Client Corner Feature: Rawkus

Freshly home from college, trying very hard to meet new people, I was sitting outside a lounge in Woodbrook, Port of Spain one night (R.I.P. Rossco’s) and heard someone using design terms. My ears perked up and I found myself making small talk with a guy named Keegan Simon who had a local t-shirt brand called 1ndividual. Finally!!! I found a creative in the design world at home to hang out with. He invited me to his studio where I got to see his screen printing process (one of my close friends from college also screen printed tees so I felt a bit nostalgic at the time) and it was here that I met Jayron Rawkus Remy, this week’s client corner feature. I felt it important to highlight the random way in which meeting people leads to possibly meeting your next client. As his name suggests, this raucous individual was extremely passionate about culture and T&T, the place I just returned to and was quickly falling in love with all over again.

While visiting that same friend from college who designed and printed tees, Jayron reached out to brand an event that he was doing called HearTT. He had a logo done for the previous version of the event but didn’t like it. On reviewing the “logo” in question I realised it was a stock image and not an original piece of work. I asked Jayron if he was aware this was what the previous person did, and he was not. And thus began our 8 year long working relationship.

HearTT | 2015

Rawkus’ signature event: Throwback & Wine was created to highlight his style of djing, focusing on the older songs. In 2015 he did six events and 23 variations of events over the next 7 years.

Throwback & Wine | 2015

Pop Up & Wine | 2016

I am assuming Jayron enjoyed the process of working with me because after two years of events he asked me to create a logo for his brand name: RAWKUS. Some backstory is necessary, who is Jayron? Jayron Rawkus Remy is now a well known morning show host, beloved DJ, audio technician, producer, father, husband and a truly amazing friend. Jayron is the first client to 100% trust me as a designer and give me unlimited time to get it right. It took a year to get this logo. It took 3 rounds of multiple options and not getting it right before I finally created something that he loved. Something that would represent all these various aspects of his profession, something that would make people take “a dj” seriously. Finally at the end of 2016, to start the year in 2017, we had a new brand.

Rawkus Logo | 2017

Throwback and Wine | 2017

Throwback & Wine | 2018

Events | 2019

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is winefuhderepublic-post1.jpg

In 2020, the pandemic affected physical events but did not stop Jayron who came up with Stay Home and Wine.

Stay Home and Wine | 2020

In 2022, when restrictions lifted, we got a chance to meet in person again.

Throwback and Wine | 2022

And we just had the first Carnival version of Throwback for the ‘mother of all Carnivals’.

Throwback & Wine | 2023

When I went to college I looked down on event artwork. In 2008-2012 party flyers featured stolen images on popular women, lots of flares and filters before filters was a thing. It was tacky. It was sexist. I was not interested in being a part of that design world. I’m glad I didn’t say no to ALL event related artwork or I would never have had the opportunity to work with Jayron on all of these events that created a space for people to be and feel free, even if it’s only for 4 hours. I learnt so much more about Trinidad’s musical history from attending these events than I could ever have learnt elsewhere. It’s because of Jayron I now know the infamous song to close and event that will also close this post.

Client Corner Feature: The Lydians

In 2022, I celebrated 10 years since I graduated college and entered the world of work as a full-time creative. Scary stuff. On looking back and taking stock this year, I realised that there are some clients who have been with me over multiple years. Because I am primarily a logo designer this isn’t my norm. I am there at the beginning to get them started and then we part ways. But after reviewing my client list, there are some that kept popping up so this Client Corner Feature is to focus on each one of these clients (and be nostalgic and overshare!).

First up is The Lydians.

As a child, my mother took me to the Lydians Christmas concert every, single year. Actually, we went to anything The Lydians produced once we could. My mother worked for an oil & gas company and was an external comms officer who used her powers for good by ensuring creative projects got funded. As you can guess, she, through her profession, sponsored The Lydians all those years we went to those concerts. And this is my earliest memory of them, before becoming a designer was even a thought. My favourite part of a Lydians’ Christmas concert is the end, not because it’s over, but because a Lydians’ Christmas concert always ends with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus…accompanied by live tassa! It is one of my absolute favourite things of all time.

Fast forward to 2017 when the Communications Officer of The Lydians (at the time), Janine Charles-Farray (who also happened to be my favourite singer!) reached out for some assistance with producing artwork for the same annual Christmas concert I religiously attended. “Finally!” I thought. They were having some trouble getting the artwork done in a timely manner that year and called me for some assistance.

2017 | Hold Out Your Light

I remember being so nervous. I put all this pressure on myself about this great client, my dream client and delivering a great product. It was so surreal seeing my work when I attended the concert that year. Janine and I worked together to ensure this we got this just right. She was one of the first creative clients I had who gave specific creation direction and requests. I learnt so much and luckily, they were satisfied because the following year, we did it again.

