Monthly Archives

May 2015

Business Design

Starting a New Design Business – 5 Things to Do

May 30, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
5 Things to Do When Starting a Design Business

So you’re starting a new design business, or you’ve decided to go freelance. Many people struggle when they start and need some advice.

My creative agency Arcturus Creative was started one year ago on a shoe string budget. It was not an easy launch, but we’re still in business a year later with some amazing clients, and I would consider the business a success. Recently, someone asked me what they might need to create a creative agency / design business on a shoestring budget.  I’ve come up with 5 things you should do / consider if you’re going to start a business.

1. You’re going to need an income.

Start a Design Business - IncomeYou cannot start a design business if you can’t pay the bills. Clients will come, but it takes time to build a base where you can survive. When you first start, if you don’t have savings to start the business, you will have to have a job or some form of funding. Consider asking friends and family to help you, but don’t automatically expect a positive reaction.

Many of the people who care about you may not understand your entrepreneurial spirit, and in their concern for you, may instead try to encourage you to further your career rather than starting a fresh design business or going freelance. If your heart is set on starting your business, you should be ready to handle the naysayers.

If you’re lucky, and they fund you, great! If not, then consider getting a part time job while you build your business.

When we started Arcturus Creative, I had to work 3 days out of the week for a company and spend evenings and the other 4 days of the week working on my creative agency. Once the business picked up enough, I left the job. Even so, it was a struggle at times. At one point, my car was repossessed and I ended up selling almost everything I owned to not get evicted. Even so, if given the opportunity I’d do it again.  Today, we have enough revenue for my partner and I to comfortably survive, and we have a few employees working for us as well. It took about 6 months to get to that point, but once it did, things got better quickly.

2. The best way to get design business is to network.

Starting a design business - Mineh Ishida logo project

To help promote my design business, I created some logos for my personal logo project and posted them to social media.

Tell everyone you know what you do and develop and refine a good pitch. Have lunch with everyone who could be a good client and just talk about what you’re trying to achieve and learn about their businesses.Create some designs and start posting them to your social networks.

I created the Logo Project and posted it to my social network. Not a day later someone asked me to design a logo for them.  Leverage your online contacts and take advantage of Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and Pinterest. 

In addition, join some local organizations.  Chambers of commerce and business networking groups can be very beneficial.  I joined local business groups and the Tampa Club, which is a local dining club. That took a few hundred dollars, but I’ve gotten multiple clients from it.

You can also attend networking events, but remember that all networking events are not created equal. They seem to be divided into two groups. Networking events that have young professionals looking for job opportunities and career growth, and those that attract business owners. Try to find the ones populated by business owners and executives. Sometimes, educational seminars dedicated to business owners may be more beneficial for networking than dedicated networking functions.

3. Design a good website and business cards.

Start a Design Business - Web SiteYou’re going to need credibility. Design a website that shows off your past projects and some of the philosophy behind each design. It will give you credibility.  Having a professional presence is absolutely critical.  After all, you’re trying to show people the impact that good design can have on their business.  Would you trust a designer who had a bad website?

Your business cards MUST STAND OUT. You’re a designer. Having average business cards is absolutely unacceptable. Even above average doesn’t cut it. People have to look at your cards and marvel at how unique they are.  If your cards don’t have something unique about them, try again.  Paper, weight, shape, print style… There are any number of ways to create a card that is unforgettable. Spend some time and money to do it right!

4. Do some free projects in the beginning.

Start a Design Business - Do some free workIn the beginning, no one knows who you are or what your business is.  They have no reason to trust you.  One easy way to solve this is to do some comp work (free). Find people in the community who have a lot of connections. Offer to do a free project for them that is high visibility. Make sure you do an amazing job with it, and handle everything professionally. When you’re done, if you’ve done well, they will spread the word. The more you do this, the larger your sphere of influence will grow.

Often, we would start with a small very low cost or free project with a client, and once they trusted us, they would give us a larger project or sign up with a retainer for services.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing this too often though.  People won’t take you seriously and your new design agency will fail if you’re doing too much free work as an established business. A lot of people will ask you to do work “for exposure.” Just be polite and decline unless it’s a project that will really get your design work in front of the right people.

