August 29, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Why did I become a graphic designer?

Wow, that seems like a simple question.  I could give you the simple answer… I enjoy it, I’m fairly good at it, and it pays the bills.  But, I want to give the complete answer.  A behind-the-scenes look as to why I went into graphic design and why I started my business.

The Beginning

It started 19 years ago. I was working a full-time job at an interior design firm as the office administrator.  No, real excitement there.  I made sure the office had supplies, answered the phone and did the bookkeeping. What was going on in the other side of the office was fascinating, but with a degree in history, a husband and two children, I wasn’t heading back to college to become a certified interior designer. Besides, I was more intrigued with the software than making an office or medical center look great.

I hunted around the web looking for more information about the software and what else could be done with it and found a new online school (yep, they existed way back in 1999) that was offering certificate programs in graphic design & multimedia. Signing up for both programs, I excitedly waited for my software to come in the mail.  I remember the first time I opened Photoshop & was amazed and overwhelmed by just the interface.  Looking at my husband and I ask, “Just what have I gotten myself into?”  He just laughed and told me that I asked for it, so I needed to get busy learning.

That is exactly what I did.  Each program was expected to take 6 months.  I finished them both in three, and I loved it.  I had just scratched the surface and was busy trying to find more things to learn.  Now, at this time graphics was only one of my artistic pursuits.  I was painting, doing glass etching, sewing (I can make a mean dress – as long as it’s not for me), and graphics.  I wanted to do something artistic but couldn’t settle into what I wanted that to be.

At the time I had no idea just how integral my decision to sign up for those classes was going to be to our lives.

Life Changes

In 2001, roughly two years later, I was let go during a restructuring.  life-altering like everyone was restructuring as it was just after 9-11 and the market was experiencing a major flux.  I was also 6 months pregnant, so was the easier choice to let go, as this was my third child and my return to work was questionable.

At this point I was more wrapped up with having a new baby and taking care of the two I had to spend too much time of design, but I still read a book here or there & did projects for friends and family.   When the baby was two I went back to work full time for a magazine/mortgage broker (don’t ask) as a graphic designer/receptionist. During my time with this organization, we discovered our youngest has a genetic issue. 

Finding out your three-year-old has a genetic issue is definitely a life-altering moment in your life.  Going through the behaviors for his condition (Smith Magenis Syndrome) I read about the prevalence to put things under their finger & toenails. Leaving straight pins laying around didn't seem to be a great idea with that particular propensity. That took sewing right out of my list of creative endeavors. I pretty much limit it to repairs now – mostly of things he’s ripped up.

Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS) info-graphic

His behavioral issues took painting and glass etching off the table too.  Paint is messy, and I didn’t need him throwing my paints around the house. Although, he did give daddy a wonderful backrub one day until my husband realized our little guy was using my red paints to finger-paint his back.  As for glass etching, well a Dremel and glass... need I say more?

This left me with graphics.  No dangerous or messy materials, yet I could still get my “hands” dirty.  No need for a large area for supplies or materials.  Nothing to keep little hands off of or out of, other than the computer – but that’s a whole different story.

So here I was with a special need 3-year-old son, a 7-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. And a firm commitment to pursuing graphic design. I had also had enough of the dubious behavior of my mortgage brokerage bosses & gave my notice.

New adventures

I started off 2006 by being hired on full time at a temp position with a transportation asset company, as a graphic designer in their business development department.  Here I took hold of my interest in design and started reading everything I could find, pushed the organization forward to using layout software (Adobe Creative Suite) for proposal development.  After the organization acquired new owners, I pushed again to become the design POC for the organizations North American business enterprises. I was in this position until the organization outsourced all of their designers in 2012.

At the time of the layoff I was working on my Master of Fine Arts in Media Design, which I completed in May of 2013.  As frustrating as being laid off was at the time, it was again that design showed me the way. Two months after I was laid off, my youngest was expelled from school.  The public school acknowledged that they were unable to provide sufficient services within the school to educate him appropriately. So, I ended up with him home, generally within three feet of me for four months until we were able to go through the process of getting him into a special needs school.  During this time, I officially hung out my shingle and in 2013 opened Alice Pettey Branding & Strategic Design, LLC.

My why?

So again, why did I become a graphic designer?  It has provided me the creative outlet that I need while minimizing possible dangers, allowed me to be there to care for my children – with the completely non-business approved schedules required, enabled me to continuously learn new and exciting things which I have been able to translate into new techniques and skills for my clients, opened the door to help others with their own struggles in business and beyond, and yes, I enjoy it, am fairly good at it & it pays the bills.

If I sound like someone you'd like to work with I can be contacted at
804-464-3925 or by email.

August 19, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Customer Profile and Journey

There is a lot of talk about customer profiles or customer personas nowadays.  You may wonder what the real purpose of these endeavors are.  After all, if you’re in business you know who your customer is right?

Customer Profile

Well, not necessarily.  The purpose of these types of activities is multifaceted.  One, you may think you know who your customer is, but maybe having difficulty connecting with them.  A customer profile can help you to look more in depth as to who your customers are.  What their demographics and psychographics are, beyond that they have purchased your product.  It looks for answers to the question of why did they purchase? Where are they getting their information about your company and products from?  How are you engaging them?  You may want to say that you know your customers, but do you really?  You may be targeting one group but have found a purchasing base somewhere totally unexpected.  For you to be able to better market and engage with your desired target, or this secondary audience, you need to understand exactly who they are.

