because I didn’t know where to start. I did a lot of my own research online just to see if I could find a designer whose work I consistently liked but I really didn’t. I didn’t find anyone who stood out.

Deb’s designs are consistent and I just got a feeling about her that we could get where we needed to go.

A lot of designers seem to have a concept in their mind or a font they really like. So I think that with some projects, maybe they all come out of the same place. It’s more a signature piece reflecting the designer versus the client and the business.

I don’t think Deb does that and maybe this is from her journalism background, but I think she looks at each client, looks at each business as an individual, and has the design evolve out of the process of getting to know that individual and their business.

So it seems she enters into design without preconceived ideas or kind of pet design concepts or fonts. She's not determined to put her stamp on it. She wants it to be about you.

The Solution

I came into the process with a  completely blank slate. I wasn’t even sure what kind of content to include. I may have put the cart ahead of the horse, but I was thinking that the website was going to be the first step in my redefining the business.

I learned that I needed to define the business before I got the website up and running; before it was designed. I was embarrassed about what was up before. I am now proud of what’s up. I love the way it looks.

My website is beautifully designed. From an objective standpoint, if it were somebody else’s website and I were a truck driver and it had nothing to do with me, it’s just objectively beautifully designed.

People who have seen it love it. They love the clean design and how easy it is to use and navigate. And it’s copy-heavy versus pictures, graphics, or anything like that, and that’s appropriate for what I do. It makes sense because I’m selling myself as a copywriter.

I asked people who are really close to me, “Does this look like me? Does it look like my business?” and they said, “Yeah, absolutely.”

I love my website. I loved the opening page. I think it truly reflects me and my business and the image I'm trying to portray.

The Approach

Deb had clever ways of figuring things out. I’m a writer and I was having a really hard time articulating the feel or the tone, and she had some really clever ways of getting at the core of  how things would look in fonts and things like that.

One of the many tools she used is this question: “Your target audience, what magazines do they read?” I sat there and thought about that question not from a design perspective at all but ‘here’s what my target audience would find interesting to read.’ I thought that was a clever way to get at ‘if these people are reading this magazine, then they would appreciate this type of design.’

She asked me a lot of questions in a lot of clever ways to get where she needed to get to have a sound basis or a starting point for design. Deb really managed to hit it even though I had come with all these different ideas. She listened and distilled all the information I gave her. Really, I wanted the website to be playful but also come across as sleek and professional; quirky but not over the top.

The process of going back and forth and listening to each other resulted in some pretty intense discussion. The process was a delicate balance that seemed to take forever and we worked really hard to explain and understand each other.

I remember when she sent me what she called the ‘mood board’. Initially I was so afraid to open the email. I was so nervous to open the email because we had rough start trying to find a solution that appealed to me.

But when I opened it and I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, she got it!’ I mean, she just nailed it.

She had little birds in there, and I said, “Did I ever talk with you about how much I love birds?” I mean, people tease me about it. There are these quirky little birds in there that somehow... I mean, I don’t know how she knew but they’re perfect.

Advice for Someone Like Me

She requires your participation. I know there are a lot of people who won't want to be as actively engaged as Deb likes you to be.

Deb wants to make sure that you’re all over that website: your personality, your target clients. She wants it to really, really reflect you and your business.

Her process is a participatory process that might surprise some people. It would delight other people, and I think in the end it brings about a really good, a really personal product.

Expect to be involved in the process. If you’re willing to be involved and engage and give your all, then Deb will too.

Working with Deb takes the right client, because it needs someone who is wants to infuse their business with their personality versus someone where a website is just like a little landing page and not this huge tool to market yourself.

I highly recommend her.