Lianne Charlene Creative

Lianne – Creative Director, 15 yrs | Lillia – Designer, 7 yrs | Becca – Designer & Illustrator, 4 yrs

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Lianne Charlene Creative is a small branding and graphic design studio based in Edmonton, Alberta. We’ve been helping businesses grow and improve their visibility since 2015.

What does it mean for Lianne Charlene Creative to be an all-women team?


Lianne: Being an all-women team didn’t happen by accident. When I began hiring designers, I interviewed some talented male graphic designers; in fact, I was very close to hiring one! 

Ultimately, it came down to the studio’s goals. 85% of our clientele are women-led small businesses or female team leaders. While women-led businesses are not our only focus, we are passionate about female empowerment and supporting women in our career goals. 

As a visible female minority as well as a mother and an entrepreneur myself, I understand the challenges women and women of colour face in their career advancements. Just because we were born as women, it doesn’t mean we should have to sacrifice our career goals. In a field where creative directors are primarily men, being a female-led studio with an all-women team gives our jobs even greater purpose. Not only are we helping small businesses to succeed, but we’re also breaking down barriers for women to succeed.

Becca: It feels really empowering to have a team leader who is a woman and wants to uplift other women in the industry. I’m fairly new to the Lianne Charlene Creative team, but I’m thrilled to be working with such a supportive and creative team.

Lillia: I think it is an experience that helps foster creative mentorship without the concern of working with someone who may not understand the challenging aspects of being a woman. We can start off with an understanding of each other because we share the challenges of womanhood, but we have different backgrounds and different minds to bring to the table. 

When you work with all women, we all know what it’s like to navigate those challenging experiences so there is more understanding towards each other.

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What is The Branded Good? Can you tell us about the impacts of this project both within your own team culture and also outward goals?

Lianne: The Branded Good is a side project I started at the onset of the pandemic (when the world basically stopped and I lost 90% of my client work). It is an opportunity to use our creativity and design skills for good by designing high-quality apparel collections to support causes we’re passionate about.One hundred percent of the net profits from each apparel collection is then donated to the charity of choice. Each collection is not only designed to give back but also to make a statement and provide “fundraising” apparel that people are proud to keep and wear. 

Since 2020, we have designed six collections: The Covid Relief Collection, the Support Local Collection, the Bissell Centre Collection, The Parenthood Collection for the Canadian Women’s Foundation, The Inclusion Collection for AdaptAbilities, and the We Cross Cancer Collection. Since the onset of The Branded Good, we have donated nearly $30,000 to local charities.

Over the last year, our challenge has been to incorporate the side business into our day-to-day studio work. Our project workload ends up being 90% for-profit and 10% not-for-profit with The Branded Good. The 10% of donated time is more than worth it—For my team members, it gives them a sense of accomplishment to know that their work is going to help someone who needs it. For me, it has undoubtedly given my career as a designer a greater purpose, but it’s taken on even greater significance over the past year. 

Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with leukemia, and I spent six weeks in hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatment. I am now in remission but am undergoing outpatient treatment for the next seven months. 

The Branded Good is more than just a “side gig” now that I have been on the other side of it. I can 100% see the value in what The Branded Good does for our community and how our collections can directly motivate and help individuals in need. Because of my diagnosis, I have decided to rerun the We Cross Cancer apparel, where profits will again be donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation. 

Having been a cancer patient, I have a better understanding of where the funds can be directed and how it can help improve resources and patient care. I have also witnessed how the We Cross Cancer apparel has become a symbol of strength and courage for those undergoing cancer treatments. My hope with future Branded Good collections is not only to support our community through donations but to have an emotional impact for those wearing the apparel.

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Who do you consider to be an inspiring woman?

Becca: There are so many women I find inspiring, but Paula Scher has been a longtime design hero to myself and so many other designers.

Lillia: I am so grateful for so many in my life who offer me unique perspectives and support on a regular basis; It’s hard to name just one. The women I find inspiring are people who demonstrate a strong moral compass. They use their confidence and experience to uplift others but are not afraid to say what’s on their mind. Women are too often taught to play coy and not take up space, so I really admire others who challenge the status quo that society sets out for us.

Describe your design process.

Lianne: I come from a psychology and advertising background. Over the years, that has led me to understand that good design and branding is about insightful human connection. There is a human element to design that I believe is often overlooked. In order to truly understand what you are designing and who you are designing for, you need to understand everything and anything there is to know about the business, its people, and their clientele. 

When I work with small businesses, I make it my priority to get to know my client: what their goals are, how they want to grow the business, who they are selling to, and ultimately what has led them to start and grow their business. I truly believe that we are not where we are without our experiences and applying it to design is no different. Great design and branding are rooted in understanding the people that we are trying to connect with. Once we understand them, we can focus on strategy, then ultimately the creative process and design.

What’s the boldest thing you’ve ever done in your professional life?

Lianne: Throughout every phase of this business, I have made bold decisions and have trusted my gut instinct in making those decisions every time. Quitting my cushy nine-to-five job to start an unpredictable freelance business was the first bold move. Then choosing to grow the business by building a team of only women was another one. Starting The Branded Good and donating all of our profits to charity goes against a traditional model of sales and consumption in the apparel industry.

