The Power of Peers and a Guitar Riff

Like a lot of you, I’m still reeling from the surprise performance of Tracy Chapman with Luke Combs on Sunday night at the Grammys. I’m always amazed how music has the power to transport us to a specific time and place. 

Summer of 1988, my dad had completed the construction of his new 2-bay shop and my brother and I were tasked with moving all of the tools, welding rods, hoods, gloves, nuts, bolts, screws, etc. from the old shop to the new shop… a 50-ish yard round trip journey in the sweltering South Carolina heat that was our backyard. Any activity we were engaged in usually had a supporting soundtrack from one particular Sony boombox, so you can imagine my excitement when the mail truck arrived with my latest Columbia House delivery… 12 tapes I had ordered for ONE penny, taped to the subscription card I’d mailed in 4-6 weeks prior. I hopped on my bike and pedaled down our long gravel driveway to the mailbox, and hurriedly made my way back to the shop in perfected one-handed fashion. I ripped open the box and struggled with tearing the cellophane wrapper off the self-titled Tracy Chapman cassette tape. I popped it in the cassette player, fast forwarded to track 2, and heard that opening acoustic riff I’d only heard when I was lucky enough to catch it on the radio. Fast Car, and eventually the album in its entirety, was the soundtrack to the remainder of that hot and sweaty summer. (George Michael’s Faith album was also in that particular Columbia House order and got a lot of air time that summer, too.)

I knew the Grammys were coming on Sunday night, and while it’s not something I ever go nuts about, or set aside time to watch, I’ll typically turn it on to catch the few great performances and turn it off when things get crazy and folks start losing their clothes… and minds. I happened to turn it on Sunday night at the exact moment that Luke Combs and his “special surprise guest” were being introduced. As soon as that acoustic riff started, I was immediately transported to that summer of ’88… the smell of cut metal, welding “dust”, sweat, and the feeling of accomplishing something my brother and I felt was much bigger than we were at the time. (Never thought I’d say it then, but thanks Dad!) 

The sheepish grin on Tracy’s face in response to the audience’s roaring applause sent chill bumps across my skin. The entire performance had me literally on the edge of the couch. Her giddy glimpses at Luke and his in return — it was a give and take, back and forth rally, loaded with emotion that I haven’t witnessed from my living room couch… well, ever. And, if that wasn’t enough, the camera gave us glimpses of the crowd… many of whom were on their feet. Taylor Swift, dancing and singing every word. Jelly Roll and Michael Trotter Jr.’s fist pumps in the air like cheerleaders on a sideline. And so many others, standing and singing and cheering in support. 

What a gift for an artist to be able to look out and see their peers in full-on, invested physical support and engagement of their craft. What. A. Gift.

LinkedIn, Facebook groups, Instagram, etc are social forms of that platform for many of us. They are communities of professionals supporting one another and offering support and advice and critique (hopefully this is your experience). As a freelance graphic designer, I get positive feedback from clients (and friends and family, of course), but it’s altogether different to receive it from peers. (Love her, or hate her, you can’t argue that Tay Tay modeled class for us all on Sunday night.) Let’s not forget how good a fist pump in the air feels. Let’s keep getting up on our feet and cheering each other on from the sidelines and singing each other’s songs at the very top of our lungs. It’s a gift that only we can give.

New Year, New Projects!

I hope your wrap up to 2023 was everything you needed it to be, and this new year is off to a great start!⚡️

Matt and I had a very busy end of 2023 / start to 2024 as we teamed up on a catalog project for a brand new client who manufactures some of the sharpest knives and scissors you’ve ever seen.✂️ 🔪 Matt styled and photographed some beautiful commercial images of the product alongside specialty beef cuts, pork, poultry, yellow-tailed snapper, and steelhead. I reaped the benefits by enjoying a delicious fish steak and a couple of fish tacos for the win! (No good food models left behind!🌮🎣) Can’t wait to share it with you guys when the printed version is released! (Not the fish tacos, the catalog. Sheesh.)

