Creating a Brand That Lasts with Megan Rounds

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Jun 28, 2021

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Creating a Brand That Lasts with Megan Rounds

Last Updated on June 28, 2021 by

Megan Rounds

Megan Rounds is an award-winning designer and the Owner, Creative Director, Art Director, and Designer at Rounds Design. Rounds Design is a full-service brand and marketing agency that specializes in thoughtfully designed communication materials. Megan has over 25 years of professional design experience, and she has worked with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small, grassroots nonprofits. 

In addition to owning and operating Rounds Design, Megan has worked as a Faculty Instructor at the Academy of Art University and as an Art Director and Graphic Designer for multiple agencies. She is a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Academy of Art University Alumni Association, and the University of California Santa Cruz Alumni Association. Megan holds a Master of Fine Arts in graphic design from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Megan Rounds discusses how she got into graphic design by walking into the office of a creative director
  • How Megan took her career to the next level
  • What is the branding process like?
  • Megan’s challenging — but rewarding — craft brewery project
  • How can you set your business apart from the rest?
  • Megan’s advice for up-and-coming designers
  • What has Megan been reading?

In this episode…

Designing your brand is a vital step in building your business. So, how exactly should you go about branding your company? And how do you use your visual message to stand out from the competition? According to Megan Rounds, it’s better to do your research first, so you don’t have to reinvent yourself down the road.

Megan has been in the graphic design industry for 25 years, and she has worked with numerous companies to help them create their brands. What’s her biggest piece of advice for new designers? Be solid in your craft and fluid in your medium; as the design industry evolves, you have to be open to change in order to grow with it.

In this episode of Legends Behind the Craft, Drew Thomas Hendricks sits down with Megan Rounds, Owner, Creative Director, Art Director, and Designer at Rounds Design. Together, they talk about the graphic design industry and how to brand your business. Megan discusses the questions you need to ask yourself while building your company, how to relay your message through visual content, and how to get your career started in the graphic design industry. Stay tuned!  

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

To learn more, visit or email us at to schedule a strategy call.

Episode Transcript

Announcer 0:03
Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your house to Drew Thomas Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 0:20
Drew Thomas Hendricks here I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry from tech companies that enable wineries to run at optimum efficiency to today’s guests Meghan rounds of rounds design books businesses create magnetic brand identities that have lasting impact. Today’s episode is sponsored by barrels ahead, the barrel the head, we know that your business is unique, and we work with the ATO implement a one of a kind content strategy. When that highlights your authenticity tells your story. It makes your business stand out from your competitors. And in short, we unlock your brand story to unleash your revenue. Go to barrels ahead calm today to learn more. Before I introduce today’s guests, I want to give a big thank you to last week’s guest Ashley Du Bois Leonard of InnoVint. Ashley and I talked about her journey from winemaker to technologist and Ashley gave some great advice about the importance of being open to the unexpected in your career journey. For today’s guest, I have Megan rounds founder of Round Designs. Now I’m a huge fan of Megan’s work and could not wait to have her on the show. Megan and I we’ve worked together on several branding projects over the years including one of my own. And what impresses me most about her is her design process. She goes deep into extracting a brand’s DNA and the design show it in her work in the beverage industry is simply amazing. And I think it’s because our roots run deep. Megan grew up on a family winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains and even wrote her master’s thesis on winery branding and label design. Megan’s passion for creating meaningful brand identities is enable businesses across the board from small grassroot nonprofits, fortune 500 companies realize true brand value. Welcome to the show. Megan, you may sound great. Oh, no, you are great. It was I had to whittle down your highlights. Oh, thank you. So tell us about yourself and your company.

