Image Farm: designing local brands
MIDDLEBURY — Odds are most residents of Addison County have encountered graphic designer Matt Heywood’s work, though they probably didn’t know it at the time.
Anyone who has used the Addison Country Transit Resources public transportation system, sipped from an Aqua Vi-Tea Kombucha bottle, used Full Sun products or entered the Vermont Book Shop in downtown Middlebury has witnessed Heywood’s craftsmanship.
In 2006, Heywood and his wife, Pam, co-founded Image Farm, a graphic design, illustration and web design business based in Middlebury. Since then, the two have been creating designs and images for businesses and campaigns around Vermont, including many in and around Middlebury.
“We just wanted to do our own thing,” Heywood said. “We worked for other people and did it on the side, and eventually it got big enough that we just went for it.”
Creating an image might seem simple to an outsider, but the craft takes a good amount of behind-the-scenes strategizing, with a time scale that varies depending on the project. Before diving into design, the Heywoods learn about the clients’ work, goals and personalities to produce an image that’s both aesthetically pleasing and effective.
“It’s different every time,” Matt said. “We try to really get into their stuff, to spend a while with them and learn about their company, or learn what they want to achieve. So there’s a strong getting-to-know-them process, and out of that comes a strategy.”
Projects range from simple one-time advertisements to campaigns to “wayfinding” signage systems in public buildings. Some carry more pressure than others — clients who place their message into Matt and Pam’s hands often rely on the team’s artistry to attract the public to their business or help distribute a message.
This past summer, the Image Farm team was busy working on the Middlebury New Filmmaker’s Festival. They designed the print program, posters and ads, and created the festival’s overall look and feel.
“It’s all about getting in front of people,” Matt Heywood said. “It’s really a big chunk of the fest.”
Image Farm works on a number of projects at once, which can be a challenge when they have to switch from a smaller, simple project to something more complicated, like a full-blown campaign.
“It’s a really diverse group of clients, and it can be hard to manage the different scope and pace of things.” Heywood said. “Timelines always change. The primary thing is just keeping organized.”
When they need an extra hand, the team brings in Andrea Grayson, who works for a social change marketing company in Charlotte. She’ll dive in and perform additional research when necessary.
Grayson helped Image Farm create an illustrated video for the Vermont Department of Health’s WIC campaign — a federally sponsored supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children. Pregnant women and new mothers who qualify for WIC receive a card on which they can charge certain approved purchases that will boost their family’s nutrition — and Image Farm’s video succinctly explains (in three minutes) how to use the system.
The team has made several of these illustrated videos for educational outreach, aimed most of the time at breaking down difficult concepts into short, digestible pieces.
“You’re hearing and seeing the story,” Heywood said. “It’s usually really complicated stuff, so we try to break it down for people and make it understandable.”
The team also completely redesigned a wayfinding system at a University of Vermont library. By adding signs and kiosks, they upgraded the building’s navigation system.
“We just had to wipe it clean,” Heywood said. “It made a difference, too. If you’re in a place like that and you can’t find anything, you’re stressed out and it’s not a good experience. So it really made the building much more accessible and comfortable.”
Though the Image Farm has worked on large-scale and high-profile projects, Heywood particularly enjoys working with small businesses owners. Having established his own company less than 10 years ago, he identifies with the nerves and pressures that come with starting out.
“It’s fun to help people launch their businesses — helping people like us kick off,” he said. “So many positive changes and amazing products come from the ground up locally and in Vermont as a whole. That creative and entrepreneurial spirit is a big part of why we love it here, and it’s rewarding to contribute to their efforts.”