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  • Writer's pictureRoger Pierce

Designer Rachel Ott Drums Up Success — and Lots of Awards

Updated: May 28

What a treat to get to talk with one of my favourite people about her entrepreneurial journey.

My friend Rachel Ott is a super talented graphic designer and the force behind Varga Girl Design, a visual and technical solutions shop in Toronto. We recently caught up on The Unsure Entrepreneur Podcast to talk about the ingredients of good branding, building client trust, starting a business from scratch — and drumming.

If there's anything Rachel loves to talk about more than graphic design, it's drumming.

"I thought — I need something, it can't just be work all the time," she laughs. "So I took up the drums. I think it was about six or seven years ago — that was life changing and became my favourite thing. Because I can't think about work when I'm drumming."

Rachel has clearly earned an occasional wellness break from her busy design agency.

For over two decades, she's nurtured a long and wide-ranging client list that includes an insurance broker, a seafood wholesaler, a social media agency, an optician, and entrepreneur and media personality Erica Ehm. Along the way Varga Girl Design has been recognized with a number of prestigious awards including the 2023 MUSE Creative Award for Branding and a 2024 New York Product Design Award (Silver) for Packaging. The agency is ranked as the Number 1 Design Agency in Toronto and Canada by independent rankings firm Clutch.

Making the client happy is what I'm there for.

In the podcast, I ask Rachel how she delights clients. "I think a big part of my success comes from always keeping the client’s vision at the forefront," she explains. "For example, I once had a client who wanted an appeal letter that looked intentionally less polished to resonate more with their audience. Though it's not my typical style, making the client happy is what I'm there for. It was a successful campaign because it was true to their needs."

Rachel emphasizes the importance of listening to clients and adapting to their needs, a principle that has guided her throughout her career. Her approach combines a deep understanding of design (just listen to the amazing design tips she shares in the podcast) along with a commitment to client satisfaction, making her a preferred partner for many — including my own company.

"When you're working in design, it’s crucial to adapt. I've learned that you must be willing to sometimes make what you feel might be 'ugly' to make the client happy," Rachel shares, highlighting the balance between personal aesthetics and client preferences. "What really matters is how your work impacts clients and their audience."

Work until your client loves it.

Some other key takeaways from my podcast interview with Rachel include:

  • Keep working until the client loves it. This approach not only leads to satisfied customers but also builds lasting professional relationships.

  • The ability to adapt to client needs and market demands is crucial. This means sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone to deliver work that meets the client's expectations, even if it differs from your personal style.

  • Setting clear expectations about your services and maintaining transparency with pricing and project scopes helps establish trust and professionalism.

As the owner of a top Canadian B2B design firm, it's clear Rachel has learned how to blend creativity with client-focused service.

Listen to the full interview on The Unsure Entrepreneur Podcast.

[Photo: Rachel Ott]

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