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Naomi Niles

What is a brand?

What is a Brand? (in images)

By | branding | No Comments

Describing what a brand is or isn’t is a challenging task. Most people believe that it’s a logo or colors or design. But, all of those things are really the visual artifacts and symbolism. Building a brand is something deeper. It delves into the roots of identity, character, values, culture, story, voice, and more.

Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”.

I agree with this sentiment to some extent. But, I believe a brand is also how you feel about you. Because how you feel about your business and about yourself is how you transmit your brand and connect to others. People don’t know what to say about you when you’re not in the room if they don’t have a signal or something to experience.

You can build a brand for your business. Or you can build a personal brand around yourself and your own name. Or, your name can be your business. Branding is a general concept that can be applied to many different things.

We tend to think of branding like an orange with different segments and the orange itself represents the whole experience. The core is the heart and soul of the brand. Its core identity. And the top skin is how it appears visually. Here’s a graphic we made to illustrate the concept.

Please feel free to download and share it as you wish. We just request you credit us when you do, please.




Free Color Palettes: The Young Girls of Rochefort

By | color palette | 2 Comments

The other day, Koldo and I watched the most charming French movie called “The Young Girls of Rochefort” starring Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac. I was impressed by the generous and fresh use of color they used in the movie and how well they mixed it all to make it work.

One of the most charming parts was seeing the two sisters wear complementary clothing; Françoise, the brunette, in gorgeous yellows and Catherine, the blond, in pinks. They skillfully alternate in colors as the movie goes on. This delightful complementary color-matching theme continues throughout the movie with all of the characters, extras, objects, and scenery.

I’ve mixed together some fun color palettes to compliment some of the scenes in the movie for you.

Here are some ideas on how you can use these palettes:

  • Save the image to a Pinterest board for a fun project you’re working on.
  • Use for your website: bright contrasting colors for accents and features and neutrals for backgrounds.
  • Use for styling up your social media graphics for a fresh look.
  • Use for decorative accents in one of the rooms of your home or go all out with bold paint colors.
  • Accessorize your style with jewelry, handbags, or shoes. I personally love the idea of mixing a faded pastel with a bright complimentary color. For example, mixing a pale mint handbag with a bright turquoise top.

You can download the palettes in Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ase) format underneath each photo, which will work in all Adobe programs. I’ve also included a .zip file with all of the palettes at the end of this post if you’d like to download them all at once.

Sisters; fresh, fun, and doe-eyed. Download this palette.


I couldn’t keep my eyes off of these lemon placements in the movie. They add a fun burst of color throughout all the bar scenes. Download this palette.


There are a LOT of colors in this scene. Yet, somehow it works. Download this palette.

I appreciated the primary color mixing they did for the men here. They’re wearing bright and bold colors, rather than pastels. Download this palette.


Nice touches of pastel in the background and objects. Download this palette.


More pastel love. And Gene Kelly in pink! *swoon* Download this palette.

This time the sisters have swapped their yellow and pink looks. Download this palette.


This couple’s color scheme is highly unusual and hard to mesh right. And yet, they pull it off again! Download this palette.


Pastels and dancing couples in love. What could be better? Download this palette.

Download All of the Palettes

Deneuve is as lovely and doe-eyed as youth can be in this movie. The appearance of the ever-graceful Gene Kelly in the movie was a nice touch although his part was small. The movie does have a bittersweet feel though when you realize that Françoise Dorléac, the co-star and real-life sister of  Catherine Deneuve, died  in a tragic car accident a few months after the movie was made.

Color ideas and inspiration sometimes find you in the most unexpected places. I was surprised and delighted by this little visual feast and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Are you planning on using any of these schemes in a project of yours? If so, we’d love to hear about it!


You Can Choose to Do What You Love. Yes, You.

By | entrepreneurship | No Comments

So many things we do everyday are things we should do. Things that others tell us to do, like our bosses, our clients, our family, our friends. Sometimes it can feel like we never actually get to do what we want.

We’re waiting for permission, we feel obligated out of a sense of duty to others, or perhaps we’ve just been taught that only certain routes are acceptable for us.

I’ve always thought that if we have something we spend so much time on everyday like work, it makes sense for it to be something we choose. It truly takes up more time than anything else we do. More time than we spend having fun, more time than we spend with our families, more time than we spend with ourselves….time that we’ll never get back again.

I started working at my first job at age 13. After that period I went through 9 different jobs before I became self-employed at the age of 20. A few of these jobs were not fun at all (telemarketing) while others were more gratifying (putting together window displays at a department store).

I learned something very valuable about myself through all of it though: I quickly become dissatisfied when I feel like I’m wasting my time away. I was worried that this was a weakness in myself for awhile, but I’ve now come to understand that it’s more like a strong internal radar, ever guiding me to something that’s a better fit for me in that space and moment.

