My name is Hua Shu and I am a designer and entrepreneur based in New York City. Along with my co-founder, Wenting Zhang, we are creating a logo design tool, Typogram. Typogram is an easy-to-use, beginner-friendly logo design tool we created for founders looking for a simple way to DIY design their logos and branding when they launch their business.
Within Typogram, founders have the opportunity to start the process of crafting their logos while also learning insights on how effective branding and visual elements can attract users and customers.
Typogram serves both as a beginner design tool and an educational platform, imparting fundamental principles of branding design, and enabling users to seamlessly design their first logo and branding materials.
Since launching the tool, we have made over $5,000 in revenue from selling single-brand lifetime software licenses. Most of our marketing efforts are organic, and we have not run any ads.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When my co-founders and I worked as designers, we met many business owners who needed quality branding design to launch their businesses. For these new business owners, creating branding design is a pain point. Finding freelancers can be difficult and costly, and there aren’t any simple and easy-to-use design tools explicitly dedicated to logo and branding design creations for beginners.
Many of these business owners tried to create logos themselves using Office tools, like Microsoft PowerPoint, or a generic logo maker. Most of the time, they were not satisfied with the results.
From this, we saw a need for a simple and beginner-friendly design tool specifically for designing logos and brandings that make people feel creative, confident, and excited to launch their businesses. That’s what we want to create.
Typogram solves a major struggle for new business owners: crafting logos and brand designs. It's designed for beginners without design experience who want to create their logos and branding confidently.
Rather than a logo generator, Typogram is a Canva-like design tool where users are in charge. Typogram teaches basic branding design while helping users easily create their first logos and brand materials. It is tailored for founders who love DIY, building, and tinkerers, looking to launch their businesses with self-made, professional-looking branding.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
To test assumptions about the product at the early development stage, we built a working functional prototype for Typogram in paper. This made it super easy to test out the flow of features without ever having to spend time writing a single line of code.
It enabled us to focus on finding and talking to users and start testing certain aspects of our app immediately. Then for user testing and customer discovery, we set up 2 hour, in-person sessions, where we interviewed potential users and watched them play with our prototype. We found these users from business accelerators and co-working spaces in our neighborhood. Most of them were newly minted founders looking for logo and branding design, trying to launch their new businesses and products.
To validate specific features, we developed mini products using No-code / Low-code tools, such as Notion, Webflow, and Google Sheets to test specific features with our target users to validate ideas. For example, a core feature of our product is helping users identify their brand personalities for their business.
Our app then uses the brand personality to help our users design their logos and brands. To test the demand and monetization of this feature, we wanted to build a small product we could put on Gumroad to see if we could make sales.
To work fast, we built this workshop kit using three no-code tools: Paper, Google Slides, and Notion. Users can get access to our workspace (or print out the PDF) to start the workshop kit, either by themselves or with a team. They narrow down and eliminate their choices as they are presented with visual examples of brand personalities.
Towards the end of the workshop, users land on five that could serve as the starting visual points for creating their logo and branding design. We launched this product on Gumroad and made sales from our initial paid customers. This validated the feature. Now we give away our brand personality workshop kit as a free resource for our community.
After we validated features and flow, my co-founder started coding our software, primarily with the Vue framework. We launched with five main features:
Integrated mini design lessons and inspirations
We created mini design lessons helping users learn branding design. We help our users understand the design elements in rememberable logos, and users then put this knowledge into practice by designing their logos inside the app.
Brand Guideline Creation
Users walk away with a brand guideline –– a formula sheet with their design and typography systems, like logo, color, and fonts, which help them create more creative materials for their future needs.
Curated design assets and features, like fonts and logo design methods
We curated design elements in Typogram to help our users make creative decisions (we explain more in this video).
Proprietary editable icons to allow easy designing
We have created proprietary icons that make manipulation and editing easy. By controlling sliders, you can manipulate icons' appearance and visual style without tinkering with bezier curves.
Describe the process of launching the business.
After we had accumulated a list through our small Twitter following, and our build-in public and design newsletters, we launched a pre-order of Typogram, selling a single brand lifetime software license. At this time, the whole SaaS has not been coded: we had a landing page with a video mocked-up of key features we have already validated through our user testing and software pilot sessions.
We nervously launched Typogram’s pre-order on Product Hunt and our mailing list, hoping someone would be interested in our product. From there, we got our initial customers. For the next few months, we started regularly sharing product updates with our customers and our followers and got more people supporting Typogram.
