Mark this milestone in the ship’s log: Tight Ship Design has made its first trip around the sun! We may lack the sun-tanned skin and crispy callouses of other sailors, but your co-captains Julia and Keir are feeling celebratory, reflective, and more determined than ever after our first year at sea.

We’ve accomplished a lot since launching last March: working hard, playing hard, warping young minds, traveling cross-country, meeting fantastic people, and creating some truly special designs along the way. We’re excited to share what we’ve done and where we’re going, so come aboard and we’ll spin the yarn for you!

Photo by Tomas Raul

What We Wanted

Our goal for this business was to create a way for us to do the work we want, for people we respect, and on the schedule we choose. Starting a long-distance, virtual creative enterprise during an otherwise bonkers year ended up being exactly what we both needed.

Event branding has proved to be a unique niche that we’re well-suited to work with, and event professionals have welcomed our expertise and enthusiasm. That recognition, plus confident reinforcement from several long-term, pre-Tight Ship partners filled our sails and kept us afloat all year, validating our trust in each other and inspiring us to forge ahead.

What We Accomplished

In short, we’ve built a vessel that’s staying seaworthy! Based on a portfolio of event brand design, nonprofit branding, and passion projects, we landed work for everything from festivals and mashups to presentations and publications.

We made eBooks and font advents and valentines to share our creativity. We carved chickens, made maps, sanded walls, and transformed trade show booths. We spoke with design, marketing, and media students at Cal Poly SLO, CSUN, and (in our first joint gig) Loyola University.

We did our due diligence, too—traveling to six different conferences in four states (plus many more smaller events). Julia tackled Collision and BizBash Live, Keir took on AIGA Leadership and AVID, and we both teamed up for New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (2017) and The Special Event (2018) to anchor each year’s face-to-face Tight Ship Summit.

Photo by Tomas Raul

What We Learned

1. Maintain a flexible creative process. Creative professionals have a tendency to value process over product, but the process we developed for Tight Ship, based on our collective decades of design experience in agencies and as freelancers, is solid yet adjustable.

It worked well for our side of things: running the business, managing time, making sales, promoting ourselves, and working together. Crucially, it also worked well for managing projects: from Contact, to Discovery, Crafting (sometimes with a little Revision sprinkled in there), Delivery, Communication, aaaand…Donezo!

It’s designed to achieve our clients’ goals (event professionals must create a great experience for their attendees) and to make their side of the equation as easy as possible. By taking on only the work we want, and that we know we can create with flying colors, we can make each project’s plan suit each client’s needs.

Photo by Tomas Raul

2. Don’t underestimate the power of connections. Some of our best work this year came from referrals: friends, friends of friends, friends of previous employers, family members of friends, or folks we’ve connected with via professional associations like AIGA or ILEA.

Your co-captains often prefer to hole up in our cushy cabins astern when we work, but that doesn’t mean we neglect the all-important face-time with our friends and colleagues. Meeting people in person (or if that’s not possible, keeping in touch with video calls), as well as cultivating (and curating!) our professional network over our decade-plus creative careers paid off literally and figuratively this year.

3. Communicate clearly and consistently. Smooth-running ships need more than semaphores and slang. That may seem like a no-brainer, but in our experience, 99% of all misunderstandings result from assumptions based on poor communication (written or verbal!). Always answer calls, texts, or emails—even if only to acknowledge someone and promise to respond when you can do it in full.

Contract language must be transparent about project cost, scope and deliverables—and what happens if those need to change. Correspondence should be goal-oriented, with specific requests to help busy clients (or vendors) make decisions. Keeping things proactive but simple—offering one solution or maybe a pair of options—will make it easier for anyone to say yes!

Photo by Tomas Raul

Where We’re Going

Our goals for Tight Ship in 2018 are designed to serve the event professional community. We’ll be seeking your opinions for some of the finer details, so the result will be more substantial content, actionable insights, and special products specifically created to help make event experiences even better for your attendees.

We’ll send meatier Monthly Manifests (our regular email newsletter full of branding tips for event pros). We’ll post more Ship’s Log entries, including contributions from our friends (who are experts in their own fields) that we think event professionals will benefit from reading.

We’ll offer high-quality tools and templates that you can use immediately, simply by trading your email address. We’ll continue sharing important links to third-party blogs or social posts that event pros will dig. We’ll continue highlighting our best work to show how we can help you.

Photo by Tomas Raul

Set Sail With Us!

2018’s all set to be a vibrant voyage! When you choose Tight Ship to work with your event branding, you get our co-captains’ combined experience in ideation, design, and production. We’ve been in your shoes and we know what you’re up against.

Overwhelmed event planner? We feel you; we’ve done the same for countless events big and small as presidents of our local AIGA chapters. Running a nonprofit on a shoestring budget? Us too! Our AIGA chapters face similar odds, and we’ve collaborated with many nonprofit executives and communications officers on massive (and even life-saving!) projects. Ask us about all of it—we love to tell stories and we’d love to help you tell yours.