DIY Branding Guide: How do you organise your own branding?
This blog post is the first of about 7 that cover a bunch of aspects of your business you can work on FOR FREE during this COVID-19 saga. This health crisis has changed the way we are doing business and has hit everyone differently, so in response to this, I sat down and wrote out a few ideas of what I can do to be productive in my business even if my client work has slowed down, or even stopped (if you want to see the whole post click here).
My first dot point was 'plan or tweak your branding to make sure it is consistent'.
Which, if you have been following my business journey, you will be aware that I underwent a complete brand change this time last year, and if I am being honest, I am only just starting to organise consistent visuals and my voice for it (i.e. my brand). So this step is something that I really needed to organise time for regardless of the health crisis or not.
Step 1: Really think about your name and change it if you need
I changed my name from 'MadCat Creations' to 'Chlo & Co Creatives' as when I seriously started to think about it I couldn't really remember why I called my brand MadCat Creations (I think I really wanted to have cat in the name and some of my friends shorten my name to Mad, I don't know, it was so long ago now!) but more importantly, I didn't feel that my original name really connected with who my brand was and what I did. When I started out I hadn't really thought that I would move into the wedding photography field in such a big way, but now it is 60-70% of what I do, so I wanted my name to be more attractive and make sense to couples who were looking for a wedding photographer. Choosing 'Chlo' instead of 'Maddi' was my way of keeping my love of cats involved in my brand along with honouring my beautiful, best friend, my 18 year old Chlo cat (who has recently left me, so I am now very appreciative of this choice). The alliteration was nice too.
I am so, so happy that I changed my name now. I think I was getting to the point that I was a bit embarrassed to say my business was called 'MadCat' because it didn't really make sense to what I was doing. I think it would have made sense if I was creating cute, zany and weird illustrations or something like that, which I think was my intention when I started out, but what I do now, beautiful wedding photos and professional design services, didn't really match up. So if you too are feeling like your name doesn't match your brand, change it now! Do it as soon as you can - but remember to let your current audience know about the changes and implement it over a few weeks so they still know who they are talking to!
This step you can 100% do for free. Talk to the people around you, enlist your friends, business contacts and even your current audience and gather feedback from them if you need help working out what words best describe your business name.
Step 2: Define your services and brand
Before you move forward with your visual branding, you want to take some time to consider who you want your brand to be and how your brand serves your customers. When clients talk about your business what are they saying about it?
Take some time to think about this as it will help you when it comes to your visuals as you will know what you want to represent.
For example, I want to be known as a fun and passionate photographer and designer who approaches work in a relaxed but professional manner and who is helpful to her clients.
When it came to interpreting this into visuals I chose to change the pink that was dominant in my logo to a darker red (almost maroon) to better represent the passion and professionalism in my business. I also chose a more muted and deep colour to make the logo more relaxed and less 'fiery'.
Step 3: Nail your logo
Okay, so lately I have been reading, hearing, seeing that your brand is not your logo.
Which is true.
But it is also a statement that is making me cry because your logo can be such a useful tool in creating consistent visuals.
Now if you are in the position to hire a designer to help you finalise your design, I would highly recommend it (p.s. I would totally love to help you with this too, if that is where you are at, click here to have a chat about what you need) however there is plenty you can do with your logo by yourself. Even if you don't think you can draw or have any design skills, you can still make decisions about how you want your brand to look aesthetically and what you want your visuals to communicate about your business.
To make it a bit easier, I have broken down creating your logo into three parts below. These are the most essential parts of your logo. A bonus tip however, is that before you decide on anything for your logo, I would jump on Pinterest and create a 'business visuals board'. I would spend a bit of time looking at other logos, designs and images and placing them onto the board if they resonate with you. Maybe give yourself half an hour to do this to ensure that you don't go down the Pinterest rabbit hole! Then go back to the board and see if there are any reoccurring themes. You may find you lean towards line drawings or simple vector logos, maybe you like hand-drawn fonts or prefer super easy to read text. Whatever you like, Pinterest boards are the perfect way to help you find it.
We are all taught from any early age what colours mean. We know that blue can mean calm or sad, red is passionate or angry and we know that green reminds us of the natural world. Even if you are not trained in design, living in our image saturated world makes you more skilled than you realise to make decisions about the colours of your brand.
The colour of your brand will be quite important as it sets the basis of hues that will be used throughout your marketing materials, so you want to ensure that it is a colour you think matches your business. Another note to keep in mind is that you can choose 3 to 5 colours for your brand and they do not all have to be in the logo.
Ways to decide on your brand's colours:
Research what colours can represent and make a choice based on this.
