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

Behind the Curtain

What a local SEO expert has shown me about trust and rebellion

12.13.2019

A week ago, I had spoken with a digital marketer who expressed concerns in working with a designer on websites. Main reason being that he had seen projects go awry because most designers don't care about the canonical structure of link building or using a website as a sales/marketing engine, they just want it to look pretty. When I probed for specific examples of problems designers had caused for him, he put up a wall and said, "you just need an SEO partner."

That didn't help me at all. It would be like me telling someone their branding sucked, not telling them why, and saying they need to work with me.

Still, it sounded like I needed a second opinion on my site structures and how using SEO could make these designs better. I reached out to my network and was referred to a guy named Tyler from Socratik, by a larger branding agency.

Oh man, it was like night and day. In an hour Tyler gave me a rundown of best SEO practices, showed me tools to use, and clued me in to some of his personal tips for building out content on websites. He lifted the curtain and showed me what went on behind the scenes. Needless to say, he earned a substantial amount of my trust and I will send anybody I meet that needs SEO services his way.

Now, what about rebellion? Tyler is a rebel. Here's why: I have not met an SEO strategist who was willing to sit down and talk shop like this, ever. Since rebellion is contextual, Tyler sticks out because he did something genuinely different than the rest of his peers. That is what makes him rebellious.

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Actions Speak Louder Than H1s

The brand that pays attention tot he needs and wants of their ideal customer wins

12.12.2019

In my newsletters, I do a segment every month called the Brand Spotlight. Within these emails, I go over a brands positioning, messaging, visuals, crafted experiences, and what could be improved. Today, I was able to speak with my good friend, Melinda Livsey, about a recommended brand for the spotlight: Thuma.

Thuma sells bed frames. Really nice, easy to assemble bed frames.

When Melinda and I were discussing the things that made the brand impactful to her, we centered their success on one thing: the intention and thought that was put into every aspect of their experience makes them worth a premium and telling others about. Thuma showed they cared through their website, their product design, their packaging, instructions, and delivering on their promise as an easy to assemble product.

Think about it, if you encounter an amazing experience, even if it's more costly, you will tell others about it. In turn, putting more resources into the experience your customers have makes it so you don't have to spend so much on advertising. You've already paid for it by creating something worth telling others about.

The headline (H1) on your site could be the most SEO friendly on the planet, but it will not outdo a pleasant, worthwhile experience.

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Needs and Wants

Two very different things that need to be balanced in your branding.

12.11.2019

I love backpacking. Nothing makes me feel more alive or at peace than sitting on top of a mountain with no one around me for miles. Backpacking requires a substantial amount of gear for surviving out where there are no grocery stores or hospitals nearby. It's safe to say that the needs of a backpacker are vast. Backpackers need food, they need water, and they need shelter. Those are basics. If you don't have those, you're screwed.

So why did I bring a tactical axe with me on my last trip and why did my friend Joey bring a huge buck knife? Sure, we could use them to cut fishing line, chop up firewood, and my axe even doubled as a hammer, but the truth is, we really didn't need either of those things. We wanted them to feel manly and adventurous. Our wants justified the need of bringing along these items for the tasks they could accomplish.

We conjured logical needs to suit an emotional desire.

You could argue that this doesn't apply to everything, but I'd beg to differ. Even the essential needs we had like food, water, and shelter were all emotional decisions. If we were logical, we probably wouldn't have even gone backpacking because we would have saved money and subjected ourselves to less risk. But we decided to forego those essentials in the search of greater adventure. That's why we bought a $110 water filter and why I bought a bunch of compact, lightweight food for a premium price. Essential needs, but definitely an emotional decision.

The needs were simple, food, water, shelter, but the want was freedom, adventure, and camaraderie.

Ask yourself, what is the want behind the need people are looking to our startup to fulfill? Build your brand around it.

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Say No to People

A large scale pet store sells over 6400 items in their shop. Is it a good choice?

12.10.2019

My mom is a sales rep who works with pet store retailers. Some small and some large. She told me recently that a store she visits has over 6400 items on sale. 6400!

But that means they sell a lot of stuff, right? They probably need all of those items. Still, my curiosity wasn't satisfied. I asked, "why sell so many?"

Apparently people are more picky about their dog's food being gluten-free, paleo, with/without certain ingredients than most people are with their own nutrition. In short, they are trying to please everyone by having all of those needs met. No matter what pet you have, no matter what its needs are, they are trying to sell it.

I can't know for certain, but I'd imagine 80% of their sales comes from 20% (or less) of those 6400 products.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the first thing he did was strip away 70% of Apple's products and got them focusing on what really mattered. Surprisingly, despite getting rid of a bunch of products, Apple turned its first quarterly profit the following January (see timeline for comparison). Apple didn't even have 50 products and they still struggled to keep their head above water. Can you imagine the crippling weight of 6400 products?

In-N-Out, the most successful burger chain on the west coast, sells cheeseburgers (with varying amounts of meat/cheese), french fries, shakes, and soft drinks. Each store does about $4.5M in annual sales and they have over 300 across the country. When people come to In-N-Out asking for a change to a menu item, they say "sorry, this isn't for you."

By turning away some people, they have a streamlined business offering and they become known for it. It exudes confidence and even people who can't or won't eat a cheeseburger respect that. The same could be said of Apple and people who want to change their offerings.

In the words of Seth Godin, have the courage to say, "this is not for you, but it is for someone who believes this."

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