Branding is important.
But let's skip the common sense stuff & get into some actionable tips you can start working on today, to see that biz growth you've been dreaming of!
This is a longer read, so if you don't have time to read for 20 minutes or so, go ahead and bookmark this page for later reading, or to reference when you're ready to TAKE ACTION!
The first step to good, quality branding:
Get seriously, absolutely, crystal clear about your purpose and what you do for your clients.
Before you even think about the design, you need to know what your services and products are, and who they’re for. What if a customer asks you for something outside of your typical services or products? Would you be willing to provide additional options?
Here’s what I’ve got for KM DESIGN:
KM Design is dedicated to setting up digital entrepreneurs for inevitable success, developing the best most intriguing brands on earth, and spreading happiness while I do it.
Once your purpose is clear, figure out what makes you special. What defines you as a brand, and what makes you different from others.
If you respond to this with “I DUNNO”, then you have some homework to do! Today’s marketplace is not “build it and they will come.” You need to stand out! If you aren't thinking about this already, this step is one that can make building your FANBASE easy, or difficult. Bringing attention to what makes you stand out will make you memorable in a world of constantly being bombarded with different information.
You might be wondering what I do that makes me different from other graphic/web designers?
SO glad you asked ;) because there are a few things.
1. I have a database of some seriously amazing experts to aid in any big project that I take on. I'm talkin' big players in the game. These guys have helped establish Fortune 500 companies, written in some of the most exclusive magazines, and created huge companies. I hire on these additional workers at hourly rates, and choose them specifically on a per project basis.
2. I don't just design pretty graphics for clients (although that is how I got started). Now I help build bomb a** brands instead. That means taking my clients through all of these steps listed here + more. I create custom branding exercises and projects depending on the field and my clients needs.
Actionable step: think about and define some ways that you can make yourself stand out from the masses. To help, I’ll be writing another blog post with ideas about how to stand out in any marketplace.
At this point, you’re ready to begin thinking about your biz as a brand of it’s own. Start developing the extra details that will make clients fall in love with your biz. It’s almost cliché now, but if your brand were a person, what would he or she be like?
Once you have a basic idea, break it down and lets get even more specific.
One branding exercise I have my clients do is think of a famous person who embodies all of the traits that they want their business to. To think of it another way, what would it be like to hang out with your brand as that famous person? Is that what your brand embodies or should embody?
Get specific about the vibe that your brand needs to give off along every step of the way. That will help you find your niche audience and those clients who will become lifelong fans.
Getting Down to Design
Make your logo work for you.
Just remember these five things
1. Your logo must work in black and white, or better yet, as a single color. This is important because overlapping can cause issues when you are trying to embroider or print with certain printing methods.
2. The logo needs to scale easily. It must be able to work on something as big as a billboard without becoming pixelated. It must also be recognizable at a 1 in x 1 in size. That means all the text should be legible at that small of scale and the design needs to still make sense to the eye.
3. Typography MATTERS – don’t use super common fonts (cue Ryan Gosling Papyrus). No comic sans, and don't go for typography that is difficult to read either.
4. Develop a secondary logo. One that is oriented vertically or horizontally, or one that is even on all sides, whatever is different than primary logo. This will be extremely helpful as your business grows.
5. You may even need a tertiary logo, depending on where and how your logo is going to be used. Some logos have multiple colors that need to be paired down to fewer colors, some business owners want an intricate primary logo, so their second or third version must be created with less details. If it’s going to be used on mobile, you will want a mark that reads similar to your primary logo, but also is just a simple image or monogram.
Focus on what’s already working for you.
“Type A personalities” (which the majority of business owners tend to be) and creative people in general, have a tendency to want to try new things, both in business and in life... I love that, and I am definitely guilty of it too! It can be very useful and good for business to try new things, but if things are working for you and working well, it may not be time to pivot or think about change yet. If you've been leaning towards a new venture, think about why you're considering it? Will it help you? Is it necessary?
Consider whether you might have lost sight of the things that made you excited when you started your business. How can you get back to that place?
Change can be good, but it has to be when the time is right! If you’re looking for some biz advice that is hard to hear but good to know, here it is.
Focus on what’s working well, and figure out how to do the best at that.
Get your processes in place!
Let's talk about a super sexy topic. Processes in your business. This can be a game changer for your business growth.
Processes will look extremely different for whatever kind of business you have, so I'm going to keep this tip purposefully vague, while still touching on the important aspects.
