Custom Design VS Template Design



There are many websites these days that offer ways for consumers and small business owners to take graphic design into their own hands, by way of pre-designed templates, “logo creators” and by offering design elements that can be arranged into a new creation. There are pros and cons to using pre-designed templates and hiring a designer to create a custom product for your business.

As a professional graphic designer, of course I have a bias towards hiring the right designer to get the job done. I believe that the sale of templates creates an unsavory market which undercuts professional graphic designers who need and deserve to be paid a fair wage for their skills and expertise. Take a look at these bullet points I’ve collected which analyze the pros and cons of both.

Custom Design


  • The designer will work with you to create exactly what you are looking for – Your finished product will fit your brand’s needs and solve a problem in your business.
  • Expertise in branding and in technical skill – Designers will lend their professional advice and help guide you to what will work for your audience, even if it goes against what you originally had in mind. Designers have seen a lot of great design, and a lot of bad design, and they will recommend what will work best for your brand.
  • You receive a customized design that nobody else has. Your final design will be made with care and love.


  • Usually you will have to work with your designers schedule, which can change from week to week, or perhaps they are booked out for a few weeks.
  • A professional graphic designer will charge an appropriate amount for their services, based off of their own skill level and the complexity of the design. They might only charge an hourly rate, while some designers charge by project.
  • On occasion, clients and designers may have trouble communicating or getting their ideas across. When there are too many expectations on the client’s end, it can be difficult for the designer to create exactly what they are envisioning.

Template Design


  • Quick and easy, you can usually download the template and add your information in yourself right then and there.
  • You get exactly what you see on the screen before you purchase it.
  • Usually priced very low, meaning the designer has to sell A LOT of that product before they get to see any return.


  • Other people may be using a design that is virtually the same.
  • You are probably not creating a long lasting relationship with the person designing what you’ve purchased.
  • There is a possibility that the template you purchase may not end up looking as promised, if you’re not completely familiar with putting the final work together.

Instead, create a bond with your local graphic designer, and they will get to know our business and create consistent graphics for your brand. A dedicated designer wants to do the job, do it well, and wants you coming back to re-hire them in the future! While it may seem easy to jump online and grab yourself a logo template, it can be detrimental in the long run. These templates and quick one off jobs are available to countless other people on the internet, literally anyone with internet access and a credit card.

There is a place in the world for template designs, especially for things projects that only need the design once. Personal invitations & stationary, creating collages for your home, and fliers are great uses for template design. Things that stick with your brand, like logos, infographics, and website graphics are best left to a graphic designer you trust.


Artists Making Art :: Artists Making Connections

Artists Making Art

Art. Tea. Good vibes. What do these things have in common? You can find all of them at Sencha Tea Bar every Wednesday night!

Last week I attended Artists Making Art, an event run by my friend Theo. Every Wednesday Theo invites the public to gather at Sencha Tea Bar and create some art together! You can contribute to a collaborative piece, or you can bring your own art to work on. Paints, brushes and a canvas are provided, but I chose to bring along some of my paint markers an one of my favorite art supplies: GLITTER!

Artists Making Art Jan

While Julie,  Theo and I worked on a painting together, Onah worked on some anatomy sketching. While we worked we  chatted all about life, our struggles, and our recent successes. It was a great environment to release some stress and get to know some other artists here in Madison. If you read my last post, you’ll know that a goal of mine in 2016 is to get to know Madison’s creative community better, and attend events where I can be creative and network. Artists Making Art was the perfect opportunity for this!

Becoming a part of Madison’s freelancing community has been so rewarding and wonderful, and I’m really excited to keep digging into the local creative scene. As a roamer, I settled in Madison just over two years ago, without any intention of staying for very long. In these past two years I have made plans to move, ditched plans to move, and daydreamed about tropical climates. But by some series of events, I am still here, and honestly I’m so happy to have realized how great of a city Madison is. Since committing myself to my freelance graphic design business, I have made so many amazing connections with other freelancers, small business owners and designers. I had no idea what kind of community I was jumping into!

Artists Making Art Jan 3

Much of the networking I have done in the recent months is thanks to 100 State. 100 State is a coworking community on the Square, where members can work, network, host workshops, and every once in a while there is a huge raging party! Since the first time I ever came to visit 100 State last September, I knew I wanted to be a part of the community and get involved. Since then, I have connected with the Freelancers Union Spark events, and help to run and promote the events. These events are hosted by 100 State on the first Wednesday of every month. They are a wonderful opportunity to learn some new things about freelancing and running a small business, and to network with Madison’s local freelancer community. Please consider coming to the next event!

