Continuing our series of BLUEPRINT team member Q&A’s, today we are excited to be chatting with our Instagram Account Managers, Frank and Xanthe Appleyard—a creative husband + wife duo out of Ontario. (Affectionately referred to as “X + F” by the rest of the team.)
Pour yourself a cup and settle in for a fun conversation, because these two are ALWAYS a joy. X + F are travelers, foodies, photographers, content creators. Most of all, they are designers at heart and in business, with an incredible talent for social media that led them straight to BLUEPRINT.
Read on for a glimpse into their creative working dynamic together, a piece of their personal stories, and a few expert tips on maintaining an online presence + how that relates to the power of story:
Hello! We’re Frank and Xanthe Appleyard from Ontario, Canada! The two of us – plus our puppy babies Asparagus “Sperry” and Phoebe – make up Oh Sierra, our photography, web design and branding business.
We don’t know our relationship without our business. And, to be honest, we wouldn’t want it any other way. Our craving for creative work aligns both with what we offer to the world and what we mean to each other. We wanted to work from anywhere and do something we love. Together. Oh Sierra is our vehicle for that.
Our day to day work winds together like a marriage, too. Each of us picks up the part of a whole:
For Frank, it’s the behind-the-scenes stuff. His unofficial business title is Organizer of All Things. Xanthe falls more by the creative side and focuses on the “big picture” of the business.
Fun fact: we named our business after Frank’s favorite song by Punchline. Not only do we both have tattoos featuring the lyrics of the song, the lead singer of Punchline officiated our wedding!
What’s it like working as a husband/wife duo?
Xanthe: we’re both of the mindset that we don’t know how we’d do this job without each other. Our business succeeds because of our mutual skills and effortless collaboration. There are ups and downs, of course. For instance, we need to make sure we’re making time together outside of work. It takes extra effort to make sure we’re separating our work and play. But there’s always time for play, mainly travel.
Frank: I think it’s very indicative of our working relationship that our answer is the same. This business and partnership is the most natural thing. I couldn’t imagine doing this any other way.
Xanthe: Right! People ask us this all the time and I’m always like, “What do you mean…this is the only way to do this, right?”
What made you want to be a part of the BLUEPRINT team?
Xanthe: I was watching BLUEPRINT on Instagram from the start. I thought Caroline’s work was beautiful, of course. But I also thought it was so smart that she was able to come from a career as a Realtor and then do something for them. She had created such an incredible niche in the market. That was intriguing to me. Then we got to know her, and she was, of course, awesome!
Frank: Real estate – it’s an interesting industry. We love looking at beautiful homes and we have a basic knowledge of what’s important to that group. We’ve worked with a lot of Realtors before, and they’re some of the most dynamic, unique personalities to work with. They’re very entrepreneurial, and I love that we’re going to be able to work along side them. That’s a very cool and exciting thing to be a part of.
Talk about your careers so far. How have they brought to you to where you are now?
Xanthe: After I went to university, I started working for a clothing boutique in Hamilton as their store manager. I started to edit their website copy, and through that began learning how to use online design programs; I’ve always been an artist but I started applying my skills in the digital framework. Later on, my public relations background brought me into a few communications roles in the fitness arena. A few years later, Frank and I decided to use our collective skills to strike out on our own. It’s almost been two years since then, and we’re not looking back!
Frank: I have a journalism background and so after I graduated, I earned my stripes working as an editor for one of the largest newspaper chains in Canada. But, after a layoff, I wasn’t in love with the lack of job security since there wasn’t a lot of optimism in the newspaper business. So, I reached out to a local restaurant group offering myself as someone who could help with their communications and branding. That grew over time, and now we’re helping more and more people achieve their dreams and grow their businesses.
What is the key to maintaining a creative presence online for businesses? How can you keep up with trends?
Xanthe: What’s most important, honestly, is being genuine.
Frank: Right. You can’t take a big department store like Sears and make them a boutique. You can’t make someone fundamentally different than they are. You start with someone’s authentic self and then you take these bits and pieces of trend and apply them in the right way.
Xanthe: And if a post is going to help your audience or if it makes sense for your own goals, then share away. It’s about showing up!
Do you have a personal design/visual philosophy? What do you look for when you begin to help clients curate their visuals/brand reputation online?
Xanthe: Authenticity, like we said, is so important. What’s going to make someone comfortable visiting a space? How does someone feel when they step into the atmosphere of their website or social feeds? We like to see cohesive content and visuals that tie the whole piece together.
And even though today “a visual identity is worth a thousand words,” there still has to be words! Photos are a vehicle to your message. A beautiful look and brand only goes so far as the person that’s bringing it to life. Through the visuals, we want the audience to be like, “Oh, I want to get to know this person.”
Frank: I’m a big believer in story. I always want to ask, “What’s your story? Tell me a bit about yourself.” I think there’s a very good way to display that visually and to get a feel for someone’s story before you’ve read any words. That’s how you get an idea of who they are.
Now for some fun questions! What’s your favorite song lyric?
Frank: “I know you wanna know what comes after / but let’s turn the magnifying glass backwards / together we’ll fall into a rabbit hole / and come out the other side old.” – from the song Oh, Sierra.
Xanthe: This is a truly impossible question. I have journals on journals of song lyrics written out by hand from my early calligraphy days – let me dig them out of my moms basement and get back to you, k?
What are each of you reading right now?
Frank: Hell’s Angels, by Hunter S. Thompson
Xanthe: Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
Currently binging on Netflix?
Both: The latest season of 13 Reasons Why!
Photo shoot/design session must-have?
Frank: A really good playlist.
Xanthe: Cold-pressed juice! A refreshing and nutritious pick-me-up on long shoot days without a lot of time to eat!
Design/visual pet peeves?
Frank: Too much clutter. You don’t have to squeeze it all in there. Give it some space!
Xanthe: I can’t deal with color clashes. I’ll remove my nail polish before leaving the house if it’s not jiving with my outfit – and I have been known to scrap a whole outfit if I don’t have the right tone of shoes. Learning to clash on purpose was probably my biggest struggle as a designer – that said, it definitely can pay off, if done thoughtfully!
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