(guest post by Alison Knott)
So you’re starting the process of making a brand or logo for your new business. Or, you’re about to hire someone to do it for you. Congratulations! It’s now time for the daunting task of articulating whatever the hell is in your head into something concrete. Eep!
I’m here to help you help yourself. It can seem difficult to put into words how you do (and do not) want to represent your brand that doesn’t exist yet. So… how do the pros do it?
We do research and create moodboards, which are a visual collection of images, colours and graphics to illustrate a certain mood. Now, as a brand designer I use Adobe InDesign and Illustrator to put final mood boards together for my clients. But you want to know what has saved me and my clients so much time?
Having clients send along their own little Pinterest brand modeboard collection to help me get inside their head.
Yes! That thing you’ve been using to save 783 pictures of living room renos you’re never going to get around to can help you design your brand!
The goal here isn’t to have a brand set in stone, but to be an exercise in articulating visually what you want your brand to be. Think of it as a blueprint of what your brand could be, by defining some clear visual direction.
Before You Pin: Where To Start Your Research
As unique as you may feel your business will be, it does not exist in a vacuum. There’s going to be competition, assumptions about what your industry is (or is not), and bias due to the colour you use or even the font you choose.
We designers refer to these as ‘design patterns’: similar visual elements that are found when one looks at a certain topic, industry or concept. Lawyers may use corporate blues and golds to denote ‘trust and success’. Eco-companies may choose greens and natural textures to denote ‘organic’. Coaches may use their own hand signature to denote ‘approachable’.
Your job, dear reader, is to start looking out for the design patterns that exist in your industry, and figure out which ones you want to use, or completely avoid.
So, before you start pinning with no real direction, put aside three hours to look at the following kinds of business online, bookmarking their pages into a folder as you go:
- Your competition: You are going to be placed along side them, so it’s important to see what their brand looks like, what they’re doing, and what you agree and don’t agree with.
- Those you look up to: doesn’t have to be directly related to your business, but it is good to keep track of things that you are attracted to. Ultimately, you will be the best representation of your brand, so you have to like it. It’s important that you know what you naturally gravitate towards and what you can’t fake being.
- Business totally unrelated to yours: I’m serious. It’s not enough to look at those like you. My most successful brand designs have come from showing patterns I’ve found in other unrelated industries I think my clients can take a page from. I’ve compared life coaches to perfume brands, local produce companies to candy brands and mining companies to NGOs. Always reserve the right to incorporate the unexpected into your brand if it’s the right fit.
Don't just look at the homepage of a site. Take a moment to click through the main navigation, and you'll start to notice design patterns page to page. These could be graphical, textual or technical in nature:
- One site might always places an arrow to the right of any text in a link or button. This helps remind users that all interactive items will have an arrow on it, so they can spot them easily.
- Perhaps another site is light on images but makes sure to divide content up with geometric repeat patterns in the background. They are associating their brand with a certain kind of visual treatment, without the help of pictures!
- Make sure you read website content to see if there are any keywords that keep coming up that you might like to use with your own brand (and make for easy Pinterest searching). Also take note of the tone of content. Is it casual, authoritative, uses slang?
Now that you know what patterns to look for, go out and start bookmarking your collection of inspiration. Once you have that done, you can move onto the next part of this blog series.
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