5. Give back to the community

Start a Design Business - Give Back to the CommunityFind some non-profits in the area to help out. Many of them need design and marketing help. Make sure it’s a cause you believe in and offer your services. Making sure your business stands for something and is involved in the community is a very important part of growing your business. Remember, business is about relationships, and everyone loves a person / business who takes action and follows through on what they say.  If you can honestly say that you care about causes and follow through by doing some volunteer work, it will only help you grow.

Starting a new design business is quite the adventure.  There are so many reasons that a design business is a great venture to start right now.  I really have enjoyed the last year of building Arcturus Creative, and am thankful to have had the opportunity to do so.  Just remember that it won’t be easy, but it’s a very rewarding path.  Feel free to message me if you need have any questions about how we started our business.


5 Reasons Why I’m Giving up My Office and Going Mobile

May 27, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
The Mobile Office

This week is the last week I’m going to be working out of an office. My business partner and I have decided that we’re joining many other small businesses and going mobile. We’re going to live the life of the road warriors.

We are Arcturus Creative, a creative agency located in Tampa, Florida. We have a team of designers, social media experts and marketing strategists. Until now, we’ve had a small office that we’ve loved at the amazing Rialto Theater. Recently we’ve decided to give it up.

I’m sure many of you small business owners and entrepreneurs have considered this option before. Some of you may have even taken the leap. Here are some of the reasons behind our decision.

1. Doing business usually means being away from the office

Mobile Office 3Every day, we’d go to the office. Inevitably, we’d be pulled away for meetings with clients, networking events, lunch meetings or any number of other day to day activities required to run a business. Fact is, we just weren’t there there that often during business hours.

When we did need a stationary spot to work, a coffee shop, The Tampa Club, The Oxford Exchange, or any number of other options usually were closer and more convenient. Not to mention they usually had better coffee!

We’ve never had a client have an issue with meeting us somewhere in public. When we needed a private space to work, we’ve been able to use the conference rooms at these locations.

2. We just didn’t get as much done at the office

Most of the time when we were at the office, it was full of distractions. Employees needing questions answered, phone calls, general conversation, or any number of other things served as distractions. Being in a single location where everyone knows how to find you means that blocking off time to be uninterrupted becomes difficult if not impossible. I’ve found that when I was working remotely, the questions, emails, phone calls, etc still came in, but I had some leeway in when I answered them. This allowed me to finish the task at hand before I interrupted my workflow to respond to correspondence.

3. The office was an unnecessary expense.

Every month, we had to pay rent. Paying the rent check when we weren’t there all that often always felt like a waste of money. The thought occurred to us that the money we were spending on rent could get us another employee, or new equipment, or any number of other things. It simply boils down to opportunity cost. The fixed expense each month was money we could be using to grow our business.

When we need to meet with clients, co-work spaces or private dining clubs offer a much more comfortable location for meetings, and usually they have very reasonable prices for conference room rentals. In fact, in an average month, we would spend much less money with club membership and room rentals than we would spend on a fixed office space.

4. Technology made the mobile office possible

Technology and the Mobile OfficeThese days we can do anything remotely. With our phones and laptops, we can manage projects, organize work teams and communicate with clients. We can manage our employees and give them more flexibility in their hours by using productivity tracking software.

Cloud based project management software, Google Documents, Dropbox and other online applications allow all of our office functions to be managed and organized via cloud. Connectivity is ensured via the proliferation of wi-fi and mobile tethering.

Every day new products are coming out to help us improve our productivity and workflow. Recently, we decided to look into portable second screens that were mobile.  We discovered that Displaylink technology can be a USB powered second monitor.  These days technology has largely made the office obsolete.

5. Having a mobile office means increased flexibility

If your business is like ours, your clients haven’t all conveniently moved to the same neighborhood. Chances are they’re spread out all over town, or even around the world. By untethering, we now have the flexibility in place to work from anywhere in the world. For example, the picture of Jupiter Beach I took the other day that is at the top of this article. Anywhere we can get cell data reception, or wifi now becomes our mobile office. Our Macbook Pros and iPhones contain all the tools we need to run our business.

Are there any cons?

