Partnership + Process


You and your organization can make a difference, and great design can make it happen. Effective design lends credibility, attracts and maintains interest; makes your voice and message heard, understood, and actualized.

Red begins with a personal relationship and the understanding that comes through the knowledge of how and why you work. Building on this, we create design concepts through unique and poignant imagery and typography, effectively managed from need(s) identification to project completion. We pride ourselves on our responsiveness to our clients and their needs, the ability to meet client deadlines, and, the enthusiasm we bring to the design process.


The Coop Members of Piedras Azules

It was an honor to spend time with such hard working individuals dedicated to their land and their community. Follows are photos taken of the coop members and family (Ashley is 3) in the mountainside coffee fields and back at the home base meeting with members.



Authenticity is the foundation of all effective branding, marketing, or design efforts.  It creates the sticky trust that helps your audience identify, align, and connect to your message.  So what is authenticity and why does it really matter?  These two questions were central to my work with the Piedras Azules Cooperative (hope you can leverage this experience as you consider your own design efforts).

To begin with, what is authenticity?  This question came to mind while working with the cooperative members. We were brainstorming how they could use design as an element of effective and competitive positioning in a massive global coffee marketplace.  Specifically, how could Piedras Azules connect with an audience that is inundated with coffee, e.g. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Folgers, and so many others?  We needed to find a way to deeply connect —that way was authenticity.


Authenticity is generally considered to be accurately conveying who you are, in an honest and open way, to help others take an action (e.g. buy, invest, join, vote).  To do this requires three key understandings.  First, who are you and what do you believe in?  Second, how do you convey this (branding, identity, and system – all covered soon).  Third, is who to convey this to ( your audience - addressed in subsequent posts).  Essentially the formula is as follows: Authenticity = honesty about self + honesty about beliefs + effective messaging to others.

The Piedras Azules Cooperative is comprised of 22 members between the ages of 23 and 76 (with extended family members intimately involved).  These hardworking people conduct back-breaking work, almost every day, almost all year, and they draw their workforce from their local community (hundreds of hands help shape the path of each coffee bean). The immediate financial rewards are quite low. However, they are NOT a group to be pitied, they are a group of proud people who take care of one another, develop a fantastic product, and lay solid foundations for the next generation (more on these great people soon).  The challenge was then to find out which of these traits were to be selected to drive the branding exercise.

Make sure to clear through the background noise of what you think you need to say to arrive at who you really are.

The exercise began with a strong desire by many members of the cooperative to develop their own “Juan Valdez” equivalent.  While this image is certainly storied and well-recognized, we cautioned the members to avoid taking a “me-too” approach to developing their brand.  They had a unique story and offering that would be more authentically reflected through something different.  This recognition began a productive dialogue that ultimately resulted in a brand/logo that deeply reflected the efforts and purpose of the cooperative and helped them effectively convey this to their audience.  This brand/logo leveraged and amplified the Piedras Azules’ story so stay tuned to see what that is and why it was deeply authentic. 

Authenticity is critical.  Find and use your own voice to drive your branding/marketing/design efforts.  Make sure to clear through the background noise of what you think you need to say to arrive at who you really are.  This will produce significant enhancements in your efforts to reach and impact your target audiences.  Stay tuned.

El Salvador: A Resounding YES!

Portrait of Alston created by Freya Taggart.

Portrait of Alston created by Freya Taggart.

I am excited to share with you an amazing summer experience.

In early June, Studio Red Design was contacted by the USAID funded program Farmer to Farmer, implemented in El Salvador by NCBA CLUSA—an international organization seeking to develop, advance, and protect cooperative enterprise. This group helps lift people around the world out of poverty through building sustainable enterprises that can support communities over many generations.  

Farmer to Farmer asked if we would donate two weeks of time to travel to El Salvador and help a small coffee cooperative, Piedras Azules Coffee Cooperative, develop a logo and brand strategy to enable them to enter the global coffee market.  The answer was a resounding “YES!”  This yes resulted in a whirlwind of planning, vaccinations, questionnaires, flights, and mountainous roads to arrive at Piedro Azules on July 23, 2019.

The challenge:  To create a logo, imagery, and design standard for the Piedras Azules Cooperative.  These products will allow Piedro Azules to complete the required registration activities with the El Salvadoran government in order to enter the global coffee marketplace and commercialize their coffee in an effective way.  The logo is intended not only to influence the buyer's purchasing decision but also to share the Piedro Azules Cooperative story with the world.  In addition, Piedras Azules has plans to diversify their offerings, so they need an umbrella logo that can be used for various products in addition to coffee.  

