Building a bold, memorable brand
A few times a month over on Instagram, I chat one-on-one with talented creative professionals across various industries and communities to engage in uplifting conversations around creativity, entrepreneurship, mental health, and how we can show up in our work as our authentic selves.
Today I want to share highlights from my conversation with Orlando-based artist Kathie Baptista. Kathie is the creative designer and founder of Kathie Baptista Creative Studio, a Latina-led branding and design studio. And she’s one of the masterminds behind the rebrand for my website!
With over 10 years of experience in design, lettering, advertising, and art direction, Kathie is known for creating designs that are colorful and full of life because–let’s keep it 100–art should never be boring. Kathie has worked with brands like Target, Google, and Charlotte Magazine, as well as with creative entrepreneurs, businesses, and agencies who are fearless in the pursuit of a bold, memorable brand.
In this conversation, Kathie about our process for the Lo Harris Universe website and her career journey!
Lo Harris: Could you start by sharing a bit more about yourself, your work and how you got started?
Kathie Baptista: I was always a creative kid growing up. I loved painting. My mom put me in a lot of creative classes. I was always in art classes, painting classes, sculpture classes. So I always knew I would have a creative career. I will say I did take a little bit of a turn in another direction when I first started college. I knew I wanted to do either graphic design or photography, but I was worried that I wouldn't be able to find work in the future or that I wasn't going to be successful as a creative or as an artist. So I actually tried to do pharmacy for a little bit. And that totally blew up in my face. After about two semesters in school, I was like, Why did I do this? It's totally not for me and not the right path. And I completely switched and just went back to design. And I haven't looked back since.
I first started off my career doing lettering. I always really admired typography and I felt like lettering was a good balance of having typography and design but also being able to illustrate and draw. And so I did that for a few years. And I really enjoyed it. I got to work with some incredible clients. I got to work with Google and I got to work with Charlotte magazine. And that was really, really cool. I even started my own stationery line. And that was really something that I always knew I wanted to do. And I loved the creative freedom of making my own pieces and being able to sell online and on Etsy and doing markets. But I also did that for a while before I realized that that wasn't for me either. Not necessarily because it was bad or anything like that. But I wasn't really enjoying the markets, especially here in Florida where it gets so hot. So I wanted to do a bit of a switch.
I decided to pivot to agency life and it was not what I was expecting, but in a good way because I felt like it helped me realize that that's what I really like to do. I ended up doing a lot of branding and design. I worked in a small boutique agency and that was really cool because I got to wear a lot of hats and really be involved in a lot of parts of the process. I was in the agency life for a couple of years before I decided to officially transition onto my own. I loved what I was doing. But I really wanted to do it for myself, and really have my own set of clients that I could do this for.
I love being able to have this kind of autonomy with my business and independence and be able to work with really incredible people and kind of be a little bit more selective about who I get to work with. It's been a roller coaster ride, but it's definitely been a really unique journey. And I'm really grateful for the experiences that I had because I really feel like they helped shape me into the designer that I am today.
LH: I really want to dive into your philosophy behind personal branding and art. It's filled with all these vibrant colors and vintage-inspired design and you even say on your website art should never be boring. What brought you to that mindset?
KB: I think it's a combination of things. Just being a creative kid growing up and having creative classes in college and high school. I definitely really was more attracted to really colorful and vibrant art. I was a huge fan of the pop art movement like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. I just loved all these brightly colored artwork pieces. And so I knew that I liked to play with color, I like to experiment with color. And it was very visible in a lot of the work that I did. Even when I worked in house, I always tried to include a little bit of my own little touch, regardless of how limited I might have been in these companies.
My family immigrated from Nicaragua in 1985. I am the youngest in my family. I have two older sisters. One of them is 11 years older, and the other one is 15 years older. So I feel like everybody in my family was a little bit older than me. I was the young one. And sometimes that meant I was a little disconnected. Even now I feel like they always call me for tech support. But my family played a big role in my interests, my personal interests, my music tastes.
And then also just my appreciation for typography. I always really appreciated typography. I love letters. I love type.
That whole combination of my Hispanic background, my past, my interests, my own personal, nerdy interests with typography and graphic design – it’s all culminated into my own personal style.
So it's unique and different, but I definitely think it's what a lot of people are drawn to. It's why a lot of people want to work with me because I just have this unique style that's very much me, very much rooted in who I am and what I've done and my journey.
LH: This kind of answers what the next question was going to be. I was going to ask what makes a personal brand stand out, and what elements up-and-coming creators should consider when documenting and marketing their work online? I see one of the answers in that – really tapping into your own background and your own interests and your own lived experiences and your cultural experiences. But beyond that, what would you suggest?