There is always the possibility that some potential clients may take us less seriously because of our lack of a physical location, but frankly, most of our clients are more concerned with our work and results than what our office looks like. Having a professional website that showcases our work and who we are is more important these days than having a physical office. In addition, we have clients who are very happy with our work who are happy to give us solid referrals.

Managing our employees may also be a hurdle to work through, but we believe that our team will appreciate the additional freedom and that our project management workflow will continue as always. Putting in good reporting tools and communication will keep productivity levels as effective if not better than they are today.

We’re going mobile! Goodbye to the office

These days more and more businesses have gone mobile, we’re looking forward to joining their ranks. I believe that freeing up the revenue will increase our flexibility in running our business and being able to move as we need to in business will only increase our productivity and growth. And frankly… I’m really looking forward to working from the beach!

Jupiter Beach - Photograph by Mineh Ishida

UPDATE: We’re staying a little while longer

Since I wrote this article, my awesome landlords at the Rialto Theater talked to us and offered us a proposition to stay in our space. We love our office there, and we’ve since decided to stay a little while longer. The interesting thing is that the reasons we wanted to go remote are still valid, so we’re going to adopt that model and try to repurpose the space we have to add value to our business. I’ll keep posting updates on this blog as we figure out how to leverage the space better for our business.

The featured photograph in this article is a photograph of Jupiter Beach, Florida, taken just before sunrise. The photograph was taken by Mineh Ishida with an iPhone 6.

Business Marketing Thoughts

Doing Business You’re Proud Of

May 20, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Letter from Frameworks to Mineh Ishida

One of the reasons my business partner and I started Arcturus Creative is so that we could work with companies and organizations we really believe in.  We’re lucky that every day we get the opportunity to work with such incredible organizations.  Recently, we began working on a new website for Frameworks of Tampa Bay.  They really moved me with their mission to teach emotional intelligence to children.  Their work has touched many lives, both students as well as their families.

Last month, we attended a luncheon for the organization where we had the opportunity to hear the stories of some of these kids.  It was inspirational to say the least.  They had 2 kids give short speeches, and also had a photo gallery from their student photo competition. These students were so talented and well spoken.   The program obviously made an enormous positive impact in the lives of these children.

Since attending, I feel even more strongly that doing work that positively impacts the world around us is just good business.  There is no reason that we can’t choose to do business with organizations and customers worthy of our time and energy.  By choosing our clients carefully, we directly influence the growth and economy of the world around us.

I’m really excited to be working with Frameworks, and all of the awesome non-profits we are proud to call clients.


Business Marketing

How can I become more Creative?

May 17, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
How to be more Creative by Mineh Ishida

“How can I be more creative?” or “I’m just not that creative” are the common cries of many who start out in marketing or design.  Fact is, creativity isn’t a finite resource that is doled out upon birth.  It’s a skill that is cultivated through practice.  Much current research has been done on the plasticity of the brain… that is how the brain can change based on stimulus.  Of course, some genetic factors matter, just like in any skill, but fact is, you or I could learn to throw a ball, or paint a picture, play the guitar, or learn a language if we just dedicate time and practice.  Creativity is no different.

Creativity is the intersection of things you already know.

Creative Robot 2What makes something creative?  It usually is the unexpected intersection of two things we already know.   Creativity comes from thinking of things in new ways, so this makes sense.  So what does this look like in practice?

When we think about an elephant, we think of grey, wrinkled, large, tusks, long nose, etc.  When you change one of these expectations… for example, a green elephant, now all of a sudden, you’ve entered the world of creativity.  For example, dumbo was an elephant who could fly.  A heavy animal like an elephant could never fly, and yet, because he could, Dumbo went on to capture the imagination of millions of people.

So is Creativity Simple?

Creative Robot 1In a word, yes… but keep in mind, letting your mind go to a place where you can freely associate between different things takes practice.  Based on your upbringing or natural tendencies, your mind may be more or less naturally inclined towards this process, but everyone can learn it to some degree. The key is to reduce the “Executive Attention Network” process from your thought process.  This is the part of the brain that is active when you’re focused on complex tasks or problem solving.  To achieve this try some of the following:

  • Put yourself in relaxing and new environments
  • Let your mind free associate – Let your mind wander
  • Be physically active.  Take a walk, stretch, or find a physical activity that doesn’t involve a lot of focus.

