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Episode 14: Branding 101 with 818 Designs

Melissa Carlson with 818 Design

October 12, 2018


Melissa Carlson picked up a passion for graphic design as a student in high school. She credits her interest in creativity, art and design to a high school teacher who encouraged her to pursue the field at university.

Carlson studied at Grand View University in Greater Des Moines (DSM). After landing her first job at a publishing company, a second at an ad agency and then at an architecture firm, she then founded 818 Designs.

Cheers to Growth

The self-described tiny design empire recently celebrated its five-year anniversary. They’ve been able to fill a gap offering services to those that need more than a freelancer but not as much support as a full agency.

Their bread and butter is beer.

818 Designs does frequent work for craft breweries designing artwork for labels, which gets extend to coasters, apparel, posters and other elements.

“When we design logos, we make sure there are elements that can be expanded into other areas of the business,” Carlson told Startup Stories DSM host Christina Moffatt. “Also thinking about what that brand experience is when someone experiences your space. How do they feel the moment they walk in? Is it easy to find?”

Brand Tips

Carlson stresses small businesses need to be mobile first and you need more than a logo and a good website. 

“Thinking about your brand more than just the logo and visuals … think about what the voice of that brand is — almost to give it a personality and persona and carry that through all aspects of your business.” Carlson said. “Treat it like your business is a person and how does that reflect your customers.”

818 Designs is getting ready to move into its fourth office space in just over five years. Each time, they’ve moved a block east in Downtown DSM each year — as the joke goes. Carlson says having a good support system helps with the constant change.

“Owning a business is crazy as it is and then you have life. You just have to surround yourself with friends and family and keep going,” Carlson said.

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Startup Stories DSM

Startup Stories DSM is a podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs who share both their victories and failures on their paths to success. It is produced by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.