My fellow colleagues and clients normally struggle to highlight their brand during their events and online efforts. In fact, very few people know how to manage their branding details to seamlessly create a good lasting impression. Just like marketing, traditional branding trumps everything else as it is a foundation builder that establishes a trustworthy identity to relate with consumers and set yourself apart from other businesses. I have to admit that growing among successful multigenerational family businesses allowed me to create the perfect branding habit. So give yourself time to learn how to best position yourself and your brand in the market… it certainly does not happen overnight.
If you are a solentrepreneur or a busy professional with limited budget it is key to have a plan. There are a lot of things happening around you on a daily basis, and it’s very easy to get derailed in your planning due to unexpected circumstances. So it is best that you make your brand a clear and transparent reflection of yourself – it will make your life much easier than pretending to be someone you are not. A brand style guide is the best way to keep all your details in place. Let me show you how to create one in five simple steps.
Before hiring a designer to create your logo, I suggest you create a simple brand style guide to get some clarity on the typical branding challenges, such as identifying what your likes and dislikes are, what serves you well, what is lacking in your current branding efforts, and how much it’s worth to you. Even if you do outsource the design, remember that it’s still going to be a time commitment -- you will have to manage the project, provide active feedback, answer initial branding questions to orient the designer about your preferences, etc. Having an initial brand style guide will save you time and money because it will give the professional you hire an immediate sense of who you are and it won't be left to endless (and costly) conversation.
My recommendation is to get started with your color selection to create your color palette, then focus on your typographic logo. It helps to have at least a basic logo and style guide (think color palette and fonts) as you begin setting up your brand style guide.
- Get Everything Ready: Embrace the fact that you are saving thousands of dollars by initiating your own brand style guide. Remember this is an ongoing guide; it will be modified and expanded as you grow. The goal of this step-by-step branding style guide is for you to have a logo that resonates with your brand. Whether you are trying to establish the right positioning to boost sales, or to launch your website or to deepen your web presence – you will have something that is good enough and doesn’t detract from what you are trying to accomplish with your business. Whether you keep the logo and style guide for 3 months or 3 years, the point is to have something to build on. Not making this first commitment will leave this aspect conspicuous in its absence -- your audience needs to have the feeling that there is something there, an image to reflect the content. [make this a new paragraph. I cannot do it without screwing up the format.] So gather everything that has been defining your brand until this point – images, quotes, colors, symbols, videos, anything. And, separate them into groups as if you are assembling a collage or a vision board. For example, one group will have what you like the most, another group that contains what you’ve used based of what’s trendy but not unique, and then another group of what you are ready to let go.
- Identify a Range of Styles/Colors in Your Industry: You want to be different from the rest, especially now that online communications allows us to access unlimited brands globally. But you also want to take into account what has already been established. Being different should be an educated decision. Do you see a style/color that seems to work well in your industry already? Is there a style/color that really doesn’t? Focus on the psychology of colors and patters, check my post “The Psychology of Color to Boost Sales” to make sure your branding efforts are in alignment with your positioning. Every color, shape, and detail convey a different emotion on your target audience. Make sure your selection fits your brand positioning, in terms of growth, trust, fun, integrity, femininity/masculinity, etc. For example, consider how different the branding is between the automobile industry and the health, spa and wellness industry. And, remember that branding increases the emotional attachment from your clients.
- Identify Five Style Likes and Dislikes: Create two columns: in the first one write down what you would love to see on your logo in terms of symbols, colors, patterns, fonts, etc. In the second column describe what you dislike. Maybe you like streamlined, vintage-y, or modern logos. Maybe you are drawn to monochromatic, graduated, or bright colors. And for the typography (fonts), what about cursive-y, vintage, modern, and serif or sanserif? Include images if you have any for a better reference of your taste. In some workshops I hop into Pinterest and teach my clients how to create a Secret Pinterest board to pin without distractions. If you get to hire a professional designer in the future, he/she will appreciate your visual board!
- Create Your Brand Identity: Based on the first tip – once you have everything you have been using in the past organized in groups, it is time to focus on who you are and what message you are trying to convey to your audience and prospective customers. You can find inspiration on your business mission statement, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook page or on the "about me/us" section of your website. Also, you could answer few questions to help you draft your brand identity -- who you are, what you do, how you are different from the rest, what you promise your customers, what the special quality of your personality is, your voice and tone, and your story/background. Your brand identity is part of your mission statement. Once you have this essential step in place, you can move forward with the creative part of your brand/positioning.
- Create Your Color Palette & Typography Chart: In this section you have to wear your creative hat. Perhaps it will help you to close your eyes and imagine your ideal brand. On my blog post of “Psychology of Color” I shared multiple useful tools and apps to create a color palette. Another great resource is Design Seeds; they have hundreds of ideas – each a simple, beautiful photo with 5-6 colors pulled from the image. Pulling colors from a picture is a great inspirational tool to create your own color palette. Scroll through, search by hex color code, or browse similar colors. When picking out your own colors, Adobe’s Kuler website is a good resource. Start with one color and then you can select Color “Rules” – analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary, compound, shades – to select the rest of your colors. You can also view other users’ themes in the Explore section. In your Typography Chart, you should have around three different fonts. The first font should be what most of your content is, for example the type of font that will predominate in your business card, body content of your website, blog, etc. The second and third fonts can be found in your logo, tag line, or in graphics used around your site. Browse through Google Fonts and Font Squirrel for ideas.
Here are few examples of my favorite fonts and color palettes:
If you know a thing or two about brand style guides, mixing colors/fonts/shapes and can add something to the conversation, please leave us a comment below this article. We’re always interested in the wisdom of practicing professionals.