GF: Apparel With Attitude & a Conversation about Professionalism

As entrepreneurs and as women in our 20s, Emily and I have regular conversations about professionalism in regards to Toast. This business is our passion and opportunity to be our own bosses, so our behavior is often relaxed. We work, we get things done, we prioritize our clients and their success, but this business is like our family, so there's a certain comfort in the way we represent ourselves. 

When we first launched Toast, we had extensive conversations about our name, our logo, and how we describe ourselves on our website. Is it unprofessional for our logo to reference alcohol? Will people respect us if we say that we like wine? Can we post on our business Instagram (@toastoklahoma) about drinks? But the reality was that this dual meaning of the word Toast was an integral part of our identity, and we felt like we needed to be true to that.

Is it unprofessional for our logo to reference alcohol? Will people respect us if we say that we like wine?

We work hard to balance our honest personalities with our specific clients' needs. When we designed the branding and website for Rich Imagination, we developed a close rapport with clients Rich and Andy and every business meeting included chardonnay; at the end of the project, we gave them a thank you gift of hand-blown wine glasses engraved with their logo. In contrast, when Corbyn Hampton Barghols Pierce, PLLC hired us to create a new brand and website for their law firm, we knew they were looking for a more clear division between work and play, so our communication was kept efficient and businesslike, and wine glasses didn't quite seem like an appropriate gift, so we had a set of glass coasters engraved with their logo instead.

This is one of the things Emily and I love the most about Toast – we build relationships with our clients and we get to experience and adapt to each personality we encounter. It's what makes us a boutique-scale business, and what allows to us work so well with other small businesses. Because we're all people first. And that doesn't mean we aren't professionals. 

We build relationships with our clients and we get to experience and adapt to each personality we encounter... Because we’re all people first. And that doesn’t mean we aren’t professionals.

But our professionalism discussion reached another peak last week as we wrapped up work with a client we adore, who happens to have a rather cheeky company.

We recently completed the branding for Girl Fuckitude: Apparel with Attitude, a feminist-inspired line of merchandise. This created a unique challenge for us as we worked to develop a logo that honored the personality of the company while balancing the whimsy with an unexpected elegance. All the while, it was deeply important to us that we create a logo that could be censored and that pushed the identity of the company away from the name itself and into the idea of feminism and strength.

The final mark achieves exactly what we wanted it to; the aesthetic of the logo is counterintuitive to the company name, providing an interesting tension between expectation and reality. We developed a version that is censored as well as a dominant logo that only references GF, both the shorthand for the company name as well as an abbreviation for "girl friend," a perfect association for a company about female relationships.

We're proud of the work, and we are grateful and happy to be a part of this company's journey. We support the mission and the idea behind GF, and we are inspired by business-owner Twila herself. 

But. 

Can you put a company with profanity embedded in its identity into your portfolio? We found ways to create the page where the full company name only needed to be shown twice – once in the project text description and once in the display of the final, full logo. Everything else was censored, and the project was heavily referred to as GF: Apparel with Attitude, an accurate and family-friendly moniker. Our company is named Toast and our business personality is authentic and laid back, but does that make it easier or harder to promote this project? The GF project fits well with Toast as a company, but does showing it on our website erode credibility? Is promoting it staying true to ourselves and our audience, or is it blowing over a very carefully drawn line that Toast itself already pushes a bit?

Ultimately, we couldn't pull the trigger on adding this to our portfolio. Because at the end of the day, we are a company run by two women, both under 30, and our business name is Toast, and we do work for feminist-inspired merchandise lines but we also work for lawyers and businesspeople that may have a stiffer interpretation of professionalism. And it's hard enough to be taken seriously as is. So instead, we decided to begin a conversation about professionalism for designers, for women, for millennials, for everyone. What does it mean to you? Can you share wine with a client and still be respected? Can you include a project with profanity in your portfolio? 

At the end of the day, we are a company run by two women, and we do work for feminist-inspired merchandise lines, but we also work for businesspeople that may have a stiffer interpretation of professionalism.

I know what Emily thinks, and she knows what I think, but we want to hear your thoughts.