Jolt: A Retreat For Graphic Designers

Jolt Retreat for graphic designers 2022

Last year, Jamie from Jelly Creative Co reached out to me with a crazy good idea to host a retreat for graphic designers. Unlike anything else out in the designer community right now, this retreat is aimed to help designers workshop their brand strategy and identity in a week.

If you’re a graphic designer you probably understand the struggle most have when creating a brand you truly love. Most designers throw their all into creating strategic brands for their clients, but they fall short when it comes to their own brands. Either because of lack of time or having too many ideas to know what to do with, almost every freelance designer has been in this situation.

So we created a solution: Jolt.

Jolt Retreat In Kent Island, Maryland
Jolt Retreat In Kent Island, Maryland

While other retreats for graphic designers may focus on relaxation or the client side of the business, Jamie and I wanted to make sure this retreat focused primarily on building a strategic brand for the designers. Because of my strategic background, Jaimie brought me on board to help guide the strategy side of the retreat.

The Process

Before the retreat even kicked off, the attendees needed to complete a prep workbook. While a lot of the work happened during the actual retreat, this workbook was a way to get people’s thoughts on paper (or notion) so they were ready to go when we kicked off at the house. The workbook asked questions like “what’s working well in your business and what needs to change”, “what are your values”, and “who is your ideal client”. Not super in-depth, but enough to get people thinking about their brand.

Melissa explaining parts of the brand strategy.
Melissa explaining parts of the brand strategy.

Day 1

The first day of the retreat was very strategy focused and we tackled a lot all at once. The process we went through was almost exactly the same as the process I cover with my strategy workshop clients. Instead of giving them an hour long talk and then sending them off, we worked through each strategy phase alongside them while giving instructions and feedback along the way.

The first phase was the brand foundation where we covered the brand’s purpose, commitments, goals, and values. I thought this phase went without a hitch because most designers know exactly what they stand for and how it shows up through their business. And if they didn’t, we worked through each section to streamline the brand’s purpose.

During the next phase, we walked through their target audience’s pain points, needs, and the client journey they go through when looking for a designer. This was a crucial part of the strategy process because it helped develop every other messaging point throughout the brand.

After exploring the target audience, we walked through their competitors, gaps in the market, and what made them stand out. This exercise took double the allotted time because of the great questions and conversations.

After dinner, we came back to the group room (as Jamie coined it) to wrap up the night with our brand attributes. This is where we discussed the different ways each brand wanted to be positioned. This later helped push the positioning statements they came up with the next day.

The brand strategy sessions was everything I needed, so extremely valuable! Even if I had tried to ask myself these questions or similar questions on my own, I would have take forever to do it or wouldn’t have at all. I don’t think there was much hope of getting out of this rut I’ve been in of not really enjoying freelancing without going through the brand strategy session. I also feel like it has given me a better grasp on how to navigate branding with my own clients. Really going through the process for myself gave me insight I did not have before. With all of this said my brand confidence is MUCH higher than before Jolt!

Jolt Attendee
Jolt brand strategy workshop
Jolt brand strategy workshop

Day 2

On day 2 we wrapped up the brand strategy and started on the creative direction and stylescapes. Again, this was a very strategy focused day because we were not only thinking of the brand strategy but how to apply it.

Melissa with designer during the brand strategy workshop
Melissa with a designer during the brand strategy workshop

In the morning (after a good cup of coffee) we wrapped up positioning and then dove straight into brand archetypes. Brand archetypes are a crucial part of the brand strategy process because it secures your brand’s personality and thus messaging. We worked through their audience’s needs and the role the brand plays in their journey. After this, we established their brand’s tone of voice and language, aka what words should be used in their brand and how they should say it.

After we wrapped the strategy portion of the retreat, everyone had a few hours to themselves to start working on the stylescapes, or creative direction. I think this part was one of the hardest because it forced the designers to turn their strategy into a visual direction. Again, we originally scheduled this portion to be 2 hours but it ended up taking up almost double that.

Throughout the process, we periodically regrouped so designers could share their processes and get feedback. Some important questions asked were “how does this apply to your target audience” and “What would your clients feel about this”. We pushed the designers to stay true to their strategy by encouraging them to explain their rationale for each direction.

Day 3

Our last full day at the house was spent on the creative direction. This is where designers could fully let loose (within the strategy) and brand or rebrand their business. The designers spent the entire day finalizing their stylescapes and then moved on to the branding process. At the end of the day, everyone got to present their creative direction and get feedback during the process.

Post Retreat

After the retreat wrapped we scheduled 2 follow-up calls. These calls are to ensure people stay on the right path to launching their brand. We plan to walk through everyone’s progress post retreat and their plans to update the rest of their brand.

Branding is a lot of work and doesn’t just stop once the visuals are done. This is why we have these calls and a slack group to keep up with everyone’s progress.

If you’re having FOMO reading about the Jolt Retreat you can join the 2023 waitlist here!