This year April we launched our full app on Product Hunt. It took months for us to plan this launch and put all our marketing efforts towards this event – we were so excited to have our grand public launch on Product Hunt again! Unfortunately, due to an issue on their side, we were completely hidden from the front page during the initial hours.
Though we were disappointed by this unexpected result, we kept launching on communities like Twitter, Reddit, Indiehackers, and on our newsletters, this got us more attention and users. Since our launch, we have gained about 1300 users in the app and it’s growing steadily day to day.
Don’t give up if things don’t go according to plan – launch is more than one event.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We have been working on two newsletters: our build-in-public newsletter, which takes readers behind the scenes of our startup and joins us in the learnings and failures, and our design newsletter, FontDiscovery, which shares design and typography tips for design beginners. They have been great tools for getting the word out and converting potential users.
Engineering-as-marketing is also a great way to promote our product. My favorite example is our project, Coding Font, an interactive tournament-style game aimed at helping coders find the perfect font for coding, thereby alleviating eye strain.
This undertaking garnered significant attention from platforms such as the front page of Hacker News, Reddit’s r/programming community, and influential technology blogs like Boing Boing.
Lastly, as a long-time Redditor myself, Reddit has been for discovering potential users and customers. In my experience, I have found it useful to share what I've learned throughout the process of developing a Typogram and growing the newsletter in relevant communities. My learnings and failures provide valuable insights to others, and I also get valuable feedback, sometimes from potential users.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We just achieved a significant milestone – Typogram has over 1300 users in the app since our grand launch in April!
We are currently iterating on our app based on product feedback: making our app more modular and increasing freedom in design workflow.
Currently, the workflow to create a logo and brand kit inside our app is linear - users go through a series of steps to reach the final destination, Brand Guidelines, where they can have all their designed assets in one place. The new Typogram will be much more flexible— the brand design journey can start anywhere and in any order.
Each step can be a stand-alone mini-app or segue to the whole Typogram experience, allowing users to create beautiful assets and share their work in progress from any point in the branding design process.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Our best marketing decision has been starting the newsletters. We write two newsletters, FontDiscovery (design) and BuildinPublic (behind the scenes of building our startup). Starting a newsletter is great for several reasons:
First, newsletters serve as channels for supporters to learn about our progress, and share ideas and feedback, in addition to keeping us motivated. Right now, our combined newsletters have nearly 3500 subscribers.
Second, newsletters help with the organic traffic of our website. We cross-post our newsletter to our blog, and they generate about 1.5 - 2K traffic organically per month.
Now that I work for myself, I had to find my tribe of entrepreneurs so we could motivate each other to stay in the game.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Tools we regularly used were: Notion, Webflow, Stripe, Google Sheets, Tallyforms, and Make. We love to use no-code tools because they enable us to build, test, and prototype rapidly in every aspect of the product.
It is a quick way to create a mini product, a feature, and even for things like collecting payment and user feedback. We used no-code tools to aid in every stage of Typogram. This enabled us to test our prototype quickly with our users, without spending time writing too much code.
During our early user test phase, we used Notion to build and create prototypes and validate features. In the later stages, we relied heavily on Webflow for CSS styling because of how easy it was to create styles. Currently, we still maintain a Design System page in Weblow, which includes all the HTML markup and CSS classes used by our design system components.
We also used Make (no-code automation tool) to set up a payment flow to save us from the hassle of learning different APIs and writing different integrations. No-code tools can save you tons of time.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Atomic Habits by James Clear.
In the words of James Clear, "You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems."
Building and having an excellent (project management) system helps me stick close to my goals and roadmap in creating content and shipping products. Although sometimes this can be time-consuming, figuring out your process and setting up the system to plan is vital to habit-building and success.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Embarking on the journey of starting your own business can be both isolating and demanding – at least, it was for me. When I worked for someone else, I had co-workers I could talk to. Now that I work for myself, I had to find my tribe of entrepreneurs so we could motivate each other to stay in the game.
To overcome this, we started a Build-in-Public newsletter to find and create a community around us. We use our startup journey newsletter to share progress, learnings, and failures, and use Twitter to make new friends and connections. Joining communities like Indiehackers and Reddit also helps a lot with this.
Where can we go to learn more?
My beginner-friendly creativity, typography, and design newsletter, FontDiscovery.
Typogram’s buildinpublic newsletter written by my co-founder, Wenting, where we share learnings and failings on the startup journey!
And finally, check out Typogram - you can explore all of our custom design features by signing up for a free account. We have also a [community](https://typogram.co/community, if you are interested in meeting other Indiehackers and staying updated with what we are doing!
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