Branding can be scary. Entrepreneurs make the mistake of putting it off because, let’s face it, it ain’t easy.
You know it’s an integral part of your business but you just can’t wrap your head around it. Hiring a designer to rebrand right now can be out of your reach, and anyways, you don’t even know if you even need a whole rebrand.
But what you also may not know is that there’s plenty you can do on your own. Sometimes your brand visuals might just need a good once-over and some tweaking here and there. Believe me, small changes can make a hell of a difference.
Follow these quick tips on how to elevate your brand visuals before thinking about rebranding. It might just be all you need.
1. Have someone give it a once-over
You’re looking at the same thing day in and day out. Sometimes, a fresh set of eyes can point out things that you’ve missed or didn’t even consider.
Start by asking someone to evaluate your current visuals. It can give you some clarity on what’s really working for you and what needs fixing. Ideally, you should ask a person who you consider an ideal customer. But just a friend can also give some good feedback.
You might also be wondering, “I have a designer friend! Should I ask them?”. Unless they’re your ideal customer, I would avoid it for now. Some people might disagree, but hear me out.
The point of this exercise is to get a first impression. Rarely, if ever, will you get a chance to explain your brand to your audience so visuals really make or break it. A designer might get too technical for you right now.
So try finding an ideal customer to take a look at your brand visuals without knowing what to look for and save your collaboration with a designer for later.
The best feedback is an initial feeling and first impression that can give you insight you never even thought of.
How to do this:
Ask an ideal customer (preferably) or a friend to evaluate your brand visuals. When doing so, ask them to consider the following:
What initial feeling do you get by looking at my website/logo/visuals?
What makes you uncomfortable?
Is it clearly communicating my purpose?
Is it memorable?
What 3 descriptive words come to mind?
What can be better?
2. Keep it Simple
Ever hear the saying “Less is more?”.
if there’s one advice I can give you, it’s exactly that. I know for a fact that the best design is the least possible design. It’s a common misconception that if something looks effortless, it was easy to do and that cannot be any further from the truth. When a design is done right, it SHOULD look effortless but the work it took to get there wasn’t.
This especially applies to a logo. It’s difficult to remember a cramped logo with all kinds of fonts and colors in it. A logo should really be 3 things: legible, memorable and uncomplicated. It should represent your branding the quickest and easiest way possible.
So remember: Do less, but do it better. Concentrate on the fundamental aspects that you want to come through your branding and don’t burden yourself with the non-essentials.
How to do this:
First, take a look at your visuals. Take note of all the details that NEED to be there.
Once you decide what is important, consider discarding at least one that isn’t. This can apply to other parts of your branding as well, such as your social media graphics or your template.
Now, actually removing the unnecessary things may be the hard part. This is where you should consider working with a designer if you can’t make the change yourself. There are also plenty of tutorials on the interwebs that teach you to do this with certain software.(Youtube, anyone?).
3. Get specific on your color palette with intention.
Color is such an important part of your overall branding. Truly, I can go as far as saying it can make or break your brand success. There are studies that show that brand colors influence 80% of your customer’s buying decisions (source). It can also help them make emotional connections to your brand and cultivate brand loyalty.
Almost always it’s the first thing your audience notices about your branding, so it wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with some color psychology. Learning what colors attract your target can make a difference in how you position yourself and how choose to sell your product or service.
It’s also a good idea to narrow down your palette to 5 or 6 colors. More than that can take away from your brand recognition and confuse others. Using less colors will create a more cohesive brand identity and will make it way easier to remember your brand.
A great color palette is simple, cohesive, and adaptable. (pullquote)
Here are some great ways to use your colors to create brand recognition:
- In Social media
- Applying them to your products for brand recognition
- If you offer a few services, having a designated color to each services.
- Using photography that includes these color
- Applying them to your blog post header
- Using them in your fonts on your website
How to do this:
Narrow down your color palette to 4-6 colors that represent your branding best. Try to be intentional with your choices. If you need to, read up on color psychology. The Brand stylist blog is a fantastic resource to learn more about this.
If you want to find alternative palettes try using Coolors.co or Adobe Color
Keep the specific color hex codes for web and PMS for printing (these are specific numbers assigned to your colors to make sure you have the same one everytime for every part of your branding) for when you need to use them. This will insure consistency throughout your visuals.
4. Limit your fonts.
For the non-designer, choosing fonts can be a daunting task. With practically endless options, it’s reasonable to say that it can be intimidating to sift through so many of them without direction or knowing what you’re looking for.
So to make your search as painless as possible, keep a couple things in mind: have a general idea of what style you want the font to be and understand how to combine them.
Tips on choosing fonts:
- More than 2 fonts is probably a bad idea. Exceptions are few and in between, but keep it simple.
- Keep your choice in context with your content.
- Only 1 body copy font is best.
- Learn to mix and match combinations
- If your website is your main platform, stick to web fonts.
5. Choose the right photography
Most people are very visual, so this makes the right photography a great addition to your brand design.
When choosing images remember to keep a style and theme in mind. And if you’re showing people, also keep in mind your specific demographic.
For example, (and this might be really obvious) if your brand is warm, approachable, casual and for a younger demographic, you might want to stay away from using stuffy older business people in suits in your pictures.
There are plenty of stock image sites that can help you find the right image with the right style and tone. All are high quality images that are free or highly affordable.
Here are some of my favorites:
Death to the Stock Photo
If you have a personal brand, another great option is to show yourself. If you can afford pictures taken by a photographer, go for it! But it’s definitely not necessary. Taking your own pictures is completely fine. Just make sure these images are high resolution as blurry images can really lower the quality of your brand.
6.Create a style guide.
If there was just one thing you can do to elevate your brand, it’s to streamline everything and stay consistent. Following the 5 tips above will automatically start to streamline everything and by intentionally choosing your colors, fonts, and images helps you go a long way. But a style guide puts it all together.
They can be called brand guidelines, brand standards, or brand style sheet, but essentially they’re all the same. It’s a document with an overview of how your brand works. It sets standards and rules to facilitate how you market your brand and what can and can’t be done. These standards are derived from the decisions you made on how you want your brand to be perceived. This is your road map to consistency and brand recognition.
Don’t have a brand style guide? That’s ok! You can make a simple one yourself. Even if it’s on a Word document, having a resource you can go back to will help you keep things organized and streamlined. After all, consistency is what keeps you from going unnoticed.
How to do this:
Here’s what a simple visual style guide consists of.
Logo: Add all instances of your logo, not just your main one. You also want to set some rules on how your logo should be used. For example, it can’t be smaller than 2 inches on printed material.
Color: Remember that color palette we narrowed down to on #3? This is where you specify the exact PMS and hex codes.
Fonts: Your choices from #4 go here. One thing to think about is once you’ve chosen your fonts, decide whether you want to use the weight and style variations ( bold, italics, light, etc) of your chosen fonts. If so, put that in this section as well.
Photographic tone: Did you chose a set of images you want to continually use on your branding? Add that here too! And if you don’t use photography, but you know you might for a marketing campaign, product, etc, specify the tone and style of the type of photography.
Supporting graphics: This might include social media cover photos, templates, illustrations, patterns, or custom icons.
Now, putting it all together is fairly simple. Just open up a program of your choice (Microsoft Word will work just fine) and plug everything in. No need for fancy software. Just a simple document explaining what your brand is all about.
The most important thing you can do is stay consistent. Do your best to stick to your style guide and build some recognition.
What other steps have you taken to create brand consistency and level up your visuals?