Is Your Visual Brand Complete? 5 Core Brand Elements to Lock Down

Is Your Visual Brand Complete? 5 Core Brand Elements to Lock Down

Having a strong and cohesive visual brand can help your business gain a bigger audience and more clients.

 

On the flip side, a business with no consistent branding can give off an unprofessional feel and make it difficult to build recognition and trust with people.

 

So you want to create a distinctive and profitable brand for your business – but if you don’t have any formal experience in the branding industry, it can be hard to know exactly what you need to have in place in order to create a cohesive brand.

 

 

 

 

 

With each of my brand design clients, we work through a detailed process to make sure we develop all of the essential visual brand elements. In this blog post, I’ll list each of those elements and explain why it’s essential to your brand’s success.

 

As you read through the post, jot down notes about which elements you have squared away, and which elements you still need to develop (or improve on) for your brand.

 

#1 – Logo suite

 

 

The logo is the most obvious and well-known element of a visual brand. It’s one of your biggest tools when it comes to building brand recognition because it’s a succinct, easy-to-remember icon that people can learn to recognize quickly.

 

In addition to your primary logo, you may also have an alternate and abbreviated logo (or sub logo). Having these alternate logo versions allows you to adapt to the application your logo is being used with. For example, if your primary logo is tall, you may need a horizontal version to fit nicely in the header of a website.

 

 

#2 – Brand Color Palette

 

Color is a powerful way to communicate emotions and ideas. It can be used to trigger specific associations and actions in your audience and is a very important element of your overall brand identity.

 

Choosing the right colors can help you reinforce your brand’s key attributes and help set the overall tone.

 

When designing a color palette, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some color psychology so you understand how colors generally affect emotion and action.

 

 

 

#3 – Brand Typeface / Fonts

 

Consistency is key to a strong and recognizable brand – and even the small details like the fonts you use on your website and marketing materials can play a big role.

 

Choose the fonts you will use in your branding and make sure to stick to them anywhere you use type. Choose a web-friendly font to make it easy to stay consistent on your website.

 

Also, note that sticking to just a couple typefaces is best. For my branding clients, I generally select a typeface for headlines and a typeface for body text (sometimes I stick to just one typeface and use different font weights within that typeface to add variety).

 

 

#4 – Brand Photography

 

 

Not every brand relies heavily on photography, but images do play a major role for most businesses. If you aren’t using photography in your branding, then you’re likely using another type of imagery (like illustrations or digital drawings).

 

Being consistent in the photography/images you use is just as important as staying consistent with your colors, fonts, and logo.

 

Even if you don’t have the budget to have custom brand photography taken for your business, you should set guidelines that you will use when sourcing free or affordable stock photography (or taking photos yourself).

 

Will you always have bright, natural lighting in your photos, or will they be darker and moodier? Are your photos natural and candid looking, or curated and styled?

 

 

#5 – Brand Style Guidelines

 

 

This is the part of creating a fully developed brand identity that often gets overlooked. Once you have the major elements in place – like your logo, colors, typefaces, and photography – it’s easy to put your new brand elements in place and neglect this last, important step.

 

A brand style guide will include instructions on how to put your new brand out in the world and include “rules” that help your new brand elements appear consistent and polished.

 

These guidelines vary from brand to brand, but here are a few examples:

 

  • Are there specific visual accents you use throughout your branding? For example, will you place a solid bar of color across the bottom of printed documents, webinar slides, website pages, and social media images? Will you always leave a certain amount of white space around your logo?

 

  • Will your logo appear in different colors depending on the background? How about when it appears over a photo?

 

  • What style guidelines will you use for icons and graphics? Do they look hand drawn or precise? Are they rounded or squared? Do illustrations use thin lines or thick lines?

 

Taking the time to define these guidelines will give your brand an extremely polished, professional feel. Without these rules in place, a brand can easily drift and become inconsistent. Take the time to create your own Brand Style Guide and refer to it anytime you create something new for your business.

 


 

How did your brand do? Do you have each of these 5 elements set up for your business? If you’d like more free advice on how to polish your brand and make it even more irresistible, grab a free copy of the guide 7 Secrets to a Profitable Brand and Website here.

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call - 616.821.7244  |  email - sonja@jobsonstudios.com  |  follow along - @sonjajobson 
Grand Rapids, MI

          

The One Concept Design Process

The One Concept Design Process

There’s a common practice in the brand design industry that goes something like this:

 

  1. The designer brainstorms dozens of logo concepts, then submits a handful of them to the client.

 

  1. The client gets saddled with the task of choosing the best one for their business and the project moves forward with that logo concept.

