Hot Slice Design Studio: One Piece of the Pie
Interviews & Features
Este Pizzeria: A buzzing, hot-light neon sign gives an offering to grab a “hot slice” inside the restaurant. For Hot Slice Design Studio Founder and Creative Director Alli VanKleeck, this meant more than just grabbing a bite of pizza. Recognizing the symbolism behind the idea of a slice being just “one piece of the pie,” VanKleeck related this to her design work and how the idea of design within a company’s identity is just one piece of the intricate puzzle to crafting their brand.
Hot Slice was founded by VanKleeck two years ago after she moved from Denver to Salt Lake City. In Colorado, while attending Colorado State University for graphic design, she interned for a few smaller design firms. “I got to see firsthand what it was like and the variety it gave,” she says. VanKleeck compared the experience of working for larger corporations to her time with smaller businesses, and ultimately, missed the feeling of working for the smaller firms. Once she moved to Utah and began design marketing work for a software company, the idea of creating and working in a more intimate setting continued to persist. VanKleeck had a “pipe dream” to begin freelance work, which is where Hot Slice comes into play.
“It does my heart good to support smaller, independent business owners and to bring personality and vision to their visual identities.”
“It was two months of sending out 20 emails a day to build a client list,” she says of the initial process to get Hot Slice up and running. Though, VanKleeck notes that referrals are really the best source of marketing. Most of her clients are made through connections VanKleeck has or an impression she made on them through past projects; word travels about the quality of Hot Slice, and they’re thus able to gather more clientele. “It started with doing a mural for the Maven District,” VanKleeck says. And since that launching point, Hot Slice has expanded to a fully formed design agency, offering work that varies from print to typography to digital design to building a company’s entire identity. So far, a few notable clients range from Tesoro Design, a handbag company out of Philadelphia, to Mineral and Matter, a jewelry store based in Salt Lake.
VanKleeck describes her process as “furthering a brand’s ethos.” This can come in the form of designing a company’s environmental space through murals and design work, transforming their logo, creating print collateral or designing a website, among other reformations. “You’re giving a new company or an existing company a refresh,” she says. “You’re building their visual identity.” VanKleeck notes that one favorite industry to provide work for is skincare, and is often creating designs for their products and packaging they send to clients. She says, “That’s really fun because I love packaging design and seeing your design out in the world in use. It does my heart good to support smaller, independent business owners and to bring personality and vision to their visual identities. They’re so passionate.”
“You’re giving a new company or an existing company a refresh.”
Hot Slice doesn’t embody one specific style of design. Clients will normally come to VanKleeck with a design in mind, or she may help them entirely from scratch, allowing those who work with her to find a style that represents them best and is most aesthetically pleasing to their branding. Speaking of her process, she says, “I do a creative deep dive into their industry.” She’ll find out who their competitors are, what the market looks like, what their product is, and deliver them two to three concepts to look through that all have a very different look and feel. “The clients have a choice in the process … and can choose different avenues their brand can take on,” she says. “Good design accomplishes its goal and conveys the right information while still being impactful and memorable. It’s also timeless.”
VanKleeck herself doesn’t belong to one set style, which allows her to work with so many varying demographics and industries. Though, as an artist, she notes that her personal style is influenced. “The organic-ness of sketching, rough around the edges, maybe American traditional tattooing,” she says. She specifically loves designing tattoo flash-style and is equally influenced by screen printing, bold color blocking and designs with a multiple-layer feel. And since she is able to work through so many varying design types and present multiple options for clients to choose from, VanKleeck says she has a buildup of prints that were never chosen. “It’s a logo graveyard,” she says. “I have a backlog of ideas I didn’t get to bring to fruition.”
“Good design accomplishes its goal and conveys the right information while still being impactful and memorable. It’s also timeless.”
In the future, VanKleeck hopes to bring on another member to the Hot Slice Design team as things begin to return to normal, due to many businesses having to cancel creative projects as COVID-19 occupies their budgets. Fortunately, Hot Slice has loyal clientele and those who work with VanKleeck on a retainer. She notes that through support and collaboration, many small businesses in Salt Lake have been able to stay afloat. In fact, VanKleeck is working on an upcoming local project creating a crosswalk design for The Gateway this fall. Be sure to check out Hot Slice’s designs on their website (hotslicedesign.com) and Instagram page
(@hotslice.design), and look out for VanKleeck’s work throughout the city.