Silicon Slopes Live with Alysha Smith

modern8’s CEO, Alysha Smith, had the opportunity to discuss all things branding, working remote, and more on Silicon Slopes’ live broadcast. You can watch it here or read the full transcript below.
Bree:
Hi, I’m Bree with Silicon Slopes. I’m the Director of Marketing and Events and we’re excited today to have Alysha Smith from modern8 here. She is CEO owner, managing director, a little bit of everything. So she’s Super Woman. And we’re going to talk to her today about modern8, her background, her experience, get a little feel for branding and design and see how that can help startups in the community. So welcome!
Alysha:
Thanks so much for being here for having me! It’s fun to be here and have a nice social distance distance between us. Close but not too close.
Bree:

So if you want to just start out telling us a little bit about yourself, your background, how you got involved in modern8, all that fun stuff.

 
 
Alysha:

Well, it’s literally a story that began, I guess you could say at birth, I was a daughter of a graphic designer. So literally since inception I’ve been influenced heavily by branding, design, aesthetics, things like that. And you could say that kind of influenced my path. However, at the age 16, I had other things on my mind like clothes and it was right around the time (this dates myself), but that Gap was really at the height of style and fashion. And so I applied many a times to work there, finally landed my dream job at 16, and I felt pretty awesome let’s say, and worked my way up through with Gap Inc. through high school and through college and even my last year at BYU. I was promoted to store manager while I finished up my degree in communications and business. And so that eventually took me to New York, where before that I had married a graphic designer who needed to finish his degree.

So we moved to the city and he went to school and I went on to manage different Banana Republics of all sizes and had a lot of success there. I was recognized company-wide for leadership excellence, people development, and visual merchandising. And although I have the dearest place in my heart for New York, it is not the easiest place to raise a family and have a career. So we came back to salt Lake city and I worked at Anthropologie as a store manager for three years. It was there that I further developed a love for aesthetics and art. I don’t know if many of you know, that Anthropologie is kind of known for their highly visually dominated environment. So it was a lot of fun to work there and to further my love of art.

Unfortunately I had some personal tragedies happen within my life, which really forced me to reevaluate how I was spending my days and nights and holidays and weekends. So I resigned and went to work for modern8, which is also my father’s business. And, you know, I spent my whole, my spent my entire career up to that point, like really just being off of a computer, you know, being on the sales floor, managing people, working with teams. And so I had to take some accounting classes and some crash courses in the Adobe suite to learn some of the tactical parts of being a design agency. But I was able to use my interpersonal skills that I had learned and management to work on projects with the designers and the clients, and just really fell in love with the process even more than I had ever been.

I came back to where I thought I’d started in the first place and got to learn from the creative director. About three and a half years ago, I bought modern8, and since then I have been working to expand our team, our offerings and our expertise in branding and design. So that’s where we are now.

Bree:
Awesome. Yeah. That’s great. And can you tell me a little bit more about modern8 and your guys’s views on branding and how you help companies kind of brand themselves and the strategic process that you go through with companies that you work with?
Alysha:
Yeah, so we believe that brands are an emotional response to design that is formed by brand pillars that make up who that brand is. So their brand personality, their voice, their positioning, et cetera. And really the point of entry for a brand to resonate with a customer or a potential client is visual. It’s why we spend hours a day on Instagram trying to get those visual dopamine hits and why we get captivated by those Instagram ads. Because they’re all so nicely designed and they are targeted specifically to you and for you. It’s the same reason we pay more money for an Apple computer. I brought some of our own Ritual Chocolate, $12 chocolate because they just look so nice, right?
Bree:
You go after things that look pretty to you, yeah!
Alysha:

Yes they do! And you know, it used to be that if you were a company, you could create a product or service and probably have some success based on word of mouth or just based on how great your product was. But now we really truly live in a design and brand centric world. So we need to talk and create our brand specifically to resonate within this new world. Design is truly where the rubber meets the road; it’s where the brand has that, “I’ve got to have it at any cost” mentality. Design is the point of entry, but it’s not the sticking point.

Creating that long lasting brand is really what’s going to create that loyalty and is going to create that resonance that lasts longterm. And that branding needs to be built, as I mentioned before, on a strategic foundation. So that brand really needs to understand who they are, their personality, what their target audiences motivations are and create specific messaging and platforms to be able to resonate with that target market target audience and stand apart from the competition. And then design is used to then communicate that strategy. So, you know, at modern8, we always do strategy first and then we design based on that strategy.