 

When I first started designing brand identities, I approached projects like this, too. I would show my clients three or four different logos at the beginning of each brand design project and ask them to choose which one they wanted to use.

 

But after a while, I began to recognize patterns in the project workflow that didn’t sit right with me. Presenting several logo concepts to clients during branding projects was causing more harm than good.

 

 

 

 

 

First of all, my clients were feeling overwhelmed.

 

And why wouldn’t they be? Choosing such a central piece of your brand identity is a huge task with lots of things to consider. Which concept will appeal the strongest to the intended target audience? Which one incorporates the strongest design principles? Which one conveys the right ideas and emotions?

 

It’s fun to see your business come to life through design, and my clients were always excited to receive their logo concepts to review. But after the initial fun of looking over the new designs, I noticed that my clients often felt overwhelmed by the task of picking the perfect logo from the batch.

 

There was always one best concept

 

Without fail, every time I delivered a batch of logo concepts to a client, I knew which one was the strongest.

 

The other concepts were well-designed contenders, but I knew which brand identity would best serve the client’s goals and target audience. By layering in additional options for the sake of variety, I was hiding that expertise and making the decision process harder for my client.

 

And finally, my client’s were slipping into subjective mode

 

Choosing a logo and creating a visual brand identity is all about strategy, not personal preference. You want your logo and brand to appeal to your target audience first and foremost, which isn’t always the same thing that will appeal to you personally.

 

My clients had hired me to do the work of designing something that would help them make more money and attract the right people. So they naturally (and rightly) assumed that the strategy work had been taken care of and when presented with multiple logo concepts to choose from, simply chose whichever one they liked best personally.

 

Enter: the one concept brand design process

 

It was around this time that I began hearing about a one-concept design approach.

 

Instead of creating multiple possible brand identities and handing it off to your client to choose, the one concept approach meant you present one solution that best fits your client’s business and the problems they’re trying to solve.

 

At first, I was worried clients would feel restricted by this approach – after all, doesn’t everyone want choices?

 

But after implementing this in my own business, I (and my clients) found the opposite to be true. Instead of restricting options, I was able to refine the design process to deliver the most effective solutions, cutting out the confusion and analysis paralysis that my clients shouldn’t have to wade through.

 

 

Here’s exactly how I put the one concept brand design process to work in my business

 

Step One – strategy

 

The one concept design process (or any brand design process for that matter) would fall short if it wasn’t built on strategy.

 

Creating a visual brand identity isn’t just about looking good – it’s about communicating the right ideas to the right audience.

The strategy work I go through with my clients allows us to define our goals and direction for the project so that the resulting brand identity will be effective.

 

The strategy phase includes a detailed client questionnaire, a visual inspiration exercise, and live collaboration.

 

Step 2 – brainstorming & sketching

 

After my client and I complete our strategy work and have a clear direction and goal for our project, I start brainstorming the brand identity and logo concepts.

 

I always spend time sketching dozens of logo concepts and exploring different approaches before I begin any digital design work.

 

Once I’ve narrowed in on the strongest design concepts, I’ll move those into the next phase of the process.

 

Step 3 – designing the digital concepts

 

Next, I take the strongest concepts from the brainstorming & sketching phase and begin to design them digitally.

 

I continue to refine the designs, identifying the strongest components of each and bringing those together until I have one complete brand identity concept that is in line with our strategy and creative direction.

 

Step 4 – presenting the brand identity system

 

I love to show my clients their new brand identity in context so that they can imagine how it will look and function in real-life situations.

 

Before presenting the brand identity concept to my client, I create a mock up displaying their new logo and supporting elements on business cards, stationery, packaging, signage, web graphics, or other applications that make sense for their specific business.

 

I also include the entire brand identity system when presenting it to the client for the first time (as opposed to only showing the primary logo first, and developing the other elements later).

 

I display the primary logo, alternate logo, and brand mark. I also include color and type combinations, brand patterns and illustrations/icons.

 

This way, my client can see how all the elements will work together as a cohesive brand, and how their potential clients will experience it as well.

 

Step 5 – refinement

 

The one concept design process and detailed strategy work I go through with my clients means that the visual brand identity I design for them will be in close alignment with their goals. In most cases, no changes need to be made to the brand identity system I present my clients.

 

However, I’m committed to working with my clients until they are completely satisfied, so a refinement stage is available at this point in the process. If something isn’t just right, we’ll discuss what isn’t working, and what changes they would like to make.

