Don’t spend a lot of money on branding when you’re first starting out.
That’s right. I said it. And I’m a branding designer who helps businesses make large, strategic investments in branding.
But it’s different when you’re just starting out. Your short-term goal should be to have a brand that will be a starting point—and it’s probably not the time to invest thousands of dollars because 1) you most likely don’t have the revenue to justify that kind of investment and 2) you don’t necessarily know enough about your business to create a brand/logo that is strategic instead of rushed.
My advice: Stay lean until you get some traction with your business.
With a smart approach to do-it-yourself branding, you can lay a solid foundation that you can evolve from. And today I’m going to tell you how. But first…
Clients and prospects alike often tell me that they are sick of looking at their brand. They complain that everything looks the same. All of their printed collateral, their web site and corresponding PDF downloads, their social media graphics, etc… ALL LOOK THE SAME! They are frankly bored with their brand identity, and want to change it up due to some perceived notion that everyone else is getting bored with it too.
Here’s the thing: If you are sick and tired of looking at your brand, then you are doing it right.
So, you are ready to move forward on that big project (brand identity, annual report, website, ad campaign, etc.) yet you are not sure where to begin. You tell your designer what you want and he goes forth and designs it with little to no information. The problem is that he doesn’t have a shred of information that will help him create something that is going to be effective, if at all usable or suitable for your audience. He won’t know what resources to use because he doesn’t know your budget. He doesn’t know whom you are targeting so it’s a shot in the dark to create something that will be effective for that specific market. That’s where a creative brief comes in.
Back when I officially started my company (2005), I needed a website. So, I set up a quick landing page for my company and stated that because I was too busy with my clients’ work, I didn’t have a fully functioning website. I figured visitors would think I was so busy and successful that I didn’t have the time to create a proper website, and they would flock to work with me because I was so busy. You know the saying… “the cobblers children have no shoes”, right? WRONG!
The truth is—not only was I lying to my potential clients—I was lying to myself.
Almost every business uses images to promote their brand. Either in a blog post, a website, or any printed collateral.
It can bring life and context to a project. It can emote a certain feeling or memory. It can help you connect with your audience. Imagery is powerful for sure! In fact, the image above is licensed from a stock agency, with a little added manipulation by me.
Many businesses find images online via Google search, and others, and use them at will. But here’s the thing. Contrary to what many believe, just because you find an image on the Internet, it doesn’t mean it is free to use! Repeat that last sentence and remember it because it can potentially save you thousands of dollars and legal headaches.
A logo design contest site is basically an online marketplace where people or businesses looking to have a logo designed, post the project/contest to the site along with some requirements and prize dollar amount—usually miniscule. The members, usually consisting of thousands of designers, proceed to design potentially hundreds of options for the contest holder to choose from, typically by a specified due date. The contest holder then either chooses a logo and “rewards” the winner with the prize, or decides there is no winner and the project is reposted for more designs until he gets one that he likes. That’s it in a nutshell.
Sounds like a great deal…hundreds of design options to choose from and only a few bucks, right? Not so fast!
The dictionary defines art as “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture.” It then defines Design as “A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made.”
Kind of vague, huh? Well to put it simply, art isn’t always design and some design can be art. Still vague? Well it inherently is. There is definitely some gray area between the two.
As a designer, I am often wanting to use alternative methods for printing, or special papers, inks, or die cuts for a particular project. Early in my career, I would design to my heart’s content only to discover that after the fact, the client didn’t budget for such a piece. So I would have to go back and retool the design to fit the print and production specifications to fall in line with their budget. This not only applies to Print. It can apply to new media depending on what technology is used to deliver your content. Either way, it is a mistake that I don’t make any more.
The reason I don’t make that mistake anymore is that I always ask what the client’s budget is. Most of the time they tell me outright. Sometimes, I get the feeling that some clients think that I am trying to squeeze additional money out of them, but the reality is that I need to know the budget in order to move forward with any kind of success. Much like any other significant purchase you make in this world, you tend to budget for it—even informally. For instance, when you go to buy a new or used car, you know how much money you have to put down—and you know how much money you can afford for monthly payments. After you do the math, you are left with what your budget is. The same goes for house shopping, etc., and the same should go for any business purchase you make—including your brand identity and any marketing collateral.
You may have designed your logo yourself in PowerPoint or used an online logo site to have your design created. Or, you may have even had a professional Identity designer create your logo/identity for you (kudos to you). While I am not a big fan of the first 2 options, the reality is that however you get your logo/identity made, it is often up to you to make sure it is used properly and I find a lot of businesses fail at that.
Even if your logo/identity is sub par, by implementing some of these tips, you can most definitely improve upon what you have and how it is perceived. See how many of these tips you already implement. The more you can check “yes” to, the better chances are your identity will be more successful.
Contrary to popular belief, your logo is NOT your brand. It is however a visual representation of what your company or business represents—their values, their positioning and the experience they deliver to their customer. The logo is an identifier that reminds people what the brand is. The brand is what keeps people coming back for more because of the experience it provides. The logo/identity is only one facet of the brand, and the identity has many facets in and of itself.