KB: I would say that that's a big factor. It's definitely something that I try to pull out of my clients: what is it that makes them really unique? What makes them stand out? There's a million artists, there's a million candle makers and coaches – which is typical of my clientele – but what makes them particularly unique, not just in the services that they're offering, but the story that they tell about why they came into this, or why they do what they do. Really analyzing their target audiences, I think, is a really big deal. So even as a creative, if you are trying to niche down or trying to work in a specific area of design, figure out what that is, what that looks like, what you want to do, and make sure that you concentrate your brand towards that.
At KBCS we host virtual portfolio reviews every so often and that will probably be the biggest feedback that I always wind up giving designers – they don't put in their own taste or they're always trying to showcase artwork or design pieces that are really different and not really what they want to do or what they like.
Being true to yourself, what you'd like to do, and what your interests are, usually just brings more of that. Anytime I've put something out there in the universe, it comes back in a really sweet way.
LH: Next I want to talk about our journey together. I wanted to relaunch my website to really encompass the Lo Harris Universe. My old portfolio, it was cute. But it needed to be bigger. And it needed to be wackier. And it needed to be bolder. Kathie, can you speak a bit about the finished product from the web design perspective, and what inspirations, goals, and design needs led us to some of the decisions we ended up making?
KB: It was such an incredible experience to build your website and this is one of the reasons why I transitioned out of lettering and more into design. I really loved the conceptual part behind it, the intentionality behind it. I know that one of your goals was definitely to have a major hub for a lot of the things that you have going on with your brand. And I really wanted to provide that but still retain that fun, energetic element of your brand in this website. I feel like I was building a site that I would love to be on. I want to spend more time here, I want to figure out what these things do and make music and do all these things. And so it was a bit of that – trying to create an experience that users would enjoy, that they would not just be entertained, but feel motivated and also inspired and also feel like they can get to know you and see your incredible talent and all of your work.
LH: Can you talk a bit about the soundboard of the website?
KB: I knew that I wanted the initial landing to feel like a spaceship because there was this whole idea and concept of it being a universe, this universe theme, galactic theme. So I wanted to put the user in the perspective of their spaceship, where they are onboard into the Lo Harris universe. And I think that that's kind of where the concept started. And it was pushed even further, I think, with the addition of sound. And that was obviously, your recommendation. I thought that that was such a great addition. Once again, being able to highlight your expertise with animation. So it was a good opportunity to be able to highlight a lot of these things that you're really amazing at as well as being able to just start the user off with an interactive experience just as soon as they arrive. They're ready to have fun. They're ready to dig in. They're ready to fly into the universe.
LH: Could you speak to your emotional experience each time you finish working on a large-scale project?
On a general level, I'm definitely an emotional person. So I have to literally block time for me to recuperate in between things. I usually try to stagger projects a little bit in that way where maybe I won't be doing websites all the time. I'm doing a website and then branding, giving me a bit of diversity. So it doesn't feel so heavy all the time.
It's always interesting to see how our clients take what we've done and put their own spin on it and do their own thing with it.
But it is a very emotional experience in the sense of, it's this rush in the beginning, this excitement that this project is going to start. And then when you're in it, you're head down working. And then as soon as it's over, I do feel that little element of like, okay, well, that's gone. Well, what do you do now? But it's always fun. There's always a period in-between of recuperating, and then the launch, which once again brings back that excitement of wow, now I get to finally share this thing that I've been working on.
It's nice to see it put out in the world and see how people react to it. It is a roller coaster of emotions. But I do feel like I am a little used to it at this point. And it's a fun experience.
LH: What does it look like for you to take care of yourself afterward and throughout the process?
Just being honest, I don't think I do enough for myself afterward. I feel like I could give myself more buffer between projects, more time to rest and recuperate before I kick off again. But I do struggle with it because I am so passionate and I really love what I do.
Last year I really made an effort to have what I would call a “me day.” So once a month, I would take the day off where I wouldn't answer any emails, I would completely put my phone on Do Not Disturb. And I would use that day to do something that's completely self-care for me. So sometimes it was something as simple as getting my nails done and getting my hair done. But sometimes I would treat myself to breakfast, I'd go to a museum, I'd get a massage. Things where I’m not sitting in front of the computer, and things that involve me going outside. And also traveling. I will say I have become quite a little travel bug lately.
LH: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should know about that you'd like to promote?
KB: No and honestly, I’m okay with that. We’re just working with clients. But I’m really just taking it easy and trying not to cave to the crazy CEO girlboss mentality that I feel like I grew up with. I'm really trying to just take it easy this year and just enjoy this time.
Follow Kathie Baptistia on Instagram @kathiebaptista.