 

To make sure our project stays in line with my client’s goals, I always compare the requested changes to the creative brief and discuss how the changes align with my client’s audience.

 

The results of a one-concept design process

 

In the end, the one concept design process serves my clients well by putting the focus of our work back on creating a solution that will help their business grow, and not just picking out nice colors and fonts.

 

The process is streamlined and clear, so my clients know I’m working to create the very best designs for their business, and they aren’t burdened with the task of sorting through multiple potential brand directions.

 

This process allows for more effective communication, less busy-work, and stronger results.
If you’d like to see some brand identities designed through this process, you can browse through the Jobson Studios portfolio.

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call - 616.821.7244  |  email - sonja@jobsonstudios.com  |  follow along - @sonjajobson 
Grand Rapids, MI

          

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Rebranding

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Rebranding

How do you know when it’s time to reband your business?

I have to admit – as a graphic designer, I’m tempted to “update” the brand & website design for Jobson Studios all the time. I’ll learn a new technique or read an inspiring design blog and I’m suddenly eager to give my business a whole new look.

But new isn’t always good.

 

 

 

 

Rebranding your business is a huge undertaking with real consequences. Often, those consequences are positive ones. But if your business isn’t ready for a rebrand, the consequences can be harmful.

So how do you know if rebranding your business will have a positive or negative effect?

After working with many small business owners to rebrand their companies, here’s my reliable list of questions to ask yourself before rebranding. Your answers to these questions will give you a clear idea on whether you should jump into the branding process or stick with what you’ve got.

For each of the following questions, jot down your answer of true or false:

True or False: You’re inspired to rebrand your business based on a current trend.

A new trend in branding and design often sparks the idea for a rebrand. While remaining modern and relevant in your branding is important, it’s almost always a bad idea to rebrand based on a flashy new trend that has caught your eye (or swept your industry).

Why? Because, by their very nature, trends fade. A brand should be built on unique, lasting attributes that help your company stand out in the marketplace and become memorable for something.

A brand that is designed to conform to a trend is anything but memorable – it just blends in with the rest of the trendy crowd.

Rebranding your business to fulfill a trend also sets you up for the need to rebrand again once the trend is no longer popular (which equals more time, energy, and money spent).

If you decide to rebrand your business, you should do so with the goal of creating something unique, memorable, and long-lasting.

True or False: Your current brand appeals strongly to your ideal audience.

A major role your branding fills is attracting your ideal audience.

A good brand is designed to appeal to a very specific set of people – not the general population. This allows you to become memorable and distinct in your industry and bring in more of the right type of customer.

If your current branding isn’t appealing strongly to your ideal audience (either because it wasn’t designed for that purpose in the first place or because your ideal audience has changed), that’s a very good reason to rebrand.

If, on the other hand, your current brand already appeals to your ideal audience and helps you bring in more of your best clients or customers, your current branding might be worth sticking with.

True or False: Your current brand reflects the quality of your business.

Another important job your branding will do is help you demonstrate the quality of your business instantaneously.

This one’s pretty simple: when we see cheap design and marketing, we quickly associate that level of quality with the business using it.

So if you’re running a successful, quality business but using low-quality, cheap-looking marketing and design elements, you’re missing an important opportunity to convey your quality to potential customers.

There’s nothing wrong with working within your budget and using affordable resources for branding, website design, and marketing (or doing it yourself) while your business is growing. But if you’ve reached a new level of growth in your business but haven’t yet updated your branding there may be a big gap in the quality your prospects perceive of your business and the actual quality you deliver.

True or False: You haven’t made any changes to your business model, offerings, or direction.

Another big (and smart) reason for rebranding is after a change has been made to your business model, offers, or general direction.

If you’ve made shifts – like offering a new type of product or service, focusing on a new audience, or working toward a new business goal – there’s a good chance your current branding will no longer be as effective or relevant.

On the flip side, if none of these major components have changed, you should ask yourself why you feel your brand is no longer effective before jumping into a rebranding project.

True or False: Your current branding & website feels modern, streamlined, and meets your prospect’s needs.

A good brand is designed to last, but even the best branding can become outdated and need a refresh.

Regardless of its style, your branding should be modern (in its user experience and application), streamlined (implemented cohesively across all of your business and marketing platforms), and meet your prospect’s and customer’s needs (which can change over time).

If you feel your branding has grown outdated in any of these ways, a rebrand (or a brand “refresh”) is a smart move.