Bree:
That’s awesome. And one thing that you mentioned before we got on stage was that brand is not just a logo. And I think some companies think that’s how it is, but like you said, it’s not just getting people in the door, it’s keeping them there. And that is through brand and design and strategy. It all works together. It all works together and truly you’re right.
Alysha:

Your logo is not your brand, your brand exists in the minds of your customers. So it’s up to you to control and create that perception within your customers. And we believe that design can truly create those feelings and perceptions and that perceived value. And with that perception, you can really control that customer’s behavior and get them to be a long lasting customer.

Bree:
Definitely. So you mentioned Apple. So I think I know your answer to this question, but what do you think is the best brand in the world and why, how do they create that?
Alysha:

Yeah, so I would absolutely still stand by that answer, which is Apple. I remember back in 2002, when I first moved to New York, it was right when, the first generation of iPad pods had just come out. I wasn’t fortunate enough to own the first generation, but I did get the second. I remember sitting on the subway and looking out and you could spot, you know, maybe every other ride, like one person with those white earbuds. And you could kind of like wink and nod and know that you were in this little Apple club. It was really like a fun “we’re in this together” thing. And then from there, of course, Apple has just grown. And I can’t think of many people that don’t own an iPhone these days.

I would say that Nike is another brand [like that]. We get customers or clients coming in all the time that are like, I want a brand that looks like Apple’s clean, simple, recognizable. I want a brand that sounds like Nike, that feels like Nike. And they really just hit on the head. There was a Seth Godin podcast that I heard recently where he talked about if you were to go to a hotel that was designed by Apple, you would know it, it wouldn’t even need the name.

You would feel it, you would know it. The same thing goes with Nike, right? But if Marriott had designed a shoe or designed a computer, you wouldn’t be able to recognize that shoe because Marriott doesn’t have a brand. They have a lot of hotels, but not a brand.

Bree:

Yeah, definitely. It’s funny, my husband and I will kind of play this game or we’ll try to guess the brand or company from a commercial. An Apple is the easiest one to guess, because you could just tell.

Alysha:

Right! You can look at it from a mile away and cover up the logo and know exactly like what you’re looking at.

Bree:

For sure. Well let’s shift gears a little bit. Like we said, we’re sitting six feet apart—social distancing—because, obviously, crazy times right now. But one thing that modern8 did was you guys launched a One Utah quarantine pitch competition. Can you tell us a little bit more about what prompted it, how it’s gone, and how you guys wanted to impact the community in that way?

Alysha:

Well, I think, as soon as quarantine, or pandemic—or whatever we’re calling it—COVID happened. We realized kind of a couple of different things. One is that we probably won’t be doing any major rebrands for companies for a very long time. And two, as you mentioned, we wanted to, we felt just awful. We felt really grateful and fortunate that we are able to continue doing business. We didn’t lose any clients and we’re able to work remote and weren’t really affected by this yet, you know, like knock on wood, but, um, recognize that there are so many individuals out there that were laid off and wanted to provide them an opportunity to get a leg up. So we wanted to kind of give back to the community. So we partnered with you, we partnered with kiln and some other organizations to launch this, this contest.

And we had many talented, smart entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to us. We picked two and right now we’re in the middle of working through our strategic process. Our brand design process. And  right now we’re in D2. So we just had our workshops with them just yesterday actually. And last week for the other one. So Droplet and Jeri are the two that won.

We’re just so excited for them and we also wanted to signal to other startups that we don’t just work with with big companies, we work with  startups as well. We want to be a part of whatever success that we can and give them a leg up in terms of giving them a strategic foundation and an identity. As well as just the things that they would need to get started without going into too much debt.

Bree:

Especially in a time where most people aren’t wanting to start anything. That’s great. And to kind of continue in that you mentioned your team started working remotely and I know a hot topic right now is leadership during these times. So for you, what’s kind of two or three leadership qualities that you think are most important, especially during these unprecedented times that we’re experiencing right now?

Alysha:

These are definitely different times and I was telling Bree just moments ago that our three year lease ended yesterday and we decided not to renew it. So I don’t think I would have ever dreamed of going remote, and so being open to change, especially now, during these times, is very important for a leader to be flexible. Beyond just logistically being able to run a business remotely, I’ve also been able to think about how I lead in a different way. And part of this is just my history, learning from other people that have bandaged me, like punching in a time clock, making sure you get your hours in, looking busy, all of those things.