How can I become more Creative?

Becoming more creative is a cultivatable skill.  The brain is very much like a muscle.  The more you use it in certain types of tasks, the easier it becomes.  Here are a few things you can do to improve your creative mind

Write Micro Stories

Creative Robot 3The part of the brain that imagines things is the “The Imagination Network.”  This is the part of the brain active when you think about the future or  imagine what someone is thinking.  By writing very short stories, 100-200 words,  where you imagine things from someone else’s perspective, or the world in a different state from the one you know forces this section of the brain to work.  The more you use it, the easier it will become to access it in the future.

When I first started doing this, I felt really kind of silly, but the exercise of letting your brain imagine without limits really helps when you need to be creative for business or creative problem solving.  These days, I try to find links between unrelated things.  Many times it leads to fun nonsensical connections, but sometimes great new ideas come from the exercise.

Write your Assumptions Down

Much like the example regarding the elephants from above, if you start by writing down all of your assumptions about a particular item, it gives you a starting place for replacing one of those.  For example lets pretend we’re marketing for a coffee shop.  What are your assumptions about a coffee shop?  Here are some of mine.

Assumptions about Coffee Shops

  1. Sell coffee drinks
  2. Smells like coffee
  3. Baked goods and maybe sandwiches
  4. Art on the walls
  5. Social Environment
  6. Small tables, maybe couches.
  7. Students or young people working on laptops
  8. Chill music, jazz or indie
  9. Young trendy baristas
  10. Usually browns and earth tone colors

Creative Robot 4So lets look at this list and see what we could possibly change to make this location more unique or “creative.”  So for one, the “small tables and couches” environment is one that doesn’t promote engagement between the clientele.  What if instead of it being “coffeeshop” like, we made all the seating communal?  Large tables with many chairs, or a bar around a central serving area?  Something that promotes interaction between strangers?  Now lets take it further.  So rather than art on the walls, lets make the tables and bar counters art from local artists, with glass or resin on top so you’re literally working on the art.  We invite local artists to come in periodically to redo the table tops or bar counters so that they are always changing.  Now you have a more communal atmosphere that invites conversation, and art that frequently change to talk about.  Now you have a “Creative” spin on the coffee shop motif.  By creating a list of assumptions to change, it offers you a chance to offer a change and that will be seen as “Creative.”

Grow your pool of knowledge and experiences

We’ve discussed before how creativity is the intersection between things you know.  It stands to reason then that increasing the things you know will further your creativity.  The most creative people I know are the ones who consume the most knowledge in different fields.  Read a lot, follow blogs, setup a pinterest page and expose yourself to new ideas and artwork.  Listen to more than one genre of music and travel.  The more “well rounded” you are in your knowledge and experiences, the larger a “pool” of ideas you can draw from when you create new things.

Collaborate with other Creatives One on One

Creative Robot 5So recent research suggests that large groups aren’t effective for increasing creativity, but I firmly believe that bouncing ideas off of one other person can be a great boon in creative thinking.

Other people have a different base of experiences and knowledge than you do, and by bouncing ideas back and forth, you can create a creative journey that may not have been possible on your own.  By working with people like this regularly, you’ll in time learn to take paths of thought similar to the people you work with, thus expanding your ability to think in different ways.

Having other people join the conversation also can break old patterns.  This can be a great boon when trying to think creatively.

Meditation Breaks Down the Walls to Creativity

Meditation has been shown to actually alter the physical connections in your brain, specifically by reducing the strength of the “Me” center of your brain.  As discussed above, imagining yourself in the perspective of others is one of the sections of the brain responsible for creativity.  Thus, meditation is a great way to break down the barriers to creativity. It also has other great mind and body benefits as well, so there is no reason not to practice it!



Design Logo Project

Mineh Ishida – Logo Project v003

May 16, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Mineh Ishida Logo Project 003 - Featured

Mineh Ishida Logo Project:

This week I continue the Mineh Ishida Logo Project by exploring polygon logo styles.  For those of you unfamiliar with this project, I committed to creating a new logo every week.  The goal of this project is for me to expand my logo and branding styles and to improve in branding design.  First Mineh Ishida logo project post can be found here (v001). 