Megan Rounds 2:08
So like you said, my name is Megan Rounds. And I have been a designer for over 25 years now. Hard to believe. I got my start in San Diego. After my undergraduate degree in Santa Cruz and at the San Diego and had a bunch of random jobs. I was actually working at a temp agency doing admin. And on my breaks, I would wander around the big office floor. And I saw this one office where his door was always shut. And one time it was open. And there were bookshelves that just communication art magazines. And he had a Mac in there. And you know, cutting stuff and pens and paper and I thought, wow, what is this man do? So I started talking to them. And he told me he was a graphic designer, and he was the creative director for the company. And it was love at first sight. I really had no idea what that meant specifically, but I just knew I loved his office. I loved the vibe. I loved everything I saw on it. I loved the magazines. And I said how can I do this? And I introduced myself and I said I’m a temp, I’m actually working in admin down the hall. And he said, Well, we’re doing a photo shoot tomorrow, big Chevy Chevrolet products photo shoot, and I could use an assistant. And I went awesome. I’m your assistant. And so we went through the process of getting me from the admin job I was doing to him. So the next day I showed up, I think it was Balboa Park and just I went and picked up the coffee. I brought it. The model had to use my belt at one point. And then he was he said, that’s great. Thanks for coming. I said no, no, you don’t understand that. Like I’m doing this forever. So then we’ll come back the next day when we wrap up. And then after that it was one thing led to another. I went to the photographer’s studio and we reviewed the proof. The proofs came back then it was zip drives. Oh yeah. They all came over from zip drives. And I sat down with Jim, Jim McConlogue, who is my first mentor. And we went through everything. And he said, he gave me a loop. And he said, Now I want you to tell me which photos we should pick and why. And that was it. We got a lone Mac to come in. In his office. I put a little table on the side wall and we had a little rental back for me. And I’ve never been in the field. Another field sense. I just kind of weaseled my way in.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 4:43
That’s amazing. So your original undergraduate background wasn’t in design.

Megan Rounds 4:47
I was in sociology. Yeah. Oh, amazing. Yeah, I really didn’t. I mean, I went into college as a marine biology major at UC Santa Cruz have a fascination with the ocean and I thought I would do And then I realized I just had this thinks I had to get out in the world and wanted to travel. So I picked a major that I thought was relevant. But also I knew I could do quickly and not have to do them. And so I took summer school, and I got my degree in three years, and then just traveled for a couple years and ended up in San Diego. And that’s how I became a designer.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 5:22
That’s amazing. And I bet you that that background in sociology has really helped you with your brand site.

Megan Rounds 5:29
It’s a very relevant degree. I think that you know, no matter what you do in life, understanding societies and people and movements is just important and relevant. So yes, of course.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 5:42
Yeah, that’s, that’s a good advice to those that are in college right now. Yes, you may not pursue something that interests you that you feel it is going to help you in your broad life. And then let the specifics such as how you’re going to actually enact that unfold.

Megan Rounds 5:56
Life is fluid. And I think if you’re true to yourself, and follow your hearts, and you’ll you’ll find your path and the journey is ever changing.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 6:08
So Jim McConlogue was the

Megan Rounds 6:10
Jim McConlogue, yes, and he is an amazing Fine Art painter. I actually am a proud owner of one of his paintings that I bought before I moved from San Diego. So not only was he the creative director at this company, but his passion was painting. So

Drew Thomas Hendricks 6:26
Yeah, that’s fantastic. Did he give you any specific piece of advice that you’ve taken with you?

Megan Rounds 6:31
um, the funniest thing when I that first day, I said, I just want to learn everything from you. And he says, he told me that he was not a good teacher, that he would not know how to teach me how to be a designer. And I thought, well, I’m still going to absorb everything this man can teach me. And that was really important for me, because I had to find my own path. But I also had to learn how to extract everything he knew, to help guide me. Sure.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 7:00
Yeah, sure. It’s, it’s an experiential thing and design that you really can’t teach, you got to actually do

Megan Rounds 7:07
it, you do have to do it. And of course, like any discipline, there’s fundamentals and theories and history. And all of that helps to build a foundation. But each designer is unique in his or her process and journey.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 7:22
Now, you’ve got to design for 25 years, you already experienced a tremendous amount of success before you went back and got a Master’s to give all the you actually experienced tremendous success, then circle back and got a formal degree in design, didn’t you?

Megan Rounds 7:35
I did. So mice after my San Diego journey, working with Jim, I did that for a couple years. And during that time, I thought, well, how can I formalize this education. So I went back to UC San San Diego, and got a professional certificate in digital and graphic design. That was an 18 month program where I worked all day in the field. And then once the classes at night, everything from photography to drawing to the beginning of you know, Photoshop and Illustrator, and it was before InDesign as when we use cork. And so, yeah, so I went back and kind of formalized that and marked my way through several different agencies in San Diego, you know, as part of the San Diego chapter of the AIGA, mentor, some San Diego State students, students, and had a wonderful career there. It was just an amazing place to get started in the field. And then I while living there, I wanted to take it to the next level, and just thought, How can I do this? And it was, let’s see, the late 2000 or two, what year did I start? 2008, I think I started my MFA. And one of the only schools that offered an online program because I was working full time. So I could not give up my career to move to Michigan or New York or any place I wanted to be a practical designer. Okay. And so I kept working and pursued my master’s degree at the same time.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 9:06
Now, what is it now from the time before you got the Masters to the after? What What did the Masters give you? Like what?

