As a graphic designer, I am always working on other people logos and visual branding, but my own has had many makeovers, and swayed here and there as I am influence by so many things.
Recently I have clamped down, and been tough on myself. They say designing for yourself is the hardest. And it is true. It is always more challenging to design for yourself then someone else.
We are too close to it all. It can be hard to take a step back and look objectively at what style best represent our brand. It is also easy to rush the process, skip steps or find ourselves getting green eyed over the gorgeous branding of other creatives.
Start with a Branding Process
But if you take a step back, follow a process and treat yourself like a client you can create a clear visual identity that you are confident in, and not easily swayed to change every few weeks. It requires a deeper process then what you might use when designing for someone else, because you need to get crystal clear about your message and vision, so that the path for your brand style becomes obvious.
If you want a sneak peak into my process, I have a free email course that will give you some of the deep dive prompts to get you going.
Once you have clairty around your brand message, you can then create a mood board to create an overall vibe for your brand.
From there you can begin the design process. Designing a logo, logo variations, choosing fonts and colours and creating graphics.
Why You Need a Brand Board
Leaving all these brand elements in various random folders on your computer isn’t going to help when it comes to sticking to your brand identity.
First of all you need a good folder system.
But that isn’t enough to keep you consistent and to make it easy to create brand graphics. This is where the brand board comes into play. A brand board serves as a quick reference guide. It allows you to easily recall and access brand elements when you design new graphics. It is especially handy for making sure your are consistent with your colours.
It is also very useful if you want to outsource any design work. It is the easiest way to show another designer your brand elements and how the relate to one another. It is a chance to show which elements are the primary elements, which are secondary and how elements should be used.
This means your guide can be as simple or as complex as you feel it needs to be to maintain brand consistency.
If you want to go into greater detail you can also produce a brand guidelines book. But having a brand board is that really quick reference guide, that keeps everyone on the same page and reminds you what you need to be using every time you design. No more colour guessing, or opening 10 different files.
In fact if you create your brand board in the same software you are designing in, you can easily grab elements off the board. I like to use illustrator for my brand board, this way everything is vector and easily scaleable, and I can grab elements straight off the board to create graphics in illustrator. It saves time, and makes it super easy to stay consistant.
If you are the kind of person who gets easily strayed and creates graphics of the fly when you feel inspired or have an idea, having a brand board that you can quickly open up and refer to will help you stay on track and stick to a consistent style.
It also makes the design process easier and more efficient, as you can grab all the elements you need very easily and can focus on your layout, rather then searching for the right elements to use.
What to Include in a Brand Board
A brand board needs to at least include your logo, logo submarks, brand colours, brand fonts and either other brand graphics or elements.
Logo– Your brand board will start off with your logo. This needs to be your full primary logo, in full colour.
Sub-Logos and Marks– These are variations of your logo. Consider how you will be using your logo and what it will be placed on. You may need a black and white version, a simplified version and maybe other marks inspired by your logo.
Colour Palette– Your colour palette needs to include the primary colours, which are the main colours always used in your branding. As well as your secondary/supportive colours, which are used less and only to compliment your primary colours (think shadows, back drops, outlines). You will also need to include your colour codes, so they are easy to reference and colour match. This includes CMYK, RGB and if applicable Pantone codes.
Fonts– A brand board usually includes 2-3 fonts. You will need a font that is suitable for titles and headers, and also an easy to read font for body copy. You may also want a fancy occassional use font like a script or handwritten style. You may want to specify font uses, if you will be collaborating on design work, or if you need to remind yourself. guidelines may include what the font can be used for, sizes to use, and colours the font can be used in.
Icons– If your brand uses any icons for graphics, social media or signage, be sure to include them on your brand board for consistency.
Patterns- Patterns are a fun way to get playful with your branding. Include samples of your patterns on your board. This is also a handy way to reference them and see if they might complement the design you are working on.
Graphics– If you have any other graphical elements or special templates that you want to include on your board this is a great spot to put it. You could also include illustrations.
Photography– If you regularly use photography in your brand graphics, it may be useful to have a photography style guide, to reference the style and tone of images used in your branding. As this isn’t part of the brand elements, it doesnt need to be on the board, but you may find it useful as part of your brand style referencing.
Quick Tips for Designing for Yourself
If you are a designer and struggle to design for yourself, these are my tips:
- Treat yourself like a client, and look from an external perspective.
- Get clear on who you are what you do, your style and vibe and who you serve.
- Follow a process, and don’t skip steps just because it’s for yourself.
- Make brand guidelines you you have to stick to them.
- Follow through and apply- apply the branding across all your social media, website and print material. Be consistent and it will just become easy, rather than a guessing game.