This project is one that’s really close to my heart.
During the holiday season of 2011, I contacted a local photographer in Austin to see if I could use some of her images on my holiday card templates. This photographer had taken the wedding photos for one of my closest friends, so of course, I wanted to feature them in my designs. She was really sweet and appreciative for the complimentary templates that I sent over as a token of thanks for allowing me to use her pictures.
Fast-forward several months, and I received an email from a sweet photographer who was looking for a total rebrand for her photography business. It was the same amazing photographer my friends had worked with, so I couldn’t wait to meet her and see if her vision was compatible with my work. We hit it off right away, and I knew that working with this gem, Mel Ferro-Cole, would be a treat.
The last year has been all about changes. I was starting to get really burnt out with custom work, as I never felt like I could escape the glow of the computer or the demands of clients. Now, I understand that having a lot of work is a good problem to have, but finding the right kind of work is a totally different category in itself. I’d spent so much time creating beautiful logos for clients, only to see them watered down to fit in with a cheap website template. They weren’t really brands at all, for the most part. While I was great at developing custom patterns and design elements that tied in with a logo seamlessly, the brands I created tended to fall short when they were transferred to the web. The patterns and custom illustrations would go to waste, along with a little piece of my soul.
Mel was also wanting to start fresh, as her interest in children’s photography was sparked with the birth of her son, Jude. He brings so much light into her life and allows her to see things from a new perspective.
With the first round of mockups, Mel was 100% on board with the art direction and trusted me to have the creative freedom to bring her branding baby to life. She wanted to think about the website from the get-go, since that’s such an important aspect of running a photography business. I told her about a company called Showit that allows designers to create beautiful sites without doing any coding. We were both sold on the idea. Although I’d never designed a complete site before from scratch, I was confident that I could watch enough tutorials to figure out what we would need to do in order to create a fully functional design.
We finished the logo aspect of her brand, which includes a hand-drawn vintage frame with the initial “C” inside. The writing “Cole Collective” was drawn out by hand then scanned into the computer, where I made a few final adjustments in the text. From there, the brand just took off. It wasn’t even a conscious process – I felt like Mel and I immediately had an unspoken connection about where her brand needed to go. Well, we talked about it in length, but there was no precise discussion about specific icons or anything. We both just “got” each other from the beginning. The frames and patterns flew off of my finger tips. I couldn’t get enough of this project! You know when you’re working on something so special that you have to peel yourself away from it? That’s exactly how I felt. For the first time in months, I was so inspired and enthusiastic about design again.
Throughout this journey, Mel and I have become good enough friends to Skype in our pajamas, share a few drinks together, and discuss the struggles and rewards of owning a small business. She has a really raw soul that I can’t describe. If you’ve met Mel once, you’re probably head over heels for the girl. She makes you feel like family from the second she introduces herself, which is evident in her work.
Cole Collective is a new branch that budded from the I Heart Photography tree that Mel planted five years ago. As she’s grown as a photographer, Mel has been able to hone in on her most valued talent, which is capturing children and families in their natural element. Her pictures are rarely posed, as most of her sessions now take place in the homes of her clients, where their children are most comfortable. It’s amazing what she can do behind the camera.
I have to give a huge amount of thanks to Mel Cole for putting so much faith in me over the last year. It means a lot to be trusted with someone else’s business identity. I’m even more thrilled to be a part of a collaborative effort that Mel and another photography genius, Mackenzie Rollins, are about to embark on in the coming weeks! Stay tuned…
Although I’m taking a break from creating custom work in order to catch up on personal projects and templates, I feel more excited than ever about waking up to this dream job. It’s something I never want to take for granted.
Can’t wait to see you take off, Cole Collective!