Before starting the visual branding process for your business, it is important to first do the foundational work. You need to get clear about your brand and define the style you want for it. Too often when small business owners and entrepreneurs start out, they don’t take that time to get clear on the direction they want to take. And even more importantly why they want to take that direction.
3 Mistakes Small Business Owners make when Starting their Visual Branding:
- Diving straight into visual research. This is a common starting point when people decide to begin the visual branding process. They jump onto Pinterest and fill a board with things like and they think will suit their business. Or they collect up links of websites they admire and are hoping to achieve a similar feel too. Now visual research is an important part of the design process, it should not be the very first step. You need direction and keywords to search for, and an idea/s for the direction you want to take. Otherwise, you fall into the trap of simply collecting pretty pictures of things you like. This isn’t the best branding strategy.
- Following trends. We want our visual branding to be liked. We want it to be beautiful, modern and appealing. But following trends for the sake of following trends, just because it is popular and lots of people like is not the way to effectively brand. While it may look gorgeous right now, it will date fast. It will also sadly blend into the crowd, as you will become yet another business using that gorgeous calligraphy typeface and this year’s Pantone colour of the year, with those same stock images everyone else downloaded too. While you don’t need to run away from trends completely. You need to remember trends do have their place in the design world. But if the trend is not really communicating your own brand identity and message or makes you blend in, or worse dates your branding within months, it is a bad idea. Trends are great for throw away graphics like social media posts, but you want your brand identity to be more unique, timeless and full of your story and message.
We want our visual branding to be liked. We want it to be beautiful, modern and appealing. But following trends for the sake of following trends, just because it is popular and lots of people like is not the way to effectively brand.
- Choosing a design direction for the wrong reasons. Are you copying a style you admire that one of your business idols has? Or are you following the biggest trends? Or are you trying to imitate the style of a brand who you love because they are successful and their style resonates with you? Or are you choosing your visual direction based on your personal tastes and likes, as if you were decorating your house and choosing your outfit rather than dressing a brand?While you can source inspiration from these places, solely relying on your visual direction from them will not result in a strong visual identity and will not be telling your own unique story or be designed to attract your ideal clients. Rather you are just designing it to please yourself. And yes your ideal audience may have very similar taste to you, but did you take the time to consider that?
So what things do you need to Consider in order to Gain Clarity in your Visual Branding?
- You need to know your why. Why you created your business, why you pursue it, why you have this passion and what you are doing it for. Even the big picture why. Are you trying to build a better life, help people with a problem or make a change in the world?
- What your story is. The story of how you came to do what you do, the story of your personal transformation and how you learnt what you now know. And your brand story. Think about the journey you want to take a customer on, how you want to make them feel and the community you want them to feel a part of through your brand.
Think about the journey you want to take a customer on, how you want to make them feel and the community you want them to feel a part of through your brand.
- Your Mission and Purpose. This is closely linked with your why. What is your mission with your brand? Do you want to make women feel empowered and confident, or do you want to make the internet more beautiful and easier to navigate one website at a time or do you want to help people making better choices for the environment for a better planet and healthier world.
- Who you serve. You can not aim at everyone, so who is your audience? Who is your niche market? What is their visual language? What would draw them in and excite them? What are they looking for that you can offer?
- What you offer. You are not Wallmart or Kmart. You need to lay down exactly what services or products you offer and then how you can demonstrate and hint at that through your visual branding.
- How you want to help. Your customer has some kind of pain point or difficulty that you can help them overcome. THat is what business is all about. Offering a solution to a problem. It may not be a huge life changing problem, but they still are turning to you for something. It might be as simple as needing to make their house look nicer, to send a beautiful gift to a friend. Or it may be a bigger struggle like wanting to lose weight or make more money.How can your branding position you as the solution and highlight how you are the best person to help them solve it. Tthink about how you can also get on their level and identify with them. Maybe you have been in their shoes before, maybe you can paint a picture of how their life will be once they work with you/buy from you. Remember people don’t buy products… they buy a better version of themselves. It could be related to status, identity, beauty, wealth, happiness or health.
- The message you want to communicate. Graphic Design is simply visual communication. So really think what it is you want to communicate. What do you want to say about your brand. People will make a judgement on your brand from the first impression of looking at it, what message do you want to be giving them. Colour plays a big part in this. Consider the psychology of your visual messaging, what will it make the viewer feel and what impression will it give them. (If you want to learn more about colour you can read my post- What to Consider When Selecting Brand Colours)
- How you want to make others feel. Just as colour will evoke a feeling, your whole identity should evoke emotions and feelings in your audience. Branding is all about creating that connection and feeling. So it is important to decide exactly what it is you want them to feel. And all touch points, from when they first stumble upon you, to reading your blog posts, to working with you, buying from you, following you on social media, being part of your groups or programs to being a life long fan. At all points and stages, how do you want them to feel and what kind of community and vibe do you want to foster?
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