Little Black Kat Creative
Kat from Little Black Kat Creative is known for her quirky portrait drawings. But also for helping growing brands stand out with fun, artfully designed imagery and illustrations.
She’s worn all the hats in the industry from print sales and production, print management, pre-press and graphic design and knows her shit. Her design style has developed into something bold and colourful with a hint of cheeky thrown in.
Kat’s Podcast: Brighten your brand
- The power of colour and how to use it in business
- Common colour brand mistakes and how to avoid them
- Ways business owners can bring some colour and fun into their branding through illustration
- The personal and professional journey it takes to back yourself and take the leap
First up Kat, if you could give us a little bit of a rundown about who you are, and what it is you do?
I worked in my business Little Black Kat as a side business for about six years and recently took the leap into full time. So Little Black Kat does graphic design, mainly branding, design and illustration,
What made you make the leap from working for other people and working for yourself?
The work I was doing for other people was boring. It was it wasn’t the sort of design work I loved. I mean, it was designing, I was using all my technical skills and I knew how to do all the things and I learnt a lot. But I originally started out in illustration, so I wasn’t illustrating. I worked for printer. Print design is more technical, I guess. So it wasn’t really lighting me up, it wasn’t fun anymore.
On and off, I’ve worked at print shops, like with you, I feel like probably our career path took very similar paths, we probably finished uni at very similar times. And it was all about print, there was none of this web or social media or anything. So if you didn’t know print, you have were no use to anyone.
Well, that’s what I did. After I finished uni, I went and worked at a printer to learn the technical stuff they don’t teach you at uni. And then I sort of just got stuck there and then had a family and you know, I became more interested in my family than a career or design anymore. And yeah, that’s sort of where I got stuck.
A huge part of your ‘Why’ is your family and your family values. Why is this so important to you and how have you incorporated this into your business?
Well, I was a single mom for a long time. And that’s sort of how I got started working for myself. Juggling the part time job and the kids, it gets too hard.
More and more like because you put family first, I am also in that situation. To tell you the truth, I’m not a natural in a family space. And so in a lot of ways, putting family first was a balancing act for me. But the power of being at home. We can drive what we do around our families. You know if it means we’re up to midnight, cool. If it means we are up at five morning, but it also means that one of the little buggers picks up a snotty nose from somewhere.
I really wanted to be able to work around my kids rather than have to tell work, I have to, you know, work early to finish early or you know, work through lunch so I can make the appointment. All that stuff is hard when you work for someone else. And then when you work for yourself, yeah, you can just work later that night. So you can go to the concert or the orthodontist where I’m going this afternoon. Yeah, so it makes a lot easier.
Isn’t it amazing how much it highlights when you were working at corporate organisations how flexible it was.
It is but they did try to help families I think where I have worked, but there is still, as a person, I still did feel bad having to do that. They were always very flexible. But for me, I always felt bad having to ask, I mean, you can’t, I didn’t want to push it too much either, you know.
Although they also come in quite handy for excuses as well.
Yes. And if my old boss is listening to this podcast that never ever happened.
As you worked part time for someone else. And then you worked part time in your business as well. It has grown and grown by leaps. It’s really established. For me, I was kind of forced full time into what I do. What perks do you see two people sort of moving gradually into making there side hustle a full time job?
I think there’s a lot to learn. Like there’s so much to learn in starting a business. Well, for me, that was not natural for me. I’m not a business person. So I had to learn what I was doing wrong and what I was doing right and I couldn’t have just jumped in. It wouldn’t have worked. So I had to do it gradually and get better and better as I went.
You work as an illustrator as a side hustle. Like a lot of creators do, we have these passion projects that just kind of take life and we start to wake up to these possibilities. What would you say are the steps that you took while you were in that side hustle space in that five years or so, to really lay strong foundations for when you did take the leap full time?
Well, I had to establish my own brand, make sure it was working for me, I couldn’t very well go out there and be a brand designer, if I had a crappy looking brand. I did. I was the the plumber with the leaky tap. I didn’t really have strong branding, and I had to go through all the steps that I do with my clients, I had to look into myself what I stood for, who I wanted to work with and rebrand myself. I did some courses. The networking groups were great, which is where I met you with the Designer Boss Ladies. So that was a great group to be a part of, built a lot of confidence and learned a lot from the women in that group. I also had to get my systems and processes in place. So you know, on-boarding clients.
All of those things that you never really thought about when someone else is determining it.
