Want to know how to create a stand-out brand? Kristy Campbell – Director, CEO & Chief Designer of Pink Pony Creative – shares her top branding tips & advice.
Starting out as a one-hundred-day design challenge, Pink Pony Creative quickly transformed into a full-time business. Through Pink Pony, Kristy has since worked with businesses big and small – such as Sass & Co Styling, Dreamiskin, and Jeanie Stehr – to create unique, memorable branding.
If you’re looking to start your own design business in 2022 – whether that be an agency or freelance side hustle – Kristy has a tonne of entrepreneurial experience and expert design advice up her sleeve, which she also shares with her nearly 80k Instagram followers. We sat down with Kristy to discuss everything from design tips and tricks to how she turned a simple idea into a thriving design agency.
When I was a kid I loved drawing, sketching, and anything to do with arts and crafts, so I knew I was destined to do something creative. When I was around 13 I had the option to take a Graphic Design class at school – I jumped at the opportunity, and ever since that class it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
I then completed a bachelor degree in Graphic Design and Animation at Unitec in Auckland, New Zealand, and set out to find my first job. At first, I found it incredibly hard – every potential employer turned me down, saying that I ‘had good design skills but didn’t have enough experience’. When I finally got myself an internship, I worked for three months unpaid until they offered me a full time role. I initially focused on graphic design, but when I started my business in early 2019 I really started to hone in on branding too.
I’ve always really loved bright colors and an energetic, not-so-typical design style, and I also incorporate a lot of illustration into my branding work. I think if you follow your heart and do what you do best, you’ll be more likely to succeed.
I was working for a one-brand business for about two years, working with the same brand guidelines, colors, and fonts day in and day out. I felt like my creativity wasn’t being utilized as much as it could be, so I decided to create a 100-day design challenge. I started an Instagram account to post my designs and keep myself accountable – the account was called ‘Pink Pony Creative’. At first I didn’t think it would become a business, but I gained a couple hundred followers and the inquiries started to come in. I got my first business enquiry near the end of the 100-day challenge, and that’s when the ball started rolling. I slowly moved out of my old role to pursue Pink Pony full time, and ever since March 2019, Pink Pony has been my full-time gig. I can’t get enough of it!
My day starts off with an early 5am wake up. My husband and I get up and do 15 minutes of yoga, and then 15 minutes walking. It gets us stretched, warmed up and prepared for the day ahead. I’ll then get myself into the office around 7am – I’m such a morning person and am at my most creative at the start of the day. For the first hour, I’ll usually answer emails and DMs, or create some social media content – whether it’s for Instagram or TikTok. I also have a full-time staff member who works alongside me to help with the increasing amount of work. I’ll generally have one or two meetings a day, and after work I’ll head to the gym for an hour then home for dinner.
There’s so many things I love about my business. One thing I’m really proud of is the range of fun, diverse and interesting clients. I’m so blessed to work with the companies that I do – 19-year-old me would freak out if she knew who she’d be working with one day. I’m also really grateful for the community of support behind Pink Pony Creative – Instagram and TikTok have allowed me to connect with designers and clients from all across the world.
My purpose is always changing. At the moment, it’s just to provide kick-ass graphics and branding for my clients, and to help them establish themselves, sell and grow.
I’ve also got big plans which may see my purpose adjust slightly to focus more on my design community – but watch this space for that!
This has taken me a while to get the hang of. As designers, we can have really high expectations for ourselves which can hinder what we put out into the world. I’ve come to learn that wherever you are in your design experience, someone out there is going to be interested in what you do.
I have a system (graphic, photo, graphic, photo) which helps me plan out my Instagram feed, but honestly I just post whatever comes to mind that day. I don’t think too hard about it, if I’m forcing it, it’s not meant to be – just like any kind of creative task I guess.
If I have a project that is ready to be launched, I’ll prepare some graphics and mockups to post. Otherwise, I try to inspire, educate and motivate with interesting tips and tricks or a personal story to engage my audience.
One thing I’ve become known for is my Illustrator art boards. At first it was just a fun way for me to share my work in a different way, but it really caught on and my audience loved it! I shared a Reel on how I create them, and now people recreate them all the time – it’s so cool to see!
I really enjoy working with feminine aesthetics which are more on the bold and bright side, rather than soft and dainty. I also absolutely love combiningmy illustrative skills with branding and graphic design. You can get so creative and achieve different results through things like line work (strong, crisp lines or sketched, wispy lines), color, texture, etc.
I’ve also discovered a new-found love for packaging design. Before owning my business I hadn’t done a lot of it, but I’ve worked on product packaging for a few beauty brands – and I love it! There’s something so special about creating a simple idea, and seeing it printed and brought to life. Holding a finished product that you designed in your hands is epic.
I use Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign every day, but if I had to pick my favorite it would be Illustrator – especially for branding. I pair it with my Wacom drawing tablet, which has totally changed the game for me. I’m able to do so much more, create better work, and it’s made the process so much easier. If you don’t have a drawing tablet – this is your reminder to go and buy one!
I love how everything is so easy to download, and is ready to use instantly. It helps me save so much time when creating textures and brushes, backgrounds, and even looking for cool fonts – Envato has it all covered! I would highly recommend Envato Elements to other designers, the time it saves is 100% worth the money.
Social media is a big source of inspiration. Being able to follow artists, designers and businesses that inspire me really helps my everyday creativity. Following people on Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest who have a positive, creative outlook on life motivates me to do the same. I also look for inspiration in my everyday life – from my husband, family and friends, to the places I go and the people I meet.
f I’m ever in a creative block, the best thing I can do is take a break and exercise. Stepping away from the project gives me time to reset and come back with a new approach. As I said earlier, if I’m forcing an idea – it’s not meant to be.
I’m so proud of the client base that I’ve built. I’ve worked with some amazing businesses and people – ranging from one-man bands, to large corporate businesses. A few of my favorites have been Tidal Hair, Coffee Convos Podcast (which just hit 20 million downloads!), Just Jess, Boujee Bakery and Dreamiskin, to name a few.
All my career highlights have happened since I started my businesses. I was named by Yahoo as one of ten designers to watch in 2021, and I’ve also worked with Adobe twice – I still can’t believe it! I also had the opportunity to participate in the #AdobeCreateForward campaign, and was a guest on an Adobe Live tutorial. I’m also really proud of the community I’ve grown on Instagram and TikTok. I feel so blessed to have such an awesome group of people following my journey.
In terms of my future goals, I’ve got big dreams. I’d love to grow my team and create online courses for designers to learn from my experience and improve their skills, as well as continue to create bad-ass work, inspire others and help build more brands and businesses.
The most challenging part of my journey was working in design roles that weren’t the right fit and that I didn’t enjoy, and feeling as though I wasn’t on the right path. But once I started my own business it all changed for me. I started designing work that I loved and cared about, and generated amazing results. That’s definitely been the most rewarding part for me.
Two things come to mind for this one – stop trying to be perfect, and stop doubting yourself. You’ll never get anything done if you’re seeking perfection – make it damn-near perfect and then press go! Also, give yourself a break. You might not be the best designer in the world but you could be one day. Work hard, back yourself and never stop learning – you’ll get there.
We hope you enjoyed this interview with branding and business expert, Kristy Campbell! While you’re here, check out our Q&As with Collage Queen Labyrinth of Collages, Apple Emoji Designer Angela Guzman, or read up on these 8 Expert Tips to Boost Your Career as a Freelance Graphic Designer – including expert advice from world-renowned designer Jessica Walsh.