Megan Rounds 9:12
So it really did teach me so many things, of course, like, like we talked about this is this is an applied career and applied field. So you go in with your trade, but it gives you a foundation and a confidence and knowing the history that there’s a real history of design, you know, how it started and typography and movements and how design inspired movements throughout the world and how movements have inspired design. And then also there’s the real, the applied part of it where you have to know how to use the software. So there’s classes on that there’s classes on theories and proportion and scale and photography and art. So all of those things I had a passion for but the the degree which did take Take me over seven years to earn. Because I was working and because I had children and I moved across the country twice, and I married a Marine, it was

Drew Thomas Hendricks 10:09
A heck of a lot of work.

Megan Rounds 10:11
Yeah, so full time. It’s a three year program where I went, and it took me twice that, but it really gave me a confidence, I would say that’s, you know, that I’m in the right field for me. And now I have the education and the understanding to kind of back it up.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 10:27
That’s great. It provided that structure that now you can actually see all the apply all the things that you’ve learned experientially through working and doing design, and actually know where they fit into that ecosystem.

Megan Rounds 10:38
Yes, yeah. It was a turning point for me personally to just to prove to myself, I can do this really hard thing.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 10:47
Oh, that’s great. Yeah, yeah. So before we go, I want to I definitely want to dive into your branding process. Because I’ve seen how I’ve seen it firsthand. You, we we had you develop our logo for Nimbletoad, which is my other agency, down here in San Diego, where we have many clients spanning law firms, to golf courses, to a lot of their physical therapy and mental therapy offices. But you helped us just pinpoint the exact brand direction to go with that. So again, thank you. It was an intense branding process. We do. We do branding internally here, but we didn’t, we don’t go nearly as deep as you did to Yeah, walk us through what you put me through. So

Megan Rounds 11:29
Just in a nutshell, for me, giving life to a brand is kind of like birthing a child. And I’ve done it, I’ve done the physical act of birthing a child twice, it’s not easy. And it’s the same thing. So when I first start with the company, or a person, I get to know them, I have a set list of questions I asked. And they’re based on experience, just over the years of what I know, I’m going to need to understand in order to extract the essence of that of the company or the person. So I’ll send the client a list of questions, everything from Who are you to? Who do you not want to be? Where do you see yourself? Where do you see your company? aesthetic questions? You know, what color absolutely do you just not like, for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter? What brands are you drawn to for their messaging or their look and feel? It doesn’t have to be, It doesn’t have to relate to what your business is, specifically to who is your competition? And I think that’s one of the most important questions I asked, you know, what is, who is your competition? And how do they do things differently than you? And how do we not want to be like them? How do we want to set you apart, and through all of that information, I do my research. And the initial brand process for me is about two weeks from when I get the questions back. And sometimes I walk through them with the client over the phone. And a lot of times they don’t have to do because they really do pull the essence of what I need to know, right from the client. And so then I start my research, competition, all of your inspiration, I look up and I just start gathering a library of ideas. And then my first round of designs come two weeks later, usually, so it’s pretty in depth. And it happens fast. Actually, it’s pretty amazing to me how quickly it does happen, because the client will get the first round of designs and say, Wow, I’m really drawn to number one, but I don’t like number seven because of this. But number eights intriguing because of this, can we somehow combine one, eight and nine? And

Drew Thomas Hendricks 13:42
You do give a lot of your design samples?

Megan Rounds 13:44
I do because I’ve often found that a client already knows who they are, but they don’t know how to relay that information. So it takes seeing something visual to say, oh, wow, that is where I wanted to go.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 14:00
Yeah, usually like with with a lot of I’ve worked with a lot of designers and a lot of their approach to logos is they did they do ask some of the discovery questions. But more of it’s more on what do you like what kind of other logos do you like, what’s what’s your favorite colors and that type of stuff. But what sets you apart that I found is you went deep, deep, like a copywriter would go on writing an About Us page with the full with the full content, and then you translate that content into a visual design.

