Where do I start?

I feel like we started this chapter so long ago yet at the same time I have no idea where time has gone because it feels like yesterday I was on the phone with Ryan for the first time and I was so nervous and giddy about the idea of this project. Let’s start with how I met the best darn brand designer on the planet.

I was smart enough to attend an amazing photography workshop with two of my great friends and fellow photographers back in November of 2014. We got to soak up the knowledge from the great and all powerful, Bobbi Sheridan. The things we learned from that workshop are irreplaceable and have helped me grow immensely in the past 2 years.

During the workshop, she invited Ryan Hunley of Second Street Creative to spend an entire segment discussing brand identity and web design. He dove into who we are as business owners and how to make sure our brand and web presence projects that to our clients. I knew the second he started his presentation that he was my kind of person. Everything he had designed and built spoke to me. His style and his philosophy were a perfect match for what I wanted in someone who would help me build a new and professional brand.

It wasn’t long after I returned home that I reached out to him and told him I wanted to work with him. I knew there would be a wait list but I didn’t care. This wasn’t something I was going to rush and it also wasn’t something I was going to bargain shop for. I new it wouldn’t be easy and I knew it wouldn’t be cheap… but it’s true, you get what you pay for. I was ready to invest in something that would be ME, something that I wouldn’t have to change, and would grow with me for years and years, maybe forever.

We started in April of 2015. He emailed me to set up a phone meeting to go over my creative brief. I remember sitting on the floor in my living room against the wall, I do have furniture in my house… it’s just where I sit when I’m nervous… weird fun fact. I had no idea what kind of dynamic it would be when we actually started working together, so I didn’t expect it when he answered and said “Hey!! what’s up dude?! You ready for this?!”. Instant friends. At least thats how he made me feel.

He’s probably this way with all of his clients, but personally it made me feel special and it made me feel comfortable and confident, not only in him, but in myself. He started out by asking me what vibe I had in mind and what music he should listen to while designing my first draft of logos. This is the picture I want to paint for you about how Ryan works and how awesome this creative process was.

That was the beginning.

It’s been almost 2 years since that day and along the way there have been a rollercoaster of emotions. There were points where I felt like I didn’t know who I was or what was going to represent what I had in my head. I am the most confident person in some ways and the most insecure in others. I am emotional and strong willed, I’m super picky and overly particular. He had no idea what he was in for.

I remember calling him one day and saying, “I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m losing my mind”. He would laugh and say “WOAH WOAH DUDE…. you know you’re not supposed to like everything right away right? This is a collaboration, it’s a process. If you like the first thing I throw at you then I’d be worried that in 6 months you’d be sick of it. We are in this for the long haul. We won’t stop until it’s perfect.” There were countless moments like that. He really took the time to figure out how I operate and make sure to tailor this process so that it always felt personal. I can’t say enough how grateful I am for that.

We started with logo design. As Ryan says “It starts smushy and slowly we bring it in closer and closer until its solid…” We went through different elements, eliminated things I didn’t like and worked more closely on the ones I did. We swapped things back and forth and upside down. Eventually, he sent me a file and I said “AHHH!!! HOLY SHIT THAT’S IT!”. We tweaked it until it was exactly what I wanted and boom! We landed on the best darn logo I’ve ever seen… like ever.

Rebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creative

As you can see, this went so much deeper than just a logo. I have an entire cohesive image that represents RSP. All new and well thought out. Everything from business cards, mailing labels and tags, to stickers, new letterheads and packaging materials.

The business card design was another awesome process. I loved how in depth I was able to be involved in the little details. The kind of paper, the tone, texture and weight. The letter pressed foil and size of the final card. It sounds over the top, but to me, I wanted to make noise. it was one of the first things I told him when we started. I wanted to hand people this card and have them think WOW, This stands out. I wanted it to be memorable. Goal achieved ;)

Rebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creative

That black on black though… :)

…. so sharp.

Rebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creativeRebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creativeRebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creativeRebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creativeRebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creativeRebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creativeRebrand, detroit michigan photographer, rachel smaller photography, black business cards, custom photography website, second street creative, 2nd street creative

The website was the big monster. It’s what we spent the majority of the last year on. It seems like a long time but remember, I’m picky, I’m particular. I’m crazy. It’s my design mind that took over. At times, although Ryan told me that it’s a good thing and he was having a blast working on this, I KNOW that there were moments I drove him insane. He doesn’t charge nearly enough ;)

We were in the home stretch and the last big thing left was the “About Me” section. Oh good grief how I dreaded this part. This meant I had to get in front of a camera. A professional camera and a professional photographer… a session all about me and just me, for the first time ever. I was terrified. Luckily, I have the most amazing circle of fellow photographers who I am fortunate enough to also call friends. One of these friends in particular, I knew would be the unlucky one that I would ask to subject themselves to the task of photographing me. Crazy, crazy me. Here’s a few posts from that day, just to set the stage for how I was handling this.

yea, I was a just a tad nervous. Here are some grainy behind the scenes shots of me looking super awkward and uncomfortable.

This was the night before my twenty eighth birthday. Adam was in my living room busting his butt until past 9pm…. and we did it. I survived. I was a ridiculous wound up ball of anxiety but thanks to Adam, it went a THOUSAND times better than I thought it would. I knew I’d be comfortable with him, he knows me so well that he knew how to deal with my stupidness and insecurities. I have never been so happy with photographs of myself. I am endlessly grateful to him for getting my vision and making sure I had all the shots I needed to bring this portion of my website to life. It is exactly what I had in mind, and my ABOUT pages are everything I wanted them to be and more.

So, I want to give a big fat public shout out and thank you to my amazing, and very close friend, Adam Sparkes. Not just anyone can take this on for me, I know Rob said he definitely wasn’t even going to attempt it. You brought out the real “Smalls”, you’ve given me images of myself that I truly love and feel good about myself in. I’m so lucky to call you my friend, thank you thank you thank you.

I had so many images I liked that it was actually hard to choose! (who woulda thunk it?!)  Since there were only three I could pick for the website I figured I would share some more of our session here. So for those of you who haven’t yet met me in person… here’s the girl behind the camera.

Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer
Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer

Rebrand Detroit Michigan Photographer

There were times where the session was a little too serious trying to get the perfect frames. naturally I had to lighten the mood a bit. I do goofy much better than I can pull of serious.

Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer
Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer

Detroit Michigan photographer

Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer
Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer

Detroit Michigan photographer

Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer
Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer

This was the shot I knew I had to get going into this session. When Ryan first asked me what I envisioned for my “ABOUT ME” section of my website I knew right away what I wanted. I told him that I wanted the first slide to make an impact. I wanted it to be up close and personal. I always had this image in my head and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull it off or if I’d ever be comfortable with my face this big on people’s computer screens. But we did, we pulled it off, I pulled it off.. at least I think I did. Here I am… my big o’ face.. all up in your face. You’re welcome.

Detroit Michigan photographer

Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer
Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer

Toward the end of the session we figured we’d have a little fun. Adam is a light ninja…. need I remind you that at this point in the shoot it was after 9:00 at night? Yea, pretty rad.

Detroit Michigan photographer

Detroit Michigan photographer

Detroit Michigan photographer

Detroit Michigan photographer

And this is how we wrapped the shoot. Just for kicks. Even though there wasn’t really an outlet for them on the website itself I felt like it would be fun to share them.

Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer
Rebrand | Detroit Michigan Photographer

To bring this GINORMOUS blog post to a close, I need to thank Ryan and his team at Second Street. There’s so many reasons why he’s the best at what he does.

I am no easy client. I know it, at least I admit it right? Whenever I’d try and apologize for being a pain in the ass, he’d kindly tell me that the best projects are always the more difficult and complicated ones. As much as I appreciate that notion, I know that it’s hard hard work. There were times when I needed a pep talk and he would tell me exactly what I needed to hear to pull the trigger on things I was being a wuss over.

There were days that personal things would go on and I’d have to reschedule a meeting or times when his kids were sick and he’d say, sorry friend, I’ve got major dad stuff today. It felt like working with a life long friend. When my grandmother passed last year I had a voicemail from him sending his thoughts and love. He’s just become someone that is so much more than a designer I hired. He’s a friend of mine now. He just gets it. His dedication to his work and his clients speaks for itself but I publicly needed to voice all of this because it deserves recognition.

He has brought to life the brand and the website that I’ve had stuck in my head forever. He has taken my quirks, my weirdness, my strengths and weaknesses and melded them beautifully into something that is so incredibly and authentically me. I have never been more proud to showcase something the way I am proud of this brand. It fits like a glove. His beautiful mind and spirit and his endless talent are remarkable. I feel like I gained a genuine friend out of this collaboration and I’m convinced that’s why it was so successful. So thank you Ryan, thank you for everything. Hiring you was one of the best decisions I have ever made.