Joana Galvao is a design guru and co-founder of Gif Design Studios. Based in Porto, Portugal, and with a team of 10 designers and developers – which includes her husband – her design agency has done pretty awesomely.
Starting as a designer at an agency in London, and earning a rather basic salary, Joana could barely make ends meet. She sought out means of having extra jobs as a designer – on the side – and that move landed her the first big opportunity to bag more clients through a Facebook group.
Today, Joana runs an award-winning agency specializing in brand identities and conversion-obsessed design, at the age of 27.
Early Kick-off, Challenges, and Breakthrough
Joanna founded Gif Design Studios at age 22. She had only become independent and started dealing with freelance clients three months prior.
She started hiring immediately, building up a team of 4 – consisting of two other designers.
Things didn’t work out initially as the staff quit working at the agency no sooner than they had started working. And then, they consequently poached the agency’s clients.
Joana states that those events almost made her want to quit, but with support and advice from her husband, things got more stable over time.
The Team – Growth over time
“I think building my team has been a challenge, but in a good way. Being a leader is challenging, figuring out how to lead without micro-managing was the big thing that I had to learn because I like to think that I am kind of a control freak and so letting that go is always tough.” Joana admitted when quizzed on the biggest challenge in getting this far.
Gif Design Studios is five years old as an agency and offers the full range of print and digital design services to industry leaders in seventeen countries on five continents. Joana also speaks internationally on the power of design and creativity and her work has been featured in the Guardian UK, Brand Brilliance, and Digital Arts magazine.
Joana has ensured that the design studio focuses on being profitable as an agency. She looks after her team by creating a healthy work environment.
“I wish more people were chasing and focusing on profit instead of revenue,” Joana argued. “I mean, what is it worth to us if we have a 7-figure business and 7-figure expenses?”
You’d think that Joana had always fancied the life of being a designer. But as a child, she loved to write and aspired to become a writer.
When she started moving countries and began to learn English, speaking less Portuguese which she was initially more fluent in, she had to stop writing as she was no longer comfortably fluent in either language at some point.
Then she delved into designs, recognizing the universal nature of its expression. It gave her a chance to share her experiences, ideas, and thoughts just like writing had offered her.
Public Speaking and Motivational Engagements
Joanna has been able to do what she loves – sharing messages and posts about her life’s experiences and ideologies with scores of followers on her social media and through speaking engagements.
She was invited by a client to speak on design to an audience of about 400 people in Austin, Texas. She delivered a speech to the best of her ability on that day, and much later something struck her through a statistic.
Running through the revenue of her agency for that year, Joana realized that 50% of the income had come from people who had heard her speak at that particular event. This was a turning point moment in her speaking career, as she acknowledges the immense potential in talking more and the direct benefits to her business.
Later on, Joana was one of 5 candidates invited to speak in a competition organized by Giovanni, the founder of the Arc-Angel Summit. She talked on creativity in front of an audience of 3,000 people.
After sharing the video of her speech on Instagram, she got asked to give a 30-minute keynote on creativity to 300 designers, in Porto. Joana has recalled fond memories of her speaking engagements as she gets to do what she loves.
Philosophy for Branding
Joana says “for me, there are three V’s to branding, my version of branding, that is; Vision, Voice, and Visuals.”
She believes that vision covers the actions that you take and the idea behind what you want to do. A voice is what you say and the message you convey through your work, and then there’s visual adding to it. She believes that all three elements must align perfectly in anything being put out.
“To be consistent, you need to be clear on what your brand is, what it does, what it says, and how it looks like,” Joana said when asked about her consistency drive. “Without that clarity, it’s impossible to keep being consistent.”
Joana’s favorite books to recommend for anyone looking to uncover the artist within or uncover their creativity more, include: “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, it’s nicely structured into an 8-week program with some exercises for the reader to partake.
Then there’s the second book, one which Joana recommends for anyone looking to tap into the power of their brain; titled “Head Strong” by Dave Asprey. The book talks about how to use the power of food, exercise and other things to unleash your potentials, be energetic and do so much more.