Megan Rounds 14:27
Well, thank you for that I do. Hopefully the brand is relevant. And it stands the test of time. And if you find something that’s just or create something that’s just purely aesthetic with no depth or meaning, it’s not going to stand the test of time and it’s going to change as you change and as your business change. But if you can really extract that meaning usually there’s substance and it’s relevant and lasting.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 14:56
Absolutely. And so we see you’ve got your process and you’ve got you’re skilled in design. But there’s one other aspect to your background that makes you uniquely suited to the wine and craft industry and that you grew up on a family farm or a family winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Megan Rounds 15:09
Yeah, so actually I was in college before my parents decided to launch that endeavor. Oh, yeah. But it but I spent lots of time they’re planted the first grapes we harvested. My children have harvested, they’re my husband’s harvested. It’s sad. They don’t own it anymore. It’s a lot of work, a tremendous amount of work, dedication, time, energy, money, you name it, but very rewarding. The wine that my parents created was served at our wedding and awesome. Yeah, so it was it’s a very worthwhile love of a craft type of business.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 15:44
So you bring that hands on experience of having actually been there, done that into the end of those designs. And I know you’ve recently worked with a brewing company up in Kalispell, SunRift Brewing.

Megan Rounds 15:56
I did, I did. They’re very fun, very fun client. Once again, they knew who they wanted to be the owner of the brewery actually has was a brewer for other breweries before. So when he settled in Kalispell, he knew exactly the direction and the thought for his brand. And he had a love for you know, surfing in the water, and that California vibe, but he’s going to be in Kalispell. So we had to find a way to kind of merge, merge the identities and make it hip and fun and stand out in the world of craft breweries, which is pretty flooded.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 16:33
There’s a lot of amount. What was some of the biggest challenges there on that project? Um,

Megan Rounds 16:39
Let’s see, well, the design itself was pretty intricate. So, you know, the process was great, I think that they just had to ultimately decide which direction there were two competing directions. And one was more, it had like the more traditional kind of traditional feel. And this is more light and airy. And once we decided on this particular logo, It then became, he wanted to have metal work done. And they have a huge woodworking sign in their lobby. And so it was, it’s a pretty intricate with sun and water. So we had to find a way or I had to find a way to make sure that the artwork was perfect and could be recreated using many different mediums. So that’s not always easy to do. If you think about some intricate unless it’s a Nike swoosh. You know, there can be a lot of intricacies within a design. So making it translate to all different types of, you know, mediums is another technical challenge. Sometimes,

Drew Thomas Hendricks 17:43
I can bet that would be a huge challenge, especially with because a lot of a lot of logos they don’t take a lot of designers don’t take that approach that this logo also maybe have to live in metalwork, wood burning, I mean, it needs to have many different, many different iterations.

Megan Rounds 17:57
It does and we use gradients of color. So you think about how does that translate to black and white? How does that translate when it needs to be one inch small. So these are all just things that you learn? Over time, no one can teach you except through experience, really. So that was a challenge. But it was a wonderful challenge. I love their logo I love I’ve been to their brewery, they now have a restaurant. They do live music. It’s super fun. Yeah, it’s a great place.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 18:24
Well, that is that’s great. And that’s that’s a good tip to any anybody looking to found a winery, brewery or craft distillery, think about how your logo is going to be used. Don’t just jump on the first one that may only look good on on the label. That’s so true. Yep. longevity. Yeah. What other advice? Could you give a winery or craft beverage company that’s struggling to kind of reinvent itself or just invent itself?

Megan Rounds 18:46
Well, I mean, it goes, I really don’t see the difference from being a high tech company to a brewery to a salon, I think what’s gonna set you apart is are you really being true to what your brand is and what your vision is for your for your business? And where you see yourself taking your business? What’s going to set you apart? Not only is the quality of your product, but also, you know, are you using the same illustrator as the person down the street to make cute little posters? Or are you really unique? And what’s going to keep what’s going to make you stand out against your competition. So that would be something I’d say is do your research and don’t just buy the first logo you see for $200 you know, really invest in being true to what you want to be for a business and people will follow you people will love it. People will appreciate the integrity of your product and the design that you know is branding you.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 19:47
That’s it. That’s great advice because too often the first thing you look at is not the thing that has the lasting impression is that shiny object in the trouble of going through a rebrand once you realize that that’s not something that’s actually you is twice rather than doing it right the first time,

Megan Rounds 20:01
it’s twice as hard. And I tell that to clients all the time, because not only have you established clientele with your first brand, but now you have to kind of break that and reinvent yourself. And not only hopefully keep that clientele but grab a whole new audience. So it’s better to do it right the first time. Oh, absolutely.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 20:20
Now that we were talking in the pre show about how the world’s just changing so quickly, it’s hard. It’s hard to keep pace with it. What advice would you give someone just starting out in their design career in this current state of the world?

