Specialization in Graphic Design

Not getting noticed? Try narrowing your focus.

Specialization in Graphic Design

As entrepreneurs, we often have lofty goals. We want to be all, do all, achieve all. However, when we concentrate on fulfilling everyone’s needs, instead of becoming experts at our craft, we need to take a step back. Though we all may have a variety of skill sets, we should ask ourselves: What is it that I do best? Where do I shine? What can I bring to the table to truly impact my client’s business?

Narrowing your client focus can give you an edge over your competition in our increasingly competitive market. This is also a unique way to brand yourself and a way to begin to develop a unique personal style that clients will come to recognize and seek out.

We sat down with Gary Irwin, founder and creative director of the boutique design agency, Variant, who has found that specializing has been the key to growing his firm organically. Irwin’s particular client focus is the independent film industry and finds him spending the majority of his day partnering with distributors and filmmakers to create one-of-a-kind posters, packaging, and digital art. Concentrating on this market also fulfills both of his passions: filmmaking and graphic design. Win, win.

Ready to narrow your focus? Here are some tips to set you up for success, paired with Gary’s wisdom.

Decide where your efforts will be concentrated

If you’re ready to narrow your scope, take time to focus on where you’ve had past success and where your passions lead you. Do the majority of your clients come to you for packaging design versus hand lettering? What creative endeavors do you find yourself engaging in outside of work?

With over 15 years of design experience and leadership under his belt, Irwin found it a no-brainer to put all of his energy into the independent film world and specialize in what he did best. “I just knew,” he said, “this was my path, and I was ready to take the leap.” Variant was born.

Once you’ve made the decision to specialize, set up camp and get to work, but proceed knowing there will be hurdles to jump from the start. The unique challenge of choosing to narrow your focus is building a solid client base from a smaller playing field and selecting projects from a tiny portion of your portfolio.

As Irwin notes of his decision to specialize, “Knowing you want to do it and actually doing it are two different things. I think one of the most intimidating aspects of specializing in a particular offering is getting started. But while it’s challenging to get into the rotation and get your name out there (I went through a lot of stress early on, I still do), the rewards of becoming a go-to creative in a particular vertical market are ten-fold.”

Autism In Love Theatrical one-sheet & digital poster for Matt Fuller and Carolina Grooper by Variant Creative
Autism In Love Theatrical one-sheet & digital poster for Matt Fuller and Carolina Grooper by Variant Creative

Create your mission statement and follow through

Once you’ve established your focus, it’s always a good idea to take the time to sit down and ask yourself some foundational questions to plot out what’s to be a successful journey. For example, why did you get into design and why are you in this business? Who are your favorite clients and why do you love working for them? What is your mission? Your vision? Your purpose?

Irwin carved out a mission statement to keep himself on track. “What I didn’t want to do was constantly hustle without moving towards something, so I spent a lot of time early on crafting my philosophy and launched Variant with a very specific mission statement.” In this statement, Irwin addressed his passion to work on key art for independent film, his drive to constantly improve his craft and his desire to narrow in on his vertical market.

The Blackout Experiments Sundance Poster for Ferocious Entertainment by Variant Creative
The Blackout Experiments Sundance Poster for Ferocious Entertainment by Variant Creative

Create great work and the clients will come

Though your initial road to landing clients once you’ve narrowed your focus may be bumpy, hard work, hustle and great work are always best. Have patience while you build your portfolio with examples of the work you want to do. Concentrate on making sure it’s the best it can be.

“Creating compelling work is my mantra. The work helps get the bigger fish to come. It will start to snowball into the attention you’re looking for. Use all of your typical marketing methods, of course. Blast as many people as possible. But the constant is making sure your work is solid,” Irwin suggests.

Ballin' At The Graveyard Theatrical, festival Posters & Box Art for Dugway Pictures | Virgil Films by Variant Creative
Ballin’ At The Graveyard Theatrical, festival Posters & Box Art for Dugway Pictures | Virgil Films by Variant Creative

Constantly hone your craft

As you work on narrowing your focus, the clients will come and in turn, you’ll find an easier time identifying them. With more work will come more opportunity to become better at what you love to do.

“Because of a narrow focus, I know the market. I know who my customers are and I know how to find them, Irwin reports. “This has helped me tremendously in getting my name out there.”

