We’ve been talking about visual branding on the blog here a bit and this week, I’m really excited to bring in Megan Duran, owner of Letterform Creative, to share how to create a cohesive brand experience. This is such an important topic because creating a cohesive brand experience is one of the most important things you can do for your business to make it memorable! And it’s something I personally struggled with on my very first blog. I really was attracted to every new thing. Which is fun (for a hobby) but not for a business.
Here’s how to create a cohesive brand experience for your lifestyle business.
How to Create a Cohesive Brand Experience
Whether you’ve invested in professional branding or not, these guidelines can be helpful in ensuring that your business always looks cohesive and professional. But first, a few things to keep in mind.
Before You Begin Branding
It’s important to take the time to define your business and your ideal client before diving into the actual design phase. This will ensure that you have a strong foundation on which to build your branding. If you skip this step your branding will be arbitrary, designed around nothing more than your personal preferences and whims. If you take the time to figure out the why of your business and who you’re talking to, your branding will accurately represent your business and attract the right audience.
To do this, consider why you are starting this business in the first place. What is the purpose of it? Come up with a handful of adjectives that describe your company’s personality. Expounding upon those adjectives, consider how you would like your business to be perceived in the marketplace.
Once you’ve done that it’s time to identify your ideal client. Define who is going to benefit from your products or services. If you’ve never created an ideal client profile before, it should include the following:
- What brands are they drawn to?
- Where do they shop?
- What kind of clothes do they wear?
All of these are going to give insight about what they are attracted to. Look for visual themes and similarities across the brands that your ideal client likes. Don’t hesitate to find these people online or in real life and ask them these questions yourself.
Creating Brand Guidelines
Now that you’ve defined your business and understand your audience, you’re finally ready to get started on the fun part! Let’s create some brand guidelines for your business. Although, branding is a vast topic, we will be sticking to three main areas: the logo, the fonts, and the color palette.
Your logo is the face of your company. It creates immediate brand recognition. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to get one! Ideally, you want to hire a professional designer to give you a custom logo that fits your company. However, if you’re not able to afford one yet, start with a pre-made one. I don’t recommend this option for long term use because they tend to be over-used and won’t represent your business perfectly. After all the hard work you’ve done in the last step, you want your logo to represent your business well and speak to the right audience. Once you have your logo, here are some basic rules of thumb when it comes to using it.
- Use your logo on all marketing material to establish brand recognition.
- Allow enough clearance space. Don’t let your logo touch or overlap other elements.
- Use it a size that is legible.
- Alter your logo if you had it designed by a professional, this includes changing the color, or adding/subtracting anything from it.
- Add effects to your logo such as a drop shadow, glow, or texture.
- Distort or stretch your logo.
- Use your logo on a busy background.
- Use your logo on a background that is too dark or light for it to be legible.
- Scale your logo up. It’s okay to scale it down, but making it larger than the original file size will result in a loss of quality. If you hired a designer, ask them for a larger size if needed.
You may also like: 3 Easy DIY Blog Design Tools
The Color Palette
When it comes to choosing a color palette, go back to the adjectives that you used to describe your brand. Consider how you can use color to represent that. Is your business serious and sophisticated? Then you might want to stick to a neutral color palette and a small splash of color. If your business is fun and playful you would obviously choose brighter colors.
I recommend keeping the color palette simple by sticking to two or three colors. There is nothing wrong with using more than that and you will see companies do it all the time, but if you’re doing your branding yourself it will be easier to use a small color palette. The more colors you introduce, the more potential there is for them to clash. It can also be hard to implement all of them consistently. Choose one or two colors that will be your primary color(s) and then another complementing color that you can use pops of here and there. Pinterest and Design Seeds are both great resources for finding color palette inspiration.
Consistent font usage is one of the most important, yet most overlooked parts of a cohesive brand. For some reason, although people know the importance of sticking to a consistent color palette, they think fonts are something to be experimented with. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are so many fonts out there and they each have a unique personality. The fonts you use are always going to convey something to your audience whether you intend them to or not.
It’s best to choose a maximum of two fonts to use for your brand. Assess the personality of the fonts (professional, playful, quirky), and make sure they match the personality of your business. Use only one font from each of the categories below, but like I said no more than two fonts total. Matching fonts can be tricky, so it’s best to keep it simple. If you use more than one font from a category, it’s unlikely that they are going to complement each other.
- Serifs – These tend to be classic, timeless, professional, and serious. A few common examples of these are Baskerville, Garamond, Didot, and Bodoni.
- Sans serifs – These feel modern and clean. Some examples of this kind are Helvetica, Futura, Gill Sans, and Gotham.
- Scripts – Because there are so many different kinds, these range from being elegant and fancy to personal and playful. Examples of some are Edwarian Script, Bombshell, and Signpainter.
- Handwritten – These can be similar to the ones above, but they are not cursive so they tend to feel personal, imperfect, playful, and quirky. A few examples are Frente, Wanderlust, Montana, and Elastica.
Once you’ve chosen your fonts it’s important that you only use those fonts for your brand. You might find it necessary to choose two different sets of fonts, one for print and one for web use. If you have a Squarespace website and they don’t have the fonts you’ve chosen, you can choose something with as similar personality to your other fonts.
Hopefully this has taken some of the overwhelm out of branding your business! Defining the purpose of your business and knowing your audience are integral to getting your branding right. Once you have your branding in place consistency is key. If you need a quick checklist to help you through this process, download my free one!
Megan Hampson founded Letterform Creative in 2015 to focus on the kinds of projects she loves. She’s passionate about branding and web design for small business owners in the fashion, food, health, and creative industries. As a small business owner, she loves the opportunity to empower fellow entrepreneurs. The lasting friendships she builds with clients is by far her favorite part of the job.
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