There’s certainly some of that influence, but now I’m shifting my mindset and thinking it’s more about the output that comes out of this rather than the amount of time that was spent on that output. So I’m really able to value the successes and whether that took two hours or eight hours, it doesn’t matter. What really matters is the quality that came out of that. Then also being able to recognize the different ways that people need to be managed and led in this new environment. I have regular zoom calls with my people just so I can really still tap into seeing them and being able to read how they’re feeling and that body language. Staying on top of problems before they arise through those visual points of communication is really important.

Bree:

Yeah, for sure. You mentioned before we came on stage that with a bigger company you may not be able to Zoom call every single employee, but training your employees to be able to do that to the people that they supervise and passing that down through the company and through the culture is super important as well.

Alysha:

Right now I manage a team of 10 and so it’s very easy to have those close relationships, but I’ve also managed in teams of over a hundred and it really starts at the top. So if you can create that structure of really seeing the person as a whole and having empathy and trust from the top down, and then you can create those structures and systems to be able to continue all the way down through direct reports and conversations. Those things can still thrive no matter how large your organization truly is.

Bree:

Definitely, and it’s so important as well. I’m shifting a little bit to some more fun questions, not COVID related. What’s been the best project you’ve worked on?

Alysha:

So I have a toddler, she’s four, and my first child is now 14. There’s a big gap between babies. So when I was pregnant with my now four year old, I found a brand that I just fell in love with through social media. I fell in love with the aesthetics. Before I had her, I literally registered for everything possible of that brand. And when we were approached by this brand, Little Unicorn, back in spring of last year, I went nuts. I was like, “Are you kidding me? I didn’t realize this brand was local.” So we got to rebrand them! We took them through our D5 process, we got to work on the strategic part of their brand. Then we got to redesign their packaging and refresh their logo. We put together this beautiful brand book that deployed the assets of everything that we had created.

They were a dream to work with. Not only because we share similar points of view, but they’re all just wonderful, wonderful people. One of my favorite moments we had was when we gave them our strategy presentation to a group of them, it was emotional. It was really emotional because we worked on their brand story and their brand narrative, which is very emotionally driven. I made the owner cry and walk out and take a moment and come back. Anyway, it was just such a fun project.

Bree:

It all ties to what you’ve been saying with brand and strategy. You want to connect to your customers, and a one huge way to connect is emotionally. So that shows that a brand can be that impactful to people.

Alysha:

Yeah in fact, it really needs to be. It needs to touch on—we call it the head and the heart. The head is the positioning. It’s what you do that no one else does, and then the brand is really that heart. It’s the personality, it’s the story that you’re telling, it’s your voice. Those things together really truly create a strategic platform that can resonate. Then, like I said, we use design to communicate those strategies as they all work together.

Bree:

That’s awesome. So another question is what would be your dream client to work with? It doesn’t have to be a specific company, but maybe for modern8, what does a company look like if they come in and you would really want to work with them as a dream client?

Alysha:

Well, I think a dream client really could be summed up as someone that has a business, product, or service that has a lot of promise, but doesn’t understand how to communicate that value and that potential and wants to work with us to really dig in to understand and to create those touch points for them. As a woman, I would love to work with other women led businesses. We’ve been targeting more women’s businesses as of late, because it’s something I’m passionate about and I want to get in there and work with other women. But that dream client is someone that needs help realizing their potential and wants to do the process with it, and of course, someone that really values and understands great design too.

Bree:

Of course. Yeah. That’s awesome, for sure. So to kind of wrap things up, what is the future of modern8? What are you guys planning? Anything that you can let us know? What do you see? I know you mentioned your leas is up and it is kind of a unpredictable future, but what do you have in store?

Alysha:

We are going to continue doing what we do best. We’re not a marketing company that happens to do to branding. We are a brand design agency, so we’re going to stick to what we know and hopefully as brands come about, or as new brands startup they will come to us and we can work together to grow brands. Then as things start to stabilize then we’ll have more rebrands. We’ve also started developing our own products and branding those, so we hope to be able to do more of those in the future. We just launched a coffee company and we’ll be doing other products as well.