We also wrapped up another great project with Jumpstart… a special 15th anniversary edition Impact Report. Matt shot most of the photos while I honed in on creative ways to tell their story of the last 15 years with words and pictures. For the cover, we did a fun 1️⃣5️⃣ diecut and let the signatures of some of the participants “fill in” the diecut space… in metallic silver.🪩 

Give us a shout if you have an upcoming project you’d like to discuss! We’re looking forward to a great 2024 with stellar clients like you! ⚡️


I’ll be the first to admit that I have a hyper-critical spirit when it comes to aesthetics. That’s a good thing, riiiight? I mean, my role as a graphic designer is to make things/ideas look good and function well. (I can probably work on my spiritedness… you’re right.)🤓 As I’ve talked with and worked with a wide variety of clients over the years, I’ve learned that good aesthetics might not be a priority for folks for a variety of reasons, and it might not be as simple as “they just have bad taste”. 

It might be some or all of the following…

  • They don’t have the budget to hire a graphic designer
  • They don’t realize the impact that professional design can have on their audience
  • They haven’t set aside the time to hire a designer because they are bombarded with other responsibilities 
  • They rely on templates and mass-produced designs because they’re “good enough” for what they need
  • They were duped by a person on Fiverr claiming to be a graphic designer because they own a Mac and a Creative Cloud subscription

Once in an interview, I was handed an annual report that I had done a few years prior for another organization. “This is the level of design that I want for our stuff. This is what I want.”, he said. 

Surprised, I laughed and said, “Well, then, we’re on the same page… because I did that piece.” 

He also showed me the pieces they had paid someone on Fiverr to do and vowed they were ready to move forward and never look back. The work was overcharged, the turn-around time was quadruple what it should have been, and the quality was maybe a D+ (if graded on a curve). It saddened me (for both parties involved) that this Fiverr person would promote themselves as a “graphic designer”, take payment, and deliver the level of work I was holding in my hands. 

Sometimes, all you might need is D+ level work. But, you’re a professional. Your organization is professional. Your business is professional. So shouldn’t your mission and branding reflect who you are? I vote a spirited “yes”. 🙋🏻‍♀️⚡️

Happy New Year! 🎉 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣3️⃣

It’s the first week of 2023 and I’m sitting here at my kitchen counter making goals for the year. I’ll be the first to admit (and my wonderful and patient husband will be the first to agree) that I despise planning and making goals. Tell me today that we are taking a cross-country trip to Montana tomorrow, and I’m in! Don’t tell me we’re doing it next month and all the things I have to do to prepare for it.🤪🙅🏻‍♀️

But… I’m finally realizing (at 40-something) that goals are important for success and intentionality is key in creating real change. (Come on… some of us are slower learners than others!😆) So, here are a few of my goals (personal and business-related) so far…

  • Weight train (of any sort) at least 3x per week (mid-life flab has hit, y’all)
  • Take a brisk 20-30 minute walk at least 4x per week
  • Empty my inbox by Monday of every week
  • Invite someone over for dinner 1x per month (go ahead and list these out through December)
  • Lock in 5 annual/impact report contracts

Feel free to borrow any of these and make them yours. (And thanks, Jon Acuff and Matty, for the motivating boot to do this!) That last goal is one I’m extra excited about. I’ve always enjoyed doing layout and design of multi-page books, but over the past several years, I’ve fallen in love with, specifically, annual reports. It seems early to start thinking about a project that usually isn’t given thought until September or October, but how great would it be to go ahead and get the planning in motion for that, I’m guessing, looming and daunting project. And, you’d get me one step closer to meeting my goal! 🎉😄 

Hit me up today if you’d like to talk further about your annual report for 2023. September will be here before you know it! Let’s get things in motion now for a super successful 2023 annual report!

Here’s one I recently completed for Homes of Hope with some photography help from Matty!

