21 Nov Interview with Kimberly Cruickshanks
The story behind the success of Kimberley Cruickshanks is a bit unorthodox, solely because the founder and lead brand designer didn’t always see herself headed down this path. Rather, an ambitious young woman was set out to conquer a realm where catwalks and supermodels denote fashion. Little would the brander come to find out, however, was that graphic design was where her real passion lay. And this is not completely unheard of– many grow up thinking they are destined for one path before being guided towards another. Meghan Markle, for example–the new Duchess of Sussex, believed her fate entailed professional calligraphy; Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman was dead set on massage therapy as a kid. And let’s not forget Miley Cyrus, whose early days entailed dressing as a banana for a local smoothie company. When it comes to theatrics not much has changed for her, though.
All kidding aside, let’s discuss the brains behind the inspiration. So many dreams turn out different than expected, and when asked how this livelihood became a reality, Cruikshanks replies: “Weirdly enough, I started by attending FIDM and [there received] a degree in Fashion Design. At the time, it’s what I thought I was born to do,” she says. “As an Associate Fashion Designer, I was required to draw technical flats of clothing for sampling and production. After a few years, I realized what I loved most about my job had nothing to do with fashion, it was just drawing on the computer,” she adds. Once this realization hit, the brander started to better utilize her time by creating content for social media, aiding the marketing team with new ideas and establishing mood boards. According to the designer, these projects were among the first stemmed from a field in which she was truly passionate about. Thus, her new dream was born.
As it turns out, Cruikshanks wasn’t always confident that this could work. “Shortly after, I left my position to try freelancing for three months. I told myself, if it works out, GREAT! If not, I’ll find another job. I had saved enough to sustain my living expenses until then. The first three months went so well, that I continued to freelance on a variety of graphics projects for a full year. I did everything from wedding invitations, random flyers, to logos,” she says. “Once I had established myself as a freelance graphic designer, I realized that my favorite projects- the ones I actually got excited to sit down at my computer for- were all branding! I also found that I didn’t want to work alone as a solo freelancer forever. I started Fuze Branding and it’s been about 5 years since!” she adds.
And we are glad she did, as the website for Fuze Branding speaks a lot for itself. Picture the site as simple and straight to the point, yet incredibly warm and welcoming. The pale pink backdrop and splash of the salutation Hello! can make any curious client comfortable to enter this domain. The introduction page brings forth the team’s energy and sense of humor, and that alone allows the client to feel like they are part of a fun, new family. The page coins a personal statement with the claim, “We create BIG brands for small business,” and the style here denotes Cruikshanks’ approach to design. It’s honest, it’s humble, it indicates a professional sense of reliability and trust. “Design needs to be inspired [and] that’s where I always start,” she says. “I’ll see a color palette, beautiful typography, or illustration style and build a whole story around it. Branding design can be especially nuanced: every piece has a purpose and communicates a feeling. The second half is analyzing what feelings you want to communicate and to make sure your design choices are in alignment with that,” she continues. This is precisely the message delivered by the site for Fuze Branding. It’s a way to welcome smaller fish into big opportunity and Fuze Branding would make any client feel comfortable. Feel as if they were one of their own family.
A touch of honesty is refreshing, especially in the wake of advice from a successful entrepreneur such as Cruikshank. When asked about the single biggest influence to inspire her process, the designer states: “I’ve had several big influences on my way of thinking, but I think one of the most recent was The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. The book is based on the concept that most anything can be built with consistency over time. I like this concept because I believe this is true for any aspiring graphic designer. Graphic design is not a born talent (I sucked in the beginning),” admits the artist. “It takes practice and holding yourself accountable for continuous improvement,” she adds. It’s a humble approach from a bigtime player- precisely what makes the founder and lead designer of Fuze Branding so likable.
When asked how her current fascinations feed into her work, the designer replies: “Abstract illustrations and heavy brush strokes. There is currently this return of a tangible, imperfect, brush to paper sort of feeling and I LOVE IT. It feels more art driven, and I’ve been trying this style with brands that are a good fit.” But one must have a creative process as a designer for the art to flow, and in light of this Cruikshanks relays her secret: “Inspiration, mind map on paper, resource pull, and design time (with really great music). When asked about passions other than work, the designer answers: “I love FOOD. I’m that person that is commenting and narrating every bite.” We knew we liked you, Kimberly.
A crucial mindset in business is to never take anything personally. This can make or break any artist whose field entails constructive criticism as the name of their game. Here, the graphic designer nails this advice, stating: “This was hard for me in the beginning. I would take it SO personally. Now, it’s just a part of the process. If a client says [they don’t like [something] or they don’t like what you did, I follow up with- why? I encourage my clients to [communicate the positive and negatives] so I can better pinpoint the direction we need to go. Criticism is not personal, it’s the client trying their best to communicate what they’re looking for, and they’re looking for YOUR recommendation.” This is sound advice, valuable to any new artist and designer looking to find their way and embrace feedback.
How does the designer stay focused under pressure? “This is a great question,” she says. “We all have a certain amount of time to start and complete a project which can start to feel like a ticking time bomb. I stay creative by having a step by step system for everything except for the “creative experimenting time”. [This includes] a checklist to gather inspiration, pull fonts, brainstorm on paper, and I even have a template workspace layout. From there, it’s blocking out enough time to just create, try, re-work, and let the art-board get messy,” she says.
It helps to love what you do, and when one is passionate about their work others will be drawn to it also. When asked what she enjoys most about her work, the artist answers: “I like that I have one of the very few jobs that I can do from anywhere in the world, in any time zone, at any time of day.” Well said!
To learn more about Kimberly Cruikshanks and check out the website for yourself, visit www.fuzebranding.com.