Bonnie S. Calhoun
the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian
Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for
The One-Page Brought This Author Back to Design
Dineen Miller is one of the very cool people I have met as a member of ACFW. She has a fabulous eye for design and a great talent for matching words and graphics and I just have to introduce her to you all! We're doing this interview as a question and answer, so come...join us!
What were you first, a designer or a writer? And what drew you start Designer Girl Graphics?
I would have to say both. As far back as I can remember I’ve drawn and written. Sometimes both together. But in high school, art became my bigger passion and I went to a design school to pursue my dream of breaking into the advertising industry. Maybe I’d watched too many episodes of Bewitched . . . you know, Darren was the advertising mogul in that show. Of course, the industry changed dramatically by the time I hit the arena. ;-)
When I started writing, I thought of it as a second career. I’d worked in the advertising industry for years but switched to freelancing when my second daughter was born. Then I dabbled here and there when my family and I moved to Europe for a few years.
Writing moved front and center shortly after we moved back to the States, and I assumed this would be my new direction; however, early in 2005 the concept of having a one-sheet to pitch a story entered my realm.
Being a designer at heart, I couldn’t merely put type and a picture on a page without “jazzing” it up a bit. Others saw what I did with my own and asked if they could pay me to do theirs.
One design led to another and Designer Girl Graphics was born. I created a logo and hung out my shingle. I’d found a design niche.
What kind of clients do you serve?
The best kind! In the years since, I’ve had the pleasure of working primarily in the publishing industry serving some of the best clients I could imagine ever having. One-sheets led to bookmarks and promotional materials designed to promote the author’s brand of writing. And with the age of Internet communication and online printing, serving clients all over the country became easy.
One of my favorite projects has been designing the booklet, signage, and promotional materials (ads, postcards, bookmarks) for the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. I love the Christian publishing industry because my clients are selling products designed to encourage and promote integrity. That’s a message I can get behind.
What kind of services do you offer?
Pretty much the full range and predominantly print. I’ve worked on small items like bookmarks and postcards, to designing book covers, magazine ads, logos, and Website graphics. (I don’t do full Websites, just the headers and images needed to build an effective site. I leave the HTML part to the pros.)
Designing book covers was a dream I had when I was eighteen and on my way to art college. I’d forgotten about it for a while, but God brought it back a couple years ago like a gift. He’s good at that.
What’s your greatest challenge as a designer?
Logos. They are the hardest because they are so symbolic in a personal sense of who the person or company is. They take the longest and the most work.
What do you feel Designer Girl Graphics does best?
Read between the lines. Sometimes a client isn’t quite sure what they want in a design, but I can get a sense of what they’re about from their Websites, what they write, and what they are trying to achieve. It’s very important that design materials, whether print or Web, reflect the client and their products. Continuity is key and that’s where I always start: What do they write? What’s their brand? What will reflect and convey that message to the consumer? I love it when they already have a great book cover to launch from. That gives me a strong starting point.
Fooling the consumer is a big no-no. You need to be clear about what you’re offering to that consumer/reader, especially these days when people are much more careful about how they spend their money. If you don’t follow through with that promise, that consumer won’t come back. Building a consumer base is key to just about any industry. Repeat business is part of word-of-mouth marketing, which by far is the most effective means of advertising, but you have to start with a good foundation and a good product.
Of course, I’m a big believer in the God factor as well.
Yes, especially for the industry of Christian publishing. Writers and authors have a lot more to do in the marketing realm these days, but I’ve seen several expend large amounts of time and money but not succeed. We can’t predict the market perfectly—we observe trends and make predictions.
But if we’re working in an area to serve God, we need to be careful to stay in line with what He has planned. That goes for marketing too. You can see this happen all the time. Authors do little to no marketing yet their books take off like a rocket. They’ve hit a nerve and found a place of relevance that needs to be spoken to. That starts with God and ends with God, in my thinking. That’s why I’m always careful to pray over my clients’ projects before I even start. I want to follow God’s plan for their work.
What is the most important advice you give to your clients?
Be consistent. Creating good marketing materials is like putting together a great outfit or a cozy home. The parts need to connect to create a big picture with an inviting message. It’s not an exact science. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you have to try a few out before you figure out what works. Sometimes you have to just send it out there and trust God’s in control. Actually, most of the time, I’d say that’s it. Trusting God for the big picture. We apply this to our lives; it just makes sense to apply to our work as well.
Dineen, thanks so much for sharing all this with us.
My pleasure, Bonnie. It’s a privilege to be featured in Christian Fiction Online Magazine and to serve this industry. God’s blessed me beyond my imagination in that realm.
Dineen A. Miller graduated in the top four of her class from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with an Associates of Science Degree in Advertising and Graphic Design. In 1991 she received the Communi Graphics Award for Outstanding Visual Impact, Effective Communication, and Design Excellence from the Memphis Design Conference. She’s designed ads for such publications as TIME magazine, Car and Driver, and most recently, Seattle Metropolitan’s premier bridal magazine, Bride & Groom. Since then, she’s freelanced in the advertising industry and has found a new niche in serving the publishing industry through her business Designer Girl Graphics.
Her writing achievements include semi-finalist in the suspense category of the 2005 ACFW Noble Theme Competition, Honorable Mention in the 2006 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, second place in the romantic suspense category of the 2007 ACFW Genesis Competition, and runner up in the suspense/thriller category of the 2008 ACFW Genesis Competition.
You can find her at her Website, www.dineenmiller.com, and her blog, www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.com, where she shares the latest nugget she’s dug out of God’s Word or a message to encourage and spur others closer to God despite the trials of life. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter under her name. Her first book, Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage, releases from Regal Books in February 2011.