Imma Weirdo

I’ve learned so much doing work with the World Wildlife Fund. They provide funding and resources to implement conservation practices for landowners… something I’ve found myself puttering through life and not giving much thought about the work that goes into preserving this great planet of ours. This recent project was a resource guide chocked full of conservation programs for landowners in Montana, specifically rangelands. 

I immensely enjoy coming up with solutions for displaying information in a, hopefully, less-than boring way. See that table down there? Mmmmmm. I know, I know… Imma weirdo.

The booklet is a collaborative product of the WWF and Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge Community Working Group. More information on the Working Group and its goals can be found here.

(Cover Photo:  © WWF-US  /  Jeff Nelson)

Rewarding Work with the World Wildlife Fund

It’s always fun to be hired by a client who you’ve long looked up to and valued the good they are doing in the world. I’ve been blessed to have worked with some incredible organizations over the years who are doing some great things. The World Wildlife Fund is one of those clients. Recently, I’ve had the privilege of working on the Northern Great Plains Donor Report for WWF. I really enjoy working on these types of projects. I become immersed in the content and learn so much about the subject in the process of the design and layout of the piece.

Check out what WWF is doing to conserve the Northern Great Plains and learn more about what you can do to help.

Keef Made a Cool Thang

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m grateful to my parents for instilling a love of music within my brother and I at very young ages. As a four-year-old, I can remember Mom always playing records in the house… Elvis, The Beatles, BJ Thomas, Glen Campbell, The Four Tops, The Temptations. It was extremely unusual for there not to be music playing inside and outside of the house. On my outdoor adventures, I would hear Don Williams, Buck Owens, Willie, Waylon, and Johnny among the sounds coming from my dad’s shop. Oh, and Ronnie Milsap… and Eddie Rabbitt! I loooooved Eddie Rabbitt. And A Rainy Night.

Couple all of that (seemingly-unrelated-to-this-blog-post-information) with my ten years of piano lessons, my drumming and guitar-playing husband, our playing in a band together for ten years, my bass-playing-and-singing-twelve-year-old-daughter, and you’ll understand why I was thrilled to be a small part of this Cool Thang that Keef Made.

During some of those ten years I was taking piano lessons, I knew a kid in church youth group who played guitar in the youth band. He was that kid who was freaky good at playing anything he could get his hands on. His name was Keith Groover.

Fast forward a bunch of years, circa 1999, to when I was dating my now-husband, Matt. We were hanging out one afternoon and he said, “I need to run by my buddy’s house and pick up __________.” I can’t remember the details, obviously, but it was some sort of music gear. And whadduya know… that buddy was Keith! I hadn’t seen Keith in years! In the years to follow, Keith and Matt would form a couple of bands and record some music together.

Fast forward again through a bunch of years (weddings, births, bands, concerts, careers, etc)… Keith contacted me about creating the logo for a new electronic instrument that he was working on. He sent me a video showing how it worked and what it sounded like… I was instantly intrigued, especially since over the past couple of years, I’d kind of gotten into the whole EDM wave. You know, that genre that’s kind of like Ronnie Milsap’s stuff, except the exact opposite….? 🤷🏻‍♀️

We worked through some ideas and initially I missed the mark. Here are the lead-in pages to the first couple of logos I presented…

I was digging the first one, and had a hunch that would be the one Keith would pick. To my surprise, he liked the second one better, but was wondering if there was a way to make it a little less modern. I felt I was missing the mark, so I had Keith create a Pinterest board to show even more ideas of the tone he was looking for. 

This helped us narrow some ideas down even further. And he suggested dipping the bottom down to create more of an obvious wing effect on the second one. I added some framing along the bottom to give it more of an aeronautical and finished look, and we went with gold and black to give it a more classic and established feel.  