Then for the future of where we’re going to live and breathe, I think for the foreseeable future, we’ll be working remote. I think one other great thing about working remote is it allows us to tap into the talent that’s out there in a way that we maybe wouldn’t have been able to do before. So that’s really exciting to me. I think we’ll just kind of keep our ears and eyes out for a new space to move into once things kind of settle in and maybe a space that’ll better suit our needs of a photography studio, maybe a coffee shop and, and certainly more of a communal based gathering for us to meet with clients and have meetings, events, and things like that.

Bree:

Thank you so much. It was great having you here and I appreciate you taking the time and this is fun with all your future endeavors.

Where Are the Black Designers?

Ask yourself the following question:
How many Black designers do I know?

15% of the US population is Black yet they only make up 3% of the design community. This statistic has not changed much within the past 20 years and we need to do something about it. We should see 15% of the Black population represented in all aspects of design.⠀

Maurice Cherry of Revision Path, a weekly podcast that features Black creatives, gave a SXSW presentation on the barriers that are preventing Black people from pursuing a career in design.

Some barriers and issues include the fact that Black people were not able to pursue design education until desegregation in the 60s, the expensive cost of design education, and lazy employers who have not diligently worked to employ, maintain, and support Black designers. All of these are just a few of the examples of how systemic racism is so deeply rooted, in a multitude of ways, and continues to affect employment opportunities.⠀

We encourage you, as we’re encouraging ourselves, to do your part as a designer/creative/business owner. You can start by supporting Black creatives, especially those in our own state. Follow them, hire them, support their work, leave reviews, tell your friends, and CREDIT them for their work!

Below are four incredible designers located in Utah.

ARLANDER TAYLOR IV

ARLANDER TAYLOR IV

Arlander is a Natural Gas Trading and Optimization Analyst by day, and a self taught designer with many successful side projects the rest of the time. Some of which include work for Adidas, Atlanta Design Festival, and SLC streetwear shop, Fice Gallery and Boutique. Check out his work here.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and moved to Birmingham, Alabama after Hurricane Katrina.

What is your education background?
I graduated with a degree in finance from Tuskegee University. After graduation, I got an offer to work for Goldman Sachs as a Global Investment Research Analyst here in Salt Lake. I worked there for about two years, and I now currently work as a Natural Gas Trading and Optimization analyst for Summit Energy, a local Natural Gas company.

What do you like to do outside of design?
I really enjoy boxing and hiking.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest accomplishment to date would be be launching and maintaining my graphic design practice while still working my day job in finance.

Favorite Vine/TikTok/internet vid:
The Fibonacci Sequence: Nature’s Code

CHRIS OWENS

Chris is a Creative Director at Canvas Studio and could probably design with his eyes closed  standing on his head. You can see more of his projects here.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the island of Guam. The military brought me and my family to Utah.

What is your education background?
I went to Weber State and finished up at Provo College. I’m a visual interactive designer, a fancy way of saying I design beautiful interfaces and make them move. 😉

What do you like to do outside of design?
Outside of design I’m a breakdancer, and help rule our nonprofit called 1520 Arts.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest accomplishment is expanding on my design skill into motion. It was very challenging to learn to animate UI elements for interactive apps and websites.

Favorite Vine/TikTok/internet vid:
Kevin Hart on: Rollercoasters

DAVID ONWUKEME

David is an ambitious multi-disciplinary design student at the University of Utah who will do big things.

Where did you grow up?
I began the first half of my youth in Lagos, Nigeria and spent the latter half in Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.

What is your education background?
After graduating high school in 2017, I moved to Utah to pursue a degree in multi-disciplinary design at The University of Utah.

What do you like to do outside of design?
Outside of design, I love to do music research. I’m extremely fascinated with the post-war rock scene in Nigeria, as well as Nigeria’s broader music scenes from the 70s to early 90s (Fela Kuti, Joni Haastrup, Sonny Okosun, King Sunny Ade, etc.). Aside from that, I’ve recently fallen more in love with coding.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest accomplishment would probably be gaining acceptance to the U’s Multi-Disciplinary Design Program, learning from the teachings and direction of Cord Bowen and Elpitha Tsoutsounakis has been an extremely eye-opening and life-changing experience.

Favorite Vine/TikTok/internet vid:
Roger Waters’ Synth Noodlin’

CAMILLE NUGENT

Buffy is a senior designer at Dinng, and a creative in many other aspects of her life. View her work here.

CAMILLE NUGENT

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Jamaica.