Basically, whenever there is a task that you're going to need to do more than once, you want to know exactly what the process is for it.
I suggest taking it a step further even, and writing down your processes. Once you go through the process once or twice, review it. Is there anywhere you can improve for your customers' sake? What about for efficiency?
A lot of time when we're running small businesses we wear so many hats that going into auto drive works as a self preservation method. Working on your processes is your chance to use your brain and get creative!
One example of a process I am working on perfecting, is in the pre-design phase. Before I even open illustrator and start designing I put together some exercises and interviews to help me get to know my client and the goals as we work together.
Still not having designed anything, my next step is to put together a mood board of vibes and feelings that I want the new brand to portray. I've recently changed the process of mood board presenting to require a sit down meeting for us to discuss the board over the phone or in person.
Most of my process updating require a higher level of communication with my own clients. Think of a way to make your clients happier or for ways to make your daily tasks faster or easier.
Do some branding exercises to help nail down your brand voice.
There are many different routes you can take for this. Shameless Plug- my freebie can help you figure out which route to take on this!
What the heck is a brand voice!? Again, I am just so glad you're asking the right questions ;)
Your brand voice is the purposeful, deliberate expression of your brand. It's one of the ways you make connections with people, both in person and digitally. The in-person voice can take a while to master! That's natural. But if you're a solo-preneur it can be helpful to develop a digital brand voice that isn't far off the mark from how you normally come off.
Here are a few questions I ask my clients to help them to start thinking about their brand voice:
1. Will your brand use jargon or technical words?
2. Is slang okay to use?
3. How often will you use emotive punctuation, if at all?!
^That last ! is there as a prim-o example. You're welcome *blows kiss*
Knowing what adjectives, verbs, punctuation and words to use on the regular will help present a cohesive brand that helps your target audience fall in love with you.
While these next tips aren't necessarily "rules" to follow (I resent when people tell me to follow the rules anyways) these will make things easier on the entrepreneur or solopreneur. You can absolutely switch things up if you want! Half the reason most of us are entrepreneurs is because we want to be able to do what we want, how we want to do it. But if you follow these rules, at least initially, you will have an easier time than if you recreate the wheel every time you use your branding!
Stick to a strict color-palette.
Do this at LEAST while you’re establishing yourself. Once your following recognizes you easily, and you’re following is committed to your content, then you can branch out here and there. Once your following recognizes you easily and is starting to become committed to your content, then you can branch out here and there.
One caveat: if your business has to do with design or art, it can be tricky to stick to one color palette. Make it easy on yourself and pick a basic neutral to begin. Or, get some practice in with Photoshop!
Actionable Tip: Before choosing a color palette, do a little research on color theory. Different colors make different impressions. Different color pairings and combinations, can change it even more. In the USA think about how different bright red and green looks compared to light green and yellow. To me, green + red means Christmas, while green and yellow makes me want to say 'Scooo ducks. (I graduated from the University of Oregon, after all).
In short, colors can mean different things to different people, so choose colors that say the right thing to your target audience.
Build recognition by using a defining characteristic with your branding.
Choose a pattern, texture, gradient or some defining design feature that you can use throughout your branding.
Typically I like to choose a more subtle pattern that can be used throughout marketing materials without taking over or distracting from content.
It's a pretty simple tip, but nonetheless, useful.
Put together a family of typography palette.
Use the same typography palette throughout your marketing materials, digital and web. Keep it consistent, keep it legible. Using the same font will make it easy on you, easy for your clients and customers to recognize you, and once you grow beyond the solopreneur stage, you won't have to worry about monitoring their font use.
Consider what additional On-brand graphics you’ll need.
If you’re developing an app, you’ll probably need additional icons. If you’re putting a blog together you will probably need a graphic text separator, a few patterns or other designs to add some nice imagery to the long pieces of text.
Choose a style for your photography
Once you get to the point of needing photography, either for your social media, website, or elsewhere, have a goal to “shoot for” (photography pun, you’re welcome) with your photos. Are the images supposed to be moody, witchy, bright or preppy? If you don’t have a full photography team this can be difficult to achieve at first, but knowing what your goal is will help you along the way. Pro-tip for non-pros: Get to know those filters on Instagram, and check out some other apps. They can be really helpful!
If you’ve followed all the other steps to get to here, you’re ready to weave your branding into everything that your business does. Take special care with anything that your clients or perspective clients see. This is where your pattern/texture/typography/colors/logos and EVERYTHING comes into play!