Time to evaluate:

If most of your answers were “true”, a rebrand is probably not the right move for you and your business right now. By answering “true” to all or most of the above questions, you’ve confirmed that your motivation for rebranding might harm your business more than help and/or your current brand is already performing its most important tasks well.

If you answered “false” to all or most of the above questions, rebranding your business would be very beneficial. Unlike your current branding, your new brand designs should be focused on appealing to your unique target audience, instantly conveying your value, staying in line with your business goals and offerings, and appearing modern, easy to use, and relevant to your market.

If you don’t feel clear on the answers you got from this quiz, leave your results below in the comments section and I’ll weigh in with my opinion on your unique situation.

          

call - 616.821.7244  |  email - sonja@jobsonstudios.com  |  follow along - @sonjajobson 
Grand Rapids, MI

How to Ensure a Successful Project with Your Brand Designer

How to Ensure a Successful Project with Your Brand Designer

If you’ve never worked with a graphic designer before – or you’ve had a poor experience with a graphic designer in the past – you may feel apprehensive about jumping into your new brand design project.

If you’re sorting through questions like the ones below, you’re not alone:

How will I get my ideas and vision across to my designer?

What if I hate what my designer comes up with?

What can I expect as far as communication and project organization?

How do I know if I’m ready to bring a designer on for my branding?

 

 

 

 

Designing a brand and website for your business is a big deal. It will have a first and lasting impression on your prospects, and a good brand will help you gain traction in your industry, appeal to your ideal clients, convey value, book business, and charge higher rates.

With so much riding on the creation of your new brand identity, it’s important that you team up with the right designer to help you bring it to life.

During my time in the industry, I’ve come across business owners suffering from bad design experiences due to poor communication between the designer and client, unclear expectations, inadequate preparation and discovery, and less than ideal design results.

To help you combat these unfortunate scenarios and help you ensure that your project is a productive & successful one, here are my solutions to 4 common design project hang-ups.

Working with a designer before you are ready

A sure-fire way to have a disastrous experience is to jump into a full-on brand design without being prepared.

A good designer should be equipped to help you refine your ideas, gather inspiration, and map out a design strategy, but there are some business fundamentals that you need to have in place first.

You’ll need to know who you want to attract with your new brand (aka your ideal clients).

You’ll also need to know the core attributes that make your business unique. If you don’t have a clear idea on how you want your brand to make your audience feel or what your new brand should inspire in people, then you’ll have a hard time communicating to your designer the results you’re looking for.

In my Brand Workbook that each of my clients fill out at the start of a new project, I ask questions like these:

Q: Tell me about your dream (ideal) client/customer in as much detail as you can

Q: What are the biggest problems your clients/customers face?

Q: How do you help your clients solve those problems?

Q: List 3-5 words that define the core values/style of your company

Q: What differentiates you from others in your field?

Q: How would you describe the “tone” or personality of your brand? (Is it friendly and casual, serious, enthusiastic, humorous, etc.?)

Knowing how to answer these questions for your business is an important step to take before translating everything into a visual brand identity.

Your ideas and vision get lost in translation

A big fear business owners have when approaching a project with a designer is that they won’t be able to convey their ideas clearly, resulting in brand design that doesn’t line up with their vision.

This is a valid concern because communicating ideas – especially visual ideas – from one person to another can be tricky.

There are two important things you should do to ensure that this isn’t the case with your design project. And that, instead, you and your designer collaborate to execute your ideas with skill and strategy.

The first way to guard against misunderstood vision is to make sure you are super clear on your business foundation, the purpose behind your brand, and the type of clients you want to attract (discussed in the first section of this post).

Having these fundamental things in place prior to your design project will allow you to communicate your needs to your designer with confidence.

The second step is to choose a designer that demonstrates a clear and strategic process for understanding your business, collecting your ideas, and formulating a collaborative strategy prior to completing any actual design work.

This “discovery” stage is critical to a meaningful, successful design project, and you should make sure your designer is experienced in executing it.

Things to look for in your designer’s approach:

1 – Do they give their clients “homework” or assignments to get to know their business and goals?

For example: here at Jobson Studios, each of my brand design clients complete an in-depth brand workbook/questionnaire and a visual Pinterest inspiration board exercise before our project begins. These two pieces of prep-work give me, as a designer, an immersive look into my client’s business.

From the workbook, I’ll learn what problems they solve with their product/service, what type of client they want to work with, what makes their business unique in the industry, how they want people to feel when they interact with their business, and their goals for the coming years (among other things).