Keith was pleased with the finished look and I was pleased to have helped an old friend out in the process. There aren’t many things that bring me more joy than watching talented friends / family channel their talents into functional ways that allow them to publicly share those gifts with the world. Y’all, this is a freaky cool instrument. Get in line to get one for yourself, your kids, your mom, your dad… you can pay them back for all those years of piano lessons they put you through. 🙌🏻🎵⚡️ Set to release early 2019.

2017… Be Gone With Yosef!

I’m long overdue in getting this post up. I’m actually long overdue in getting any post up. Can’t believe it’s been over a year since I last posted. 2017 was a rough one, but we survived. Seemed like every corner we turned, there was something to have to deal with and attempt to remedy immediately, or just sit in the middle of it and wait it out. 2017, be gone with yosef! 😂 But… God is good and leaning on his strength over my own is something I’m slowly learning to do. It doesn’t come easy for me, regardless of how many times he’s proven himself faithful in the big and small things in my life. And once again, those things that reared their ugly heads last year, he saw us through them and/or is continuing to see us through. He’s always always faithful. (Oh! And we’re expecting a Carter baby in April! Whaaa? Yeah, we’re still picking ourselves up off the floor over that one, but we can not wait to meet him! Please get here fast, April! But only after I have enough time to move my office to the garage so that Charlie Carter has a room. 😂)

Fuzzy Bison business was incredible last year and I had lots of new logo clients from out in California via Christine McDermott from Great Oak Circle. I’ll do some logo study posts on those to come. I also had some opportunities to work on some painting projects, which were much needed breaks from sitting in front of the Mac all day. It’s a slow learning process especially since I have to tackle it in my “free” time, but I’m learning and loving every minute that I get to wet a brush and make cool things for folks. I’m so grateful for masters of the trade like Norma Jeanne Maloney and Sean Starr who have been so gracious to me in lending their knowledge of the craft. You guys are super special! ⚡️💕

I also wrapped up the 2017 season with the Southeast Gassers. Although, I’m no longer doing work for them, it was another great season of producing cool posters (posted below), and I wish them the best for the future! Just like the season prior, the posters gave a “face” to each event and each design was a quick way to push out advertising via Instagram and Facebook in addition to providing a physical promo piece and a collectible souvenir. Check them out this year if you get a chance! Their season begins April 14 in Shelby, NC. Good luck, kids!

Coming Full Circle

If you’ve seen my About page, then you know that I grew up around fast things…specifically fast cars…and specifically fast cars at the local circle dirt track. While I appreciated all that those fellas poured into their favorite pastime, I was never a big fan. I was just a fan of my dad, and his cool car. And I always liked getting dirty. So it worked out great for me.

Most Saturday nights during race season, that’s where you would find me, my brother, and my mom and dad…at various dirt tracks in South Carolina and Georgia. And on any given Sunday afternoon during race season, you could bet that our fifty-inch Sears® front projection television (another lucky owner’s is pictured below) would be busy broadcasting NASCAR (after wrestling was over, of course).

My dad and brother were big, big, BIG racing fans. But, only fans of circle-track stock car racing.

No trucks.

No motorcycles.

No IndyCars.

No boats.

No bicycles.

And certainly no dogs and horses. Nurp.

And most certainly, no drag racing. Psssh.

Knowing this, you can imagine my shock and surprise back last year when I began to hear chatter and excitement from them about this drag racing group out of North Carolina called The Southeast Gassers Association (SGA). I had no idea what a gasser was (in fact, it made me chuckle every time they said the word), and I couldn’t quite get over the fact that they were so jacked up about drag racing. Drag racing! What?! I felt like I needed to shake them. “Dad. Stephen. Do you hear yourselves?!”

But it didn’t take long before they educated me a bit on The Southeast Gassers and I began to understand why they had “crossed over”. One especially fun fact is that the founder of the SGA, Quain Stott, comes from a long line of drag racing champions and is an IHRA ProMod champion himself. 

So, I quickly learned that this wasn’t any ol’ group of drag racers with big, ugly mis-matched cars. You know the ones. The ones that look like your grandma’s green Monte Carlo, except it’s found a new life as a metallic purple Monte Carlo…with…flames…from an orange Sharpie®.