What is your education background?
I came to Utah to attend BYU after I graduated high school. I got my BFA with an emphasis on drawing and painting. I still love to do that (painting) when I can.

What do you like to do outside of design?
I also love dancing, golf, travel, yoga, and I’m a bodybuilding competitor.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
A couple of my favorite/biggest accomplishments have been working with Adobe on art exhibits featuring Black Utah artists for Black history month and for a Juneteenth celebration… Also planning competing nationally in bodybuilding

Resources for hiring Black creatives

Each month, modern8 will be doing a spotlight on a company or organization that we admire. Some of them might be clients, current or old, and some may not, but one this is for sure, our features will be on businesses we admire with really, really cool people. Each month you’ll just have to wait and read for yourself to find out who.

In these spotlights and interviews, we want to provide you a sense of who these businesses are. We want to share who we find intriguing and undeniably interesting while also giving you a bit more of the story and the experience of the companies. We hope these stories will intrigue you, introduce you, or inspire you regarding something and someone new.

Spotlight on Publik Coffee

In this modern8 April 2020 spotlight, we talk to Missy Greis of Publik Coffee.

Who are you, what do you do/work role, what is your company?

I’m Missy Greis, the founder/owner of Publik which includes Publik Coffee, Publik Space, Publik Kitchen, Publik Ed’s and soon-to-be Publik Works (in the new Industry SLC building).

Everyday is different with respect to my tasks and my workflow. We joke that I am both the Director of Facilities for the four locations (which means coordinating any building + equipment repairs + furniture and aesthetic updates and designs within each of the four walls) and I’m the Marketing Department  — we don’t actually have one, but I’m the one in charge of our PR, social media posts, community engagement, as well as our merchandise + apparel with our awesome partners at BrandAid. But I absolutely gather input and collaborate with our leadership team.

How or why did you begin your company/brand partnership?

Publik began as an adaptive reuse building project of a 1940/1960’s warehouse that I had purchased. The intention was to house Pubilk Coffee + Publik Space which were part of a new business partnership, and then a very quick dissolution of that partnership within the first year. In the second year, Publik Coffee launched me into opening an additional coffeehouse in the Avenues and our restaurant on 9th/9th, both housed in two other SLC properties that I own. Then along came Publik Ed’s (in the space near the U that was formerly “Big Ed’s”). The synthesis of the four locations has been pretty quick and wonderful.

How have you worked to redefine your industry?

I think the simple fact of coffee (+ breweries, distilleries) in Utah is growing is the redefinition and it’s about all of the trail blazers in our city! There are so many good coffee companies in SLC and we’re all very friendly. In fact, the Utah Coffee Collective was created last year to bring the industry together. I serve on that board and we are establishing some collaborative relationships within the industry.

What future collaborations and plans are we going to be seeing?

We’re about to open in the new Industry SLC building, which is 300,000 sq ft of amazing office spaces of various sizes from 100 to 60,000 sq feet. One of the tenant amenities is an auditorium and we’ll be doing catering + coffee for that as well as the whole building. “Publik Works”, the cafe + coffee bar, opens this summer.

What are the characteristics of your brand?

Quality over quantity, community over corporate, planet over profit

What guiding words do you have for other woman beginning their own business?

Set your intention. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and who have entirely different or complementary skill sets. Trust the process.

Why does what you do matter?

Perhaps the biggest impact that our company makes, and one of the most important things for me, is in providing a safe and inclusive environment for our employees to learn a craft + develop skills, and to do those things in a place that accepts them for who they are. We’re also proud to serve quality coffee + good food in spaces that help elevate the customer experience.

What things influence your company?

We try to walk the talk of “planet over profit in every way. We are the only coffee roastery in Utah that is 100% solar powered that also has an oxidizer, which filters out 96% of the particulates created during the roasting process. We don’t want to contribute to the air quality issues that SLC suffers from. We use local products wherever we can, like Amour Jam, Red Bicycle Breadworks (City Cakes for our gluten free) and Rosehill Dairy. We have sustainable + recycling practices built into our daily processes at all four locations. We compost all of our coffee grounds + the accompanying filters and we dispose of our restaurant’s food waste using the food digester at Wasatch Resource Recovery in North SL.

How can customers help you during this time?