2018 | The Gift

I should probably mention all of the various deliverables for the project and the process. So what goes into creating the visuals for a show: it all begins with a theme. Each year most annual events pick a theme, The Lydians was no different. They would pick a name for the concert each year and this will dictate what music they select to perform. They tend to stay away from the cliché Christmas themes, and being a choir rooted in the Anglican faith, there are almost always religious undertones.

So first, they give me the theme/title for the year. They share a creative brief which describes why they chose the theme and what is the overall message they are trying to share with their audience. This is extremely helpful for me because it helps me to create something that matches that message visually. A peeve of mine is when there is inconsistency in messaging and the visuals do not match the rest of the theme for an event. I see it all the time. Anyway, I digress. Once I get the creative brief, I then create 2-3 options of the title and what it would look like on a flyer. The client provides feedback, maybe we make a few edits to the chosen design and then I roll out all of the needed deliverables. These include: a main flyer, sized for press, website, and various social media platforms, as well as the tickets for the show, any merchandise that will be on sale such as t-shirts and more recently masks, signage (in this case, pennants), and the programme for the show. The visual elements are also shared with the video editor for consistency and with the projectionist for on stage visuals.

2019 | Deo Gratias

2019 was the last year that Janine and I worked together on the Lydians Christmas concert. The underlying theme was muses and representing past, present and looking toward the future, hence the 3 faces. 2019 also happened to be the 40th anniversary of the choir, their ruby year, and on top of the usual artwork requests was the ask for an anniversary logo.

As we all know, 2020 brought a global pandemic and the event industry as we know it was basically over. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from the Lydians’ General Manager, Garnet Allen, to produce artwork again.

2021 | Arise, Shine!

As the name suggested, Arise, Shine! was to mark that coming out of the darkness we as humans felt for the 2 years of lockdown. This was also the beginning of the Lydians securing sponsorship by FCB and the introduction of their dual logo use on designs.

2022 | Season of Steel

For the first time, I got to work on something specifically for Lydian Steel and outside of the Christmas season. The Lydian Steel also celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2022 which meant, another anniversary logo!

2022 | Angels Bending Near The Earth

The person who got me started on this 5 year journey with the Lydians unfortunately passed away in the second half of 2022. The 2022 Christmas concert was dedicated to all the angels who left us as well as the ones still with us and while this was the longest title we’ve worked with to date (5 words long!) it felt like a nice send off and thank you to someone very special to us in the creative community.

Rest in Peace, Janine. And thank you.

If you’ve made it to the end, thank you for reading! Feel free to comment and ask questions about anything related to this post and look out for the next 3 Client Corner features.

Let’s Talk About Money

Money has always been a struggle for me. I personally believe(d) that money is to be spent. The concept of saving eluded me. I was never taught how to, only told that it was something I should be doing. So as any creative self employed person would, I lived from pay check to pay check, made sure I was making enough to cover rent and bills and feed myself. Whenever something unexpected popped up, as is inevitable in this life, I would be stressed, sad, and all around frustrated because I would be reminded that I have no savings to deal with situations like this. The pandemic only emphasized this further.

So this past year, it’s been all about the money for me. There are so many negative connotations with money. Whether it’s the root of all evil, or a sign that yuh sell out. Having it means you “feel you better than everybody”, it leads to greed and envy and all these yucky things. But here is the reality, without money, we can do nothing. Literally.

There was a specific period this year where I had zero dollars. All the money ran out and I was in between pay checks. Someone wanted me to meet them in person, and I couldn’t because I didn’t have a car at the time and I had no money to take a rideshare or taxi. I couldn’t eat because I had no way of going to the grocery to use the Massy points I had to get something to hold me over. And the state of depression I was in prevented me from reaching out to ask for help. Plus let’s be real, it was also shame. This moment really brought home for me the reality, forget comfort, forget nice things, money is needed to simply live.

Being the problem solver I am, (after getting help from people who called and asked the right questions at the right time, thank you), I changed how I interacted with money. First, I needed accountability and someone to help me budget. I reached out to my accountant and explained everything, I got really vulnerable. What happened after has literally changed my life: I meet every week with a financial advisor and go through how much money I’m expecting to make in that week, and how much I need to spend. Everyone I’ve ever tried to ask for help always wanted me to give them information on a monthly basis, but every month when you work for yourself is completely different. Weekly tracking worked. I started to see how many clients I needed to take on in a month, to pay attention to cash flow, to say no to a lime sometimes, to buy the cheaper product in the grocery, and generally be more aware of how I make and spend money.

For the first time in my life, I was able to use my own money to purchase a laptop for my business because l actually had it in my account. I want to be really open and transparent about this because we do not talk about money. As an adult I don’t know a week that has gone by that banking does not frustrate me. Something has got to give and I believe that together, if we share our experiences, information, advice, we can figure this thing out. So in case you were wondering why I’m doing an event next week entitled Let’s Talk About Money, this is why.

