An Inside Look at Our Branding & Design Process

by | Dec 18, 2017





* We’ve written an updated post about our brand & website design process and packages here! 

We view collaboration with our clients as one of the most important aspects of the branding work we do, and we couldn’t spark or lead productive collaboration without the help of our finely tuned process.




And even if you’re not collaborating with anyone else (i.e. you’re working on branding your own business by yourself) there’s still a collaboration that needs to take place between the experience of being the business owner and the task of defining your brand.




So today we’re laying out our branding process step-by-step so that as a prospective client, a perspective do-it-yourselfer, or even a fellow branding professional, you can equip yourself with a branding process that produces great results for your business.




Phase 1 – Onboarding + Brand Strategy


Our onboarding process for clients doesn’t take much time, but it’s a crucial step in setting up a project for success. After a prospective client reaches out, we hold a consultation call to learn more about their project and answer their questions, and then provide a project proposal and quote. If the client decides to move forward, we simple system for completing a project contract + deposit invoice entirely online (no printing, signing, and scanning required!)

Once a project is booked, we send a detailed welcome guide that explains the process for our entire project, including a timeline for each phase and a concrete launch date so you can plan accordingly.

Then, we move on to strategy!


No doubt about it – brand strategy is the most important step in our branding process. We’re all eager to design an incredible logo and website and see the brand come to life visually, but all of the essential groundwork happens during Phase One: Strategy.


Without dedicating time upfront to mapping out a brand strategy, the visual components of your brand – like your logo – wouldn’t be very effective.


Our brand strategy phase consists of the following steps to help our client’s get crystal clear on their goals and brand direction:



Step One: The Workbook

As soon as a project is booked, we send off a customized digital workbook for our client to begin using as a brainstorming and organizing tool for all things branding. This workbook takes a detailed look at things like: business goals (short term + long term), ideal client, unique point of view, brand mission, core values, differentiation, tone of voice, and more. This workbook compiles all of the details needed to create a clear + profitable brand strategy.


Step Two: Visual Brainstorm

While the workbook is ideal for communicating the ideas that will shape your brand strategy, communicating visual preferences and concepts can be hard to do with words. That’s why we dedicate a portion of the strategy phase to collecting visual inspiration and discussing the strategy and purpose behind it.

We typically use Pinterest for this step because it makes it incredibly easy to search for and save images. Our clients explore and compile inspiration for color, photography style, mood, branding & web elements, and more. This exercise ensures were on the same page with visual direction before diving into design – and also gives us the opportunity to discuss aesthetic preferences with our clients and ensure that the visual choices we make during the process are in line with their brand strategy, and not simply a reaction based on their personal style.


Step Three: Strategy Call

Once our clients have completed their prep-work, we hold an in-depth strategy meeting to review the workbook and visual brainstorm board and put all the pieces together. For local clients, we love holding these strategies meetings in-person, but also make use of video conferencing software to hold collaborative meetings with clients around the world. We leave the strategy session with a clear plan for the project and a comprehensive understanding of our client’s brand strategy, goals, and audience.




Phase Two – Visual Brand Identity Design



With a strategy in place, we move into phase two: designing the visual brand identity.


We start by sketching – it’s the easiest and fastest way to get a bunch of ideas laid out and experiment with how to best represent the brand visually.



We end up with dozens of sketches and the next step is picking out the strongest concepts to refine. The winners get redrawn in more detail and tweaked until it’s ready to be recreated digitally.


Along with the logo system, we create a brand color palette, choose typography, and design supporting visual brand elements like patterns, illustrations, and icons.


Once the best brand identity concept has been designed and revised, we put together a brand proof for our client to review.


We utilize the One Concept branding process to make this phase more streamlined and impactful for our clients, so the brand proof includes just one fully developed brand identity for review.


We lay out the logo system (primary logo, alternate logo layout, abbreviated logo or brand mark), brand color palette, typography selections, patterns/icons/illustrations, and brand mockups (like letterhead, signage, or packaging) so it’s easy to visualize the brand concept in real life.


We also include descriptions of the process we went through to land on the brand identity concept, how it lines up with the overall brand strategy, and why we made certain creative decisions.


Our detailed Brand Proof allows you to consider a brand identity in full context – how it will line up with your business goals, how it will appeal to your audience, and how it will strengthen your brand – instead of just placing you in the position to decide if you “like it” or “don’t like it”.


Because of the in-depth strategy work we do at the start of each project, most brand proofs are approved with little or no changes. However, we offer our clients the option to “reset” and explore a new brand identity concept if, for some reason, the first one missed the mark.




Phase 3 – Brand Content & Collateral



We offer an all-inclusive branding experience, which includes things like the content you’ll put on your website and the photographs you’ll use in your marketing.


If you choose to work with our copywriter and/or photographer during your branding project, this will be the time when you begin reviewing the content they’ve created for your brand.


We’ll go over website content and images and explain how they support your brand message and direction. You’ll also be able to request edits on your copy at this point if any are needed.


During phase three, we also design your brand collateral (e.g business cards, letterhead, PDFs, social media graphics, etc.).


We think of brand collateral as brand experience pieces – these are the elements that you’ll use throughout your marketing and customer relationship to reinforce your brand, create consistency, and build trust


We help each of our clients strategize their marketing and customer relationship workflow to identify the most useful collateral pieces.


The collateral pieces we design range from standard things like business cards and stationery, to sales-funnel elements like opt-in landing pages and lead magnet PDF design, to fun and unique items like brand stickers, packaging, menus, and guides.



Phase 4 – Website Design


And then, finally, it’s time to launch the new brand identity online by designing a custom, conversion-focused website.

All the work we do together up until this point is combined into a beautiful, experiential digital home for your business.

We design most of our client’s website on WordPress using the Divi page builder. This combination gives us the perfect mix of full design control (to create truly unique websites) and ease-of-use (so we can hand websites off to our clients to use, update, and love without the stress of confusing technology).


But before we dig into the design and development of the website, we map out a strategy for it. 

We pinpoint the big picture goals (like getting subscribers for your email list or generating new leads for your service) and then work backward to identify the steps a website visitor needs to take to land on that desired action. We map out a flow for the website to make sure that visitors never get lost, stuck, or abandoned.


With the strategy in hand, we begin building the site, testing, and tweaking. When things are looking good, we send it off to our client to review, and then work through any revisions.


With the website polished and ready for the world to see in time for their pre-scheduled Launch Day, we take care of the details to take the site live and then help them celebrate!


We stick around for 2 weeks of dedicated tech and follow-up assistance, during which we’re not only readily available to answer your questions and help troubleshoot, but we’ll also be checking in on your website ourselves to make sure everything is running smoothly.


Want even more behind-the-scenes details from our brand design studio? Follow along with us on Instagram where we post previews of branding projects, design inspiration, and day-to-day happenings of running a small business.


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Our Grand Rapids, MI design studio works with service-based business owners locally and all over the country to create original & profitable brands and websites. We'd love to talk with you about your project - learn more about our packages and inquiry about your project by clicking the button below!

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