Customer profile worksheet

Two, you may not know who your buyers are, or your product/service may not have been rolled out yet so going through a customer profile exercise will allow you to develop the desired target audience so that you can focus your marketing and outreach campaigns. Moving forward with a direction and focus will allow you to quickly see if your marketing endeavors are producing the desired results.  If you don’t have a clear focus you can end up spending time and money trying to reach everyone and never making the connection with the people who would purchase from you.

Pains & Gains

Third, having made a study of your customer you can now take it a set further and start to examine their pain points and look for ways that you can provide your customers with relief to these issues. (Strategyzer) As well as, how your product or service could provide them gains of some sort. Once you start to understand the motivations behind your consumer maybe you can develop value propositions that will show the benefits in terms of value that your product/service are providing. Customers are no longer purchasing solely based on price, they are looking for value, and experience, the ability to part of something larger. If you can make a connection to them on an emotional level, you have moved beyond the realm of price competition into value-based purchasing.

Customer Journey

Fourth, once you have determined who your customer/user is you can develop the desired user experience. This is the process of examining every step along their journey.  It starts with how they are introduced to your company, product or service.  Follow them to the when/why they make a purchase.  It extends through the post-purchase period where they are actively engaged with you. Do the products/services meet their expectations? Does the company stand behind what they provide? How do you handle complaints? How do you encourage happy customers to repurchase or to become ambassadors for you? Are you expressing the value of the product/service – not a price, but a value it time, experience, social connection?  Do you continue the engagement past the point of the sale, or do you abandon them once money has changed hand?  (Harvard Business Review)

July 27, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Looking for Some Marketing Campaign & Social Media Inspiration?

close-up of hands typing

If you are like me and ever get in a slump and just don't know what to do for your next marketing campaign or social media post, you may want to check out the National Day Calendar ( Now, I'll grant you the site is not the most exciting, but hey we're here for the information, the goods, so-to-speak — and that they have in abundance.

I'd bet you didn't know that today, July 27, 2018 is:

  • National Get Gnarly Day
  • National Scotch Day
  • National New Jersey Day
  • National Systems Administrator Appreciation Day
  • National Talk in an Elevator Day
  • National Crème Brulee Day

That this week is: National Moth Week (

Or that July is:

  • World Watercolor Month
  • National Anti-Boredom Month
  • National Baked Bean Month
  • National Cell Phone Courtesy Month
  • National Culinary Arts Month
  • National Grilling Month
  • National Horseradish Month
  • National Hot Dog Month
  • National Ice Cream Month
  • National Independent Retailer Month
  • National July Belongs to Blueberries Month
  • National Picnic Month
  • Unlucky Month for Weddings

Now, of course all of these won't work for your business, just like they won't for mine, but is sure is a great to know I can check in at the National Day Calendar website and pick out one or two "fun" and/or relevant holidays to build a campaign or post about.

April 10, 2016Comments are off for this post.


The W Hotel Midtown Atlanta, GA

This weekend I’m in windy Atlanta, Georgia. I’m at a marketing/business development conference. It’s been an interesting experience. I’d love to say it’s been wonderful, but unfortunately a broken shower, less than stellar food, and a chilly meeting room has made for a memorable weekend.

Thankfully, the Attendees have been nice and had some enjoyable conversations and networking.

Tomorrow it’s back to the office and to put everything into practice

March 4, 2016Comments are off for this post.

Branding: A Series – Touchpoints

There are a variety of ways that our brand reaches out to our prospective clients.  These touchpoints help to develop our relationship and influence current and prospective clients on how they view and feel about our company or organization.  We are not able to control all of these points, however those we can we need to be proactively monitored and managed.

Some touchpoint for a brand are what some consider to be "the brand" the logo, the stationary, the signage.   True these are all elements of the brand but there so many other ways in which we reach out to our current and prospective clients: products, social media, news stories, videos, person-to-person interactions, events, sponsorship, websites, and print materials to name a few.

As I mentioned the last post, the receptionist for your organization is the first person to person touch that someone may have, and this can either be a strong positive moment or detrimental to how you want your organization and your brand perceived. Personal experiences can be somewhat controlled through training and policy, but people are people and they don't always do what we, or the organization, would like so you may need to have a damage control plan in place to help make sure that you can turn a negative experience back into a positive one.

The exposure doesn't stop there it's in the marketing materials that you create and send out, the Twitter feed, Facebook page, your Instagram - and all your social media.  You need to be aware of the tone of the conversations that are being had in these outlets so that you may support the positive and do damage control if something negative goes out. Remember you have control of YOUR accounts but the rest of the world gets to comment and hashtag about you to their heart's content.  So your goal is to make sure what's trending about your organization is in alignment with your brand and company values. The best plan is to have happy clients, and employees, adhere to your organization values and not get associated with anything that could be negative, but if you're unable to make that utopian concept a reality, have a damage control plan to help mitigate any situation that may arise.

The thing that I want you take away from today's post is that your brand is more than a graphic, a logo, a set of colors.  It's the people, the experiences, and the perception of who your organization is.  It's not all in your control, but what you can do is make sure that where you come in contact with people in general that you are keeping those interactions in alignment with how your organization wants to be seen,  It's the accumulation of all those, sometime insignificant, moments that will create the public's perception.  Wonderful graphics, images, and whole new re-branding campaign are pointless if your product doesn't do what it's suppose to, your sale people are rude, or no one returns a phone call.


Midlothian, VA 23112
Tel.: 804.464.3925
Fax: 804.729.3295

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