From their Pinterest inspiration board, I’ll get an inside look into the aesthetic feel they envision for their brand and what they are attracted to visually (which can often be hard to communicate through words alone).

2 – Do they demonstrate reason and strategy behind their design choices?

If you can connect the dots between an overall strategy and the designer’s visual choices (either from a detailed portfolio or a by asking questions directly), you can get a good feel for how much emphasis they put on the discovery phase and lining up a design with their client’s business strategy.

Poor client/designer communication

I often hear from business owners who’ve had a poor designer experience in the past that one of the biggest issues was inconsistent communication.

While every designer will have their own unique workflow and project structure, I firmly believe that reliable communication should be a staple of it.

If you’ve worked with a non-communicative designer in the past or are working through that type of situation now, here are a few good ways to ensure better communication moving forward.

1 – Test out the communication situation before hiring a designer

Before you sign a contract, you should be able to get a feel for a designer’s approach to communication. Take some time to develop a conversation with a potential design and evaluate the process objectively.

Did the designer reach out promptly after your initial inquiry, or did it take a long time to hear back?

Did the designer have a process in place for learning more about your project and answering your questions? Different designers will communicate in different ways, but it’s a good sign if he or she offers to set up a consultation call or meeting with you, or at the very least offers prompt and helpful email communication right from the start.

2 – Inquire about the design process ahead of time, including milestones

Also before signing a design contract, do a little research on the project schedule or workflow. Ask about the overall project timeframe, when different phases of the project will be completed, what you’ll need to provide and by what date, and how often you can expect updates and/or proofs.

If a designer can provide you with a project timeline and expectations, that’s a great sign that communication will be on track as well.

3 – Ask to set deadlines when communication is lacking

If you’ve found yourself in a design project that lacks good communication, reach out to your designer and try to set up expectations that will work for both of you.

Ask if you can begin receiving (reasonable) updates. Keep in mind that design work can be a long and immersive process and chunks of time may pass without any concrete progress to report. Talk with your designer to set up timeframes for updates that make sense for both of you.

Also ask if you can set up deadlines for when the project, or phases of the project, will be completed. That way, you’ll have a date in mind for when to expect communication and won’t feel like you’re in the dark in the meantime.

It can be deflating and frustrating to receive your new design proofs and really dislike them.

You’ve poured a lot of time, energy, excitement, and money into your new brand design and you want to be blown away by the results.

Whether this has happened to you in the past or you want to prevent it happening in an upcoming design project, here are 4 ways to nix this disappointing outcome.

1 – Follow the advice in the 3 sections above. If you are well prepared to commission your new branding, find a designer with a strategic discovery and inspiration process (and a great portfolio to back it up), and work with someone who is skilled at communicating during your project, your risk of ending up with sub-par design work is slim.

2 – Remember that your new designs are a reflection of your business goals and your ideal clients – not just your personal preferences. Often as a small business owner, your business is a close reflection of yourself. Because of this, your personal design preferences may be prominent. But it’s important to remember that your designer is working toward a strategic visual brand that appeals – first and foremost – to your ideal clients. You may have to let go of some personal preferences in order to look at your designs objectively.

3 – Ask questions about the strategy behind the design. If you’ve hired an experienced designer, make sure to consider their expertise before deeming a design a failure. There might be very intentional choices behind the way something is designed. Ask to hear the strategy behind each design element, and then decide if it lines up with your project brief and your brand goals. Remember that design can often feel very personal and compulsive. If you’re not sure if you like the designs your receive, try to take a more objective look before making your final decision.

4 – Know your designer’s revision policy up front. Even when working with a great designer and going through a strategic discovery phase, things don’t always come out perfect the first time. Before signing a contract on a design project, make sure you understand your designer’s revision policy. Will you receive the option to revise each major component? If yes, how many revisions and what are the parameters? If you receive a design proof that you don’t like, take a few minutes to pinpoint what feels off. Sometimes a small detail can be the culprit. Sometimes it is a matter of a font or a color that doesn’t sit right. Provide specific feedback to your designer, and let them know what changes you would like to see.

Preparation is key when it comes to setting yourself up for a successful brand design project.

By prepping your business ahead of time and connecting with a designer who has a great portfolio and a strategic, professional workflow, you’ll be set up for an enjoyable and beneficial branding experience.

          

call - 616.821.7244  |  email - sonja@jobsonstudios.com  |  follow along - @sonjajobson 
Grand Rapids, MI

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