Project Considerations

  1. In Japanese, Mineh means summit or mountain peak.
  2. The brand should be for one of my specialties: Marketing, Web Design, Graphic Design, Photography, DJing, etc.
  3. Each logo I create must be in a new style.
  4. I will spend no more than 2 hours on each project.  The goal is not to create masterpieces, but to try new things.

Mineh Ishida: Logo v003

Last week I went with a minimalistic monochrome logo.  This week, I’m very excited because I’ve always wanted to try my hand at polygon logos. I don’t know if I stuck to the 2 hour limit for this one because I designed it on an airplane between Dallas and Cleveland. It didn’t take very long though, so I assume it was close to the two hour limit.

I created this weeks logo in illustrator using the pen tool. In order to simulate a 3d mountain using 2d polygons, I used color shading and amorphous polygons with no particular order.  I first outlined the mountain shape to create a solid polygon.  Then I created vertical jagged lines within the shape.  Off of those lines, I forked them towards the bottom.  When satisfied with the basic lines and shapes, I then connected them with line segments to create the final polygons. Once everything was done, I saved a copy of the completed outline, and then divided the main polygon using the extra lines. This method gave me the separated polygons I needed to fill with colors.

All of the colors came from the same shade of blue, but using different saturation and luminosity levels, I was able to create the colors I needed.  My goal was to simulate lighting coming from the right side of the logo, so I used lighter shades on that side.

I used “Museo Sans Rounded Thin” for the font because I wanted a clean modern font with approachability.


I really enjoyed this project.  The hardest part of doing it was getting the “divide” operation to work properly, and to select the color palette.  Once those things were figured out, the project went very smoothly. If I were to do this again, I would setup the color palette in advance rather than figuring it out on the fly.

Mineh Ishida Logo Project v003

Mineh Ishida Logo Project v003


Sunsets on Clearwater Beach

May 10, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Sunset on Clearwater Beach | Photograph by Mineh Ishida | Camera: iPhone 6

I remember the first day when I moved to Clearwater, Florida.  Prior to anything else, I went to the beach.  I hadn’t even entered my new apartment. I drove, car loaded with everything I own, straight to the beach.  I remember pulling up to Pier 60 and watching the sun go down into the Gulf of Mexico.  It seemed so perfect.  Since then, it’s been a number of years.  I have a more realistic perspective of the Tampa Bay area, both the good and less good, but somehow, the magic of watching the sunset from the beach hasn’t diminished in the slightest.

The cool feeling of the sand between my toes, the waves lapping against my shins, and the salty breeze coming off the water is the best therapy for a long day.  For an hour, I can sit and watch the sun drip down the horizon and disappear.  Then the sky transforms and beautiful azure hues mix with the light of the dying sun.  Every time, it’s mother natures unique light show.  It’s always breathtaking.

Of all of the things I’ve seen living in Florida, the sunsets on the gulf are consistently one of my favorite parts of life here.


A Sneak Peak: Cosplay Photo Academy Logo

May 9, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida

I’m working on a new project right now with my good friend Michael Rose.  We’ve decided to found an online school to help cosplay photographers refine their craft.  We’re still working on building out the content of the site, but we did name it, and I made the logo today.

8-bit Awesome

We wanted the logo to appeal to our audience.  Our members will be video game playing, comic book craving teens and young adults who are amateur photographers learning the art and craft of photography, particularly focused on cosplay photography.  It’s an exciting genre of photography filled with super heroes, villains, anime characters, video game characters and more.  I can’t think of a genre of photography that would be more fun to shoot than this one.  It’s a style where imagination is king, and fans are passionate about crafting high quality costumes… essentially, a photographer’s playground.

To that end, I wanted a logo that spoke to this group.  I wanted them to immediately understand that it was a photography related brand, but also that we were connected to the people who makeup this group.  What better way than to evoke the time honored tradition of 8-bit video game graphics!