Yeah. Those.

No, dawg…these cars are…

Well…just have a look…

Sooooo rad, right?! The kicker is, they have to be period correct, following the strictest gasser rules in the world based off the 1967 rule book. I don’t know all of the ins and outs about what that means exactly, so check out their website if you’d like to know. (I just know it’s way cooler and more fun than that metallic purple Monte Carlo that used to be your grandma’s.)

Despite how intriguing all of this is, Quain and the boys running the Southeast Gasser show had just been having a difficult time getting the word out and needed a little marketing help. My brother, Stephen, stepped in to help spread the word, and recruited me to help with the designs for various marketing pieces. We quickly got to work researching racing posters and paraphenalia of the 1960’s. This was extremely interesting and super fun. I love digging into old ads/posters/type/images/etc., so, given the task of mimicking that particular look was all up my alley.

The first 11x17 poster we did was for the finals race in November last year. Eight posters would follow for the 2016 season (pictured below sequentially). These seemed to really get folks excited about the upcoming races. They gave a “face” to each event and each poster design was a quick way to push out advertising via Instagram and Facebook in addition to providing a physical promo piece and a collectible souvenir. Each time we completed a poster design, Stephen had 250 printed to sell at the events and to spread around town prior to the event. My dad (and sometimes my mom) drove tons of miles distributing posters to area businesses to help spread the word. We also set up a Dropbox for folks who were kind enough to get the files printed on their own and distribute them within their area. It takes a village, y’all! 

Stephen has done an incredible job reigniting the buzz and sparking folks to spread the word. All of this hustling has paid off, too. The proof is in the pudding! In the past year, the Southeast Gassers Instagram following has grown from 303 to just over 9700. Facebook followers have soared from 4500 to nearly 20,000, and the number of active cars/participants and cars being built currently totals over 100. (Take a minute right now to go give them a follow and keep pushing those numbers up!) [Update since this post was written…IG followers - 19,800  |  Facebook followers - over 57,000]

It’s been a fun year diving into this stuff with the Southeast Gassers and getting to work alongside my brother on stuff that takes us back to our roots…even though it’s on asphalt instead of dirt, and even though the track is straight as an arrow and has zero curves. It’s still four wheels going crazy fast.

So, come on out to the Greer Dragway in Greer, SC on November 5 and witness in-person what I’ve been babbling on and on about. I promise, you’ll have a good time. (Even if you’re technically only a horse or dog racing fan.)

All of the really great photos by: Matthew Franklin Carter 

All of the semi-decent photos by: Stephen and Carla

Can You Tell Me How to Get…How to Get to Elberon Street?

I always present my logo clients with a design brief consisting of 15 or so questions which helps give me an idea of what they are looking for, and it also helps them possibly think of things they hadn’t yet considered. Obviously, the more detailed and in-depth the answers are, the better I am able to hone in on a solution for their logo.

John and his dad, Michael, started making amplifiers together a few years back and that’s how the company, Granger Amplifiers, was born. Guys like those guys freaking blow my mind…my little, non-engineering, non-mechanical, non-lefty brain. Guys like my dad, and my brother, and my grandpa, and my uncles. I’m not sure how I managed to come from such a long line of mechanically-minded-fellers and ended up with not even a tiny inkling of that technical prowess. Dangit.


I atleast have resources and know who to call when I truly botch something up and need to fix it.

So, back to Granger Amps…here’s a little backstory and logo specifics provided by John in the brief:

Granger Amplifiers is a small amp production company bringing quality, handmade audio products to musicians and music lovers alike. They are focused on delivering the best experience through clean designs and superior sound and tone…blending the best of old school simplicity and the latest technology, resulting in a unique, yet approachable product.

Target Market: High-end audiophiles and musicians, both studio and traveling.

(Guesstimated to be mainly males in their 20’s and up.)

