We were lucky to catch up with Katie Bryl recently and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Katie, thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came up with the idea of Brylliant Design?
As you mentioned, I’m Katie and I’m a creative professional. I’m the Senior Designer at Arketi Group by day, co-President of AIGA Atlanta by night, and in between, I run my small business, Brylliant Design LLC. I also try to squeeze in a bit of tennis & travel when I can!
Brylliant Design started as my freelance graphic design business. Since I was in school at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) for my degree in graphic design, I’d get a few clients here and there, usually by word of mouth. I’d design everything from wedding invitations to logos.
In 2018, I was invited to speak at Design Week Tallahassee and for my visit, I decided to make a batch of CMYK donut enamel pins. I handed them out at my talk and posted the remaining pins up for sale on my Instagram stories. I sold out within a week.
During Covid, I began drawing silly things from pop culture for my friends and made them into stickers. I sent the stickers to them via snail mail as a fun way to stay connected during a time of distancing. My friends loved them, and when we’d post about them on Instagram, I received a lot of interest from friends and followers asking if they could get one too. I originally ordered only 10 stickers in the first batches so I ordered 10 more and immediately sold out. After some time, the stickers were continuing to sell well, and I was thinking about what else I could add to my shop.
However, paying for a website storefront is pricey and the profit from stickers is low. My mind immediately went back to my Design Week Tallahassee pins, and the success I had with them, so I decided to try my hand at designing enamel pins to expand my offerings. Since then, I’ve expanded my shop to also include apparel, suncatchers, and more – now I’m carrying over 75 unique products and so far, I have 3 wholesale partners who carry my pins in their stores!
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Well, the first pin designs I tried after the success of the CMYK donuts were a huge flop. I made two different pin designs of my dog, Moose, with the goal of donating 20% of pin proceeds to Atlanta Humane. I ordered 100 pins in early 2020 and still have more than 80 to this day. However, my sticker designs were selling well so I didn’t let the low engagement on pins get me down.
For my next attempt at pins, I had an idea of what I wanted to make but struggled to execute the design alone. I had a raven design created, but I knew it needed a little something else to make it special. So, I decided to reach out to a fellow Maryland artist and SCAD graduate, Erin McManness of Paper Raven Co., to collaborate on the design. Knowing that Erin flourishes in florals, together we created a pair of raven & succulent pins adorned with matching florals. They were a big hit!
From there, I kept designing pins and stickers and even began participating in artist markets. From there, I contacted retail shops to see if they were interested in carrying my products. The success of those designs after the Moose pins flopped gave me the confidence back to keep pursuing this business. If there’s one thing I learned from the initial experience, it’s that creating with others is often the best way to be inspired, overcome creative block and improve your design work.
How did you put together the initial capital you needed to start your business?
When I wanted to place an order for pins early on, I would take on additional freelance projects to fund their production. I would wait until I had enough freelance revenue to purchase the pins/stickers and back then I could only do small runs of 50 – 100 pins at a time. Because of this, it could sometimes take months to save enough to place inventory orders, but it also meant I wasn’t taking on additional debt. Now that the business is running smoother, I only have to take on additional freelance work when I want to place larger orders that save on cost per unit!
Any resources you can share with us that might be helpful to other creatives?
Connecting and collaborating with your peers in your field is a great way to share tips and tricks and continue growing your skills. When I’m experiencing bouts of creative block, sharing my work-in-progress with other designers can usually spawn ideas I wouldn’t have thought of alone.
I’m a huge believer in building community, which is why I’ve been a member of AIGA Atlanta for more than 7 years. AIGA is the professional association for design and there are chapters all over the US. Shortly after becoming a member, I began volunteering on a committee before ultimately joining the Atlanta Board of Directors. What started out simply as a membership for attending networking events and lectures, eventually grew into a passion for volunteering to better the Atlanta design community.
In addition to giving me an incredible sense of support and community, AIGA also taught me leadership skills that I’ve applied to my job and my business. I also gained confidence in myself and my decisions, knowing that the people who nominated and elected me to my chair positions wouldn’t have done so if they weren’t confident in my ability to guide the chapter in the right direction.
Whether you’re a designer, in advertising, film, architecture or other fields, there are AIGA-equivalents for just about any profession – I highly recommend seeking them out if you’re feeling alone or uninspired in this post-COVID, remote working world.
I would also like to mention and thank the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Atlanta (YNPN). This year I was so honored to be selected for their 30-Under-30 Class of 2022 for the work I do with AIGA Atlanta, and other non-profits I support with my work at Arketi Group.
- Website: https://brylliantdesign.com/shop
- Instagram: @brylliantdesign
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brylliantdesign/
- Linkedin: https://linkedin.com/in/katiebryl
Kate Ray, kray creative