I would love to hear about events here in Madison that focus around creativity like gallery openings, or that teach about themes in freelancing or small business ownership. I’m always on the look out for new things to do! I’d love to keep building my community, so please find me on my social media pages to stay up to date on events I will be attending!

Find me here:





Freebies :: Facebook Cover Graphics :: Mariah Liisa Design

Hello friends! Today I bring to you some fun graphics to be used as cover images on your personal Facebook page. I have been having a lot of fun playing around with typographic layouts and landscape images, so I thought I would share the love!

Who doesn’t need a little extra motivation every once in a while?

Simply click the image and then save it to your computer. Upload it as your new cover image and you are set! Please feel free to share these with your friends.

Joe Rogan Quote Facebook Cover Image

Alan Watts Quote Facebook Cover Image

Confucius Quote Facebook Cover Image

Cherokee Proverb Facebook Cover Image

Unkown Quote Facebook Cover Image

Enjoy the freebies! Don’t forget to check back often for new blog posts and more freebies!

Bicycle Valentines :: A Reflection

Hi there friends! Lately I have been spending a lot of time adding designs to my Society6 page, where merchandise with my designs can be purchased. A few years back, while I was in college, I painted up these bicycle themed valentines. Since then, I’ve decided to re-design them in my current design style to bring them up to date. I thought it would be interesting to post a then & now to see how my style has changed!

“A bicycle built for two is all I need with you.”

“I’d bike around the world for you.”

“You really turn my crank.”

As you can see, in the past I created a lot of tradition work with watercolors and ink, and played around with a much grittier, tattoo inspired aesthetic. Since then my style has ‘grown up’ a bit, and I work a lot with creating typographic layouts and integrating photography. I like to think that the cleaner look suits my design style and who I am now much better. What do you think?

The new designs can be purchased as folded cards, canvas prints or framed prints on my Society6 page!

The Top 5 Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make

5 Design Mistakes-01

Small businesses are such an essential part of our economy, and offer so many great products and services to local communities. In a society run by giant corporations that are taking over the market (and unfortunately, the world), it is extremely important to assure that every aspect of your small business is performing to it’s highest potential. Comprised of an immense variety of different types of industries from food service to health and wellness, small business plays a very important role in everyone’s lives by providing us with genuine products and services. Cultivating a striving customer base is of paramount importance to small businesses, and your small business can not afford to overlook these mistakes any longer. Read on as I outline some of the most common mistakes I come across in small businesses!

1. Virtually no branding strategy

No matter the scale of your business, branding is extremely important and effects many, if not all, aspects of how your business is perceived by the public. Broken down to it’s most basic elements, branding generally follows this equation:

Brand = Culture + Customer Experience + Communication

You want your brand to be it’s own pretty little package that ultimately represents your business completely. Take away any one of these components and your business will become lost within the masses of businesses and services that we all have access to. Hopefully you’ve fleshed out these aspects of your business by now, and you have a good idea of what your business has to offer your target market. If not, get on it! If you you’re unsure of any of these, spend some time concentrating on getting to know your business better, and improving upon what you already know about your businesses culture, customer service + experience, and how you communicate with your customers. These will all vary greatly depending on the type of service or product you provide, who your target market is, and the scale of your business.


2. Not knowing your target market, or marketing to too broad of an audience

Because your services have the potential to benefit any person, it’s easy to think that your target market is EVERYONE. But one of my favorite sayings in the design community goes as follows:

“If You’re Marketing to Everyone, You’re Marketing to No One.”

This rings so incredibly true, and is important to keep in mind especially when your business if located in a city with many other similar businesses. Hone in on who it is that you are really trying to attract and take it from there. Assess your services, location, and specialized expertise to help determine your target customer. Are they students from a nearby college? Or perhaps you’re located in the suburbs and most of your customers are mothers.  Much of this is based on location, and how your services can benefit the people within traveling distance. Consider where your target customer spends most of their time (Even if it’s online) and focus your marketing strategy on getting your name in their line of sight.