I’m sharing this all with you for several reasons.  

First, Piedras Azules is an amazing group of dedicated farmers who have come together to better their communities and environment. 

Second, the trip and related projects, reflect key design and branding principles that apply to all, no matter our scale and purpose. 

Third, this project was undertaken not just by Studio Red Design, but rather by everyone receiving this message. BECAUSE OF YOU: my 20-years of design experience from working with clients like you is the reason we could bring the right skills and knowledge. Your patronage provided the financial capability to take two weeks off to travel and deliver a pro-bono. You each played a meaningful role in making this happen and I want to thank you and let you know what you have done to create opportunities for some wonderful and hard-working people 

The following infographic provides some quick insights into the project. Subsequent updates will highlight key design and branding principles that should prove relevant to you; specifically the importance of authenticity, having a clear audience, and the impact you make in the world.  

I feel grateful to have had this experience, and welcome the chance to continue to help Piedras Azules and share their/our story with the world.

El Salvador_Yikes.jpg

Working with an Illustrator


I adore creating personalized holiday cards, and have had a grand time designing them for our family and friends over the years. More recently, I have moved away from the traditional family photographs for custom illustration. It becomes a win-win, because I get to work with amazing artists to make an artwork our family will keep for years to come (and through the holiday cards, I can also share that creation — combined with Studio Red’s design — with family and friends).

Over the past 2 years, I have worked with the talented artist/illustrator Jessica von Braun in Dallas, Texas. When looking for illustrators on Etsy, I stumbled upon Jessica’s work and immediately fell in love. She has been a joy to work with and took time to answer my questions on the custom illustration process; Jessica offers some great advice for working with illustrators like herself.

Illustration, like graphic design, has some similarities for a positive client relations. For the client, it is good to be familiar with the artist/designer’s work. Before work begins, agree on the scope of work (so their are no surprises for either the client or the creator) Clearly define what is a must in the final piece (usually want to respect current brand if not starting new) an what the timeline. And most importantly, let the process be fun!

What advice would you give a potential client on how to best work with an illustrator on a custom order?

I have a few points here

• Really familiarize yourself with the artists various styles and previous work, not all artists are gifted at all things, no matter how great they are. Some artists specialize in portrait work that’s very spot on, some more on representational works and so on, its not always a great idea to, for example, approach an artist who specializes in landscapes to paint a pet portrait for you, or visa versa. So be really comfortable with knowing who you are commissioning and what you are asking them to do.

• Agree ahead of time how many small edits are possible along the way, and if edits along the way are even a possibility. I like getting a clients feedback along the way, and as a client it’s helpful to point out what you like along with what you might like to see a change on. Try not to envision the end product too much and enjoy the process. It’s a collaborative process, the artist is interpreting your ideas and wishes, but its as much them as the client.

• It helps to list out any “musts” you have - special flowers, colors, etc - if you don’t see them in the sketch or progress shots after you have mentioned them before, say something, sometimes I let projects get away from me when I am on a roll with them and really in the groove so to speak, so sometimes i forget something that may have been really important, it’s better to correct it sooner than later because depending on the piece and the medium changes get harder and less possible along the way.

• Enjoy the process! No one else is getting what you are getting and it will be a lifetime memory!

What is your design/illustration process?

I’m going to talk about my watercolor/mixed media process here;

• Fist I’ll come up with a sketch based on the clients ideas and my own, I’ll typically message the sketch to the client and there are usually a few small alterations, changing some positioning, maybe tilt a head this way or that, I try not to detail this first sketch too heavily in case I have to make some major change.

• Once I get a sketch approved I go over the painting with an ink pen and then brush over it with water, it a sometimes unpredictable process and is fun to do because it usually sets the tone for the painting. After this there is usually another update for the client.

• I then go in with colors, this is usually a longer process as I wait for layers of paint to dry, it’s hard for me, I’m an impatient painter. Usually I force myself to set the piece aside and work on smaller pieces while waiting.

What is your ideal client?

"Enjoy the process! No one else is getting what you are getting and it will be a lifetime memory!"

