Paul Sebastian Melendez
Paul Sebastian Melendez is passionate about working with businesses to help them craft the perfect brand, which he helps them share with the masses through expert graphic design, web development, photography, printing, vehicle wraps and more. As founder of The Brand Smith Co., Melendez works with dozens of enterprises around the country to execute effective brand strategy, forming long-term relationships with those he works with so they always stay at top of mind in their fields. You can see his work at Sydney’s Café & Market at Tempe Marketplace and on dozens of food trucks in the Valley, and his clients include Barrett-Jackson, BODI gym in Scottsdale, Superstition Springs Lexus, and Rockford Fosgate.
The 29-year-old Mesa resident shared what drives his entrepreneurial spirit and what he hopes to achieve with his clients. You can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.
What brought you to Arizona?
I was born in the small town of North Adams in the beautiful Berkshires of western Massachusetts and moved to Arizona when I was 18, shortly after graduating high school. At the time, I wanted to broaden my horizons and go on an adventure, so I randomly picked a design school in Tempe called Collins College, where I got my Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design.
How would you describe your career evolution as a graphic designer?
Like most designers, I was freelancing through college and into the earlier years of being in “the industry.” Shortly after graduating college, I was contacted by my school rep about a potential position at a small company that specializes in vehicle wraps. This small company had contacted my school looking for students they could recommend. At the time in 2007, vehicle wraps were something still fairly new, and quite frankly, I had never heard of them. I was traditionally trained in design, and my passion and love was for branding, so this new digitally printed vehicle wrap medium had huge potential for someone with my approach to design. Most vehicle wrap companies at the time were mainly sign business with minimal design capabilities.
I was hired by this company, and it was my first and last job before starting my own company, The Brand Smith Co. I fell in love with the industry because it was so challenging and new. Over about seven years, I developed a style and approach to vehicle wraps that helped the company become extremely successful and well-known in its own right. We were at the forefront of design in regards to vehicle wraps.
I was initially hired as a graphic designer which, as the business grew, turned into an art director role with a handful of full-time designers under my supervision. Being that I started with just the owner in 2007, I wore many hats and learned the ins and outs of all aspects of the industry.
Like most entrepreneurial-minded people, I eventually hit a ceiling and wanted to create my own approach to blend the vehicle wrap industry with my overall branding expertise. I had built up the prior business I was a part of, and it was just time for me to do my own thing.
I decided to start my own business and named it after that mind-set — The Brand Smith Co. is all about branding. I officially started The Brand Smith Co. in January 2014, though there were a few months of planning prior. Like most people who venture off to start their own business, I saw a hole in the marketplace, and I wanted to do things my way. I’ve blended all things branding into one company. We do everything, including logo design, photography, packaging design and website design, all the way up to large-format sign production including vehicle wraps, wall wraps and signage.
The goal with The Brand Smith Co. was to create one cohesive solution for clients that need a partner that can take their marketing dollar and spend it with real-world results. We help to take the mystery out of creating a successful image. A lot of what we do is to help steer clients to success through branding. Many companies have great ideas, products and services but really struggle with the branding side of things. We’ve helped some of the Valley’s most successful companies take their brand to an entirely new level.
We also service clients on a national scale and have clients in more than 26 states.
What is your earliest memory of being interested in design?
Graphic design transitioned from traditional art. As a kid, I was always drawing and did exceptionally well in traditional art classes. I’ve always been creative and naturally just followed that path.
What is your typical week like with The Brand Smith Co.?
One of my favorite things about what I do is that it’s always changing and challenging. I don’t do well with typical, so I’m always mixing things up. I’ve been blessed to have my company catch fire over the last year, and I’ve been traveling a lot as of late. My weeks usually consist of designing exciting new projects, consulting startup companies with brand direction and development, and just simply being grateful for being able to do what I love and help companies achieve their goals.
I work closely with my clients, and many of my relationships turn into friendships – what’s not to love about that? On the less glamorous side, there is always preparing proposals and pushing papers around.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? What makes you stand out as a graphic designer?
This is a tough one, I’ve been told I have a very distinct style, but it is not that obvious to me. I certainly have an approach I stay consistent to with any design project, but I like to think I’m very adaptive in my styling.
Last week, I branded a diesel performance company in Maryland, and today we just finished up a European waxing company out of L.A. — vastly different demographics. I think this is what has led to many of my successes over the years and what will continue to be what drives The Brand Smith Co. into the future.
The quality that makes me stand out to my clients is that I am well-versed in a lot of areas beyond graphic design. I travel quite a bit to do photography, even. The beauty about my approach is that everything we do, we really do. If it’s in our portfolio, we designed it, printed it, installed it and photographed it. I use “Artist Owned” as a slogan, because it really is about selling a genuine product with full transparency.
What are your favorite types of clients and brands to work with?
My favorite clients and brands to work with are exciting, entrepreneurial-minded people who like to pave their own path versus follow or copy someone else’s. I have several projects I’m working on right now that I’m excited to launch when they are ready. I recently partnered with two guys on a project we will be launching in the next month or so in the mobile transportation and advertising arena.
What are your goals?
Good question. Most people refer to long-term goals, but I don’t have any long-term goals set. I don’t believe in long-term goals. There are so many variables, and it’s not productive in my opinion. I set short-term goals that are achievable. It’s much easier to set yourself up for success when goals are within immediate reach. These goals for me consist of weekly projects or monthly goals for my brand. My current goal is to wrap a couple company vehicles with The Brand Smith Co. branding.
Why would you encourage someone to hire you?
If we accept someone as a client, it’s because we genuinely like the client and their vision. It allows us to stay true to our passion and deliver better products. Anyone who is looking to partner with a company for branding their business wants someone like this on their side. Our clients’ successes are our successes. That is what drives us.
What advice do you have for aspiring graphic designers?
My advice would to take on projects that push you out of your comfort zone. I’ve taken on projects that are well beyond my comfort zone. They are great learning experiences, and you never know where that path will lead you. Not only could it open your eyes to new opportunities, but it will make you a much more well-rounded designer.