Our History

Every organization has a story. Ours gave us the tools we need – so we can help you tell yours.

Our HistoryLeslie Walters Smith is the Managing Partner of Heron Design. She expands her capabilities with a network of freelance professionals.

I love computers. I grew up with them, during a time way before desktop computers were a thing. In the 70s and 80s, my dad was one of the country’s top mainframe computer engineers. He was also a single father with three kids and on call 24/7 – our house was usually littered with computer parts.

I graduated from college before the internet. We learned word processing on desktop Macs, but still designed ads, laid out type, and developed pictures the old-fashioned way: by hand. And then, a chance opportunity changed my life. Adobe chose a few college students from around the country to beta-test a new graphic design program. Working with the software that would later become Pagemaker (precursor to my current daily companions InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator), I fell in love with what a computer could do.

Years later, being open to learning new technology served me again when the internet began. As the associate communications director for a nonprofit, I had to figure out what a website could do for us – and how to put one together. Once again, I fell in love with a whole new world.

When I started The Heron Company in 2001 – we restructured and rebranded in 2017 to become Heron Design – developing websites fit naturally with our design services. A few years later, a client asked me to take over several sites that had been built using the WordPress framework. I hated it. But over time, as the platform grew I learned it from the inside out, and my 16+ year relationship with WordPress is now expert-solid.

I love computers. As someone who gets paid to design brands and develop websites, I can’t do my job without one. But, technology is just a tool. After three decades in marketing, I know what a computer can’t do: Successful marketing requires experience and expertise. In other words, people.

Even in today’s ai-powered world, a computer can’t figure out the most compelling way to tell your story. It can’t pull together colors, fonts, and shapes in that perfectly nuanced way to create your logo. It can’t brainstorm new ways to get your message in front of the right audience. It doesn’t ask the right questions to find out ‘what else’ a website could do for you, beyond what’s in your RFP.

And a computer, on its own, doesn’t know how to read between the lines to help you pinpoint that spark that makes your organization shine. (Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve had a LOT of conversations with ChatGPT in hopes that I could shed some of my workload. But, as I told a colleague recently, my job’s still safe.)

We specialize in marketing strategy, brand design, and website development, mainly for nonprofits. We use the latest software to do our work, and I can help you design a full tech stack to implement your marketing plan. But when you hire Heron Design, you’re not getting a computer. You get people who are passionate about helping your reach your goals.

~Leslie Walters Smith

Our History

Interested in working with us? If you have an RFP, please send it to [email protected]. Or, email a description of your project to [email protected], and we’ll contact you as quickly as possible to set up a time to discuss it.


Why name a company after a bird?

Our History
Several years before I started my company, my (now ex) husband and I visited a beach near Melbourne, Florida just before sunrise. We were the only ones crunching through the shells until we came upon an older man with several fishing poles stuck in the sand.

About 20 feet away, a tall bird stood motionless – until the fisherman turned his back to cast. Then, the bird took one large step forward and stopped, motionless again.

We paused to watch. Every time the fisherman turned his back, the Great Blue Heron took a giant step forward, then froze. Soon, his ‘prey’ became clear: he was moving toward the fisherman’s bait bucket.

The heron was less than five feet from the bucket when the fisherman finally yelled, waving him away. “You got me once, but not today, Harry. Move along.” The heron moved back but didn’t fly off. He had spotted his breakfast, and it was in that bucket.

Moving toward a defined goal, one purposeful step at a time. Isn’t that a good role model for a company?

Our History