Bonnie Bakhtiari’s work is a true testament to the power of good design. After launching a florist’s new visual identity and custom website, Bonnie helped her client book more than $50K in revenue in a single month. The HoneyBook member shares how she got her start (with just $200 in the bank!) and how she builds strategic brand designs.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Bonnie – I’m a brand designer and strategist for creatives, an industry educator, and founder of the Illume Retreat. Past clients have dubbed me “the Joanna Gaines of brand design,” and I’ve had more than a few call me a dream maker, a game changer, and a design wizard (my Harry Potter-loving heart didn’t hate that one, let me tell you!). It’s a joy to call Waco, Texas “home” alongside my sweet husband and our hyper golden retriever pup, Boone.
I started b is for bonnie design back in 2012 right out of college with my trusty old laptop, about $200 in the bank, and a whole bunch of gumption. Since then, I’ve been honored to work with hundreds of creatives to craft elevated visual brands that reflect the heart of their life’s work.
I started b is for bonnie design back in 2012 right out of college with my trusty old laptop, about $200 in the bank, and a whole bunch of gumption.
My work has recently been featured in Creative at Heart Conference, WeddingWire World, the Goal Digger Podcast, My Creative Empire Podcast, Style Me Pretty Living, Belong Magazine, and Cottage Hill Magazine.
What’s your favorite HoneyBook feature?
Can I cheat and share two favorite features? I just love the Workflows feature and Timelines! Workflows are such a fantastic way to help me stay organized with my client branding projects. And Timelines are the easiest way to outline clear expectations for both my clients and myself.
I’ve actually created a guide on 5 easy ways designers can elevate their design business with Honeybook. It’s a free .pdf that designers can download to dive deeper into how I use Honeybook to streamline my process and elevate my client experience in one fell swoop.
What’s been one of your most successful projects?
I define a successful project by the kinds of results I’m able to deliver for my clients. Through brand design and strategy, I believe it’s important to craft visual identities that empower my clients to reach their goals. One recent client project that actually helped my client exceed her goals happened last year and it’s probably one of the highlights of my career! I worked with a talented luxury floral designer to re-brand her business. As a result of the work we did together, she was able to double her starting price point. And after we launched her new visual identity and custom website, she went on to book not one but two celebrity clients that led to over $50K in revenue in one month! It was such a humbling and powerful response to the work that we did, and I still pinch myself that was real life.
Through brand design and strategy, I believe it’s important to craft visual identities that empower my clients to reach their goals.
What components were included in her new visual identity and custom website?
As part of this full re-brand, we crafted everything from new logos and alternate marks, to custom letterpress stationery and client guides, to a gorgeous Showit 5 website. At the end of our work together, my sweet client walked away with not only beautiful visual to serve as the elevated face of her brand, but also the strategy to invite her own clients into a cohesive, intentional experience in the years ahead.
What improvements did you make to the visual identity and website she had before?
When my client first came to me, she had an overly bright, playful logo that felt a bit dated and came across as slightly unprofessional. It certainly wasn’t on par with the elevated, high-end experience she offered to her floral clients! And her old website reflected that same aesthetic. Together, we crafted a totally updated visual identity that positioned her brand as elevated, polished, and approachable. I incorporated floral illustrations that included specific flowers that held a special place in her heart as part of her logo, and we composed a soft, subtly feminine color palette throughout her print and web presence. We also crafted some print materials to elevate her client experience through tangible touchpoints such as client guides and letterpress stationery.
What are your top 3 tips to help other designers achieve the same kind of project success?
- Understand the core of the brand—Before diving into color palettes or exploring the perfect type pairings for your clients, it’s crucial that both you and your client understand the core of their brand. If you’re going to make informed design decisions, you have to know your client’s brand values, mission, vision, a clear profile of their ideal client, and what their brand message is. Start your work together by first diving into the very heart of their brand so you can design with clarity.