About the Cosplay Photo Academy Logo

To create the logo, I first created a grid of pixels in Illustrator, each 1 pt wide and separated by a 0.1 pt gap.  I then removed pixels and colored them in to create the camera.  We decided to keep the typography very simple, as we didn’t want the messaging to get lost in a complex logo.

I’m very excited about this new enterprise, and look forward to building out our content to help people learn more about cosplay photography.  I’ll keep posting updates here, and when our site is online, I look forward to sharing it with you!

Cosplay Photo Academy - Logo Design by Mineh Ishida

Cosplay Photo Academy – Logo Design by Mineh Ishida

Design Logo Project

Mineh Ishida – Logo Project v002

May 9, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Mineh Ishida - Logo Project v002 - featured

Mineh Ishida Logo Project:

I commit to designing one logo per week.  I will spend no more than 2 hours for research, concept and design.  The goal of this project is to expand my versatility in style and capabilities as a brand designer.  The following were established as the guidelines for this project.  First Mineh Ishida logo project post can be found here (v001). 

Project Considerations

  1. My name in Japanese means summit or mountain peak.
  2. The brand should be for one of my specialties: Marketing, Web Design, Graphic Design, Photography, DJing, etc.
  3. Each logo I create must be in a new style.
  4. I will spend no more than 2 hours on each project.  The goal is not to create masterpieces, but to try new things.

Mineh Ishida: Logo v002

Last week, I explored a modern retro style using subdued colors.  Today, I decided to go minimalistic with line art and strong geometric shape.  I want the focus today to be more on the brand mark, and less on the name.  To continue the theme using mountains, I decided that the M from Mineh could be abstracted into a mountain shape by skewing the heights of the peaks.  I created movement and depth in the logo by creating breaks, that give the illusion that the line overlaps itself.  This draws the eye from left to right through the logo.

I chose to go with a monochome color palette because I really wanted this to be as minimalistic as possible.  Focus entirely on the shape and lines, and not on the color.

The typography is very simple.  I used Gotham and kept it very clean an undistracting. Rendering the “Mineh Ishida” in all caps further reduces the unique shapes of the letters which further reduces the impact of the name in the logo.


At the end of the 2 hours, I wanted to keep playing with line thicknesses.  I felt like the text too closely mirrored the shapes in weight and  structure, and I wanted to further explore what different typographical treatments would do to the logo.  I do feel like I captured the essence of this excercise however, and made a line art logo that also represents mountains in a very abstract form.

Mineh Ishida - Logo Project v002 - Minimalist Line Art Logo

Mineh Ishida – Logo Project v002 – Minimalist Line Art Logo – (Mockup Provided by Graphic Burger)



Design Logo Project

Mineh Ishida Logo Project – project v001

May 2, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Mineh Ishida Logo Project v001 - business card mockup

I’ve decided to start a project.  For the next year, I plan to design one logo a week.  I plan to spend no more than 2 hours for research, concept and design.  The goal of this project is much like a 365 photo project; I hope to expand my styles and capabilities as a brand designer.

Mineh Ishida: My Name & Brand

To start with, I figured I’d use my own name: Mineh Ishida and create a personal brand.  After all, if I can’t create a logo for myself, the person I know the most about, how can I expect to brand for other companies?

Project Considerations

  1. My name in Japanese means summit or mountain peak.
  2. The brand should be for one of my specialties: Marketing, Web Design, Graphic Design, Photography, DJing, etc.
  3. Each logo I create must be in a new style.
  4. I will spend no more than 2 hours on each project.  The goal is not to create masterpieces, but to try new things.

First Project: v001

Here is my first attempt at creating a logo for the Mineh Ishida brand.  I created it towards the creative marketing side, and decided to go with a modern vintage approach.  I chose subdued cool colors and simplistic graphics because I wanted people to feel the brand was relaxed and trustworthy.   I created two variations on the same mark so I could see how the two different typestyles contrasted.  I found myself liking the more ornate version more than the simpler font.


The 2 hour time limit proved to be more challenging than I thought.  I feel like the logos still need refinement and spacing fixes, but considering this is the first time I’ve done this project, I’m happy with the results.  If I had more time, I would clean up the mountain graphic, and refine the color palette further.

Mineh Ishida Logo Project v001

Mineh Ishida Logo Project v001