"Oh Joy! is a community as much as it is a brand."
NAME: JOY CHO
CURRENT CITY: LOS ANGELES
HOW YOU KNOW HER: CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND BLOGGER AT OH JOY
STARTED BLOGGING: 2005
SOCIAL PLATFORM OF CHOICE: INSTAGRAM
Over a decade ago Joy Cho had just moved from New York to Philadelphia with her fiancé, now husband. She began blogging as a place to store inspiration during the transition. Oh Joy! was full of color and patterns, attracting the eyes of both designer and enthusiasts, but, there was no silver bullet success. In the beginning it served as a great marketing tool for her client-based design business, but it was a few years until she felt confident that the site found its world wide web sea legs.
A lot has changed in the last ten years-- geographically, she's now LA-based with two kids, and she wears multiple business hats, all of which inform the other: graphic designer, blogger, and entrepreneur offering specialty services in portfolio development and brand brainstorming. She's also published three books, worked with hundreds of brands, and continues to inspire creatives around the world. NBD.
How does she do it? We chatted with the lifestyle maven to find out.
Describe to us the ah-ha moment of when you knew your blog wasn't just a creative outlet anymore and started to evolve into a brand?
Within 6-12 months of starting my blog, it began to serve as an incredible marketing tool for my then client-based design business. But I didn’t really feel like the blog itself was anything that could stand on its own until a few years later. When Time Magazine featured Oh Joy! as one of the top websites in the “Design 100” issue in 2008, I really felt like it might be more legit. It was truly an honor. Getting that kind of recognition really made me realize that more than just a handful of people were reading it.
How has your business strategy shifted from when you first started your blog in 2005 to today?
When I first started my blog, it was very much just a place for me to keep all my inspiration and design work in one place (Pinterest didn’t exist yet!). Once my readership grew, I was able to create a design business from people who read my blog that then turned into design clients. I made it a goal to work with and design for brands that I love, like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and eventually, Target. Now, we’re able to focus on mostly Oh Joy! projects and I have more flexibility to really choose the work I love most to move forward with. I think your business strategies grow with you as your business grows and evolves.
You have made the best of such an amazing collaborations with Target and Urban Outfitters. What piece of advice would you give someone who is looking to collaborate with big brands?
My biggest advice for anyone is to keep putting yourself out there and show work that you want to be making (even if no one is hiring you to do that work yet). I think the biggest misconception is that these things fall into my lap, and that’s not true. 90% of the bigger projects I’ve worked on were from me reaching out and pitching my work and ideas to a brand.
When you work with larger clients and companies, it can be really exciting because you get to reach a bigger audience. I started my business and career working with boutique companies—who I love and continue to enjoy working with. So larger companies just provide a nice change and a wider customer base to interact with. Another tip is to just do your thing and be true to your style. It's easy to try and change your style in the hopes that a certain customer or client will come your way. But every brand—whether big or small—is looking for you to be uniquely you and will hire you for that reason.
The Oh Joy! brand has thrived off of collaboration, yet there are many other brands that refrain from collaborating to keep their brand linear. What would you say to those brands that have yet to introduce collaborations in their strategy?
Collaborations aren’t for everyone. For me, I want to design so many different things that licensing collaborations make the most sense because I can partner with a retailer who already is an expert at producing and selling certain items, and by working together we can create Oh Joy! items that fit well with their customers. For me, collaborations are a great way to expand your audience and partner with someone who has a different expertise other than your own. And together, you can make something new and wonderful.
The design world is very crowded, and yet Oh Joy! manages to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to branding and product. What strategies have you implemented to make sure the competition doesn't catch up to you?
The Oh Joy! brand is all about adding happiness and inspiration to your everyday life. It's colorful, fun, and happy. But what I’ve realized most recently is that in order to succeed, you need to know who you (and your brand) are and stay true to your gut. I don’t really think about competition because we are all just trying to make it and do our thing. I just think about what I and what my team at Oh Joy! can do to keep providing amazing ideas, wonderful products, and ideas and images to inspire people and add a bit of joy to their day.
Let’s talk about trends outside of the design world. 2014 was disruption, the word was everywhere. 2015 was innovation. And now culture and community are the new hot button words. How are you working to build community?
Being an online brand, building community with our readers is so important. We work hard to make certain our readers and fans are heard and answered. Oh Joy! is a community as much as it is a brand. For me, this job wouldn’t nearly be as fun without all the amazing people I get to connect with both in real life and virtually. I attempt to inspire them with a small slice of Oh Joy but they also inspire me by sharing moments from their lives with us as well.
Finally, what is your social platform of choice?
Instagram! It allows me to mix various parts of my life and my brand. And community there is more intimate and immediate than any other social media right now. But I’m also really getting into Periscope right now, too. I love the conversations that can happen there and the interactivity of it.