  • Important Logo Attributes: Attention to Detail / Quality / Clean / Simple / Iconic / Unique
  • Imagery: Lightning bolt and/or symbols from electronic schematics
  • Colors: Red or royal blue

John, on his dad’s interests and beliefs: My father is a huge NASA nut and of 70’s Progressive Rock (Genesis, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer) and I’ve always thought of him as being ahead of his time (hence the Nikola Tesla interest) and I want our company and logo to reflect those things. He believes that things were made with much more pride and class in decades past and we want to bring that back.

Fun fact! Michael’s best friend was Ambrosia’s keyboard player, Christopher North. Back in the early 70’s, Michael hand-built his own synthesizer and the guys in the band caught wind of it and asked him to record on their first album. He created custom sounds for them to use and is actually playing on two tracks on the album!

So, I centered in on the lightning bolt and knew that it was going to have to take precedence in the logo. But I felt the challenge before me of marrying the fluid/unbridled feel of the 70’s with the clean/simple/high-end image John was desiring to project. His love for the lightning bolt gave me hope that we could “pay homage” to his dad’s love for the 70’s…and still reflect the clean and simple attributes he favored by choosing the perfect font for GRANGER. The lightning bolt is also similar to the zig-zag type marks in the electronic schematics, so we could somewhat “kill two birds with one stone”, here.

The “N” is (conveniently enough, for this purpose) the center of GRANGER. You can make all kinds of meanings out of this, but the simplest is that it’s just the core…the heart…the springboard of why and how John and Michael do what they do. (It also works out for us that it’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Boom.)

So…here we have it:

I presented it to John, and he and the family loved it. They loved it until…well, let’s back up a minute…

One thing that I have never thought to include on the design brief is this: “If you are a brand new company, have you researched your company name for any duplicates in your market?”


Why have I never included this? 

(Any designers reading this, feel free to chime in here. Do you have it on your brief? It seems logical. I just never had it on there for some reason. Doh.) 

But, in this instance, had I included this simple question, I could’ve saved myself and John and his family tons of time. Needless to say, it is now part of my design brief. And if you are a designer reading this, take heed. Learn from my mistake. Make it part of yours. It is a critical question to ask.

So, after presenting the logo to John, his sister Google’d Granger Amplifiers.  Yep. You guessed it. There’s another Granger Amplifiers that was here before we were.

Down in Alabama, so….name change.


So, John came back with a couple of options for a new, non-duplicated name:

  • Grangertronics
  • Elberon Amplifiers.
  • We both agreed that Elberon was it. Elberon is the name of the street that Michael lived on growing up. So, it was another super fun way to pay homage to his past.

    I didn’t feel like working a lightening bolt into ELBERON was going to work like it did for us with GRANGER. We got lucky with the center of that one being an N that also doubled nicely as a lightening bolt. I knew the lightening bolt was still the answer though because I knew what John wanted to project. We just had to figure out a new approach with this new name.

    The word Elberon has a soft phonetic flow. Go ahead. Say it. See? Now say, Granger. It’s more structured, right? More rigid. Hard. (Don’t read too much into it…it’s the sound of that L. L’s always soften things up a bit. Llama. Lollipop. Leotard. Lorelei. Lallapalooza. Lemongrass. Lily. Lincoln Logs. Loincloth. Errrr. You get it.

    Because the feel of the word was just different overall, I felt a script type instead of a tough sans-serif would work well. I experimented with working the lightening bolt off of the L, but it just didn’t feel natural, so I played with working it into a semi-understroke of the word. It flowed off the end like an electrical cord of sorts…and naturally flowed into a lightening shape. I gave it a “fatness” and “curviness” to help deliver that 70’s feel. And AMPLIFIERS had a perfect place to sit, centered between the bolt’s edge and the left side of the E.

    John and his family loved it. I was thrilled that they were thrilled, and I was a better designer for having walked down this discovery road (Elberon Street) with them.

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