Story by Kaitlin Hill | Photos provided by Jennifer Long
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a company logo is arguably worth a thousand more. Capturing the essence of an organization in a seemingly simple design with little to no text and producing an image that is straightforward and layered all the same is no small feat. Jennifer Long, the one-woman show behind Long Design, accomplishes that and more in her Washington Street studio.
With years of experience, passion for her projects, and commitment to the communities she serves, Long is the brains, and sole architect, behind the brands for many of the distinctive business identities in Middleburg and beyond.
Before settling in Middleburg, Long’s education and career took her from coast to coast and a few stops in between. Born in Southern California and raised in Palo Alto, Long and her family moved to Virginia when her dad accepted a presidentially-appointed government position. While attending The Madeira School, an athletic rivalry with Foxcroft School helped her develop a sense of familiarity with Middleburg, which would influence her return to the area later in life.
With high school behind her, Long “followed her heart” and attended The University of Arizona, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in graphic design. After graduation, she began building an impressive portfolio at award-winning firms in Dallas, New York, and San Francisco, with clients including IBM and The Oprah Winfrey Show. These high-profile projects resulted in well-earned visibility in the brand design industry and the flexibility to decide how she wanted to shape her career. Long remembers, “Other people, once they saw my work, said, ‘well, you’ve done Oprah’s logo, so you can do mine.’ I do a broad spectrum of skills; but, the emphasis from that one logo provided me many more opportunities to design brand identities, primarily for start-ups (The WELL, eBay, RedBack Networks), which helped launch me into this specific area.”
An already established branding specialist in Palo Alto, Long took a leap of faith relocating to Middleburg in 2012. Numerous visits with her Middleburg-based sister and the remembered feeling of familiarity from her days as a high school athlete motivated her to call hunt country home and plant the roots of her business here. Long says, “Coming back all those years later felt so familiar and natural to me. Over time, after all the visits, I just fell in love with it here. It’s a beautiful place, all the people I met through my sister were so nice, and Palo Alto became quite frenetic.” She continues, “I took a chance when I had an opening to come back here. I decided to give it a shot and take the risk.”
As with most major life changes, Long’s transition from start-up saturated Silicon Valley to small town Loudoun County wasn’t entirely without hesitation. Long remembers thinking, “Will I be able to get business here in this town with one stoplight…Will people know and appreciate what I do here?”
Long continues, “But little by little I was afforded opportunities to work on projects, like the Windy Hill Foundation. It was one small success story at a time, but that’s how it works. And I was fortunate enough to have that chance.”
Now, seven years after moving to Middleburg, Long has undoubtedly made her mark on the town, as a stroll down main street feels like walking through the pages of her portfolio. Local projects include the minimalistic but eye-catching icon of The Middleburg Museum Foundation, the clever brush and pallet-wielding fox for Art In The Burg, and the whimsical yet accurate illustration of a horse for Montaire Icelandic Horses, among others.
To a layman’s eye, her clean designs may seem simple; however, Long explains the process of making the perfect logo is extensive, requires collaboration, and is always done from scratch. She reveals, “All [designs] take an amazing amount of energy to figure it out, solve it, be unique, fit the criteria, be appropriate and also be something special.” She continues, “You want to get to the core of what the theme is…You want to show an energy or a spirit. That’s important.”
To understand the essence of an organization, Long starts with a questionnaire she developed that asks potential clients to consider their company through their own, their customers’, and interestingly, their competitors’ eyes. From there, “I would compile the answers and come up with a creative branding brief that is a distillation of these answers. It spells out what we’ve discovered or decided the entity is and then I go off and design.”
And everything is done from square one. Long explains, “I do it from the ground up. I won’t take on an existing situation and try to expand that work…I don’t do piecemeal, I do programs, and it has to start with the logo.”
Though technically an office of one, Long notes that collaboration is essential to her operation. She says, “It helps to know you are not working in a vacuum. Everyone is involved. It’s very collaborative. I like to work in a transparent process where people are informed [and] there are no surprises.”
While Long still works virtually with clients across the country, she believes accessibility to her local patrons is a vital part of success. She insists, “If you need to meet, I am available. I can make myself available to the people I’m working for because I want to be there for them.”
Finally, an excitement for the project and a connection with the community is imperative for Long to accept a project. She says, “I only take one or two projects at a time so I can give them my full attention and energy. It has to be exciting, interesting, and beneficial to the area.” She continues, “I’ve always felt the responsibility to give it my all on every project.”
With world-class talent, a collaborative process, and a mission to help shape community identity, Long offers the total package and her passion for local projects is palpable. And with a newly redone website and more Middleburg projects on the table, she shows no signs of slowing down. She says, “What’s really great is helping the community. It is a gratifying experience to see my work around town…What makes me happy is helping the people here. I love what I’m doing, and I’ll keep doing it as long as needed. There is nothing more rewarding, and I am doing my best work.”
See more of her work at https://www.longdesign.com/
This article first appeared in the July 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.