Make your small business play with the big boys, part two: establishing a basic visual style & working with designers
By Karen Geier
Last week, we covered how to establish the core of your brand. This week, we’re going to cover how to interpret that visually, and how to work with designers.
There’s a reason no one shops at the butcher shop where they wear bloody aprons. It’s an unfortunate thing, but in business, looks count.
Luckily, now that you have established your brand’s essence, you can make some decisions on how best to visually represent it.
If the failed Gap re-branding exercise and refreshed Microsoft logo have taught us anything, it’s that the trend now is toward clean, minimalist logos. You might even consider for the sake of ease simply employing a logotype. A logotype is the name of the company expressed by a specific font. (Google has a logotype.)
A great way to discover a logotype for your brand is to use a site like 1001fonts.com to discover a font which expresses your brand in a visual way where you can “try them on,” and then narrow down your selections. You can even choose fonts according to a theme.
Once you’ve done this, make sure you buy and install that font. You will need to start using this on EVERYTHING, from business cards to stress balls.
Make a List
Try and do an audit of where you will need to use your logotype. This could include, but is not limited to:
- •Business cards
- •Letterhead and envelopes
- •E-mail signature
- •Listings on websites (like yelp, or gigpark)
- •Any social media avatars
When to Call a Pro
If you feel like you would like a more complicated logo, or you need consultation on larger elements like a website, twitter backdrop and email campaigns, ou might want to call a graphic designer. If you know someone, great, but if you don’t, it’s time to start asking around. If you’re really stuck, sites like behance and 4ormat are great places to find someone who you feel you can work with on your logotype.
What a Pro Can Do for You
In addition to lending their trained eye to your company and creating a visual style to represent your brand’s essence, a pro can provide you with high-quality graphics you can apply to everything, and provide you with branding guidelines to keep you visually consistent. Art Director Ryan Fox explains: “If all your material doesn’t look the same, then it doesn’t look like the brand has a singular voice. And if the brand doesn’t know what it’s saying, why the hell should a customer listen? Everything in a brand’s library, from the logo to the TV ad to the buttons on the website to the “welcome” sign on the door, MUST look and feel like it came from one person. The second you begin to fragment your voice, you fragment your message. I wouldn’t listen to anyone who didn’t sound like they knew what they were talking about.”
How to Choose a Pro
Selecting someone to take the visual reins can be daunting, but hopefully, you’ve already created a shortlist based on the above suggestions. Ask to see examples from different types of projects so you can see that artist’s signature which underlies all of their work.
Once you hire a graphic designer, your next step, according to Fox is to “gather examples of the look and feel you’re going for, but be careful not to give them so much that they just lift that look for your project. The most important thing to walk into the room with a clear and concise description of what you’re looking for.”
Communication is Key
Being upfront about what you want, not involving people outside of the principals of your company in the decision making, and listening to the advice of your graphic designer are the building blocks for really accomplishing the best work. It’s not a good idea to involve people who don’t have something to lose. Everyone has an opinion, and most of them are happy to give it without fear of the consequences.
Now that you’ve completed the first two of the three major brand pieces, you’re ready for the final one: your brand voice. We will be covering brand voice next week.
Karen Geier is the Co-Founder of Shyndyg.com. Previously she was a digital marketing executive, most recently with Ogilvy. Karen previously headed up Social Media strategy for Canadian start up Kobo, and has consulted for start ups, and fortune 500 companies.