Creativity& Brand—Meg Lewis

Meg Lewis is a freelance designer (and founder of Ghostly Ferns) working out of her collaborative studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota. What draws us to Meg is her ability to create from an entirely authentic place—a place where she is 100% herself. She spoke with us about the role of “brand” (particularly personal brand) in her creative process.

Talk about your journey to becoming the creative you are today — and how the journey has influenced your work.
I am a designer by the broadest definition of the job. I used to consider myself a web designer, then a product designer, then a brand designer, and so on. I didn’t totally feel content with being one type of designer and was always itching for more, for better. A few years ago, I had a personal epiphany. I realized how much time I wasted being a fake, totally not 100% version of myself. I was so afraid of what everyone thought about me, and my work, that it kept me from being “me!” Once I decided to let go and start being myself, it made me realize I could do the same with my career.

Today, I do whatever I want, whenever I want. (It rules, obviously.) I call myself a “designer,” rather than a certain type of designer, because I love designing any and all things that come my way: experiences, brands, environments, you name it! My journey to find true personal happiness coincided with my journey to career happiness. Once I allowed myself to be 100% Meg, I also allowed myself to shed any fear of what others thought about my career and let Meg be Meg from home to work!

Tell us about a favorite project you’ve worked on recently.
I’ve pleasantly stumbled into designing experiences for events almost exclusively this year. I’ve been hired to create fun, memorable, and interactive experiences for attendees to enjoy. From the moment they hear about the event, to their experience tasting, seeing, touching, and hearing inside the event, I make sure they’re having the most comfortable and fun experience of their lives. It’s pretty darn great!

Brand design and art direction for the Cocktail Summit event series

As a designer — particularly one who has built many brands — what does “brand” mean to you?
To me, a “brand” is literally anything with an identity — whether you identify as a human, a dog, a company who is disrupting the hemorrhoid industry, whatever! If you associate yourself with any identity, you inevitably have a unique perspective and personality within your identity. After all, we (humans & businesses) have unique personalities, quirks, and attributes that make us different than everyone else. A brand is taking those attributes, quirks, and unique personalities and celebrating them to the max. Mmmm, it’s so good!

You talk a lot about the value of developing a personal brand, especially as a freelance creative. What is the story of your brand, and what value has it brought to your creative work?
Remember when I was talking about my personal epiphany? That’s the moment when I realized personal brands were so gosh darn special! When I no longer cared what people thought about me, I started being 100% Meg online and off. My social media presence became a perfect representation of who I really am. Whether it’s dancing like a fool, long essays about my butt, or just posting some design experiments… I am me. And guess what — the more I post myself being myself, the more opportunities I get. The more I’m me, the more I succeed!

In what ways does your personal brand overlap with the brands you build as a designer?
Before, I was afraid to be myself and it really showed in my design. I would design anything, in any style, for anyone. I was afraid the work would run dry at any moment. After I decided to not care what others thought about me, and instead be 100% me, I did the same with my work. I decided to only work with dream clients—companies who were doing great mission-driven work to make the world a happier place. I call these companies “Happy Companies.” From that day on, I decided to only work with happy companies.

Sure, I was eliminating about 90% of potential opportunities, but what happened was absolutely extraordinary. Because I was the only designer marketing themselves as “the designer for happy companies,” I was getting all the work from every company that fit within that identity. I became a niche designer, not by skill (i.e. logo, web, product, etc.), but by what I value. Today, I’m a value-based designer working for happy companies. Every brand I build has values that align with my own. I feel completely fulfilled in my work because I’m working for companies who hire me to be myself!

Creative direction and design for Good Vibes, a new theme for use on the Big Cartel platform

If your brand had a theme song, what would it be?
Sung in the style of the B-52s

Meg Lewis is a darn good human
A super uncool human
A really weird human
She designs and dances her way to success
She’s a real fun-a-rama
A good times abscess

You founded Ghostly Ferns and Fool Proof — both extensions of your fun, happy personal brand. We love it, because it’s evident that you’re not just sitting stagnant, you’re constantly moving forward with vision. So, what’s next? Any happy plans up your sleeve?
I really don’t like thinking about the future. I’m not a planner or a goal-setter. If I try to set milestones for myself it tends to hold me back. I always end up in a weird spot somewhere other than I could’ve ever imagined and I love it that way. My current biggest hope is to build a supportive, sharing community for independent creatives in the twin cities. I want to see more collaboration, more sharing of work, and more hangouts between the freelancer community here. It’s something I had in Brooklyn that I’m desperate for here. I think Fool Proof can help with that!

What might your creative process look like without your strong personal brand and mission?
I think it would be a lot like the bad ol’ days for me. I’d be designing for unhappy companies, for people who hate their jobs, and complaining a lot about the bad work I’m making. I think I would try to please everyone by nodding my head and allowing them to push me over. It would be an inefficient and sad process that wouldn’t benefit me or any of my clients. Phew! Thank goodness that’s not my life anymore!

Creativity& is an Open Book Communications project. It is a space to showcase artists/entrepreneurs/creative-people as real humans. We hope to show that it doesn’t just take creativity to make you a great creative; it takes a whole host of other things. And there are things that often go along with creativity that are rarely seen or talked about. We hope to draw that out from creatives — to inspire, generate conversations, and get their fans (and themselves) thinking about their creative process.