While we all navigate the current COVID-19 situation and the indefinite + extended closure of many small businesses, Publik would love your support in the form of gift card purchases for use when their doors reopen – Gift cards can be used at all four Publik locations : Publik Coffee (downtown + Avenues), Publik Kitchen + Publik Ed’s.

Each month, modern8 will be doing a spotlight on a company or organization that we admire. Some of them might be clients, current or old, and some may not, but one this is for sure, our features will be on businesses we admire with really, really cool people. Each month you’ll just have to wait and read for yourself to find out who.

In these spotlights and interviews, we want to provide you a sense of who these businesses are. We want to share who we find intriguing and undeniably interesting while also giving you a bit more of the story and the experience of the companies. We hope these stories will intrigue you, introduce you, or inspire you regarding something and someone new.

Spotlight on Normal® Ice Cream

In this modern8 March 2020 spotlight, we talk to Alexa Norlin of Normal® Ice Cream.

Due to the current risk of COVID-19, Normal’s ice cream is only available through online order for curbside pickup. The products online are what are currently available. modern8 is a fan, and Normal® does a great job in providing real-time updates on their site. One thing they do request from customers, who are picking up orders, is to send them a text using the provided phone number on the site. You can also show your support by purchasing a gift card now to use in the future or (even better) show someone you social distance care by sending them a Normal® gift card. They’ll both feel your love and support, and we all win!

What was the intent behind beginning your own brand?

I wanted to take one item that I loved most, and make it the best I possibly could. I LOVE ice cream, seriously, so much. I think we live in a world that many get away with mediocrity and I want to stand against that! At Normal®, we do soft serve the best we know how. I also wanted to create a brand that would never be painted into a corner. A fear of choosing a brand color led me to utilizing iridescent rainbow in so many ways. Could have been so tacky, or so great – I hope it’s perceived as the latter! A fear of landing on an ice cream based name lead me to Normal®. We have the room to grow into different areas in the future – that is something I care the most about. I change my mind a million times a minute, so being stuck in one space is a real life nightmare. Normal is what it is, and can be whatever you want it to be!

What other businesses and individuals inspire your business?

I keep a tight group of friends and fellow business owners, with whom I talk about literally *everything*… admittedly sometimes more focused on business woes than business wins. BUT even those negative conversations can push you right back up, even when you’re the most down. On a broader, less local scale, I spend a lot of my time listening to both small and big business focused podcasts, instagram accounts, and books. Instagram naturally is more of a visual inspiration, though there are a few chefs out there that I intentionally pay close mind to. Toothache Magazine is a publication “by chefs, for chefs” by Nick Muncy—a Michelin pastry chef from San Francisco. These are the types of things I live for—beautifully created and curated. When I feel uninspired, I kick back to my pastry chef roots and start creating dishes… then somehow they magically turn into ice cream flavors, or composed cones.

What guiding words do you have for other woman beginning their own business?

JUST FREAKIN’ DO IT – I mean, seriously. Everyone in the world has amazing ideas, but get out there and make it happen. We can do it better than they can.

How do you use social media when it comes to your brand?

To be honest, I truly dislike social media—there, I said it! I see it as a terrible game, but I HAVE to win. That being said, Normal® would seriously not exist if it weren’t for Instagram. I am so fortunate to have created a visually appealing product (served from a very cute truck) that made others want to come and take their own photos. This aspect of “free marketing” is priceless. I use instagram as the primary communication strategy – though I plan to utilize newsletters and website content more strongly in 2020. I want the Instagram to become less of an inundation of “buy this,” “look at this cool thing we made,” and more of a visually inspiring, interactive, and hopefully informative reel of content. I expect this to have a negative affect on our engagement rates – especially since it’s algorithm changes before you even caught up on the last one, BUT if we can build a brand to not financially rely SO heavily on a social media platform, and have it more as a point of interest, I think we really WILL have won!

What things influence your company?

I would like to think I am aware of the goings on of this industry – be it ice cream, desserts, or even food as the most generalized form. I come from a very strict pastry background and have been playing *ahem* working in kitchens my entire adult life.

I like to keep a little of that “weirdness” at Normal® by creating composed cones that have some interesting elements, or you know… wasabi + white chocolate soft serve. Aside from food, I am very inspired by the wild and creative world we live in. I curate my social media feed with pastry chefs, artists, graphic designers, etc with things I find visually interesting. I follow quite a few very successful businesses, take SuperMoon Bakehouse for example—great product, even better voice. That’s what it’s all about—right? The voice. I am forever working on creating a voice that isn’t ALL me, but has some of me. Balance? It’s hard.