An ideal client is someone who knows what they want, but also knows to let the artist have fun. The more artistic freedom the artist has and the happier they are, the better the final work will be. Hands down. I like knowing what I am drawing but still having some say in what will look best. the artist knows themselves well and if they know the client will work with them and their ideas they will be excited to work. Sometimes I have commissions that require different moods, so I don’t always work on them in order, I pick up the ones that fit how I am feeling, I try to stick to a schedule as best I can, but my best works aren’t linear. If you see an artist working on personal pieces in between commissions it helps for the client to understand that these pieces are just as important to your commission as the artwork you are waiting on, I often do warm ups of a personal nature before tackling commissions. Some days I’m right on it and other days I don’t have the right mindset to paint at all, so I reflect and look for inspiration.

What is has been your most nightmare illustration experience (no names!)?

This was a long time ago, and I’ll be vague, but in my early illustration career I would take on projects that would take hours upon hours for very little compensation, and I didn’t know how to say no, how to charge or where to draw the line. I had a client who wanted me to do a portrait for her, we agreed on a price (for one person) and then when I arrived to take reference photos of her she wanted it to be her and her four adult children as well, who were all there and ready for photos....and I was so overwhelmed and didn’t want to be rude I didn’t say it wasn’t what we had agreed on, painting five people is a lot harder than one, I ended up doing the piece but it was difficult and took much longer than anticipated. It was just as much my own fault for not speaking up, i ended up struggling throughout the project and not delivering my best work no matter how hard I tried.

Any other words/thoughts you would like to share?

Have fun! Enjoy the process! Enjoy your artwork that is your and yours alone! It’s a treasure!

Please check out this amazing artist/illustrator:

Jessica von Braun

With Great Sadness... Goodbye Bees


So, this was a tough summer.... I had to find a new home for my honey bees.

First I need to say: I love my honey bees.

However, I could not keep the winged-wonders in my backyard (I had 2 active hives and 1 nucleus colony). I had been stung several times early in the summer due to bad luck (no issues with honey bee stings the past 3-4 years) and when trying to get a little striped lady out of my office one almost fatal summer afternoon, she stung my fingertip.

Within ten minutes, I had problems breathing and my skin was on fire and itchy. I could not stop scratching. Hives erupted all over my body. Threw myself in a tub of epson salts and water. Thank goodness I have been keeping up-to-date epipens and Benadryl with my bee keeping supplies... my husband Theron was available to make the injection.

I put the call out to the DC Beekeepers association for help. Then the saga was written up by avid beekeeper, Caroline Boucher Hutton:

Alston Taggart’s storied bees are nearing a happy ending. Huge appreciation to her for the loving care she gave them for years, and for her generous donation to the school program at DC International.

Denise Lyons coordinated the move last night. The two larger, main hives were moved (mostly) without a hitch and set up at DCI last night.

The nuc presented a problem because it was so heavily bearded, though. After some brainstorming and consultation with our fearless leader (Toni Burnham), we decided to return early this morning and move the colony to larger equipment and re-attempt to move it in a few days. As you can see, the hive was fit to burst! But they are now in space that is twice as large. We left the empty nuc gear so that the box-clingers could migrate over at their leisure.

We would also have been sunk without the help of newly Andrea, John, and Carlos (new-bee volunteers recruited to help move the bees.) THANKS!!!!

HUGE SHOUT OUT to the super bee-committed women who have taken my honey bees to their new home at DCI. Thank you Denise Lyons and Caroline Boucher Hutton for your strong commitment to these amazing creatures.

Sad that I can no longer care for them directly, but happy to offer my graphic design services for free for any pro bono bee causes/needs!

Envision • Lead • Grow


Envision • Lead • Grow — a non-profit on a mission to end the cycle of poverty through entrepreneurship — had a conference here in Chevy Chase, MD at the 4-H Center May 31-June 3. This organization reached out to hundreds of girls in seven different cities (Memphis, TN; Greensboro, NC; Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Richmond, VA; Norfolk, VA) about starting their own businesses. The top performers have been invited to our Entrepreneurship Institute. The girls in attendence have created profitable ventures and are looking to grow their businesses further.

It was an honor to meet these young women (middle school and high school students) and learn about their unique passions. The girls had such businesses as making charmed bracelets, selling artwork, creating artist baked goods, and sewing scented spa wraps. They had a lot of great questions about graphic design, and it was fun to give them some advice to help forward their business.

Their mission is to create 1,000 new girl bosses by 2020 nationwide. To learn more, check them out:

Love their tagline: Little girls with dreams become women with vision.