Megan Rounds 20:33
Well, grits have grit, I read that book recently, I was really good. In 25 years, you can only imagine we did you know, you’ve been in the field from zip drives to oh my gosh, jazz drives, now we could hold a ton more on a big disk to careers careers are a huge thing we need to careers everyday to run our files back and fourth pay steps. And you know, we are Exacto knives, we were cutting film, you know, our ads, everything was so different. We had we used our pen and pencil a lot we we actually took the time to draw you needed that skill you need to be able to draw. And that would be something I would give to up and coming designers is to not be married to your particular vision of using one thing, like you’re not going to design, you don’t just design on a computer, who knows what it’ll be in three years, five years, make sure your skills are strong and solid, make sure you can draw for sure. And just be open to change because this industry changes so quickly. There was no such thing really as web design or social media ads, that was just not even, not even 25 years ago. So

Drew Thomas Hendricks 21:48
the mediums are changing so fast. But the one thing that I and maybe you might disagree, but I say the principles have stayed the same. I looked at some of those design books that were done in the 40s and 50s. And those principles are just as relevant today just for different mediums. Absolutely.

Megan Rounds 22:04
Yeah, they know your fundamentals know your skills. Yeah, definitely. We studied those in school. So that’ll never change. Just you know, the Gestalt theory and proportion or imbalance and yeah, the Golden Triangle and all of that. It’s very relevant.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 22:19
Rule of thirds, still rules?

Megan Rounds 22:21
Absolutely. in photography and design. Yeah. Yep. 100% be be solid in your craft. And don’t be married to just, I can’t tell you how many and you to how many different software programs we’ve had to learn over the years.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 22:35
There is a new app or a new platform every single day. And it’s always the best new great thing. So I don’t know. Yeah, maybe that what you’re saying. And I liked the way you said it be solid in your craft and fluid in your medium.

Megan Rounds 22:49
Yeah, for sure. Be open. Don’t be rigid, be open.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 22:53
That’s great advice. So those are wrapping up here. What are some of the favorite books you’ve been reading lately?

Megan Rounds 23:01
Well I’ve been reading like a ton and audio books like crazy during this past year. And like I mentioned, grit, I really appreciate. I’ve really appreciated hearing people’s passions and what gets them through and what they’ve learned in life and what sets them apart. I also enjoy just reading, you know, fiction, I just finished Small Great Things by Jody Picoult, which is a very intense and moving book, and so many books, and I keep my own little personal, you know, rating sheet, my book reviews, and it’s fun to go back and see just how much I’ve read and have allowed my brain to get lost in someone else’s world.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 23:43
That’s good. That’s what you do for us and your branding.

Megan Rounds 23:46
Yeah, you know, it’s funny when you talk about my process, and I end up saying this most all of my clients, I do dream, I dream about the brand and I so so for me, it’s not nine to five, I don’t sit at my computer nine to five and work. It’s not realistic. The brand usually comes to me in some very abstract way dreaming or walking or grocery shopping. So

Drew Thomas Hendricks 24:09
Yeah, that’s that’s where inspiration strikes.

Megan Rounds 24:11
Yeah, that is I think so.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 24:13
In the bread aisle.

Megan Rounds 24:16
Yeah, the bread aisle.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 24:20
Oh, Megan, it’s been great talking with you. Yeah. Where can people learn about you and your company?

Megan Rounds 24:24
Alright, That’s where I’m at. Awesome. He reminded me I need to update it to I’ve been terrible. See, I’m not very good at updating my own stuff. So forgive me people out there.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 24:39
Oh, you’re you’re in good company. I think agencies are notorious. It’s the it’s the cobblers.

Megan Rounds 24:47
No, no it is, it’s very true. I’ll help you do yours. But man, don’t get me to sit down and do mine. It takes too much time.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 24:52
We get it?

Megan Rounds 24:54
Yeah. Thank you, Drew. This has been awesome.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 24:56
Oh, thank you so much for being on the show.

Megan Rounds 24:58
Yeah, yeah. Appreciate it.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 25:02
Appreciate it. Thank you.

Announcer 25:08
Thanks for listening to the legends behind the craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.