• Luana Spadafora

Shevaun Bernard, Founder of She Visuals Studio

From the moment I met Shevaun, on a balmy summer night in Fiztroy, I was captured by her warmth and unrestrained kindness. We instantly sparked conversation on all things business, creativity and the mysteries of the Universe!

My intuition kicked in—I knew I found a good one.

In this in-depth interview, she opens up like a friend chatting on the couch, vino in hand. D&m vibes pared back with a conversational tone. Shevaun shares her story of how she built a successful business from the ground up; the ideas and values she holds onto, no matter what; and her mission to create and inspire others to do the same.

Tell us about She Visuals studio and how it came about.

She Visuals started about 8 years ago. The name is derived from the nickname ‘Shev’—what all my closest friends call me. I was 20 at the time and it was a colourful new beginning for me. I had just gotten into design school and was brought into this whole new world with endless possibilities.

After studying marketing for 2 years and deciding it was a roadblock to my happiness, I figured I’d take a chance on something that freaked me out. I had no idea this would turn out to become a full-time business and a huge self-development tool on my journey, but here we are 8 years later.

Initially, I only began freelancing as a casual thing on the side while studying and working another job. I took up freelancing to extend and create a portfolio, so that I would be suitable for higher-paid design studios. I also taught myself photography to document my designs. My dream at that time was to get a full-time job at another studio and live that 9-to-5 lifestyle people talk about.

What the fuck was I thinking?

Thankfully, I soon realised that every single place I worked at limited my capabilities as an artist and I always felt I was being held back to some degree. The industry wasn’t the nicest and I ended up leaving with some incredible, life-long lessons that, to this day, catalysed my realisation of what I wanted in this world. What I wanted to put out and what I could learn in the expanse of this crazy reality we’re living in. So, I guess you can say, this business came about by mistake.

It was about 4 years later I decided to take the plunge and dive deeper. I quit my normal day job and took on this business full-time and it just grew from there. There were many, many, many pitfalls and it took me a while to find my feet. Especially because I was learning everything from scratch. The design part I could do, but the business part, I wasn’t taught in school and there weren’t many opportunities to learn about that stuff, like there are now. So everything up until this point I figured out myself. It took another 3 years to come to balance with running a business and not letting it run my life. In January 2020, I relaunched my business as She Visuals Studio with the intention of expanding—now that I know for certain that this is what I’m going to continue to grow and build for a very long time.

What/who are your influences when it comes to design, photography and branding? Have you always been interested in these artistic pursuits?

Such a good question! It’s definitely changed over the years as I’ve discovered more about myself, but I’ve always been a heavy, hardcore fan of David Carson, Banksy, Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo. Call me old school I guess, but those guys are my people. Their work may look completely different to mine, but they changed the game for artists and designers alike, showcasing that you can take whatever you want and make a masterpiece out of it. A little backstory: I’ve been drawing portraits since I was in high school and I occasionally still indulge in a little art of my own, here and there. But I’d say my love for design only grew because I’ve always been an artist at heart. It carries onto my designs because at the end of it all, I want to create stories that evoke that same emotion; helping people to feel more connected to themselves and others.

I want people to relate and feel like they’re a part of something greater.

I’m also a HUGE fan of architecture; big, bold lettering; and the structure of art galleries—a combination of those things are my inspiration when it comes to creating designs for others and myself.

Why have you focused on working with women only?

I made the decision to work predominantly with women, but I also work with men as well. Every single person that feels in alignment with what we do is welcome here. You could say that our design aesthetic is aimed at a female audience, but that doesn’t mean it can’t go for both sexes as well. In truth, it’s more to do with our feminine energy that each and every single one of us possess—our emotions, feelings and expressions all come from our femininity, whether we're fully aware of it or not. Male or Female. We have the energies of both. Our masculine energy is all about action, drive, strategy, but finding the balance between those two fields gives a stronger insight on our boundaries as human beings.

I want people to feel embraced knowing they can express themselves in who they choose to be. The bigger, more dynamic reason which brought this decision was purely my own experiences and interactions with men in the industry. I learned very quickly how women, especially being a brown woman in this day and age, are very suppressed with their own emotions. Being in that kind of space where it’s encouraged to work yourself crazy to the point of exhaustion.

In the direction that we’re heading as a collective, it’s become apparent that these old ways of living aren’t sustainable for the future. In order for us to build a community of trust and unity we need to be able to come together at our truest form and that means taking a step back from life and doing what’s best for us.

So, I guess the point of what I’m saying: I work with women because I want us to fully embody our feminine qualities, spread it like wildfire and guide people along the way.