So I had to write my procedures and have everything in place.
I that was my most powerful thing that I did was… At first it’s like, oh, shit, this is so boring and dry. I don’t want to be doing this, I wanted to pay someone else to. And it just felt so not what I wanted to be doing. Then I discovered something. Your systems and processes are power. They’re the most valuable thing I’ve invested in my business is realising it’s kind of creating your own rulebook.
Yes. I enjoyed that part of it. Actually, I loved it sitting down and having a look at the steps that I’d take when I’m talking to any client and doing the work. And then just writing it all down and then making it work.
I have to agree. I really enjoyed mine. I have to admit the contract, I did pass off over to a lawyer . I really started to go, Okay, this is serious. You have to build some really rock solid foundations. Or fuck.
That’s right. I think towards the end, that’s when things like I did, I did get more serious with it all as well. You know, I hired a lawyer to help me with my terms and conditions and my contracts. Everything was written correctly. And I’m covered.
It feels so good to know that you are, right?
Something goes wrong. I now look at my systems and processes to see how I could have avoided that.
And you change them.
Because you can without going through some design by committee and getting it signed off by 10 people.
When I was working for someone else. And you know, if something didn’t go, right, I’m like, Well, how can we do this better next time? But it wasn’t up to me to implement that or to make that up. So no one gives a shit. Now I know, if it doesn’t work, okay, well, how can I make this work better next time, and I just change it.
What was some of the biggest mindset hurdles that you had to overcome? And how did you do that?
I think I could do it like financially, I might, I can’t leave this secure job that I’d had for eight years. I was on my own with a mortgage. And you can’t just leave that. But I wasn’t there anymore. I wasn’t the single mom anymore. I had someone helping me with life and finances and everything else. I was still stuck there.
It was your security blanket.
And I hate change. I listened to a lot of podcasts, a lot of them on mindset, and they helped sounds a bit, you know, woo-woo, but it did, it did help. And it gets you thinking. I was listening to them every day.
It gives you permission that you can actually go this is actually something that’s not something for later or this is now. This is something that I fundamentally need to be working on. Every day.
And I mean, I’d worked so hard, building it up. But just taking that last step was hard. I was going to do it just before COVID. I even told my husband, I’m 40, this year, I’m going to leave that job and I’m going to do it, you know, I have to do it. And it didn’t happen because everything blew up because of COVID. It sort of made me think no, it actually has to happen. I was at home, I had the kids at home and it got even harder.
I think it put this year if nothing else, has put everything in perspective. Like it really makes you stop and reassess what’s actually important to you. You are your business when it’s you and it’s so important to have that. If you want to have professional growth, you have to grow personally. And that’s freaking challenging.
I’ve always been stuck in the safe zone. It was nice to finally take that jump and it actually, it only happened… I’m a big believer in writing things down. So I had a bad day, I wrote a resignation letter, and it wasn’t going to hand it in. And my husband had been telling me for a long time, you know, You can leave that job, you can leave that job. And I’m like no, but I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. And I went home and we talked about it because I would never just you know hand a letter without talking to him first. Two days later I handed in the letter. And it was only because I wrote it down because I was in a bad mood. Once it was written down. You sort of look at it and go, yeah, I can do it now.
But once you actually start taking action or direction and move out of a space of fear You just sort of go by that, how did I sit there for so long?
I love not waking up and having that feeling of, Urgh, I have to go to work today. You know that feeling you have when you’ve got to go to work today, and you just hate it. I don’t have that anymore. It’s wonderful.
I find in branding the power of, but why?
I know. And I think that’s why I get excited doing branding for people too, because they are building their businesses. And I built my business. And it’s like, I’m excited to help them with that, and help them make it work. And to see them make it work too is the best feeling ever, as you would know, like it’s helped. I’m not like a doctor or anything, but it’s still helping people.
It feels amazing to be around those people. It feels like you’re helping a friend.
And they do they become your friends, you get to cheer them on. A lot of people don’t come, they don’t understand that it’s more than just a logo and a website. It’s getting to the guts of who they are and what they do. And showing that in their brand.
It’s a big thing like and that’s essentially why Brand You came about. You know how everyone tells you the niche, and I was really getting stuck on this whole, I need to work with a certain person or something like that. But I’ve started to realise that the people I love working with are those people that are ready to step into the businesses as themselves. How we talked about the separation between personal and professional. You can’t do that when you work for yourself.
Because it’s you, you’re the business.
