Q-and-A with Fervor experts: Graphic Designer/UX Sarah Woodruff

On the Fervor blog, we’re taking a deep dive into the expertise of our team members. To continue our Q-and-A with the experts, Fervor Graphic Designer/UX Strategist Sarah Woodruff reveals how she translates brands visually, why she sweats the small stuff in graphic design and what a well-designed identity can do for an organization.

Sarah Woodruff

What makes her an expert: Sarah’s diverse design background spans agencies serving multiple organizations and internal corporate teams. She has designed for a variety of brands including Microsoft, NASCAR, Kansas State University and KC Magazine. “These different experiences help me see both sides of where companies come from,” Sarah says. Over the course of her career, Sarah has worked on 25+ rebrandings, logos and brand concepting initiatives. From rebranding nonprofits like Vibrant Health to corporate design for Lexmark, Sarah’s skills have elevated brands across the nation. Plus, Sarah brings expertise in videography, web and print design, all skills she leverages for Fervor clients.

Why she is passionate about her field: “I like helping the client create the brand that they want others to see, and helping them put their ideas out into the world,” Sarah says. “Logos are the first thing people see and remember. It’s like a fresh coat of paint on the walls — the quickest way you can change your house is painting your walls, and the quickest way you can refresh your brand is with a new logo. It transforms everything.”

The questions a strong designer asks in a rebrand: “Typically I ask both what the client dislikes and what resonates,” Sarah says. Again, Sarah points to the value of research.  She asks clients what kinds of imagery really speaks to the brand and its Ideal Advocates. “We ask if the client likes minimal design and clean logo marks, or a sketch style, more visually intense. All of these elements determine where they are on the design scale.”

Building blocks of a visual brand: It all starts back at Fervor’s signature Brand Impact Assessment™, Sarah says. “Our Brand Assessment tells me a lot about the client and the Ideal Advocates who will engage with this brand,” she says.

As Sarah translates a brand into a visual identity, she keeps a number of aspects in mind. The name itself is a consideration for sure, and she looks creatively at what facets of the brand can be emphasized through a micromark. She pays careful attention to the competition, making sure the client she rebrands stands out in the market. But make no mistake: Sarah’s work is not a science, but an art. “It can be hard to explain the process, because it’s instinctual. From the moment we launch the Brand Assessment process, all of this is in my mind, all the time.” Sarah also invests time in uncovering how visual facets integrate with a brand. “I’m always doing research on how different colors and fonts create different emotional responses in people.”

How she took Vibrant Health to new heights: Sarah and the Fervor team recently designed a new brand identity for Vibrant Health (formerly Wyandotte Community Health Clinics). She remembers a site visit to Vibrant Health before Fervor’s rebranding. “I looked at the culture of the neighborhoods around the clinics, and it was easy to see the very colorful, bright and artistic nature of the neighborhoods,” she says. “The Vibrant Health brand colors were chosen to convey a feel of health and wellness, but to avoid an impersonal and clinical feel, we softened the imagery with warm colors, so it’s inviting and friendly. There really is a reason behind every aspect of the brand visuals we create.”

Vibrant Health Logo

Why video and motion graphics matter: Research finds that social video content generates 1,200% more shares than text and images combined. And it makes sense. “Video is short and digestible,” Sarah says. “Anyone can publish a 15 minute video. But when you creatively cut the video down to 30 seconds or three minutes, people will actually view it. They will actually share it.” Sarah creates custom video and motion graphics to enhance client content. She often crafts shorter, teaser video for social media that drives traffic back to a full length video, either on the blog or another social channel like YouTube. This allows different Ideal Advocates to engage with the content in different ways. Sarah also emphasizes the need for quality, original footage over stock footage. “When you capture real footage, you’re able to tell an authentic story that’s unique to your brand,” she says. “Plus, it gives you an opportunity to repurpose and maximize the footage in other media.”  

Components of a logo: A visual brand identity is far more than one singular image. Brands typically include a logo type, which is a custom font face. “Picture FedEx,” Sarah suggests, “which embodies the brand without a mark to go with it.” Many also include a micromark (also called a mark, symbol, signature or even a “bug” in designer speak). “This is something a brand can trademark and call their own. It makes an organization even more unique and protectable in the market.”

What she’s seen go wrong in her field: “The biggest mistakes are when we don’t ask enough questions, and when the client doesn’t ask enough questions,” Sarah says. When Sarah revealed Fervor’s visual brand identity for Vibrant Health, she was met with many questions — and that was a great sign! “When clients ask why we chose a color palette, why we ordered the colors in the way we did, why we interpreted the brand in the ways we did . . . these questions validated my work and allowed our team to define why we did what we did.”

Patience in the process: Another stumbling block Sarah has seen is a lack of patience. “If we all do our job right, the client will have this logo for a long time.” Sarah revisits the house painting analogy. A fresh coat of paint can work wonders for sure. “But at the same time, slapping a coat of paint on the outside of a house doesn’t fix the foundation,” Sarah says. “There’s much more to branding than just a logo.” If they’re committed to sustainable growth, brands have to be patient in the branding process and engaged in organizational improvement. “There’s more to a brand’s success than a logo design. It’s about being willing to take the time, really truly understand and then make that commitment.”

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