The Value of Branding
How to Do it Right on Any Budget
Over the years we have worked with many clients at different stages in their business life-cycle. This has provided us with first hand knowledge on how to provide our clients with maximum value when creating a visual identity for their business.
In this post you will learn what visual identity is, how it benefits your business and how to get it right, no matter what stage your business is at.
What is Visual Identity?
People always say a picture is worth a thousand words. Visual identity is when people connect to the feelings and experiences related to your company. It goes far beyond a logo and includes visual cues such as: image style, colour pallet, fonts, graphical elements, composition.
When your content is consistent in these visual cues you have a strong visual identity that keeps your brand message clear, recognisable and meaningful to your target audience.
Such a fundamental aspect to the success of the business is how people see you, although it’s often not given the time and thinking required to execute it well.
To get started ask yourself these questions
ismy service and its positioning in the market?
- Can I describe the personality of my ideal customer?
- What is unique about my service?
- How do I want my customers to feel when interacting with my brand?
- What are my business values?
- Does my existing look reflect that feeling and is it in line with my business values? Ask your customers, their feedback is GOLD!
- Is the message in my existing content presented clearly? Is it recognisable and consistent across all my communication?
What should my visual identity kit include?
Whether your a new startup or an established business, a good visual identity kit usually includes the following:
- stationary (business cards, letterhead, email signature)
- graphics and/or social media assets (image profile, icons, cover photos, images/quotes style)
- a website
- (often overlooked but critical component) a brand style guide (colours, typography, corporate design elements and application principles) to ensure a consistent look of all corporate promotional materials
Think of it like this… if you don’t have a visual identity kit for your business, every time you need a flyer, banner, website image (or you may want to develop an app or website) you have to start at the very beginning. Your time is spent relaying all the information and you pay extra to your designer to start from scratch. It also means that each piece of marketing collateral will be different from the next, especially if you’re using different freelancers and agencies. A Brand style guide provides clear instructions about your visual identity, your logo and corporate graphic element usage to make sure everything is consistent and professionally presented.
How to choose the best branding process for your business right now?
The first question to ask yourself is, do you want to save money by investing your own time and skills? Bear in mind that while saving money has it’s immediate benefit, it can often come at other expenses:
- Extra effort and time invested from your side as you learn software, trial and manage freelancers, create briefs and become your own Creative Director.
- Distract you from the your main competencies that are at the core of your business and bring in the money.
- The risk of putting off and forever delaying your brand visual identity as you constantly de-prioritise this as secondary activity.
When business owners approach us for advice, they often fit into 3 categories. Keep reading to find out where you fit in and how you can get started now no matter what your budget!
I want to start but have no budget, I love a good DIY project
Luckily the internet is full of free and low budget resources all available at your fingertips.
Design: You can design basic logos, flyers and ad designs using beautiful templates. It will give you a quick start and you can trial your idea with minimal dollar investment. Simplicity-centered cloud-based tools like canva.com or www.fotor.com or www.picmonkey.com: all offer plenty of free options for the DIY-designers.
Web: Your free business Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn accounts can serve you perfectly even if you don’t have a budget for a website right now. Be consistent with your message and thoughtful about the visuals. Define your overall style and stick to it.
Print: You can choose a beautiful template on MOO https://www.moo.com and get great quality digital prints. This would be our choice for design templates and print if you can’t afford a custom design. Another popular and low-cost printing service is www.vistaprint.com.au offering good value for money for basic print production.
Tip: Make sure you upload high resolution images. If you are going to print the artwork always save it as a pdf file from the canva app and set the print quality to 300dpi.
I have a small budget and want something unique, I have spare time to give my own creative direction
Design: On the very cheap side, you might consider www.fiverr.com, a marketplace for freelancers to offer packaged services or just bid for your gig. Be prepared to spend some time to review bidding freelancers, check to see if their work samples fit your style, the feedback received and small print in their packages. Make at point at the beginning to confirm you are getting a high quality vector file (EPS files) of your artwork + check on how many revisions the designer will provide. Most of the guys who charge $5 for the logo (usually provide jpg or png only) and won’t give you original files and any revisions will be for an extra charge, so you end up paying for their ‘Premium package’. The latter one is usually relatively cheap – though be on guard and ask before committing to anything.