How has your company evolved as it’s grown?

Oh man, I used to do literally EVERYTHING. Wild. I think I blacked out for the first nine months. I have zero idea what happened, but I was there, on the truck, dippin’ cones. I had a business partner transition in late 2018 that was truly life changing. I was in a bad spot – Normal was in a bad spot. A bad partnership can kill the most alive thing. Since then, I not only have the support Normal® (and I) needed, but we have had the ability to push and grow the way I envisioned. The STORE! It’s finally open! We have baby-sized factory in the basement where we make nearly everything we sell. This is where we plan to expand most, while keeping up with the upstairs at the store, and the truck AKA Normal Lab. I care the absolute most about the brand. I will do anything and everything to protect and nurture that as Normal grows. I still do all of the creative direction, social media, etc myself. I know there will be a time that I need to let that go, but am 100% not ready yet.

Each month, modern8 will be doing a spotlight on a company or organization that we admire. Some of them might be clients, current or old, and some may not, but one this is for sure, our features will be on businesses we admire with really, really cool people. Each month you’ll just have to wait and read for yourself to find out who.

In these spotlights and interviews, we want to provide you a sense of who these businesses are. We want to share who we find intriguing and undeniably interesting while also giving you a bit more of the story and the experience of the companies. We hope these stories will intrigue you, introduce you, or inspire you regarding something and someone new.

 

Spotlight on Ritual Chocolate

In this modern8 February 2020 spotlight, we talk to Anna Davies of Ritual Chocolate. Ritual is a craft chocolate company based in Park City, UT who also happens to be a modern8 client—you can see more here. And we do suggest that if you haven’t tried their chocolate yet then you get up off the sofa and find one—or order it from the comfort of your sofa. Two choices, both work.
Anna Davies of Ritual Chocolate.
Why did you begin Ritual Chocolate?
I started Ritual as I wanted to create and be part of something I could put my values and passions into. I loved chocolate and felt it was something I could really take in many different directions and make my own. There was so much poor quality chocolate on the market at the time, that I wanted to see what it would take to make exceptional quality chocolate that people could feel good about eating.
How have you worked to redefine and stand out in the chocolate industry?

We are one of the earlier craft chocolate makers in the US and we have really tried to stay the course with exceptional quality and let that define our process as we grow.

What was your intention behind starting your own brand?

We wanted to start a company we could put our values into. We loved the idea of having full transparency and control of every step of the chocolate making process, building a brand and product around our own passions.

What truly inspired you to actually begin your own brand?

I think something that inspired us to start Ritual was actually the lack of great quality chocolate available when we had the idea in 2009. We were really getting into good food, but we felt like there was something lacking when it came to good chocolate. It was hard to get the true story behind a chocolate company’s sourcing and process, let alone finding chocolate with unique flavor.

Define your brand in three characteristics:
  • Quality Product
  • Sustainability Beliefs
  • The Mountain Lifestyle

What guiding words do you have for other women working to begin their own business?

Jump in, get started, and keep going. We all question ourselves and never feel quite ready or qualified enough—I still have imposter syndrome and I’ve been building Ritual for 10 years.

Why do you use social media for Ritual?

I think social media is such a great tool for helping to tell your brand story. We have so much information to get across about our process and why Ritual is unique. Chocolate is very visual and it’s great to show the process rather than just explain it in words to connect with people.

What things influence Ritual?

Nature and being in the mountains—and our community, we really try to listen to our customers and adapt to their needs. Definitely, other specialty food makers following their passion and making exceptional quality products.

What was the defining moment for Ritual?

We started Ritual in Denver and, four and half years in, we just weren’t happy there. We really went back to the beginning and thought, Why did we start Ritual? It was to not make compromises and strive to live a life that is fulfilling to us. And that is when we took the leap to move to Park City. So many people thought we were crazy to leave one of the fastest growing cities in the US at the time, but we couldn’t be happier living in a much smaller town in the mountains. We feel more inspired by having better access to nature and, as we are happier, we bring that energy into the business.

Each month, modern8 will be doing a spotlight on a company or organization that we admire. Some of them might be clients, current or old, and some may not, but one this is for sure, our features will be on businesses we admire with really, really cool people. Each month you’ll just have to wait and read for yourself to find out who.

