I have been working on some updates to my branding recently and wanted to share the journey with you. As I mentioned in my post earlier this month ‘How to Refresh Your Branding without Starting Over‘ there are plenty of ways to freshen up and make tweaks to your visual branding without doing a complete re-brand or a whole new look and style. Consistency is an important part of branding, it keeps your brand memorable and easily recognisable.But as your business grows, and you are creating more graphics, and discovering more about your message, what you want to offer and who you want to serve, and how you want to market your brand, you may find there are elements of your branding that need tweaking, adding to or even be removed. This is totally fine, and it prevents you feeling trapped by the constraints of your own branding. Let it expand and develop with you.
So to give you a full real-life example and behind the scenes, I wanted to show you the process I have gone through and the changes and tweaks I have been making within my own visual branding recently.
The Background of my Branding
Late 2016 and early 2017, I decided to get serious and create myself a brand board. Before that, I had just based my branding off my design style, so while it still looked consistent, there was no reference point, for creating graphics and that caused decision fatigue, and too much time wasted playing around with designs. I felt like the plumber with dripping taps, creating beautiful brands for clients, but my own brand had been neglected. I also long struggled with working out my brand style, as I loved so many things and found it hard to settle on one set look. So I first created a way to Define my Brand’s Visual Style. Once I got clear on the feel and story behind it and who I was aiming at, I then worked on my mood board. I created the overall feel and mood I wanted, as well as beginning to explore colours, by pulling them from my mood board images.
I already had a logo, so I stuck with what I had, and then from their honed down on the exact colours I wanted, and chose fonts and, created a submark, icons, pattern and illustration. Below is the brand board I created for myself. As the year went on, however, and I began creating graphics and working on my website using this board, I did make some tweaks along the way, which I will share with you soon and my reasoning for the changes.
What is a Brand Board?
So as you can see above my example of a brand board, a brand board is a single file that shows all the visual brand elements. It is an important part of the branding process and an ongoing guide. It quickly shows you at a glance all the design elements and the overall mood and feel. Making it an easy reference point when designing graphics for your brand. It means wether you design your own graphics or outsource them, you have a guide to follow so that there is always consistency. It is also a great way to check over your brand elements and make sure everything is cohesive and fits together nicely.
You need to include on your brand board:
- Your logo
- Any variations of your logo. Depending on usage, you may have a few variations or just the one logo.
- A sub mark. Which is a simple variation or element pulled out of your logo? These are simplified and small, great for when a full logo would be too big.
- Your Fonts. Usually 2-3 fonts.
- Colour Palette. These are all your main brand colours (3-5 colours) and any supporting colours.
- Patterns and icons. If there are any patterns or special icons used, these also need to be included.
- Extra items that are sometimes added include typographic elements, illustrations, photography style, signatures and watermarks.
So now I want to take you through some of the updates I have been making, so you can see how I kept to the overall feel but make tweaks and improvements to suit my needs, as I got to know better what I needed for my brand and the direction I wanted it to take (because business is a journey!)
How I updated my Logo
I first designed my current logo late 2011. The original didn’t have all the swashes on it, I added them later, but when I did I kept the rest the same. So I have kept consistent with this logo for many years. Because of this, it has become an identifiable part of my business, so I want to stick with it.
I recently took a logo class through Skillshare, which was about improving an existing logo to make it better without losing the current look. I took the opportunity to go over my old logo, use my improved skills from years of design. I printed out a copy of my logo and analysed all the little falts and things that could be improved.
After a lot of tweaking and playing around, I finally produced this updated version. I know the change is fairly subtle, but that is the idea, keep it close to the original but tidy it up and make it better.
Adding to and altering my Colour Palette
Blue and grey tones have become a distinctive part of my branding now. So while I am overall fairly happy with my palette, as I have been using it, I have found areas that need improvement.
- I occasionally have needed a deeper, dark blue. So I want to add that to the palette.
- I am finding the pale blue, looks too much like a sky blue when used in big blocks. I wanted it to have a more vintage feel, rather then sky blue feel, so I want to adjust this colour.
- I also want to add more cream, linen like colours to balance out the blue.
- I am tossing up if I should add green to the palette. As you can see I picked out green in my first mood boards. I used green in my brand photography, but never as a graphic colours. So not sure if it needs to be added or just part of my photography style.
A New Sub mark
I was never fully happy with the sub mark I created a year ago. I struggled to find a way to take something from my current logo to make a mark. I didn’t end up using it often as I felt it needed to be revisited. So I finally took the time to work on this and think about it more and decided that with the shape of the letters, it works better as an oval rather than circle. I also added a flower illustration into the background, as nature is a big inspiration in my work.
A Slight Font Change
I really like using a serif font as my main font and a nice clean san-serif as my secondary font. But I was starting to feel that the serif I was using felt too heavy and traditional. I am very much inspired by old and vintage things, but as a designer, I wanted something that kept that nice serif feel but felt a little more ‘designed’ and elegant and lighter. Simplicity is part of the feel I want to portray, so a lighter font would give that more simple feel. So I switched Adobe Caslon Pro to Freight Pro.
Pattern and Illustration Elements
I decided to drop the current pattern on my board. I did play with some other patterns through the year, but I am still not sure they are quite right for me, so I may put patterns on hold, and give myself time to consider them more. I think I tend to use photography more than pattern at the moment anyway.
I do like the wattle illustration I had on my board and will be keeping this, as I want to have illustrated elements in my branding to add that hand touch and show the illustration side of my business. I may just add more little illustrations like these over time.
(Some of the pattern play, that I decided to put aside, for now, you may still spot some of it in my graphics)
Photography Style and Direction
As you saw in my last brand board, I pulled inspirational images to set the mood for my brand styling and photography. Through the year I played with my photography style and get to know better and better the feel I wanted to create though my photos. In many ways, my Instagram account became a testing ground for sharing my photographer and finding my style. I now want to add my own photos to my board, to continue to inspire the feel I have created.
If you are struggling with photography, there is nothing wrong with using stock photos for your brand, but I would suggest spending time thinking about the mood and feel you want those photos to have before searching them out. It is easy to get carried away and fall in love with pretty images, but you need to be sure you pick images that have a cohesive feel and also use your brand colours.
Some great places to try for well-styled stock images are; pixistock.com, springsandco.com, rosemarywatsonproductions.com, hautestock.co, twigyposts.com
The New Brand Board
At the time of writing this, I am yet to fully roll out the new brand elements but will slowly update things as I create new graphics and update my website. This is the finished board. I created my first board in Photoshop, but using photoshop means it is a visual reference only. This time I decided to use illustrator so that if needed, I can also pull elements from the board, as it is all vector (except the illustration). which makes the board more usable and even handier.
Use My Brand Board Template
If you are feeling inspired to work on your own brand, you can download my Ilustrator brand board template below.