And I feel like so often, like once people realise that the things that make them different are the things that make them special in their business. Because let’s be honest, there’s 1000s, if not 10s of 1000s of them, god knows how many graphic designers in Australia, let alone the world. You jump out in your rainbow coloured amazingness with your gorgeous, sweet, cute, fun illustrations. And suddenly, I know who she is, I can see that. Have you got any cool stories where your clients have gone on that journey. And you’re just like they come out the other side?
I did have a customer who, you know, she had tried Fiverr. And she tried a few different designers at Fiverr. And she came to me and she was nervous, she was worried that she was going to fork out all this money and not like what she was getting. The beauty of digging deep and and sort of learning more about the business before we just jump in and make a logo. They’re not going to get something that they don’t like, they’re not going to get something that doesn’t reflect them. At the moment I’ve gotten a new customer that I just on-boarded last week. I didn’t just give her my standard questionnaire that I do for branding, I actually I’ve got this workbook, and it’s pretty full on workbook. And I got her to go through that because she wasn’t, you know, if you’re not quite sure how to fill out the brief form it’s my go to. And there’s a whole heap of questions you know about her target market and about her and about, what she stands for, you know, why she started the business, what the business personality is, and all those sorts of things. And she couldn’t think of any of that stuff. She’s gone through and she’s answered all these questions, and she’s learnt so much about her business, where she sees it going, what the business is,
I’m going to apply some branding cliches at you. And I want to hear what your instant response is. And I’ll see what mine is as well. Why hire a designer when you can go to Fiverr?
Because if you go to Fiverr, you get the logo that you get from Fiverr, you reverse google image that image, a whole heap of logos will come up. It’s not original.
And what’s wrong with it being not being original.
You need to stand out. The whole purpose of having a logo is to stand out. And if you look like everyone else, what’s the point?
It’s so true. And I’ve seen people try to trademark logos from that. And it’s just that education process. The same with logos, you could be in serious trouble for doing that kind of thing.
Yeah, actually, I, in my very early days of making logos, I made a mistake. And the customer gave me an image that they wanted me to use in their logo and I didn’t ask that question, because I was very new to it. You know, I didn’t ask that. And she went to trademark that She didn’t actually submit it. But she had spoken to people who obviously knew what they were doing better than myself legal, you know, legal people. You know, I could have got in trouble for that.
If you have a choice between Fiverr and Designer there is no choice, designer all the way.
I do get though, if you’re a business that’s just starting out.
Could be like your hobby business, a market, those types of things.
Hobby businesses and that’s great for that purpose. But if you’ve got a serious business that is your income and that’s what you do then it needs to be done properly.
Now, here’s a controversial one. And I realised that a lot of our listeners probably use this and so I feel, I’ll be interested to see her opinions differ on this one. Yep. Canva yay or nay?
Nay for logos. I think it’s a good idea for businesses. I don’t necessarily love some of the designs that come from it. You can get a designer who is making you an original template, and you’re loading that to Canva, I think it’s wonderful for that. It’s still branded for your business. It’s not a template that everyone on Canva is using. It’s something that has been designed just for you. And if you’re comfortable enough designing in Canva using those templates, then I think it’s, I think it’s cool.
I’m a designer who actually likes you likes Canva. But I love that is my clients freedom within a certain range. I do a lot of templates for my clients. And so we’ve done all the branding before that. And so this is my way of ensuring that when they come back to invest with me, it’s around things that are actually going to make a fundamental difference to the business. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, where it’s like, you still need to take that designer step potentially. For an example, I set up an E-book template for a person in Canva. She’s now created ten. But she gets me to look at it at the end of each one. Make sure you learned about the rules of your brand. And make sure you apply them consistently.
Stick to them. Don’t change them, follow the rules.
Which is the perfect segue, brand guidelines. What are they? And why should every business have them?
It’s a rulebook. It’s a rulebook for your brand, it will tell you or whoever in your businesses is working on what the rules are. So what fonts they have to use, what exact colours they have to use for print, or what that colours they have to use for web, the style of images that they need to be looking for. It’s a Bible.
And it’s not actually meant to make things difficult. It’s meant to make things easy, right?
Yes, and it does. And quicker, like you can go on to Canva. And you’ve got this guideline, you just follow it.
I’ve seen the power it can have, especially empowering smaller businesses that, you know are about to take that next leap, the ones that are kind of on that cusp, it stops them from spending two and a half hours figuring out what the F they are supposed to be doing.