3. Lacking a cohesive, consistent layout.

Something that I see time and time again when visiting small businesses web pages is a lack of consistency in regards to bodies of text, layout and general navigation of a site. Consumers today are constantly flooded with information, imagery, and subliminal messaging, and it’s easy to click away from large bodies of text and completely ignore imagery in some cases. A sure fire way to lose your readers attention is to feature long line lengths of important information. Large bodies of text are daunting to your customers, especially when they’re usually just skimming for the answer to their particular question. Implementing optimal line length for body copy (55-75 characters per line) will help keep that attention on you and your business!

Anticipate what questions your customers may have and place answers in quick & easy to find spots.

If you find yourself wanting to share a lot of informational text, consider adding an FAQ page, or even starting a blog about your industry. Also, assure that the fonts you choose for you site is easy to read, and doesn’t hurt the eyes to read for several lines.

4. Lack of customer engagement via your online presence.

Be sure to have an easy way for your customers to leave reviews or testimonials of your services. Word of mouth is the original form of old school marketing, and today it is easier than ever to encourage your customers to leave their mark.

Linking your website to a Yelp review page, or having a page specifically for testimonials will help build trust and notoriety within your community.

Additionally, you’ll want to have an easily navigated contact page, so potential customers can contact you with whatever questions they might have about your business. Offering your customers the opportunity to connect and share with your business via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will open up even more pockets of target customers. Be sure to update these fairly regularly, at least once a week. People LOVE to connect and share these days, and will post to their network how great of an experience they had with you and your business.

Perhaps you’re under the impression that your target market is not an avid internet or mobile user, such as senior citizens. Consider who else may be providing your product to these people, or facilitating your service. Making your business’s mission accessible to absolutely everyone will not take away from your credibility one bit, on the contrary, your online presence will build trust and broaden your viewership. Assuring that your website and social media stay in tip top condition will not only bring your branding full circle, but will also attract new customers.

5. General lack of consideration for design.

Think of your website as a virtual store front. As people browse through their local listings for the service or product they require, there are so many subliminal ways to encourage them to spend more time on your site and discover more about you, your business, and your mission. And more importantly, how your specific services will benefit them more than a competitors! You want to grab them right away, like a beautifully composed and eye catching window display.
But, I get it, you’re not a designer, so the aesthetic of your site might not be a priority. And maybe some of it has to do with the fact that you don’t have the time to learn how to do these things yourself, or it’s just an aspect of your business that is trumped by your actual service. But here’s a news flash:

Most consumers do a lot of online research before choosing where they’ll go for the desired service. In fact, a whooping  81% of consumers do some kind of online research before buying!

The standard for web design has been raised, as we are all exposed to good, no – GREAT design on a daily basis. Why not hold your web design to the same high standard that you require of the services or products you provide, and your amazing customer service?

If you find yourself checking off even one of these mistakes, start working on improving them today! It’s easy for online presence to fall to the back burner, but once you’ve seen the effects of improving these mistakes, you’ll never look back. My branding + identity packages can help your business find it’s path and steer you in the direction of a prosperous, successful future. My social media package can jump start your brand’s online presence and get you service or product in front of your target market’s eyes. Additionally, I offer individual products if you’re not in need of an entire branding or social media overhaul.

Which of these mistakes are is your business struggling with the most? Let me know in the comments below, and join the discussion on my Facebook page!

5 Things I Learned in my First 2 Weeks of Freelancing

5 Freelance Things-01

Hello friends! I recently made a huge career and lifestyle decision: I quit my cozy 9-5 office job as an in-house graphic designer. Full time freelancing is something I have dreamed of for many years, and I finally built up the courage to take the jump into focusing on freelance! I thought I might make a post about my first few weeks and what I have learned so far.


1. When motivation is running low… Get out of the house!

I am very fortunate to have a sister who also owns her own small business, and has an extra desk in her home office. Several times a week I trek out to her house with my laptop and we’ll spend the day working side by side. My own home office can get a little old after a few days, and bringing my work elsewhere almost tricks my body into feeling like I’m ‘going to work’. After a year and  a half in an office job, sitting at the same desk and seeing the same people, bringing a bit of variety to my work space is a much welcomed change! Next we are meeting at a coffee shop on my side of town to change things up for both of us!


2. Nothing beats some good ol’ fashioned local networking!

Before ditching my 9-5, I made little time for networking and meeting other creatives in my city. Now that I have much more time to devote to scouting out my local network, I am able to attend events of all types here in Madison. After attending just one Freelacer’s Union event, I have met some really inspiring freelancers who have begun to introduce me to the freelancing / small business scene. I am even working with some of them to help promote future Freelancer’s Union events!

