So you’ve got a great business idea and are ready to hit “GO,” but not sure where to start with branding.
Here’s a breakdown of things to consider when designing a memorable brand.
What is a brand?
A brand is not a logo. Brands are a balance of aspiration and reputation. Branding is a way of giving meaning to an organization or company. It is the overarching identity and tells your clientele who you are and what they can expect. Brands have purpose: the deepest expression of a brand, drawing on its essence to determine its path in the world. Why do you exist, and what impact you are trying to have on the world. How are you trying to make customers’ lives better? A strong brand identity is a reflection of who you are and why you are different.
- Inspiration: Look at brands from all industries that look and feel how you would like your brand to be. Do you prefer a clean monochrome look, or do you want something more playful and vibrant? Spend some time creating a branding mood board of inspiring examples to help you find your direction.
- Competitors: Researching your competition is helpful so you don’t accidentally copy a brand you want to set yourself apart from. You want to be different and memorable.
- Audience and Clientele: Have an idea of who your audience and clientele are. It is much better to have a smaller select audience to start than projecting too broad and getting lost in the noise.
A great non-visual place to begin is figuring out the characteristics of your brand. If it was a person, what would their personality traits be? If you’re struggling to define it, pull characteristics from people that you know or admire that you value and see if any of those feel right with your brand. Knowing these personality traits will help guide your visual style.
The logo doesn’t have to be the first thing you do. You can pull together much of your brand identity and work from there, so it’s not necessarily a linear process.
You can approach logo design in several ways. It can be a symbol, simply type, or a combination of the two. I recommend putting some time and effort into your logo. Having something you love and feel excited about will pull the rest of the brand together. Your logo will be the mark of your brand! Another consideration for your logo is how you will be using it and where. For example, consider the negative space around it – this is the unoccupied space, sometimes called whitespace, it is essential to give enough space so that your logo stands out and isn’t lost among other design elements. Think about the alternate color variations for different use cases, such as your logo on a dark background or over an image.
The color palette is a range of specific colors that represents your brand and brings everything together.
Websites like Adobe Color are an excellent place to start for figuring out a color scheme. You can even drop in an image that you like, and it will extract a color scheme for you. I suggest coming up with a few different palettes to play around with before locking into one. You can choose a few base colors and add colors from there. Choose one primary color, a few secondary colors, and then your neutrals (black, white, or greys). Think about whether you want a dark or light background—tonal, colorful, monochrome, or pops of color.
Fonts can offer a lot of personality, and you can find many free ones on the internet. For example, DaFont is a great resource, just make sure they are 100% free, or you will end up buying the rights to that font. I would recommend starting with one or two main fonts that work well together, one for titles and one for body copy. You can always expand from there if you feel a third font would be visually beneficial. Be mindful of your brand personality here. Fonts carry a lot of character with them. The other most vital part is that it must, for obvious reasons, be legible.
Choosing a consistent style of photography in essential part of a well defined branding strategy. Currently, authentic-looking photography (not staged or posed for) is very popular. However, you could also choose bright, vibrant, playful photography, desaturated tonal photography, or atmospheric black and white. But the main thing is consistency, be sure any photos you use look like they belong together. There are many great free sites for imagery, as mentioned in our blog post here.
An alternative or complement to photography is illustration. There are various beautiful illustrations and talented illustrators who can bring your brand to life. However, much like the logo, I would be sure not to cut corners here. You can use illustration to offer some visual personality into your brand and help guide your clientele by explaining processes or highlighting features.
Depending on your brand, you may require a few icons to help communicate your solution or how your product works. There are numerous icon packs you can buy, with a variety of icons in the same style. Again, consistency is essential; you don’t want to mix and match icon styles. It will make your brand look messy and unprofessional.
You can play with some shapes, textures, or patterns to introduce into collateral to bring things together and keep things visually interesting.
Be consistent across your brand, website, business cards, presentations, and collateral.
While having a solid branding foundation is a great place to start, there is always an opportunity to evolve and grow with your brand as your business evolves. Be imaginative and open to changing and updating your brand over time.