What shade of pink, shall I use? You know, like,
Oh, no, you shouldn’t be using pink, your brain colours are blue. Okay, so here’s another one. Yep, this is another really good one. Why are you so expensive?
There’s a saying, I guess everyone’s heard it, it might take me, you know, five minutes to do that. But it’s taken me five years or 10 years to be able to do that in five minutes.
Because what we do isn’t just something for now.
It’s something that’s going to help you long term, it’ll make you money, like if you’re branded right, t will work for you. And it will make you money, help build your business and you will become recognisable and people they’ll know you because your brand.
Kat and I are both designers, we’re both woman. We both work in an industry where typically it’s seen to be competitive. But, we both as Kat mentioned earlier, we both found a space that promotes collaboration over competition and promotes community and promotes. Well, I haven’t ever felt as supported as I have in our Designer Boss Ladies group than I have in any business. I’ve felt like comrades versus competition.
Yeah, right. I think that too. Definitely.
So what would you say to people that say, how do I find the right designer for me?
You really need to have a look at their website, have a look at their style, have a look at their portfolio. Do you like their work? Read their about page. I think there’s a designer out there for everyone. People do have different areas where they specialise, you might be a more corporate designer, you might be you know, a fun, bright, bold designer, you might be into the feminine, softer designs, and that person is going to work well for you if got a similar brand personality, I suppose. Same values as you too, I guess. And that’s what I found. I have a lot of people who come to me and don’t necessarily have the same sort of business, but their brand personality is all the same. I’ve got legal people who want brands designed because they don’t want to be a boring, stuffy, legal firm, they want to show fun, and so that’s why they come to me because they want something that’s fun. And as awful as I am at doing podcast interviews, I can be fun, I promise.
You don’t just do branding, you also obviously have a huge illustration component to your business. So what are brand illustrations and how can they be used in people’s businesses to help them stand out?
Brand new illustrations, are a set of illustrations that you can use throughout your marketing. So you can use them on your website. You can use brand illustrations on your packaging, you can use them on a blog, on your socials. They’re tailor made for your business, their colours will match your business. The style of how it’s drawn will match the style of your logo, your branding, it all works together.
Kat has this client where it’s like kids music, music and stuff like that.
She’s just my favourite I love her so much. She’s a fun kids entertainer. And illustration is perfect for those sorts of businesses.
I’ve picked people for this issue because they love, love, love colour. Tell me a little bit about your earliest memories of your love.
Yeah, okay, I had a book, it was a golden books, and it was called, Colour, I think. And it was all about colour. And I remember, it was one of my favourite books, because it was all about colour. Colour makes you happy, it can change how you feel. And that’s why I love the bright colours. I love to feel happy, and they make me happy. And it just works.
You often talk about the mistakes that people make with colour within their branding. Okay, so I’m going to list what they are. Because I loved your example you gave for this as well. The first one was, just doing the same colours as your competitors.
Yes. How is anyone gonna know you from this guy.
My new bookkeeper has an orange elephant for her logo. And I was like, You and me are gonna gel.
That’s so funny. my accountant has like green, orange and yellow, I think. And when I had my tax done recently, I even commented how much I loved her brand and walking into her office because it was so bright. And that’s why I picked her, and she loved it. She thought it was the best because they’re not a bunch of old guys sitting behind desks, they’re a group of young people. And it worked, it suited them. And that’s so funny that you use that example.
Like attracts, like. Look at ways that you can stand out but don’t just stand out for the sake of standing out, which kind of brings us into the next one where you choose a colour purely because you like it. One of your examples was what was it, a dentist?
I had dentists who wanted to use a red colour in their logo, and it was actually a picture of a tooth that they wanted too. I had to talk them out of it. Because a red logo for a dentist, like a red logo might be quite powerful and strong for some businesses, which is wonderful. But for a dentist, it could scare the shit out of their customer.
It’s also thinking how you can flip some stereotypes as well. So recently, I’ve been really loving the fact that people are trying to break down the stigma around sanitary products. There used to always be rules. We never use red in sanitary advertising, you never use it anywhere. And everyone’s trying to normalise things. So I feel like colour can be used as a statement as well. How do you bring colour into your everyday?
It’s everywhere. In my house. Things I buy are usually bright, usually yellow.
I feel like I already know the answer to this very important, it’s like literally the pivotal question of this whole podcast. It’s really scary. No it’s not me. What is your favourite colour and why?
Yellow. It’s just a it’s a happy colour.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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