In a world gone online, there’s high demand for the people who can make little corners of the Internet beautiful. Jessica Sutton Maiantis realized this in 2008, when her work as a freelance web designer was so in-demand, she had to make a decision: quit her full-time job, or quit her freelance gigs. She chose the former, and has run her Boston-based design and branding studio, JSGD, ever since.
Now, her client list reads like a who’s who of top boutiques, bloggers, salons, interior designers and fashion labels in the city: she’s worked with designer and blogger Erin Gates of Elements of Style, Newbury Street’s Salon Mario Russo, ceramist and designer Jill Rosenwald, Holiday boutique in Beacon Hill, lingerie boutique Forty Winks, Cambridge Brewing Company, blazer line Two Penny Blue, and so many more.
Here, we talk to Jessica about running her own business, the importance of branding, her best career advice, and more….
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. WHAT DO YOU DO?
JSGD is a boutique branding studio which means we work with companies, big and small, in the development of their brand. In most scenarios, we’re enlisted in the beginning stages of a new business to map out a plan for their brand and then execute through the development of their logo, collateral, website, and web presence.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS WORKED FOR YOURSELF? IF NOT, WHAT WAS YOUR PREVIOUS JOB?
To an extent, yes. I started taking on freelance clients in college and continued to grow that side clientele while I took on my first full-time job. I spent five years at Fresh as part of a three-person in-house design team. It was an amazing position where I learned so much about the art of branding, e-commerce, and running a business.
HOW DID YOU START YOUR BUSINESS?
When freelancing on the side got too stressful. I finally had to make a decision between staying at my full-time job or taking a risk and seeing where my freelance career could take me. It was scary but the best decision I ever made.
WHAT WERE THE EARLY DAYS OF RUNNING YOUR COMPANY LIKE?
Lonely. I started working out of my small South End apartment and quickly found that working from home wasn’t for me. I would get distracted by cleaning or going on long walks in search of coffee (and human interaction). After a few months, I found a great sublet studio space on Waltham Street with a jewelry designer. I loved setting up “shop” and having somewhere to go everywhere – that clients could visit me at. It was amazing how much confidence that small space instantly gave me.
HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT FINDING YOUR CLIENTS?
My clients have always been referral-based (and predominantly still are to this day). Even back then, I took great care in choosing which projects to take on as I wanted to make sure the audience I was positioning myself in front of was one that I wanted to work with or grow into.
YOU’RE A BRANDING SPECIALIST. WHAT MAKES A GREAT BRAND, ONE THAT PEOPLE REALLY RESONATE WITH?
Consistency. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a brand with a strong identity drop the ball somewhere they think no one is watching. For example, they have a beautiful logo and website but fail to follow their brand guidelines or stay within their family on printed collateral or social media. Your brand should be consistent everywhere – from the tone of a tweet to a postcard for an event.
WHAT’S THE NUMBER ONE CHALLENGE YOUR CLIENTS COME TO YOU WITH?
Confusion. It’s overwhelming enough when you first embark on a new business. And the list of what goes into the branding oftentimes adds to that feeling, causing clients to simply not know where to start.
HOW DO YOU HELP THEM SOLVE IT?
We come in at that early stage to help map out a plan that puts them at ease and prioritize what’s most important for their company’s branding. Once that plan is in place, it’s smooth sailing for us – and they can then put their focus into other business logistics.
WHERE DO YOU FIND THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR DESIGNS?
Everywhere. We’re online constantly and never stop watching what other companies are doing. But more importantly I find inspiration in travel, art, interiors, fashion… and of course love using pinterest to organize it all!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST FUN PROJECTS YOU’VE WORKED ON RECENTLY?
We just wrapped the branding for a juice shop that will be opening soon in Downtown Crossing. They came to us so early in the process that we’ve had the pleasure of watching both their company and concept grow – and have been a part of it every step of the way, from the logo to website to signage to packaging – it’s fun seeing it all come together.
WHAT’S THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Even at your busiest, never stop planning what’s next. It’s hard when we’re slammed to think about lining up projects to start months from now!