I’m not saying the only route to doing what you love is to work for yourself. A job can be just as meaningful for you if it fits your own values and goals in life. Self-employment is just a practical way because it gives you the space and freedom to choose what aligns with your values, what’s acceptable and not, and what turns you on.

I believe a lot of people, women in particular, don’t realize they have a choice.

They think no one will support them, they don’t have the time, it’s selfish, they can’t because they have to support someone else, or they just can’t for other practical reasons.

I believe that those are traps we set for ourselves when we feel that something is going to be challenging or difficult. The fact is, you can do just about anything you choose, given that you’ve outlined the constraints and it’s still possible. I’m not saying that there aren’t certain off-cases that are so unlikely that they aren’t practical. Like, if you’re very short and you want to be a supermodel. And I’m not saying you should eschew your personal responsibilities to others.

Make no mistake, doing what you chose often comes along with unique challenges.

Sometimes what you want to do doesn’t match what other people value, perhaps you won’t get the support from your friends and family that you hope for, you might not get approval, and maybe you’ll discover later that what you decided to do is not really what you love after all.

The point is: you choose. Only you can decide what’s worth spending the precious few moments of your time on earth.  Will you look back in regret, wondering about all of the things you wanted to do, but didn’t?

Or, will you look back and say, “Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed. But, I chose what I wanted to do and no one else chose for me.



Why Side Projects and Hobbies are Important

By | entrepreneurship, healthy business | No Comments

Koldo (my partner here and in life) and I always have some sort of side project going. Nova Donna is one such thing. Koldo also focuses on many types of creative projects which he talks about on his website. And we both love to do new projects around the house, decorate, and discover new zany cooking methods.

We both believe that side projects not just important, but vital. At our branding agency, we stay on our toes every day working with unique clients and taking different approaches to their needs. We have an intensive branding strategy process we’ve developed over the years, but it stays engaging and rewarding because the outcome is always different.

However, there’s also something amazing in having an interesting project on the side. It gives you the freedom to test our your own ideas, add your own constraints, and take a different or perhaps riskier approach than you might have if you were doing client work.

We’ve had quite a few side projects over the years that resulted in something interesting and some that didn’t have an outcome that we would have hoped for. However, each was satisfying because we were in charge of making all the decisions and that freedom changes things around.

Some of the side projects we’ve done together include:

  • Photography for clubs: Koldo started doing photo reports and publishing them for dance clubs in Spain. This turned into something more significant because many clubs started requesting and paying Koldo for these reports.
  • Graphic Design for clubs: Koldo started designing flyers for clubs and venues and this evolved into us starting our own design studio called Intuitive Designs. Who would have known?!
  • Analytics and Conversion Optimization: I started learning these fields in order to help clients make their websites more effective. Once I saw the value in it, I decided to get certified and started a consultancy specialized in these fields. I dedicated specifically to optimization and earned a reputation as one of the few prominent women in these fields, which I’m proud of.
  • Branding Strategy: As time went on, we started spotting consistent blind spots and holes in client’s overall strategy. We were focusing heavily on optimization and a large portion of our clients needed more work in more foundational-type stuff, like branding, business model development, and user experience. This need became bigger and more pressing in our eyes, so we shifted once again and are currently focusing totally on Branding and Identity Foundation and Strategy for our clients at ShiftFWD.
  • Notebooks: We’re big fans of paper notebooks and planners, even in this seemingly digital world. Both Koldo and I use notebooks and planners every day for basic day-to-day tasks, planning, and inspiration. We had so many different notebooks, that we decided to design a product that could house all of them. At the same time, I started learning how to do bookbinding and was already focusing on book design for clients. These things all evolved into Epokka along with a Kickstarter project to accompany it. We couldn’t reach funding for the Kickstarter project, but the good part is that we learned a lot from the experience and are still developing something new around it.
  • Nova Donna: This right here! Koldo and I have been talking many years about how we’d like to talk more about the issues that apply specifically to women, but in an empowering and positive way. We often say to one another, “What’s the point of talking, if you don’t do anything about it.”. So, this is our way of doing. Who knows how it’ll evolve!

The point I want to make here is that if you don’t try something new, you will never know where you might go with it. Life is full of little and funny occurrences that sometimes bring big changes in the strangest and most unexpected ways.

And even if the outcome isn’t what you hoped for, you can always be sure that something in you will have changed. You will have grown and you will have learned.

There’s nothing to lose. So, what new project are you going to start today?


I give myself permission to: Walk in the Sun.

By | daily permission | No Comments

One of the things I love most is taking walks. They give me time to clear my head, get energized, and think up new ideas. But, taking walks is not something I always give myself permission to do, especially in the winter.

When you live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s probably 85% cloudy for 4 months straight. Combine that with the sunrise and sunset at 8am and 4pm and it’s just harder to get out.

