The following is a guest post written by Gillian Tracey. Thanks, Gillian!
As I’m sure you know, there are several necessary details that go into starting a business, like choosing between a sole proprietorship and LLC, registering your EIN, opening a business bank account, having a basic business plan drawn up, and getting a solid contract in place.
But there’s another element that ranks high on the priority list. It’s a powerful tool that helps you attract the right audience and build trust and recognition. What is this tool, you may be wondering?
It’s your branding.
In this post, I’m going to be breaking down what the heck branding is and how to start your business’s branding on the right foot. Just as it’s important to get all your paperwork squared away, it’s also important to make sure you’re going to make the best first impression possible.
What exactly is Branding?
Before we dive into what makes a top-notch brand identity, I’m going to break down the difference between a brand and branding.
Seth Godin perfectly summed up what a brand is: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Basically, your brand is the heart and soul of your business. It’s the type of experience people have with your business. The core values you operate under and the associations people have with your services and products. It’s the personality you infuse into the copy on your website and social media captions. It’s the care you give to clients and the meticulous way you package your products. The reputation that you’ve built. All of these elements and more come together to create your unique brand.
If your brand is the heart and soul of your business, then your branding is the body. It’s the visual representation of all the good things that people associate with your business.
Your branding, aka your brand identity, is going to draw people in and be the first impression someone has of your business.
Because the two are so closely intertwined, it’s important to make sure your branding embodies all the elements of your brand in a cohesive and complementary fashion. This then needs to be consistently carried through every visual element related to your business.
Working Parts of Your Branding
Since we’ve covered what branding is, let’s break down all the working parts that come together to create the visual identity of your business.
- Primary logo: This is your business’s main identifying mark. You’ll use a primary logo on the header of your website and other brand collateral.
- Alternate logo: This is a different version of your main logo that has been reworked to give you greater flexibility across platforms. For example, an alternate logo may be designed to fit in a square. This would make it better suited for use on social media, profile images, etc. than a primary logo would be.
- Favicon: An element from your main logo used for watermarks on images, as the favicon on your website, etc.
- Color palette: Choosing a good color palette helps communicate the personality of your business, attract your ideal clients, and create brand recognition. Color is an important element to make sure you get right. It will single-handedly alter how your business is perceived. Don’t underestimate the power of color psychology!
- Fonts: Like a good color palette, choosing appropriate fonts for your branding can heavily influence how your brand is perceived. Each font has its own personality and flair, so choose ones that complement your business’s personality. And make sure they play well together! To make sure you don’t get too busy, limit your font selection to three at the maximum. Don’t forget that you can use varying weights and italics to create visual interest.
- Brand Style Guide: This is a guide that compiles different logos, color codes, and other visual elements of your brand. If you ever bring people onto your team or get work outsourced, this is an important file to have on hand. It ensures that all the visual elements of your brand stay consistent, no matter who is working with it. Need help putting a guide together? Click here.
Related blog posts that may help:
- Creative Brief: This is a simple document that outlines all the general information about your business. It usually covers your mission and vision, your target audience, your competition, your business goals, your brand keywords, etc. It’s a helpful tool that acts as a guide for decisions you make about your business.
- Mood board: A mood board is almost like a visual extension of the creative brief. It’s a collection of images, patterns, and other inspiring design elements that come together to exude the vibe and personality of your brand. If you’re designing your branding, this is a helpful tool to use as a launching point for the design process.
- Patterns: Using patterns is one of my favorite ways to add a unique touch to design, and they certainly create a memorable visual identity. Patterns add a splash of design interest to your brand collateral.
- Icons and Illustrations. Like patterns, custom-made icons or illustrations are a great way to refine your branding and add versatility to your design arsenal. I use them in all different settings, like a pricing sheet, welcome packet, and more.
- Stock Photography. Photography is a powerful tool in your branding lineup, and it can make or break your first impression. High-quality images with a cohesive look that aligns with your branding will automatically elevate your first impression. On the flip side, pixelated, poorly lit images will be a turnoff for potential customers. There are many free resources that offer great stock images, and photographers who either sell bundles of images or are available to hire for stock photos created specifically for your business. With so many great options out there, don’t skimp on your photo quality!
Related blog posts that may help:
- What Designers Should Know About Branding Themselves + Free Creative Brief
- A Simple Way to Visualize Your Brand
- Using Patterns to Boost Your Branding
If you’re on the journey to crafting your branding, I hope you feel more confident and equipped after reading this post!
Gillian Tracey is the designer behind Gillian Tracey Design, creating handcrafted, heartfelt, and holistic brand identities and Squarespace sites. She’s a visual storyteller who loves blending art and design, sending handwritten letters, and exploring with her rescue pup, Griffin. Find more tips about branding and design by following Gillian Tracey on Instagram and Facebook.