Sonia McCourt Design is a creative design company set up in 2011.  They specialise in branding, design, marketing, advertising, web design, signage and print management.  They have over 10 years’ experience and strives to deliver results within tight deadlines and budgets. They offer brand solutions, design, marketing, advertising, web design, signage and print management with a wealth of experience.

After studying Visual Communication at the University of Ulster, Belfast, founder Sonia graduated in 2001 with a 2:1 BA Hons in Visual Communication. Her first job was working for a printers as an artworker. This gained her experience in setting up and checking artwork for print. Shortly after, Sonia worked for a graphic design and advertising agency in Holywood. This gave her experience in advertising for both indoor and outdoor along with campaign work. In 2006 Sonia worked for a top design agency in Belfast for over 5 years gaining experience in branding, marketing material and web design. Sonia was a senior designer, project managing several large clients such as Ulster Orchestra, Graham Construction and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

Sonia spoke to us about her company Sonia McCourt Design and to offer any tips for startups she has collected along her journey so far!:

What made you start your own graphic design company?
In 2011 I began a world travel trip with my husband - which lasted for four months -  to soak up some international inspiration and to nurture my love of graphic and multicultural design. On returning, I set up her studio with the aim of bringing a warm, unique, human element to a world dominated by digital design. I love travel and design collaborating, and have an obsession with finding quirky locations to help influence my design work. This can be seen in my work for clients such as Belfast Mela, ArtsEkta and Get into Glengormley.

Who are some of the most influential or inspirational female graphic designers currently out there?
Since starting up my own design business I have been influenced by Finnish printmaker and designer - Sanna Annukka. Her work is strongly inspired from natural surroundings and childhood memories. She has created an album cover for British band Keane and she is part of the Marimekko team.
Another female inspired graphic designer is Yasmeen Ismail. Yasmeen is an illustrator and author. I discovered her work at this year's Offset Dublin Festival. She uses beautiful inks and watercolours to created bright and energetic illustrations. Her clients include Channel 4, Marks and Spencers and Google.

What are some of the tips you would like to share when creating a strong brand identity for yourself?

Believe in your brand and its values. A strong brand comes from a good thought process and understanding your brand's position in the current market.

Develop the brand's creative elements. This is the look, feel and voice of the brand that will carried out through all channels from social media to advertising.

Be bold, innovative and daring. Understand your competitors and be sure your identity stands out from a cluttered market.

How do you achieve a good work life balance?
I am a busy mum to my 3 year old daughter and also run my own business, so naturally work life balance is important. I am a planner - whether it's family life or work life. I keep a diary of a family schedule and a work schedule and try to dedicate equal time to both. It's important for me to spend time with my daughter in the evening and have a cut off point in the day where I stop work. Occasionally clients ask me to work to tight deadlines which means late nights but I try not to make this a habit. A healthy mind is so important to me - I destress by meditating, pilates and running.