Happy Tuesday, all!
Since the launch last Saturday I have been reflecting on the time and steps it has taken me to reach the goal of having a brand identity, a growing body of work, and a site to call my own. Having a simple plan and sticking to it enabled me to reach each of those goals so I’d like to take some time to dissect what went into the steps of my plan.
There are certainly different approaches to the list I’m about to break down, so by all means, customize and let it work for you! No restrictions here, just thorough suggestions.
This is the simplified plan that I followed:
1. Focus the direction
2. Identify brand values
3. Select an appropriate name
4. Determine the brand aesthetic
5. Create an appropriate logo
Notice these steps are active planning. Dreams and goals are just fine, but they don’t grow on their own.
Step one: Focus the direction
This means paring down the hats you wear and showcase. Promoting 20 different “specialties” on your site can make guests feel stressed and confused. Regardless of your skill, we are not inclined to believe you are truly able to give 100% of your talent to each specialty. In contrast, team-run brands are more suited to appropriately handle additional specialties. As an individual, trying to showcase all your interests will dilute the potency of your brand. If you need to, make a separate site.
How this first step affected my brand:
Personally, this was a huge decision. Since my training was first in traditional fine art (oil painting), why wouldn’t my site be promoting those pieces? If I was to do anything different it felt like I was throwing my college years of learning away. I had yet to understand that what I was learning for my MFA in design was simply enhancing the traditional approaches, not masking them. So I had a choice. Fine artist? Designer? Both? Unfortunately, I couldn’t shake the thought that I needed both. Much time was wasted dreaming up terrible concepts to showcase both sides on one site. Perhaps I’ll share what some were at another time. However, as soon as I made the decision to focus my brand direction, things started falling into place.
Step two: Brand values
Spend some time writing down what matters to you. Some keywords to get you thinking: trust, value, sustainability, quality, dependability, integrity, and so on. Make a list of the values that you see in businesses you favor and how those translate to what you offer. Once you have a list, condense it down to the top 3 or 4. You will be keeping those in mind throughout the entire process.
Step three: Selecting an appropriate name
Finding the right name for your brand can be tough. For me, this process took an entire year. Perhaps it was due to my perfectionist tendencies, being unsatisfied with every idea, but I do know the extent of that time saved me from making some terrible choices. I have a sketchbook almost half full of just potential names. In most cases, writing them out repeatedly helped me identify what would and wouldn’t work.
For some, choosing a name may not take you as long as a year, so one piece of advice is not to settle on anything within the same week. If you thought of a name you like, wait a week. If you still like it, put it on a list and check those names again in another week. This is a good process to keep the wrong choices at bay.
At this point, business and marketing minded individuals may advise not to get hung up on picking the name and just focus on building that business model. However, creatives typically have different priorities than those with business mindsets. With that said, I am not discrediting either position. I just know it worked best for me to methodically work though each of these steps in a set order.
Step four: Visual aesthetic
Once you have chosen the right name, it is a good time to think about an appropriate palette and other incorporated elements. Most likely, you have some ideas in mind so check those colors against your brand values. Remember, color can speak subconsciously about your brand. When testing colors, stay fresh and relevant but be careful not to use heavily trending pairs.
Step five: Creating an appropriate logo
This step could easily be its own topic but I’ll save that extra content for another time. We’ll cover the basics for now. When creating a logo for your brand those 3 or 4 values must be in mind. And here is the key: Designing on preference is not what makes your logo work. You may be fortunate to have color choices or other elements align with what is best for your brand as well as your personal taste, but that is not the priority. Ensuring that the brand communicates clearly is the goal. If that means a simpler, more refined font choice is best, then you need to leave your favorite decorative fonts alone.
Lastly, for those who may not have the creative background or training to craft their own logo, I urge you to find a professional that aligns with your values. Spending $20 on a logo is doing nothing but damage to your brand as work of that nature becomes apparent even to the average consumer. A logo should be an investment in your hard work.
Well, that about sums it all up. Having reached the end of this particular tunnel, I wanted to share exactly what it took me to get there. I know this was a fair amount of content and there are other ways to approach these steps so customize and use these suggestions as they suit your situation. Just remember, each of these steps requires hard decisions and constant reevaluation. It doesn’t happen overnight and that is a good thing! You just have to start with a plan and stick to it.
If you found these suggestions helpful or if you have a story to share, just comment below -- I'd love to hear!