More recently, I was put in a position where I was forced to hire two new designers but then was diagnosed with leukemia a month later. I could have put the business on hold during treatment, but I had faith that it could still work out. I made a bold move to keep the business running by trusting my instincts that I had hired the right people, that the business could run without my complete control, and that my clients would understand.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in this business?

Becca: Design is an industry about communication, and it is so important to have diverse perspectives in the community. I’m happy that I have the opportunity to bring my perspective as a woman to the industry.

Lillia: I find that, in this business, a woman’s choices in her personal life often affect how people perceive her competency. The industry has its challenges with tight deadlines and sometimes demanding clients. I am not a mother myself, but I have seen women who choose to become mothers get judged harshly and see face pressure be put on someone because of this bias. This strikes me as ironic—who better to handle multitasking and the unique demands of each client than someone who has experience in motherhood?

Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.

Lillia: A professional challenge that keeps me up at night is how often design skills are undervalued. I see people think design is easy because of how accessible templates and software have become. People ask why pay for a designer when I can just type a few words onto a template? 

I realised over time that you can buy all the fancy tools, but at the end of the day, knowing how to use them takes time, skill, and an eye for design. I realised that this worry stems from me undervaluing my skillset and my natural talent. Things that come easily to me may not come so easily to someone else, so it’s definitely not something that I still fear as often.

What was your educational experience like?

Becca: After I finished my undergraduate degree, I completed a certificate in communication design from BCIT, and I had a really amazing experience learning all the hard skills I needed to be a designer. I also think that, as a designer, I will be learning and growing for my whole career, and I feel that to be a good designer you have to stay curious and always educate yourself.

What inspires your work (professional or personal?

Lillia: I find inspiration in connecting with clients on what they are passionate about in their business. I enjoy experiencing the world by trying new things and bringing those unique learnings to my own work.

Recently I started practising Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and it has taught me to tolerate the grind. Like designers, practitioners learn the fundamentals tirelessly, but over time, gain their own style. 

The coaches at my gym have always told us that everyone learns the same fundamentals, but black belts are just better at doing them.This is true in many things in life: Putting in the time and carefully honing your craft allows more time to be more creative. It can feel boring at times, like nothing interesting is happening, but you never know when you’ll be given a creative opportunity. Being in that environment has taught me to tolerate challenges better and how important it is to be in a supportive environment so you can be brave in exploring who you are.

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If you weren’t a designer, what career would you pursue? 

Becca: I love cooking, working with my hands, and the way that food brings people together. I think I would be a chef.

Lillia: I think it would either still be somewhat in the creative field or something human-centred like healthcare or social work. I enjoy serving others in my work and having a positive impact on the community. I like being a lifelong learner. If I were to change careers those are the main things I would consider. 

Lianne: Before going to school for graphic design, I had been on many career paths. I was training to become a professional ballet dancer, but an injury changed everything for me, steering my career toward design. 

My first goal was to become a fashion designer, but I couldn’t sew to save my life! It was then clear that graphic design would be the right path. If I weren’t a graphic designer OR a ballet dancer, I suppose I would consider a career in interior design. I love designing spaces and picking out interior furnishings.

Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when starting?

Lianne: I would have chosen to be truer to myself and taken things a little less seriously. 

Having been faced with some major life obstacles over the last few years, I’ve learned that the challenges I’ve faced as a designer and business owner aren’t do-or-die. My business is a huge part of my life, but it isn’t the only thing that defines my happiness. When I started prioritizing my well-being, I took a more light-hearted approach to the work. When I started passion projects, I enjoyed the process a little more, and I was suddenly producing work that I was proud to share.

As a woman, what sacrifices have you had to make in your professional life?

Lianne: Choosing to have a family has been a big one. I don’t like to say that having kids meant sacrificing my career, but I definitely had to put specific career goals on pause. It meant taking time off and working part-time for much of a year while I raised my two children. 

As a business owner, I don’t get a traditional maternity leave, so I have to find ways to keep the business going while I have a baby. I have to be honest with myself and my clients about my time, and I have to make tough decisions based on our value as a studio. When you take time off as a business owner, there is the financial burden of losing income as well as the burden of losing clients. 

As a mother, I have constant guilt that I’m not providing enough care, time, and attention to my children. The balance of being a business owner and a mother is a tough one. I do as much as I can with the help of my partner, my friends and family, and my team. 

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What’s your favourite thing to do when you come home?

Lianne: My office is at home above my garage! But when I leave my studio office and walk across the yard to enter my home, the first thing and favourite thing I do is hug my two kids (I hug my partner too, but let’s be honest here, the kids steal the show! Haha). I love just holding them and then I ask them what their favourite part of the day was. It sounds cheesy, but when you spend your days working and not seeing them, you truly appreciate those small moments.

Is it possible to be unique or original in the Internet age?

Becca: Absolutely, I think that you can pull inspiration from other designers and artists and still synthesise that inspiration into something totally unique. The internet has definitely made it easier for copycats, but there are so many designers out there who are using their unique perspectives to create original work.

Lillia: We all share similar experiences, but we each will have our own unique take on things. I think worrying too much about uniqueness can stifle creativity when you are just starting in your career. Great things can be made when we inspire each other and give credit where credit is due. Over the years I realised even the great design pieces I admire are not completely original. When you dissect a great piece of work, you really see how it’s a bunch of ideas gathered from somewhere else, but made better. So, I think it is still possible to be unique even though it is easier to copy with technology (but there’s no fun in that!).