Describe a typical day in the studio.

This can vary depending on my mood, but I try to maintain the basics. First thing’s first: taking some time for myself after waking up. Those earlier hours of the day are crucial to my sanity, so I’m sure to do what I feel in those moments, such as writing, meditating, drinking some tea or matcha, and eating breakfast if my body requires it.

I always begin the day with taking care of myself; I flow into my studio work more easily because I’ve already completed the most important task before the day has even begun.

Once I’m at my desk, the first thing I do to declutter my workload is go through all the tasks I’d like to get done for the day from the highest priority to the least. If I can begin at least 3-4 big objectives for the day, I’m happy, even if I’m not able to complete everything.

Having begun the process means I’m one step closer and gives me the confidence to keep moving.

When the list is written, I go through my timetable for project deadlines; what’s important for the week; which clients I’m working with; and mentally prepare for how the week will unfold. I also make sure to keep tabs with the girls on my team and touch base with them, if needed, on where they’re at with certain projects. I want everyone to feel involved and know they’re taken care of when we’re working together; I make sure to be present with the girls and update them on anything that’s important. But also, I just check in with how they’re doing in general.

Most of the work I’m required to do half of the day revolves around the structure of the business, such as admin work, website updates, marketing, blogging and planning for the weeks/month ahead. I’d say it’s only about 40% where I focus on the creative client work. Even though I love that part, I do also enjoy the back-end, foundation work, so the business runs smoothly. I’ve learnt the hard way how easily businesses can fall when those things are neglected.

I make sure to cross off each task as I go, both digitally and manually in case I need to go back and double-check what’s done. Sometimes each task can take longer than expected, so if I’m not able to complete it, I either move onto the next one or call it a day. This really depends on my energy levels—if I feel myself slowly depleting (no matter the time) I take a break or move the task over for the next day. If all tasks are completed, then I’m happy, but I always make sure my health and energy levels are taken care of to prevent burn out.

My actions really depend on how much I can give for that day. The structure of the day remains the same, but my decisions are based on myself and I make sure to encourage that with everyone I work with.

No good can come out of overdoing yourself for your business.

As long as I've done my best, I can move forward and clearly for the next day.

What's your go-to snack when you're on the run and need something that's both yummy and satisfying?

I make sure to keep fruits in my bag at all times. Most likely a banana or apples. I followed a fruitarian diet for some time last year and discovered the benefits of introducing more fruits in my life. I try to eat as much fruit as I can, even though I have a different diet and lifestyle now. I try not to snack too much and focus more on big healthy meals, but if I’m on the go, then fruits always fill me up. I always bring a big water bottle as well and that keeps the cravings away. I’d much rather be hydrated more than anything.

Can you pick one favourite cuisine?

Probably Thai food. Pad Thai (vegan) in particular is such a big winner for me. I don’t have it often, but when I do, it’s divine! Also, Indonesian food, because I lived in Bali for a while and couldn’t get enough of it. LOVE IT!

Tell us about your monthly love letter.

The monthly letter has two opportunities for us:

1—The ability to create new layouts that inspire us daily and to put that into practice for our own brand. I’m constantly inspired by different fonts, different compositions of images, themes and designs, so I want to do things out of my comfort zone in a new way that hasn’t been exposed yet.

The reason I say this is because there's a constant modern theme I see in designs these days, which is awesome, but themes don’t last forever. My goal with creating these love letters is to play around with design in my own authentic, weird and wacky way as an experiment, to show what else is out there that can remain timeless for years to come. But, not be a carbon copy of the design that I see all over social media

And 2—To send a message, help, inspire, and innovate other brands / creatives / designers / freelancers / you name it, on how to run a business, how to plan your own lifestyle that ties to your brand, and give as much as advice to those who are searching for it. There are a lot of tips and tricks I see roaming around that can really help small businesses upscale. However, it’s important to recognise that each and every brand is unique, and the advice being put out there may not always work for everyone.

The only way to know what works for you is trial and error. To fail and rise again.

So with every letter sent I want it to be unique and diverse, based on what we feel for that month. I don’t want to create carbon copies of what’s already out there. I want our advice to be specific—that’s why we rely on our target market to be the ones who decide that for themselves.

What's next on the cards for She Visuals?

What next—well right now, it’s about maintaining what we’ve already been doing. I’d like to hire a full-time lead designer which I’m currently on the lookout for. That will be the next big step. But from there, it’ll be about providing other services that can help small-businesses and freelancers upscale their brands. Whether that be online courses or ebooks, we’re still in the discovery mode for that. Either way, I’m super excited for the future.

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©2019 by Luana Spadafora