That’s why, yesterday when I saw sun peeking out through the clouds, I knew I had to have a nice walk. I had a lot of work to do, but that walk needed to be taken. So, I convinced Koldo to come with me, took our camera, and shot this photo on the way toward the sun.

This is also a double-reference to one of my favorite songs ever: Cyndi Lauper’s, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. There’s a line in it where she says, “I want to be the one to walk in the sun.”.

Me too, Cyndi. Me too.


What is Nova Donna All About? Permission.

By | daily permission, instrospection | No Comments

The other day Koldo and I were trying to distill the essence of Nova Donna. It was a difficult brainstorming session because while we’re both clear on what we want to achieve here, breaking everything down into one concept is difficult.

There are many reasons why we started this space and a lot of things going on in the world that we’d like to address. So many, that one of the challenges we’ve been facing in deciding what to talk about, is to keep it narrow and on-point. Yes, we wanted to build a positive place for women that empowers and inspires them to find their own unique place in the world. But, even more than that, we realized that it’s really all about permission.

We spend our whole lives waiting for someone to tell us that we’re good enough to do something. And if we don’t receive permission for it first, we’re selfish and self-centered.

Well, screw that.

Why do other people have to decide for us what we have to do with our own lives? What’s meaningful and fulfilling for us?

The thing is, even the most well-meaning people often have their own self-interests at heart without even meaning to. They may truly care about you, but at the same time, they want you in the shape or form that fits their world or idea of you. This leaves little room for you to be fully you. No extra space for growth, for change, for adaptation, for fun, or for becoming the person you know you are meant to be and living the life you choose for yourself.

So, why do we wait around for the permission we’re never going to get?

Let’s do what we want to do now. It’s never too late or early to start. Now’s your time. It’s up to you to start giving yourself permission to do what you need to do. To claim your space.

Want to wear “night” makeup during the day? Do it!

Want to wear no make up at all? Dig it.

Want to start your own business and no one thinks you can? No time like now.

Got a little extra curves and want to wear a short dress? You got this.

Want to build something important and not sure if anyone will like it? Do it anyway.

…you decide!

To get started, Koldo and I are going to be giving ourselves permission to do something every single day and sharing what it was with you. Want to follow along? Join us here or follow our Facebook page here or use the hashtag #dailypermission.

What are you giving yourself permission to do today?


Promoting Conscious Consumption Part 1: Accepting Support

By | Sustainability | No Comments

This is part one of our promoting conscious consumption series. We will follow up next week with a new part.

The times when people bought things indiscriminately are starting to pass

Rather than buying what’s cheap and easily available, the internet and other technologies have made it possible for people to consciously choose the products and services they buy.

A greater awareness has made people more conscious about the effect that their consumption has on the world.  Not only do we all want to have the possibility of choosing a higher quality of item, we also want to feel good about what we purchase. We want the products and services we support to align with our personal values and principles. This will only become a greater priority as time goes on and we become more aware about our impact on the world and the things we buy.

Not only can we choose things, we have the power to consciously choose what to put into our bodies, into our hearts, and into our minds. Even though it’s beyond our power to control every single aspect of what we consume, ever small step helps move us in the right direction.

So, it makes sense to offer things that align with our values in a way that’s clear and makes it easy for people to decide to buy from us or do business with us. You buy from your heart. Now, how can you offer that option to your customers too?

Part One: Accepting Support

Others truly want to support you. 

One of my own personal greatest struggles in entrepreneurship is realizing that others want to support my business too. As an empathetic person, I tend to focus very highly on the needs of others sometimes at the expense of my own. One of my great joys is seeing clients happy and grateful with the work we’ve done together with them.

But, another part of me tends to feel that people are generally thinking the general marketing maxim “What’s in it for me?”. This might be partially true sometimes, but not all the time and in all circumstances. I do truly believe that others others like to see us thrive and do good work. When we do good work, they do by extension as well.

The healthier our business is, the better quality of services we can provide our clients and more present we can be for them. Our own branding agency work for clients is based on a highly in-depth process, which means that we can’t offer simple “quick and easy” jobs for them. But, we can offer “worthwhile”, and that’s enough.

I think a lot of the time people don’t understand why we go through all of the different exercises and processes we do. We try to make everything as fun as possible, but there’s a gap to fill before you start seeing things take shape that feels uncomfortable in the way that things do when things aren’t all solved and in place yet. Yet, when we see how excited people are when they see it all come together and the level of understanding that follows, it all makes sense.

Just as we ask our clients to take a small leap of faith when they first sign on with us and place trust in our process, so can you.

