I didn’t harvest my first deer until I was 27. It wasn’t that hunting was foreign to me. My parents instilled a love and respect for the outdoors in each of their children. But I didn't learn the ins and outs of hunting – especially archery – until my younger brother returned home from the Marines and brought me along on his hunting journey.
In the last few years, the two of us spent time listening, honing our craft, and enjoying the process of learning together. But it wasn’t until recently that I recognized the similarities between whitetail hunting and building a successful business as an independent graphic design and branding studio.
Animal Tracking and Client Research
Animal tracking is just hunter-speak for research and development. Which is exactly what entrepreneurs lean on to build a successful business. For the last four years, my brother and I spent each summer scouting for signs. My brother taught me to track animals effectively, you need to understand the habit and resource needs of the animal, and you need to think the way they think. As a professional, I can see how this skill translates into other parts of my life, including my graphic design business.
Creating meaningful connections with branding and design clients means understanding their industry, researching their business, and evaluating their current branding. I put myself in their – and their customers’ – shoes and track the signs their brand left behind. Instead of deer scrapes, trails, and beds, I’m looking for design themes, historic brand identity, and future target audiences.
Great design withstands industry fads and fast fashion. But logos are not immune to the influence of the time they are created. As a hunter and a designer, I'm tracking hunting and design trends to constantly grow my skills and serve clients better. Tracking – animals or brand design – helps me ensure a fruitful hunt, whether it’s for deer or the perfect logo.
Plan your Hunting Season and Plan your Branding and Logo Designs
When you explain hunting to a novice, we often begin in the stand or blind. For veteran hunters, the planning phase of a hunt is second nature – we forget to include the importance of planning in the summary of what it’s like to go hunting. But planning ahead (and keeping an open mind) makes a day in the treestand more likely to result in success. It’s the same in business. I often describe my work from the point when I’m crafting a design, and forget to relay the importance of the background – or tracking – I’ve done to get to that point.
Hunting is always a lesson in “the 7 P’s of Planning,” but it’s not the only place in my life where thinking ahead pays off. Crafting impactful designs takes careful planning, too. It’s not enough to have a creative idea and create a nice-looking logo if the message is lost on the end user. Just like you can’t show up in the woods with your bow, gun, or rod and expect to have a successful day. Creating designs without having done your research or crafting a plan is a recipe for failure.
The first step in every client relationship is identifying the client's problem or challenge, and where they want to go with the new designs. Then, we can establish the path forward - types of deliverables, communication expectations, and deadlines. Once the right path is agreed upon, I dive into research, sketching, and drafting designs for presentation. After a few rounds of feedback and revisions to provide a collaborative experience, I provide the final files.
Patience and Persistence are Keys to Success
It’s a fact of life: even great plans fail sometimes. That’s where the biggest lesson in hunting comes in - good things come to those who work hard and wait.
Sure, patience is an obvious virtue in most fields. But good hunters know patience and persistence are the keys to having a successful hunting season. Whether you’re hunting from a stand, in a ground blind, or still-hunting, there’s a lot of waiting involved. But smart hunters know that waiting for the right conditions and the right animal can pay off.
Patience, and especially persistence, are essential components of my graphic design and branding business. As an entrepreneur, I started a business with a vision of what I wanted it to become – a space to design logos, branding, and apparel graphics for the outdoor and hunting industries. But to get to that place meant persistent daily work and lots of patience. It’s like they say: it takes a long time to become an overnight success.
Choose the Right Clients, Treat Them Ethically
After weeks of planning and preparing, comes the most exciting part of the hunt - taking the shot. Even the most process-loving hunter, like me, will admit to that spine-tingling feeling of releasing an arrow on a dream whitetail or turkey. Turns out, attracting and retaining graphic design and branding clients gives me the same feeling.
Choosing the right clients for my business is like choosing the right animal to take a shot at. And being a good steward of client relationships is as important to me as using as many parts of the animal as possible. Hunting – and business – is about mutual respect, honesty, transparency, and minimizing harm.
For me, hunting is an opportunity to be in nature and source my own food supply. It reminds me how all living beings are interconnected, and a sustainable future relies on the good-natured give and take between us. Working with design and branding clients requires the same ethical, long-term thinking.
Keep Analyzing your Approach
For me, the hunt doesn’t end when I return home. I’m continually evaluating how the day went, and how I could have prepared differently. It’s fun to analyze your approach to hunting and keep dialing in your tactics. One of the best things about hunting is that it's often less about having the latest gear and more about staying present, reading the landscape, and the ability to react and ready yourself when the opportunity presents itself.
It’s always been important to me to find a career I care about as much as hunting, fishing, and spending time outdoors. I know I’m in the right place because I take the same approach to design and branding as I do with hunting and fishing – commit to enjoying the process and never stop learning and growing.
What has hunting taught you about life, career, and family? Drop me a line to let me know.