I am grateful to Lorraine and C15 Studios for agreeing to cohost with me. I am grateful to Dr. Keron Niles for calling at the right time. And I am grateful for all the experiences along the way, and all the people who were a part of them, truly.

Let’s Talk Money

For the past couple years I have been repeatedly told that I undercharge for my services. I even wrote a post about it 4 years ago, acknowledging and admitting such. Friends and colleagues have been showing me the actual figures, and the math is finally staring at me, and I am now glaringly obvious of how I have allowed my empathy to overrule my business.

This year marks 10 years since I graduated with honours from one of the top 10 design schools in the US. This year marks 10 years of working experience both at agencies and as a freelancer. This year marks 4 years of successfully running my own business. This year marks 3 years of teaching design to students. To say I am not qualified would be a gross inaccuracy.

I just read a post by Chris Do on why I might be unwilling to charge my worth and worth is such a funny word to me. He discusses how it’s a matter of confidence and most creatives lack the self confidence needed to charge more. And while I agree with this statement to an extent, I consider myself extremely confident in my abilities as a brand identity designer. The challenge is linking that confidence and ability to a price. I’ve taught people how to work out their fees, and I’ve done the work with them and then I return to charging what I have been since 2012. Empathy. I work with a lot of small business owners, as a branding designer, I am there at the beginning. I listen to all of their stories and pain points and internalize it in order to tap into their needs and pull out a design that would solve all of their problems (or at least this is what I tell myself). Through this process I begin to care… too much. This is where I should say, I charge customers based on what they say they can afford, rather than charging them for the service being provided. I get too personal.

I’ve been learning about boundaries this past year in particular, turns out, I’ve had none all my life! And in realising this, I need to put up some emotional boundaries with my clients. I have gotten really great at boundaries for how to communicate with me, to respect my time, but not so great at charging a fee that accurately reflects the value of the service provided. To paint a picture of how badly I undercharge, my fees are 1/4 and 1/5 the amount that my counterparts charge! I actually charge less than the junior designers I’ve hired to work on projects. I might be insane. And you might be wondering, why this oversharing, and why now? Well, I’ve learnt that there’s a freedom that comes with transparency that gives you the permission to do the thing you were supposed to do all along. I also believe in giving others the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and not have to make them too. And maybe most of all, the maths not mathsin’ anymore, which is a Trini way of saying that it’s not making any sense to continue doing what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years.

So, was this a random blog post about me still undercharging or was this an announcement that yesterday’s price is not today’s price? I’ve done the research, I’ve done the math, I’ve set the goals, and it is time for me to apply that same empathy I give my clients, to myself. Design is a billion dollar industry, for a really good reason, it is visual communication. It allows us as human beings to interact with all of the products and services we want and need on a daily basis.

Want to work with me on your next project? Let’s talk!

Are you undercharging for your services? Tell me in the comments because misery likes company.

Mental Health Awareness Month

In 2020, I started creating posts on Instagram for Mental Health Awareness Month. I missed last year, but here we are, new year, new chances, new things. I decided to compile all 4 posts here as they were helpful to some and can maybe help a couple more.

This has been on my to do list for 2 months now but I couldn’t decide what I wanted to share this month until now. The truth. We have endless motivational quotes and positive words to inspire and share everywhere, but sometimes, most times, you just want to say how you’re really feeling and not be told some version of motivation. As someone who battles mental health illness on a daily basis, I don’t want to be told it will get better, because the reality is “it” actually won’t, I’ll just get better at dealing with the problem.

You know that feeling when things are going too good and you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop? Welcome to me everyday. I have a really hard time accepting congratulations, or celebrating wins. Birthdays, and special anniversaries, no problem. Personal or professional achievement, things going right, “happy moments” terrify me. I don’t know what to do with them, I don’t feel comfortable. I’ve learn this is not a normal reaction to when things go well, and I’ve been trying to actively force myself to celebrate wins however small they may be. But it is truly an uncomfortable experience.

When people ask me “what’s wrong?” sometimes, it’s really hard to explain in the moment and I wish I had something like this to point to which would explain it without my having to try to admit it out loud. 👆🏾 Depression makes no sense. None whatsoever. And there’s nothing I can say to a loved one to help them understand, in the moment, what I am going through. Now throw in running your own business and having to interact with clients and suppliers and then getting hit by one of these classics. Here’s to communicating more openly and honestly! And here’s to the people with patience, thank you!

So here I am, in the last minutes of the last day in May, telling you that I am trying my best. We assume a lot about each other because we’re not there every second of everyday. So we see an Instagram post and we fill in the blanks. We see someone out and we let our brains assume. The reality is that we really just don’t know what people go through. Every time there’s a celebrity suicide, there’s so much shock, and the cliché “they were rich, what did they have to be unhappy about?” There we go again, filling in the blanks, assuming. So I am here, reminding you that we are all really trying. Be patient with each other and more importantly, be patient with yourself.

In the infamous words of the one and only Prince: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…” 💜