Some ways to help people support your business might include:

  • Sharing your story. Most of us want to support a story that supports our worldview, is the sort of story we’d like to have ourselves, or that makes us feel something profound and meaningful. We all have our own amazing stories, so it makes sense to share them with the world.
  • Making sure you have a process developed along with the proper boundaries so that you don’t feel like you have to take shortcuts. You can and must be the host.
  • Charging a fair rate so that you can make a living and feel good about what you offer. I’m not a believer in the idea of “charging what you’re worth”. Value is arbitrary and there are marketplace and other factors that affect rates. So, when I say to charge a fair rate, I mean that you must charge a rate that covers your expenses and makes you feel safe and taken care of.
  • Helping your clients see you as an active partner in their business, not just a provider. This means taking on responsibility for the work you do for them and its impact on their business.
  • Remember that people actually love to help others. If you need help, ask for it and provide information so that people can feel good about supporting you. You might be surprised at how generous people truly are when they believe in a good cause.

Perhaps most importantly of all, remember that you are worthy of accepting support. You’re here because you’re contributing to the world and you deserve to have your space to do what you desire in a healthy and sustainable way. This means that you must accept support in order to continue with your work.

Coming soon! Part 2: Be Unique, But Not too Unique


Future of Women in Business in 2015

By | megatrends | No Comments

2014 was a difficult years for a lot of people. Between the never-ending worldwide economic situation, world events, and personal life-changing events, it seemed as if we were all being tested or another.

The good thing about these moments, is that they give us a chance to reflect on our current situation. We turn inward, which allows us to focus on what we want to change, both within our personal lives and the world at large.

In 2015, we believe we see all of that introspection moving into action. We won’t be resuming things as they were before, but instead using what we’ve learned in many positive and constructive ways.

Here are our predictions for business in 2015:

There Will Be More Focus on Sustainability

Rather than cut-throat competition, instead our focus will be more on long-term sustainability. When we remove our focus on getting ahead and being in the top position, we can instead think in terms of our own personal contributions to the general ecosystem and what we can offer without exhausting resources and exploiting others.

There Will Be More Focus on Better Living vs Innovation

In the past, a large focus has been placed on novelty and innovation. This isn’t inherently bad. A lot of things we now enjoy make our lives more convenient and fun. However, the hidden danger is that they can remove focus on solving many everyday problems we still face. It can seem more glamorous to work on new and exciting things, but the impact of addressing small improvements to problems that affect us and the people around the world daily are exponential and lasting.

Creativity Will be Regarded More Highly

Given that more and more of our work is being replaced by technology, it makes sense that creativity will be a more highly valued commodity than an ability to do repetitive or basic tasks that a computer can do.

The good news is that anyone can develop the processes and techniques to be more highly creative in whatever field they choose to work in. This year will see a great emphasis on creative problem-solving and the exchange of seemingly unrelated ideas into thoughtful solutions.

Women Worldwide Will Have More Voice

In the U.S., women’s entrepreneurship is rising at a record rate since the late 90’s [pdf]. This trend will also be reflected in other countries around the world. At a higher rate than ever, women are recognizing their rights and power to bring positive change to the world. Since entrepreneurship is a good vehicle to do this, beginning this year and over the next few years, we’ll see an increasing women worldwide start new businesses to serve the good in their communities and world at large. Women will provide amazing goods and services, hire, and invest in things that are meaningful to them and coincide with their personal values.

More Women Will Enter Into Business for Freedom to Be Themselves

Having a regular job has its advantages. A regular paycheck, healthcare, working with colleagues, and working on larger projects have their own appeal. But there are many women who feel the call to do their own thing. We want greater freedom to pursue our idea, a better balance in their life, or perhaps they simply want to spend time on pursuing things that are meaningful for them and are personally appealing. The next few years we’ll see more women than ever open themselves to the possibility of working for themselves.

Strong Relationships in Business Will Be Absolutely Essential

More people will begin understanding how important relationship building is. A business with a strong connection with its customers is a healthy business. This will serve as a great advantage to women in particular, who are often especially skilled at interpersonal relationships.

And not only will good relationships with customers be essential, good relationships with collaborators, employees, teams, and contracts will be vital. In short, treating people well will have great rewards.

More Women Will Emerge with Confidence

The last few years have felt like an especially difficult time for us women. We are constantly given contradictory messages about who we should and shouldn’t be. We should be caregivers, except not to ourselves. We should be strong, but not strong enough to threaten anyone else. We can say what we want to say, but if we get threatened, harassed ,or abused for it; it’s our own fault.

The next year and beyond, we’ll see more women confidentially fitting into their unique space in the world without apology. All those voices saying no? That’s just a little background noise.

The next few years will bring exciting times as the tides change and we enter a new epoch. Traits that were mainly seen as feminine and hence undesirable will begin to have more prominence as women empower themselves with their new knowledge and understanding of themselves and of the world.

We can’t wait for what’s coming next.

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