Visual branding checklist

7 minute read
Whether you think you just need a logo or an overflowing library, this list will help you determine what you really need in your branding toolbox to create an exceptional (and share-worthy) brand experience for your people.
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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.

Your vision and goals

The best kind of designs blend function and form, and brand design should not be exempt.

Start with function:

  • Who do you want to work with (don’t know? Grab my Get More Fab Clients training to figure it out!)
  • What’s your vision for your business? What does the future you want for it, and your people, look like?
  • What’s your purpose in your business? How do you want people to feel when they interact with you?
  • What makes your business different? What’s the big result you provide (I share a secret formula for this here)

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.

The creative direction

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:

  • A colour story (I’ve got 24 free and designer-approved palettes for you to grab here)
  • Typography styles for your logo, marketing materials and website
  • Illustration inspiration for any patterns or icons you may want to include
  • Website designs and user experiences you love
  • Print, packaging or marketing materials that you find beautiful, inspiring and aligned with your dream clients
  • Stock photos that embody the mood and tone you’re looking to create in your brand experience (try Unsplash or Pexels)

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.

Don't spend your valuable time agonising over the perfect blend of images for your creative direction

Rather take the time to note what you love about each image and how you'd want to incorporate that direction into your visual branding

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.

Logos that are adaptable

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

  1. Primary logo
    This one’s going to be your main brand symbol or signifier and will be what you’ll use to represent your brand in most cases.
    You want this one to have good legibility, even at a smaller size, so avoid lots of tiny details here.
  2. Stack/horizontal
    This is a version of your primary logo in a different layout.
    If your primary logo is horizontal, you could do a vertically stacked option, for applications like profile images, business cards or anywhere that doesn’t give you enough width to display the primary logo.If your primary logo is vertically stacked, you could do a horizontal option, for applications like website nav after page scroll, product packaging, pinterest graphics.
  3. Word mark
    This one’s handy to have, if your primary logo includes a monogram or illustrative element. This is great for text-based document that get branded like contracts.
  4. Brand mark / monogram
    This is a standalone signifier for your brand. It’s usually comprised of the first letters of the business name (or even just 1 letter) or an illustration that represents the business name.
  5. Alternate marks
    These could include a combination of a brand mark and tagline, or illustrative element and stack, for example. They can add depth and richness to a layout, or enhance overall brand emphasis.
Different logo options make the branding adaptable to various platforms, materials and uses

Colours that work well together

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:

  1. Primary bold — your main brand colour
  2. Primary neutral — your main background colour
  3. Primary accent — your ‘pay attention to me’ colour
  4. Secondary neutral — your secondary background colour
  5. Button — your CTA and web-button colour
  6. Copy — your dark colour used for small headings and paragraph copy

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.

Keep your brand colour palette limited

A good quality font hierarchy

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.

How to use your brand fonts for hierarchy of information

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.

I’m sharing these and the bonus elements in a PDF you can keep and reference when developing and designing your brand.

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.  

Book your complimentary call here.

Grab your checklist here

The only visual branding checklist you’ll need — with 3 bonus elements you could consider when diy-ing your design and branding.
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Visual branding checklist

Hi! Hello. I'm the author, Lorin.

Red wine appreciator, amateur gardener and the voice and heart behind everything here.

I work with small business owners who want more rad clients, growth, and clarity and less rules, formulas and lost-in-the-crowd brand stories by supporting them in building a business they love and brand they believe in.

Partnering with me goes well beyond branding and I’m never in it for the short term. This is also not your typical design studio: I’m equally invested in working with businesses that aren’t ready for or don’t want to invest in design.

So that either way, we wrap up our project with what you need to communicate what you do, who you do it for and why it matters in the most compelling way, without sacrificing your vision or values in the process.

Got more meh clients than fab ones?

(Or maybe just not enough clients at all?)

Start with your brand messaging!

Grab my Brand Messaging Guide and a cup of coffee (or glass of wine ;) ) and find out what small and impactful changes you can make this week to start getting more (fab) clients. Or find out more about it here.

Grab it with your email address
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