Whether you’re diy-ing or you’ve hired a designer to do it for you, tackling your visual branding is exciting and a big step! Congratulations :) And it can also feel overwhelming when the list of seemingly necessary brand assets just seem endless.
What do you actually need when you’re building up a visual branding system, that hopefully will last a few years? I want to help you determine what you actually need and what you don’t, so that using your brand assets is easy (everything has a purpose!) and you’re keeping it looking gorgeously cohesive across all boards.
The best kind of designs blend function and form, and brand design should not be exempt.
Start with function:
Now think of form:
Answering these questions will allow you to build a branding system that’s meaningful and aligned to your goals. So it’s crucial to not skimp on the honesty here, and if it’s accessible to you, steal the ear of a business friend or hire a brand or strategy consultant to support you in working through this.
Now that you’ve answered some fundamental questions, you can start dreaming about what your branding will look like. A great starting point is to think about how you want your people to feel and what they’re drawn to. Then you’ll infuse yourself, your values and beliefs into the mix too.
You’ll also want to ensure it’s not drowning in the sea of sameness so avoid looking for inspiration inside of your industry.
Going in blind and jumping straight into design without first establishing a direction to guide the process could result in either: waaay too many ideas and not being able to decide which is best; or kind of collage-style brand that isn’t quite as cohesive as it should be in sharing a singular brand message.
Your creative direction could include:
You don’t have to create an Instagram-worthy inspiration board here. In fact, I recommend not getting hung up on designing any kind of grid-based layout that’ll take hours to refine. (my hot inspiration-board take). It’s a waste of your precious business time. Rather take a few moments to consider what you like about each image you find, and use that as your inspiration instead of the actual image.
Psst. I love Adobe XD for stuff like this. Yes, it’s a web prototyping tool, but it’s free and it’s super easy to use. Just create your canvas, drag and drop your images in and use the type tool to make notes.
It’s not impossible to brand yourself with just one logo, but you’ll find that variations allow you to keep your branding looking good (and crisp) across all uses.
Go back to your vision for your business and consider how you’ll be marketing yourself. Website? Social media templates? Printed goods? Client documents? Freebies for download?
When I design a client’s logo, I aim for a suite that fills all their requirements and has longevity (looking at you, brand vision).
Here’s a rough guide of what you could want
Colour is compelling. We can’t get around that. And would we really want to anyways? Colours will help your marketing, visually, and also help you build up some recognisability.
You’re going to want to revisit your creative direction here and really put aside your own personal colour preferences. Your branding has to communicate the right story, messaging and mood so think about how you want people to feel. If you fancy dipping your toes into colour psychology I’ll be doing a post on that soon.
I recommend less is more, and you can always build on a base colour palette in the seasons to come, or when you work with a professional designer. But to keep your designs clean and harmonious, you’ll want to have:
If you’re wanting a designer-approved colour palette, you can find 24 of them here — with keywords that describe each palette’s individual mood and tone so you can make the best choice for your brand.
Just like with your colour palette, I recommend erring on the side of less with fonts.
I know it can be easy to be swept up in the latest beautiful and trending fonts. But, honestly overhauling all your business touchpoints (think pinterest graphics, instagram templates, website, PDFs) each time you decide to switch out your fonts is not the best use of your time.
So you’ll want to choose 2-3 fonts that will cover everything from Heading 1 to captions.
A key thing to look for in font combinations is contrast. This could be a serif/sans serif combo, or a heavy/thin combo, or a wide/narrow combo.
The hierarchy comes in with font size and weight. The bigger and heavier the font, the higher up in the hierarchy of information it is.
Let me know if you’d like me to do a font post with a few designer-approved combinations for your diy branding.
If you’re not feeling like a type expert, you could head over to Typewolf for his super accessible resources: The Definitive Guide to Free Fonts or if you have access to Adobe Fonts (through a Creative Cloud subscription) he’s got a round up of the 40 best fonts there.
For building up a visual presence as a brand, that wraps up everything you need.
There are, of course, other things that make your marketing, client communications, and content more efficient and consistent. These are extras that’ll save you time and frustration, especially if you’re diy-ing your branding, but they can be added as and when you have the capacity, time and budget for them.
If you’re looking at refining your brand by working with a strategy consultant and/or brand and website designer for your business, I’d love to chat with you! We can kick it all off with a call to understand your vision for your business and how an irresistible brand experience can help you reach your goals. Then I’ll prepare a proposal based on your needs (no cookie cutter packages here) and we take it from there.
If you’re filled with ambition and purpose and looking for branding and business support that helps you achieve your vision, you’re in the right place.
I’m a brand and website designer with an approach centred on intimacy, so you’ll see that word a lot here.
I’m also a red wine enthusiast, amateur vegetable gardener, mom to an adventurous 5 year old, whippet lover with a thing for ginger cats and Cape Town local who loves the ocean.