Designing woman: Graphic artist makes brands stand out

Marcie Finney Ditto

When Marcie Finney Ditto started her design and marketing firm 16 years ago, she never thought she would be following in her grandfather’s footsteps, not once but twice.

The 41-year-old graphic artist owns Marcie Finney Design, a Fort Worth-based business specializing in logo creation and brand identification for both startups and established organizations. The company delivers strategic marketing design – including collateral, website design and architecture, signage development, and direct mail and social media marketing – for for-profit and not-for-profit clients across North Texas. Services also include brand coaching and events. The company has been 100 percent referral-based since its inception.

“People find me at the right time,” she said. “I meet people at different levels of success. I’ve been blessed to be able to guide others to thrive in their businesses. I’m essentially taking people’s babies and raising them. It’s really fun to see a brand and a business boom because it’s something you helped scoot along. It’s great to watch other people shine.”

She’s done the same with her current business, Mustard Seed Jewelry, which grew out of her earlier jewelry business and features her handmade pieces made from mustard seeds.

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Ditto says it’s always been in her blood to create. A fine artist like her late grandfather, Dallas watercolorist, graphic artist and jewelry designer Wilson Ramage, Ditto stumbled into fine art and painting before she accepted her calling in graphic design.

“I was in a little bit of resistance to that early in life but finally realized that this was a gift that needed to be nurtured,” she said. “My grandfather was an artist. He and my grandmother, who died of breast cancer, are two of my heroes. I had no idea I would ever follow him.”

Ditto grew up in Plano, took art lessons and studied fine art at Texas Tech University before graduating from the University of North Texas in 1996 with a design degree. But her first designs were on becoming an Olympic champion.

Running lessons

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Ditto fell in love with marathon running during her time at Texas Tech. She hadn’t run in high school but once she moved to Lubbock she began running, one street at a time. As she progressed as a marathoner, she entered road races and started winning. Coaches took note and gave her a scholarship to run cross-country and track at both Tech and UNT. Aspiring to be the next female Olympic athlete in marathon running, Ditto moved to Colorado after graduation, got a coach and started training for the Olympic trials. The dream almost became reality but she was sidelined by a series of injuries to her left leg.

“It was painful and sad having to quit. I never got to the Olympic trials but that was OK,” she said. “Yoga healed my body and inspired me to become a yoga teacher to inspire others to heal. The lesson I learned is that the things you always think you need to do are not always the things you think you need to do.”

Ditto says marathon training also helped her develop discipline.

“One thing that separates me as a creative is that even though I’m highly creative I’m very business oriented and very disciplined. That’s why as a freelancer I’ve been able to be as successful as I have for 20 years. I’m very disciplined and dedicated to my clients. I’m a good guide for them. My number one thing is I’m in service to people in the fullest capacity to make them shine.”

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Ditto says a good brand should last 10 to 15 years. She’s seen a shift in marketing and branding in the last 10 years and strives to help clients meet that paradigm shift while reaching their marketing goals.

“A lot of brands are searching for that heart component. People need to feel connected to a brand so they will stay with it for a long time. People are looking for the heart – they want something that touches their heart,” she said.

Taking baby steps

In her brand coaching, Ditto encourages clients to have faith, take risks and take small steps along the way.

“I see a much broader vision for people and I challenge them to meet that and take baby steps to get there,” she said. “Baby steps are what lead us to the most inspiring and great things in our lives. Sometimes we take giant leaps and sometimes we have to go measure by measure until we reach our goal and make it successful.

“I take clients step by step by step all the way there,” she said. “I challenge them to think a lot bigger. I try to push them further and move them in a new step. I’m always probing for something more to get them to the next level, to go further than they thought they could go. If you believe you can do it you can do it.”

Many of Ditto’s clients are long-standing, and they testify to her visionary talent.

“Marcie is brilliantly creative and skilled. She uses her immense and diverse experience and boundless energy on every project she tackles,” said Laurie Smat, owner of Smat Consulting Inc. “We welcome the opportunity to develop sites designed by Marcie because the end product is unique and sets our company apart from template-based development firms. Marcie has created one-of-a-kind designs for several of our clients, including Mayfest, Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas, Human Milk Banking Association of North America and her client, Selling the Fort. Each of these sites is proof of her incredible gift of creativity.”

Ditto honed her marketing design skills in Denver, working as an art director for a real estate agency before launching Marcie Finney Design. She moved to Dallas and worked for four years, then spent 11 years in Austin, where she met her husband, Kyle Ditto, a Marine aviator and pilot for American Airlines. The couple relocated to Fort Worth and have a 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Kinsie Kae.

Discovering a gift

About 10 years ago, Ditto answered another calling. She started a jewelry business called Seeds for Goodness, making pieces from different kinds of seeds. She had dabbled with making jewelry in high school and had watched her grandfather create fine jewelry. As a self-taught jewelry designer, she discovered another creative outlet and gift.

“The jewelry business has been a great model for my clients to see,” she said. “It’s been a field I never saw myself getting into. I had no idea I was going to be designing jewelry. It became a great joy and I knew it was a gift that was needed in this world with a very specific message. I had to put a lot of my marketing side into it in order to do what I’ve done so far. It’s a fun thing for a marketing client to see my processes and what I’ve been through.

“Launching a business is a very daunting process,” she said. “There’s a lot of excitement and joy in the beginning but you’ve got to be ready for that journey. It really takes a leap of faith to own a business and keep that same joy for it over the years.”

In May 2015, Ditto closed her successful Seeds for Goodness line but kept her top-selling collection of pieces made with mustard seeds. Spreading the message that faith can move mountains, Ditto’s trademarked Mustard Seed Jewelry officially launched last August. She’s handmade about 3,500 pieces since then and has sold almost all of them, although some are donated for charitable fundraisers. Mustard Seed Jewelry has more than 10,000 followers on Facebook. In an effort to grow the company, Ditto has become a client of SKU, an Austin-based accelerator program for early-stage consumer product companies. She’s currently seeking angel investors in the company.

“What I hope is to inspire people. I’m ready to move mountains and ignite others to do the same. We all have our mountains in life that we must overcome,” Ditto said. “With each piece of jewelry is a hope that it will inspire women to embrace their own unique style and encourage them to find the faith in all of us. Faith is essential for our journey.”

Marcie Finney Design