In these spotlights and interviews, we want to provide you a sense of who these businesses are. We want to share who we find intriguing and undeniably interesting while also giving you a bit more of the story and the experience of the companies. We hope these stories will intrigue you, introduce you, or inspire you regarding something and someone new.

 

Gifts for Designers

THE GRIMM BLOCKS MAGNETS

For the true color lover, who always thinks out of the box by creating their own geometrical world.

KONSTRUKTOR F CAMERA

For the designer ages 12 to 99 that wants things to be several steps more complicated (like themselves). It’s a present that can be a metaphorical jab and a gesture all in one. Plus, it’s DIY fun, duh.

POP-STYLE CIRCLE DRAWING TOOL

For the designer who can’t draw a proper circle but wishes they could.

EYE ON DESIGN MAGAZINE

It’s about time you subscribed already.

FIELD NOTES (ORIGINAL KRAFT NOTEBOOK)

For the designer who’s always doodling…or who can never seem to remember what was said at the last meeting.

BLACKWING PIANO BOX

For that designer you know that likes things that are really nice for the sole reason that they are really nice things, these pencils are your solution.

THE CREATIVITY JOURNAL

For the creative/doodler in your life who needs a break from their screen.

THE BELIEVER MAGAZINE

For the creative that might want to enlarge their faith in design/art/music/literature/happiness/culture. And it doesn’t come every week like the New Yorker – so there isn’t any guilt because there is actually time to read it.

DESIGN FOR THE REAL WORLD

Where is design going to be in 10 years and how can you use your skills as a designer for a better future? Great read for the designer looking to help those around them.

KB POTTERY BASIN INCENSE HOLDER

For someone who needs a refresh to their physical environment and create a clear + sacred space for new creative ideas to emerge.

SEINFELD 2020 RISOGRAPH CALENDAR

It’s the perfect calendar for the connoisseur of good design and television. Plus, you’re supporting a local business!

 

Perfect for a Pup

We had so much fun designing totes last year that we had to do it again—isn’t there always a need to throw that last-minute thing into something besides a plastic shopping bag? We think so. We took a playful approach incorporating some of our favorite taglines and applied some fresh ideas to the brand. Our totes sold out last year before the month was over but we made extra this time around so hit up our store right here if you want one. Puppy not included.

Cotiviti

A FRESH LOOK FOR A NEW LINE.

Have you ever had a friend that kept changing their name? No? Well, international healthcare analytics company, Cotiviti—previously known as Verscend, and before that, Verisk, and the time before that, HCI (we wrote them down so we can’t forget)—approached us after their newest merger and subsequent brand update about creating a detailed brand book to clarify the look and feel of their new identity. Unlike the brand design to brand book process we usually do, Cotiviti already had the brand, but it was up to us to refine and outline exactly what fit within this non-m8 designed brand system (challenge accepted!). After many weeks of toil, testing, and transformation, we handed them thirty slides to guide their brand for the foreseeable future.

Brand Book

Treat Yourself.

A FRESH LOOK FOR A NEW LINE.

How do you design packaging that accents the original brand, inventively celebrates ingredients like juniper lavender, honeycomb brittle, pine nut, and s’mores, and then tie it all back in with the great state of Utah? Back in 2014, we rebranded and rethought the packaging for Ritual Chocolate to help their brand feel more at home in beautiful Park City, Utah. Fast forward a few years and Ritual is releasing a new line of bars, leaving it to us to make them look just as good as they taste. For their new line of inclusion bars, which include ingredients sourced from and found in Utah, we reimagined the packaging design to highlight and make each new ingredient shine. But of course, the design needed to remain visually consistent with the current brand and layout that we’d already created and for which they’re known. Our solution—a bright yet fresh illustrative approach that brings the ingredients from each bar to life with an unexpected geometric twist. Cheers!

Packaging

Studio Mag 2019

Your Studio at the U.

Sometimes your college professor becomes your client. For the sixth year, we’ve had the privilege of designing Studio, the University of Utah College of Fine Arts’ annual publication, which is edited by Marina Gomberg and advised by graphic design professor, Dan Evans — who knows well some of modern8’s employees who were former students. The magazine is a rare chance to explore more progressive design solutions, which oftentimes makes corporate clients nervous. This year’s publication describes how the arts at the U are helping to heal, unite, connect, and restore.

View all Studio spreads by year here.