One of the largest freelancer marketplace www.upwork.com in our view tend to be more professional, though more expensive. From our experience, we always conduct a skype interview with freelancer to see if we are comfortable with their level of communication and understanding. Communication is the key here. Based on our experience, we found designers from Eastern Europe offer the best value for money. Their hourly rate is slightly cheaper than European or American freelancers, while producing the same high quality design.
Web: DIY website builders to get you started!
- www.squarespace.com plans are paid monthly or yearly. You can start or stop their service at any time. Website for business will cost $25-35 monthly. You will get access to a wide range of clean, modern design templates. Free domain name and hosting is covered too. Limited flexibility, but all tools and functions are closely controlled, monitored and tested to ensure they are up 100% of the time and all templates look great.
- www.wordpress.org (a self-hosted website) or www.wordpress.com (cloud-based managed wordpress with tech support). The former will cost you free for the content-management system, one time $60 for the premium template (say at themeforest.net payment), about $150 per year for the hosting, $30 per annum for a domain name. Very flexible & customisable especially with plugins, but could be very problematic if they breakdown. The cloud version will have monthly or annual plans at $5-33 per month and will release you from everything except from designing and putting your own content. Warning: if you don’t have any IT background or are technically challenged, it can be a quite difficult to work with any of WordPress variants.
- We recommend Squarespace for general-use sites and Shopify for ecommerce centric businesses, especially for those who have never worked with websites before. They built with simplicity in mind, for non-developers and will save your time.
I’m looking to leverage my time and make a small investment into my business. My business needs a new and improved professional and consistent look that speaks to my clearly defined target market.
This is when you want to organise a free consultation with a handful of designers to get a feel for their approach and to determine if they are a good fit for your business. You want an agency that comes across as being authentic, one that gets your business and offers you value. Assess whether you are just a number in an agency or they genuinely interested in your business, or better, have vast experience serving others in your industry and at your level. Prepare for the meeting by thinking about the scope of the work required.
At Soska Design we have local clients that love to see us in person as well as clients from different states with whom we communicate remotely. Some like to spend a lot of time on the phone or Skype, while others have no problem doing the whole job over email. Whatever form of communication you are comfortable with we will happily adapt and accommodate, but all our clients should expect a lot of questions as we are collecting a detailed brief and working to understand your specific business.
- Introductions: meeting via phone/skype/in person we ask and listen to the client’s needs and goals.
- Briefing: here we guide the client through a structured brief to get to know about clients business, customer “personas” and their overall market.
- Market Research: We learn all we can about the market, explore trend setters and learn how to design for a specific market.
- Mood Boards: We prepare three different visual mood boards to choose from. Along with the client, we use them to define the overall style and feel of the brand. Always keep in mind, the brand is not just a logo but it is the sum of the voice, images, symbols, ideas, and even emotions surrounding a company. At this stage expect some back and forth to get the direction to a perfection.
- Logo Concepts: This is when we put pen to paper and brainstorm ideas, the top 3 are presented to the client for feedback. At this stage we work in pen so that ideas and feedback can be dynamic and flexible. Once we get your feedback and you choose a concept we refine it even further using the Adobe suite.
- Concept: Digital refinement of the logo so it’s pixel perfect! It’s here that we present you with colour palette options to choose from.
- Stationery: (e.g. business cards, letterhead, email signature), social (e.g. Facebook cover) and promo design (e.g. flyer) along with font choice follows.
- Brand Visual Identity: We provide a detailed Style Guide on how to work with the logo, typography, colours and images to create consistent and professional brand. It’s a guide for all future marketing materials and all visual communication. This will be whatever the client or client’s designer/developer are working on from the visual point-of-view – they will be guided by principles set in the style guide.
Soska Design is a boutique Branding and Graphic Design studio founded in 2013 by graphic designers Lena and Mel. We are committed to maximising the value of your brand and as a testament to that we offer complimentary three months support after the completion of your new Visual Identity Package to answer any questions you and your staff may have. We also offer any support needed in maintaining a consistent look across all marketing materials.
Business is a tough game and being smart with visual communication not only drives inspiration but helps everyone understand the message.
Lena & Mel