building a brand foundation
Building and defining your brand is an essential part of building your business. You brand is more than just what your logo looks like; it’s how your audience experiences and feels about their interactions with you.
Whenever I get an inquiry about designing a logo, a website, packaging, or any other large branding item, my first step is always to see how well they understand their business and how well defined their goals and values are. Your visual brand (the logo, brand style guide, colors, fonts, and so on) is only one part of the brand equation, and therefore defining a foundation sets the stage for success in the other parts of your brand.
How can you begin to create a logo or a website if you don’t know what it is you want to share with your target audience?
The unique characteristics of your business are what make you different from any competitors, and you want to convey the things that will attract your people. Whether you’re starting a new business or looking to take your operating one to the next level, there are a few ways to get to the core of what sets you apart.
What is your brand’s mission and core values?
What is the heart and soul of why your business exists? Who do you want to help? What industry do you want to shake up? Why are you passionate about what you offer? What values are central to how you do business?This is something larger than simply setting a measurable goal. These are vision-level ideas that share why you do what you do and how that will serve your customers.
For me, my business exists so that I can create strong, creative visual brands for businesses to help share their story and make them professional. I work best with businesses truly understand the value that great design brings to their business and are willing to invest in it. Often, they are moving away from trying to DIY their brands and want a pro to take the reins. I value frequent and clear communication, providing high-quality work without shortcuts, and taking time for rest and creative recharge.
Who are the people you want to connect with and attract?
Defining your target audience helps make a lot of subsequent decisions easier. It’s impossible to build something that will attract and satisfy absolutely everyone, and there is no point in trying unless you enjoy feeling utterly frustrated all the time. The more specific you can get, the more it will help you. For example, defining your target audience as males under 40 who are single and work in a professional field is much more helpful than trying to reach simply “young adults.” You’ll know that anything juvenile or feminine won’t help attract that audience, which will influence the visuals and language you select.
Another example is in my business, I know I want clients who provide enough background on their project but then value my expertise and let me make creative decisions. Someone who wants a quick, cheap turnaround and doesn’t want to provide any direction would not be a good fit for me. That just means there is someone else out there better suited to their current needs, and that’s why it’s wonderful how many different designers there are.
What words do you want customers to use to describe your brand?
These words can be adjectives that reflect your style (like bold, soft, quirky, sleek, sophisticated, whimsical) as well as ones that describe your attributes (like organized, professional, great communicator, creative, knowledgeable, innovative). While you as a person are surely multi-faceted, it’s important as a business to define the experience you want to create for your customers. This goes back to your values above and can help in stages like your design process when you know that you want to convey trustworthiness, or when writing an email and knowing that your value straightforward communication.
Why should someone choose to work with you?
There are countless people out there and a finite number of job types. While a customer may have many coaches, designers, photographers, or shop owners to choose from, why should they choose to work with or purchase from you? It’s usually because of the experience and viewpoint of you that draws them in. Find what sets you apart and showcase it. Perhaps you have a special step in your process that really draws out great results. Maybe you have excellent packaging that makes receiving your product a special event. It doesn’t have to be some magical, huge thing. It’s usually the little things that make all the difference, right?
When you define all of this from the start, it makes translating your brand into a visual identity infinitely smoother. You’ll feel great remembering the core of your business, and you’ll be satisfied with how well it is shown in your visuals.