3. Having more than enough time to myself means I no longer feel guilty doing things just for me.

When I was devoting 40 hours of every week to a job that didn’t particularly thrill me, the rest of my time that was left over felt SO. FREAKIN’. PRECIOUS. After allotting time for my commute, making food, grocery shopping, errand running, working on side projects, and (who would have thought!?) having a semblance of a social life, I felt selfish for certain personal health practices.  Making time for meditation and yoga? Good luck clearing your head when you’ve only got 20 minutes! Taking the time to have a relaxing bath or even just cuddle my cat? No way, that’s taking away from precious sleep time. Now that I decide when I work and how much I work (and have abandoned the notion that I need to work exactly 40 hours to feel ‘successful’) my time actually feels much more valuable, whether I’m working on a logo gig or spending 5 minutes in tree pose.

4. Using the buddy system is a great way to get things done!

Having a business buddy to bounce ideas off of is a great way to hold yourself accountable for the things on your to do list. Keeping each other in check with your entrepreneurial priorities and staying focused is mutually beneficial, and can help stave off some new solopreneur loneliness. Working with those who have similar business goals or a similar mission can offer great insight into aspects of running a business that you may have over looked. Not to mention that finding your tribe of like minded people does amazing things for all aspects of your life, not just your business! Don’t have any freelancer friends? Many cities have meet ups of varying sizes for just this type of thing! A quick search on may assist you!

5. I spent too much time waiting around for the RIGHT moment to take the jump.

Was I financially, emotionally and mentally ready to make the jump to freelance? Did I have x amount of money saved up before hand? Did I have just the right amount of projects pre-lined up? You bet your butt I didn’t. Now, I didn’t close my eyes and make a running start before canon-balling right into the freelance-o-sphere, I had been designing on the side for over a year. I do consider myself to be quite the risk taker, and even though I was filled with nerves and (gasp!) some self doubt, I knew that this was going to be one of the best decisions I ever made for my business. In fact, I actually made my decision to focus more on freelance during a particularly hectic and emotional time in my life. I found myself fed up with the excuses I was making about why I needed to stick with the 9-5 that was no longer serving me emotionally and creatively. Even though I made this jump in the midst of a personal upheaval, all of the positive aspects of my new lifestyle have really brought home how badly I needed to make this change. Not only for my business, but for my own personal gains.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my first few weeks as a freelance designer! Each freelancer’s journey will be different, so I don’t consider my route to be viewed as a guideline. I am still figuring things out for myself (and probably will be for quite some time…) but I would love to hear from my readers about their own freelancing experiences! Do you love it? What are you struggling with? What can I write about next time to benefit my fellow soloprenuers?

THANK YOU :: Raw Show Wrap Up

Hello friends! I wanted to take a moment and dedicate a post to all of my lovely friends and family who came to support me at RAW: Milwaukee earlier this month! I had such a great time showing my work, speaking with other guests, and seeing the range of artwork that was shown. I had a lot of fun preparing my work to be shown, and was happy to sell some prints and jewelry! I’m so grateful for the chance to share my work with others and be a part of such a fun showcase!

For those who purchased tickets and were entered into my poster contest, the winner has been drawn & notified. I’m excited to create a custom poster for one of my very good friends! Stay tuned for other possible opportunities at getting a sweet deal on my work!

Here’s a shot of my display, and one of the head shots RAW was so generous to provide:

Two New Freebies :: Free Wallpaper Downloads

Hi friends! I thought I would convert two of my latest poster designs into downloadable wallpaper freebies! I really enjoy these quotes and thought you might too. Just click the links, save the file, and set it as your desktop wallpaper!

:: Experience is not what happens to you… Free Wallpaper Download ::

Experience Wallpaper-01


:: Everyone should have their mind blown… Free Wallpaper Download ::

Mind Blown Wallpaper-01

Namaste Nebula – Free Wallpaper Download!

Today I’ve got for you a brand spankin’ new desktop & mobile wallpaper, which you can download for free! When I’m not designing, I can usually be found obsessively drawing mandalas and sacred geometry. This practice is very soothing, almost meditative, and I find myself wanting to put my free robux no human verification mandalas everywhere! This wallpaper is 1920×1080 pixels, and I am offering mobile wallpapers at standard iPhone and Samsung sizes.

Namaste Nebula Wallpaper