“On a personal side, this is what I enjoy doing the most. I get to become an expert at what I love to do and it helps me stay sharp. Everything comes back to Variant moving forward in becoming the best at what we do.”

Thanks to Gary of Variant Creative for all of the great information he provided us in this post! Learn more about the work he does by visiting his official site, or get social with him over at Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter.

how to focus at work

Forever Distracted? Here’s How to Bring Focus into Your Creative Work and Life

One thing I’ve come to learn about myself is just how easily distracted I can be.

Up until recently, I could barely continue to write a blog post without checking the email that pops into my inbox, or create header imagery without stopping to favorite a tweet from one of our Twitter followers. I used to think I was extremely efficient, always crossing tasks off of my checklist. But now I know that my scrambling was far from effective. I’ve found some better ways to drown out the noise. I hope they’ll serve you well, too. (Please share yours in the comments below!)

1. Prioritize based on the big things.
Once you’ve recognized that you need to bring focus into your life, take a look at your responsibilities. What is highest, not on your small task list, but that list of annual goals you wrote – with high hopes – at the beginning of the year? Start restructuring your priorities based on these. Write your year’s goals and post them up right next to your monitor. Now that you’ve reframed things, you may find a much more efficient way of getting those tiny tasks done. After all, those are the items that are getting in the way of leaving your job to freelance full-time (or whatever that dream may be).

Speaking of the little tasks, try David Allen’s famous ‘Two-Minute Rule.’ When faced with a task that can be completed in two minutes, go ahead and complete it right away. The others can wait.

2. Block Out Your Next Day’s Activities
Here at Go Media, we use Google Drive for everything. One productivity hack that has helped me tremendously is planning out my day the day before in my calendar. Something about creating those blocks makes me feel like I should stick to my word. Yes, it sounds obvious, but you can only roll your eyes if you stick to it. And bonus points if you stick to your plan and leave by 5:00 pm. (You need to go home and recharge).

3. Just Say No.
Bill, the President of Go Media, encourages us to jump out of a meeting if we’re swamped with work or fighting a monstrous deadline. He respects us and knows we’re serious when we do so. I’m not sure about your boss, but if you show her or him that you really mean it, it just may work for you too. The overall message is, dedicate time to what you really need to be doing. Time is money.

How to Focus at Work, Home and Life from your friends at Go Media

4. Vow to Respond to Email at only 1 to 2 points in the Day
As mentioned, I used to respond to my emails at the drop of a hat. I’ve stopped that. Unless something is incredibly urgent, I will wait until it’s time to check – usually right when I get into work and mid-afternoon. This gives me more time to concentrate on bringing more success to our Arsenal, the home to the world’s very best design resources (my goal).

5. Get in the Mood
My ideal creative environment and atmosphere involves a warm blanket, dim lighting and perfect Spotify playlist. The pen seems to flow most steadily from 8:30 to 10 am, when you can hear a pin drop here in the office. Where and when are you most creative? Capitalize on that.

This isn’t always possible, so when you’re not in your ideal environment, attempt to get back to that spot. I’ve found that some apps will help.

Turn off the Noise.
The very thought of using an online app to block distractions gave me a bit of a panic attack, but this is the very reason I needed it. If you’re the same way, it’s time to face the music. Try Freedom or Focus Booster.

Turn on the Noise…for a bit.
I manage our social media here at Go Media, so I have to spend time scouring the web for cool stuff, posting on Twitter and Facebook, tumbling, pinning, stumbling. I can’t be forever blocked from the fun stuff. Using an app like Stay Focused keeps me on track; it gives me a start and stop time – then redirects me back to the rest of my daily work.

How to Focus at Work, Home and Life from your friends at Go Media

6. Jot Down Brainstorms for a Rainy Day.
While you’re in no-distraction mode, head to a to-do app like Google Keep or Teux-Deux. If you’re a blogger, like me, jot down at least one possible story subject a day. If you have a really brilliant idea and the ideas keep flowing, open up a Google Doc and begin your stream of consciousness. Allow yourself to write for a few moments and leave it there for a rainy day. These brainstorms will definitely come in handy on those days when distraction is at an all time high and we might otherwise spend a very frustrated hour staring at the screen.

Oh, and speaking of to-do lists, I used to think it was fun to keep a whole list of them, due to the joy of crossing them out. Then, I compiled a list like this.