- Ask the right questions—Here’s one of my favorite ways to craft brands that convert after they launch — design with your client’s goals in mind. Knowing who they’re trying to reach, where they want to go as a brand, and how their past branding let them down enables me to make thoughtful design decisions that will elevate their visual identity as a whole. On top of that, it will authentically resonate with their ideal clients because it’s designed to speak directly to those wonderful people in the first place. Rather than focusing on their preferences or what their favorite color is, I prefer to focus on a few specific things:
- Who are their ideal clients? Who do they need to reach through their branding?
- How did their current or past branding let them down? What pain points are standing in their way, what problems did they see from their past branding, or what themes did they hear clients or colleagues share in reference to their old branding?
- What big goals are on the horizon? Where do they want to go as a business after this launch? How can my work help them achieve those goals?
- Step in as the expert—While your clients might have strong opinions on what design aesthetic they like or what trends they’re drawn to, it’s important to remember that they’ve hired you for your expertise as a designer! With that in mind, it’s your responsibility to serve them well and steer them far away from not-so-ideal design decisions. Although that isn’t always a fun conversation to have, your client will thank you in a year when they aren’t looking at a super dated logo!
Have you always worked in branding and design?
I actually sort of fell into the branding industry in a roundabout way! My degree is in Journalism with an emphasis on News/Editorial, so I actually learned the basics of graphic design while laying out the broadsheets (front pages) of newspapers and covers of magazines. I loved the way that good design could amplify strong storytelling to share a message, and so I started devouring all I could about branding and marketing, especially in the months right after I launched my business.
How does your previous experience inform your work now?
I wholeheartedly believe that my background in Journalism and my past jobs and internships in the media allowed me to gain a holistic view of branding. Rather than building brands that are pretty for the sake of pretty, I’m able to craft strategic brands that speak to my clients’ stories. I believe that much of what I learned during my Journalism classes set me up to create a strategy process that went deeper than the surface simply because I had prior training to interview people well, glean all the facts, and create truthful work as a result.
…what I learned during my Journalism classes set me up to create a strategy process that went deeper than the surface simply because I had prior training to interview people well, glean all the facts, and create truthful work as a result.
What was the biggest challenge you faced early on in your business?
In 2012, there weren’t nearly as many resources for creatives who were just getting started as there are now. So I struggled a lot to know how to price my work as a designer and how to market myself intentionally. I had to walk through a huge amount of trial and error, and I’d have to say that Google was my best friend back then. But I had the incredible fortune of building friendships with some incredible women in the creative industry, and together we were able to navigate the trials of starting new businesses and learning from our mistakes along the way.
What do you do to get inspiration?
For as much as I love a good scroll on Pinterest, I find my best inspiration happens away from my desk. Getting outside and spending time in my little patio garden, taking an afternoon trip to an art museum and immersing myself in a new experience, or simply grabbing a good book and sipping wine at my local wine shoppe can be game changers for me when I feel in a creative rut.
What’s one funny/quirky thing you do while working?
I’m a bit of a beverage fiend, and you can usually find a minimum of three drinks on my desk at any given time. Between today’s coffee, yesterday’s coffee (with probably ¼ of the drink still in there), and a glass of water, I’m always staying hydrated.
What’s the first social media platform you check in the morning?
After I’ve walked through my morning routine and I’m ready to dive into the workday, I’ll have a quick look on Instagram to post whatever content I have scheduled for the day, answer and DMs or comments that came in overnight, and see what my friends are up to.
What’s a consumer trend you’re really enjoying?
I personally love that my clients are leaning into more minimal designs, focusing on quality work over flashy, illustration-heavy concepts. Clean, simple design has the ability to outlive trends and present a more classic, timeless aesthetic, so it’s fun to see how clients are already coming to me with that type of design style in mind.
Plus, three more posts you might like:
- Web/Graphic Designers’ 5 Biggest Business Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)
- Member Spotlight: Stefani Lefler, Website Designer and Developer—”[After] a near-death experience … I started my business to pursue a passion I’d had for over 13 years. I realized we need to do what we love because life could change in an instant.”
- The Ultimate Business Toolkit for Web/Graphic Designers