zach stevens | graphic designer | san diego

Own your rebellion

I partner with startups to boost their confidence in the marketplace. Together, we'll create a brand identity and website that reflect the uniqueness of your company.

zach stevens branding and design headshot

Brand Identity Design

Together we will design a brand identity for your startup.
What goes into a brand identity? This stuff:

Website Design

The only place your brand is accessible 24/7 and you wanna use a template? Heck no! You need something unique and functional.

Am I the blacksheep designer you've been looking for?

There's a lot of UX, UI, Interaction, Branding, Website, Surface, Visual, Product, and Graphic (kinda ridiculous, really) Designers out there. But that doesn't help you solve your problem does it? If any of the following sound like you, then we're a good fit.

You need speed and quality

Startups move fast, it's part of the game. Hiring a big agency gets you quality work, but it takes time. Hiring a run-of-the-mill freelancer on Fiverr is quick, but their work sucks. Is it asking too much speed and quality? I don't think so.

You need a strategic partner

I don't have a lot of money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I've acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you pleasure to work with (that's a quote from Taken).

You can't afford to hire a full time designer

Even if you could, who's gonna lead them? The nimble nature of your startup is best suited to working with contractors who have the expertise you need.

Your website and branding efforts are embarrassing

You gotta start somewhere, but your book will be judged by its cover. If you believe your company is worth millions of dollars, shouldn't it look the part? It's never too late to make the jump.

You can't easily edit your website

Without a development team, making a legit website that is also functional seems impossible... or is it? I build custom sites in Webflow so you can easily add new content that looks great. Did I mention we don't need a developer to make that happen?

Sound like you?

let's jam
DragonGlass

DragonGlass

Crypto mining hardware had become saturated with cheap competition and multiple players racing to the bottom. DragonGlass is here to set a new standard: Future-Proof.

Haven

Haven

Treadlight Construction needed to stand out from the crowd of general contractors in San Diego and develop a brand that could attract talented employees.

Communion Church

Communion Church

Communion Church was moving locations and changing leadership. It was time to create a new identity that distinguished them from neighboring ministries and communicated their vision.

I write a new blurb every Monday-Friday
called the MF Punches

Gubment UX Conundrum

Lessons on what not to do from a UX standpoint.

2.27.2020

Whether it's filing your taxes, paying a ticket, or anything DMV related, our government provides prime examples of how to make things difficult for people.

For example, I had taken a toll road earlier this month and forgot to pay it. It's past the point of being able to cover it online and must now be sent with a late fee via mail.

Ugh.

I'd imagine this happens quite a bit, since most people are not planning on hopping on to a computer after driving for three hours to pay a toll. Can you imagine how much money that ends up costing drivers?

That's a serious problem that wouldn't happen if the process was examined from a practical perspective.

Fact: people drive. They sometimes take toll roads that need to be paid for. Most are happy to pay it. However, the sequence of events lends itself to forgetting there is a fee for taking that road, since there are literal hours between the transaction and actually being able to pay for it.

Fact: the price of the toll goes up substantially if you forget, which a lot of people do, and it's frustrating.

So what's the plan?

Make the process easy and immediate. Send them an invoice via email. Have them pay before proceeding on the road. Don't make me, the user, cover your ass.

Target doesn't let you take items from their store, go home, use them, and then send you a surcharge if you forget to pay for them. They make you pay before you leave.

Software companies do the same thing. It's as if the basic principles capitalism has set up suddenly go out the window when it comes to government transactions.

Lesson being, whatever the government does to its users, do the opposite.

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Find Your Word

Rather than trying to be known for many things, pick one.

2.26.2020

As the glue-sticks, scissors, and magazine cut-outs were thrown about, my friend Hayley called my name.

"Zach, I found your word."

She held up a magazine page to show me the word REBEL in all caps and in black and white nonetheless.

Now, here is what's flattering: that is my word, and I've been using it since I started working for myself in late 2017. It's a small thing, but that fact that I did not have to claim that as my word and instead had someone else claim it for me means that I've become synonymous with it.

Why does this matter?

Building a brand is about making people feel a certain way about your business. If you're lucky, you can get the same emotional response from different people that interact with your company. So when someone says the exact word I want them to feel about me, it shows that I'm on the right track.

If I had tried owning all the words, there's no way Hayley would've made that comment yesterday. But because I've invested and gone all in on the word REBEL, she made the connection instantly.

Find your word.

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Small Wins

Being big is not the best thing for building an authentic brand.

2.25.2020

Startups dilute their branding potential when they set their eyes on big brands like Apple or Nike. Not saying those brands aren't respectable, they are for many reasons, but they are not startups. They can't afford to be something unique because the reputation at stake is too high. In short, they cannot afford to turn people off.

But you, the scrappy startup, can.

You can nurture your brand to be bold, daring, and different from what is expected and it will give you the edge you are looking for. In fact, it would be a good bet to double-down on the elements of your startup's personality to make sure you are recognized as something different.

Now, I want to be clear, I'm not asking you to go Miley Cyrus and do weird shit for shock value (please don't twerk on Robert Thicke). But you can absolutely veer away from the staid and trite phraseology, colors, and rigid nature you see from your competitors. You can turn on a dime and move fast without getting approval from 30 people. You can do something truly impactful for you and your audience. All the while saying, "you don't have to like what we're doing, because it's probably not for you."

The win of being small is that you can do the things big brands cannot. Small wins.

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No Heart in the Buyer

Why empathy is the most important part of building your brand.

2.24.2020

I was the best man in my cousin's wedding yesterday. I'd spent weeks trying to write a speech for this occasion, but found myself tearing up when I would start writing introductions. The memories I share with my cousin are that powerful.

Needless to say, the attendees of the wedding felt something when I was speaking with plenty of "awws," laughs, and, of course, tears responding to the speech.

Whatever the audience was feeling, the strange thing was that I felt it too. I was reminded of this quote from Robert Frost, "no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."

Here's the thing:

When coming up with the personality of your brand, its values, mission, and purpose, YOU need to feel something. If you don't, how do you expect anyone else to?

No heart in the founder, no heart in the buyer.

In a cluttered market where people buy on emotion, it's the safest bet you have against becoming a commodity.

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Can you dig it? Let's work together.

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