Untitled-1

Familiar?

This never-ending list completely overwhelmed me, brought me to a point where I didn’t know where to begin.

In order to save myself from the to-dos eating me alive, I started following the 2 minute rule, mentioned above and began plowing through the tiny tasks during scheduled, short breaks in my day (usually around email-checking times).

So, those are my suggestions for bringing focus into an otherwise distraction filled day. What are yours? Please share with me in the comments section below. I’d love to add some new tools to my collection.

Daily Inspiration: Patience

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Prooflab
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by Prooflab – a client and project management app built and used by Go Media for designers.

Proolab - the best client and project management app for designers

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Go with the Flow

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Prooflab
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by Prooflab – a client and project management app built and used by Go Media for designers.

Proolab - the best client and project management app for designers

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Battling a Business Lull

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Prooflab
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by Prooflab – a client and project management app built and used by Go Media for designers.

Proolab - the best client and project management app for designers

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: When You’re Down, Just Focus

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Prooflab
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by Prooflab – a client and project management app built and used by Go Media for designers.

Proolab - the best client and project management app for designers

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Practice, Practice, Practice.

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Prooflab
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by Prooflab – a client and project management app built and used by Go Media for designers.

Proolab - the best client and project management app for designers

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Humility is not Complacency

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Prooflab
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by Prooflab – a client and project management app built and used by Go Media for designers.

Proolab - the best client and project management app for designers

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Happiness is a Choice

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Weapons of Mass Creation
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by WMC Fest – a grassroots event put on by Go Media to inspire and enable the creative mind. It takes place in Cleveland, OH on June 11 and 12, 2011 (this weekend!) and will feature 20 speakers, 20 bands, and 20 designers in what aims to be the premier event for artists/designers in the midwest.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest is in Cleveland, OH

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Eat Well

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Weapons of Mass Creation
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by WMC Fest – a grassroots event put on by Go Media to inspire and enable the creative mind. It takes place in Cleveland, OH on June 11 and 12, 2011 and will feature 20 speakers, 20 bands, and 20 designers in what aims to be the premier event for artists/designers in the midwest.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest is in Cleveland, OH

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Getting Started

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Weapons of Mass Creation
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by WMC Fest – a grassroots event put on by Go Media to inspire and enable the creative mind. It takes place in Cleveland, OH on June 11 and 12, 2011 and will feature 20 speakers, 20 bands, and 20 designers in what aims to be the premier event for artists/designers in the midwest.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest is in Cleveland, OH

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: The Courage to Quit

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Weapons of Mass Creation
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by WMC Fest – a grassroots event put on by Go Media to inspire and enable the creative mind. It takes place in Cleveland, OH on June 11 and 12, 2011 and will feature 20 speakers, 20 bands, and 20 designers in what aims to be the premier event for artists/designers in the midwest.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest is in Cleveland, OH

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Design Firm Business Systems

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Weapons of Mass Creation
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by WMC Fest – a grassroots event put on by Go Media to inspire and enable the creative mind. It takes place in Cleveland, OH on June 11 and 12, 2011 and will feature 20 speakers, 20 bands, and 20 designers in what aims to be the premier event for artists/designers in the midwest.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest is in Cleveland, OH

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]

Daily Inspiration: Attack Your Obstacles Creatively

Daily Inspiration Videos by Go Media President Bill Beachy

Go Media president Bill Beachy sits down to give you some daily inspiration and advice. Bill shares his years of experience building Go Media into the company it is today. Topics in this video series include Getting Started, Happiness, Humility, Patience, Flow, Focus, Productivity, Business Systems, Courage, Eating Well, Obstacles, and Creativity.

For more information about Bill Beachy, check out his bio on gomedia.us. Bill is currently accepting opportunities to speak at your event, university, or business.

View all episodes of Daily Inspiration here

Sponsored by Weapons of Mass Creation
The Daily Inspiration video series is brought to you by WMC Fest – a grassroots event put on by Go Media to inspire and enable the creative mind. It takes place in Cleveland, OH on June 11 and 12, 2011 and will feature 20 speakers, 20 bands, and 20 designers in what aims to be the premier event for artists/designers in the midwest.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest is in Cleveland, OH

Hope you enjoy the video!

Or download the podcast

[powerpress]