The Design Business Show 192: Brand Evolution: Why a Perfectly Polished Brand is a Waste of Time (for now) with Illiah Manger

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | August 1, 2022
Check out episode 192 of The Design Business Show with Illiah Manger to learn all about brand evolution!

Illiah (ill•e•ahh) is a brand designer to visionary business owners, mentor to ambitious graphic designers, and mom to two gorgeous muses, C&V. Her business exists to help entrepreneurs find + use their voice through their visuals so they can clearly + effortlessly communicate their own big mission — and do it with more elegance + style than her closet currently holds, which is saying something! 💃🏻

Through her signature offers, Creative Director on Demand and Your Revolutionary Rebrand, she closely collaborates with entrepreneurs from Baltimore to Amsterdam to create timeless brand identities, scroll-stopping social media graphics, and drool-worthy workbooks, which means she knows a thing or two about creating a consistent brand across any medium. There’s only one thing she won’t design: websites. Ask her why!

Alongside that, she mentors graphic designers on 🔥 to advance their online business skills, hone their design expertise, and reach their growth goals faster. In 2019, she was a Rising Tide Society and Honeybook “20 on the Rise” winner.

Here’s what we covered on the episode:

The Timeline of Brand Evolution

  • How we first met Illiah on Episode 40 of The Design Business Show in 2019
  • We chat about the evolution of Illiah’s brand – she believes in brand evolution because branding isn’t done when you receive your perfectly polished logo; it continues
  • Illiah explains that in 2019 she was dedicated to being a brand designer but started to hear her clients say they didn’t know what to do with everything she gave them
  • Clients would want to hire Illiah to help them with everything, which led to her retainer service, and while doing that, she realized branding is not a complete, perfect thing you can check off your list; it continues
  • Illiah’s retainer clients are now her Creative Director on Demand clients, where they continue building their brand over a long period, so when new opportunities present themselves in their business, they always have a designer on hand
  • The timeline of brand evolution – Illiah says when you first start, you have a bare minimum brand, and as you experiment and explore, you move into the discovery phase; as your brand progresses, you become an industry leader, and from there, you become universally recognized
  • Why Illiah doesn’t design websites is because she believes in focusing on what you’re really good at – she doesn’t want to be good at designing websites; the technology moves way too fast for her liking
  • Illiah went to school for design in the early 2000s when web technology was brand new, so she also does not have a background in websites because it wasn’t taught in her curriculum
  • I like how Illiah positions rebranding as an evolution because there is so much pressure for businesses and brands to be perfectly polished when they might not have the budget or capacity for that
  • Illiah’s presentation slides on, Why a Perfectly Polished Brand is a Waste of Time (for now) – Illiah believes that a brand is always evolving
  • A bare minimum brand is super new to the business, it’s scrappy, and it’s when you’re exploring who you are as a brand – Illiah says she believes there is no need to design here because your brand is so much more than just your logo
  • The next stage is the discovery phase where you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you know who your clients are and what you want to offer, but you’re still discovering who your brand is – this is where you can invest in design, with an understanding that it will evolve in the future
  • An industry-leading brand has grown more established, and you’re more clear on who you are, who your clients are, and your offers are set – at this point, most industry-leading brands will have invested in full, professional branding
  • Illiah says to think about Starbucks when you think of a universal known brand – they’ve invested in multi-layer branding, and they have the understanding that they will continue to refine it as their audience and offerings grow
  • Another point Illiah would like to make is even when you’re at the end of this timeline with a beautiful, polished brand, that doesn’t mean the work or your investment ends; it should continue
  • Illiah walks through the evolution of Starbucks, and why we all feel good about the brand experience they provide to us as customers
  • In a bare minimum stage, Illiah says business cards, an easy-to-update website template, and choosing 1-2 of your favorite social media platforms to be on are great starting points
  • When you’re in the discovery brand stage, Illiah recommends a professional brand identity, revisiting your website, and says you can add in more layers like email marketing, opt-ins, and lead magnets
  • At the industry leader stage, Illiah suggests community graphics if you have a community, course materials if you have a course, having a stronger focus on social media, webinar slide templates, different deliverables, etc.
  • Illiah shares the story of a client who has been with her since 2012 and walks us through his brand evolution – she shares that they’ve gone through their businesses together and that it has been interesting because she’s been able to witness each stage in the brand evolution timeline

Illiah’s Mentorship Program

  • When Illiah sells her Creative Director on Demand service to people who have never met her, she tells them she is their creative and strategic partner
  • Illiah explains the mentorship program she is experimenting with for young designers because she’s always felt there needed to be a bridge between whatever education you have as a designer to becoming a business owner or professional
  • In school, you may think you’re just becoming an artist, but the strategy is such a big piece of design which is something Illiah shares she didn’t learn in school but through experience, which is why she created Elevate & Cultivate, which is a big community now but doesn’t serve the exact purpose
  • The design mentorship Illiah is experimenting with was brought to life because while at a retreat, another designer mentioned having an apprentice, so they partnered together, and when they got back home, they spent 4 hours on a call outlining the entire program and application
  • Fast forward a couple of months, Illiah reconnected with a designer she had helped at the retreat, and now Illiah has an amazing apprentice – Illiah’s goal for her apprentice is to harness her creativity, business skills and get the freedom and flexibility we all want as design owners
  • Illiah explains that the mentorship is a 7-step program where steps 4-7 are dedicated to coaching
  • Honeybook and Rising Tide Society hosted a community recognition program called “20 on the Rise” – someone nominated Illiah, and she won after filling out a questionnaire, sending over what she was currently working on, and sharing her future plans
  • The biggest thing Illiah has learned over the last few years of her brand evolution is that her brand will never be perfect and that she should accept it for what it is today and know tomorrow, it will grow, change and evolve
  • Illiah shares some brands that she currently loves, which include, Making Good with Lauren Tilden and her sister’s lash studio, Miami Volume, Nicole Yang Design, and more
  • I share people I admire in the online space like Jordan Gill, Ari Hale, my mentor, Erika Lyremark, and bigger brands I love right now are OUAI, which I believe is doing a lot of revolutionary marketing, and The Kardashians from a business sense
  • When you feel that it’s time for a change, you have to follow that and take baby steps to achieve what you want, which is what I’ve had to do recently
  • To find out more, connect with Illiah on Instagram and check out the C&V Creative Website


Links mentioned:

Episode 40 of The Design Business Show with Illiah Manger

Creative Director on Demand

Your Revolutionary Rebrand

Why a Perfectly Polished Brand is a Waste of Time (for now)

Elevate & Cultivate

Connect with Illiah on Instagram 

C&V Creative Website


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