Think about the obvious choice, for example, a health food shop would lean towards greens and earthy browns where a wellness clinic might look at cooler colours like blues, purples or greens.
Consider what colours you like and see if any match your brand (this way part of my strategy).
Look through colours on Canva's Colour Wheel to get a better idea of all the colours that are out there (https://www.canva.com/colors/color-wheel/).
When you decide on these colours, make sure you save the image or take a screenshot and save these to a folder on your computer or even on a Pinterest board so you can remember them!
Next up in your logo creation is your font choice. Again this is something you can do yourself without needing to bring in a professional.
In fact, when creating your logo yourself, I would highly recommend just using a font-only logo until you are ready to engage a designer who can really help you create an original design for your brand.
Before starting this part, go back to your Pinterest board and take a look to see if there are any reoccurring fonts that you like. This will help give you an idea for what you are looking for - keeping in mind you are not likely to find the exact same font.
Once you have done that you need to go hunting for some fonts. If this is a logo for your business, you are going to need to find a font that is free for commercial use or pay a small fee (generally) to use it.
Here's some awesome websites that can help your find fonts you can use commercially for free:
1001fonts (Note: Check the details before using, some fonts are not free for commercial use)
When looking for fonts keep in mind:
The legibility (how easy or hard is it to read)
What does the font say visually (is is a scripted font that suggests femininity or a bold, loud font that suggests action and movement etc.)
Whether it will it be able to be applied to other marketing materials
Choosing your fonts:
You will need to choose two or even three fonts for your business.
The Heading Font
One of these can be a heading font. What is a heading font? A heading font is a more decorative font that you use in your logo that has significant visual importance and leaves an impression on your audience. A heading font can be a bit harder to read, as it is generally used in a larger font size for things like headings which improves its legibility. This is the impressive font that tells your audience something about your business. For example, this is Chlo & Co Creatives' heading font:
I chose it because I love that it looks hand-drawn and created by a brush rather than a fine-liner, pen or computer. I felt this really reflected the creative side to my business but I also liked that it was still fairly easy to read. The flowing script gave a nice nod towards wedding photography while still being quite bold. I am a fairly big personality so I didn't think that a thin and delicate script would had worked as well as this one did. I didn't however like the ampersand (the '&' sign) nor did I like some of the capital letters so I actually melded the Playlist font with others to create the final version of the logo.
Your Secondary Font
The next thing to choose is your secondary font. You want this font to be legible and easy to read. You also want this font to contrast nicely with your heading font to create a hierarchy in your logo. This font should be able to be used in paragraph format if required, so you want to ensure that it doesn't become too much when used in a few rows of text. Under no circumstances should you choose another decorative font to be your heading font. This will end badly when you attempt to make other marketing material for your brand as you will find you will not be able to apply it to new contexts.
I chose Aleo (from Font Squirrel) for Chlo & Co Creatives:
This font is easy to read and can be manipulated via kerning or tracking and capitalisation. I also liked that this font still has an old-school feel to it. It reminds me of a modern type-writer font and this makes it fit nicely with the heading font. This font also came with varying thicknesses, from very light to bold. I chose a medium thickness called 'light' which contrasted nicely with heading font.
If you are still having trouble working out your heading and secondary fonts check out this post by Sonrisa Studio here about font pairings or feel free to send me a message.
Note: You can choose multiple secondary fonts if you wish but I would recommend only using two to three in your logo to ensure it does not become crowded!
The last thing to address in your logo is your imagery. You do not have to add in any imagery to your logo if you don't want to, but it can be a nice way to make your logo more memorable and show off your brand colours better.
This part of your logo is a bit harder to DIY. Canva does offer a variety of free imagery that you can use, but it is important to remember that many other businesses are able to use these images for free too. When you are able to, it is a much better idea to engage a designer to create you your own unique imagery for you to use on your logo and in your branding.
In the meantime you can do some research so you know what imagery you like and want for your own. Again, I recommend making a Pinterest board but you can easily keep a folder on your computer or you can even collect printed marketing materials that have images that you like on them. This will help streamline the process when you are ready to create your own logo imagery with the help of a designer.
Putting your logo together - Canva
Now that you have put in the hard work it is time to put your logo together. For a free and easy to use design program, I highly recommend Canva. Canva offers a lot of different things you can do for free so you can take advantage of this to create your font-only logo. Canva lets you download your logo as a PNG or JPG, which is perfect to get you started. I was almost able to create Chlo & Co Creatives' logo completely using Canva:
Step 4: Create a mood board to help you with consistent visuals
As you read in our last step, your brand is not just your logo and now you have your logo worked out, it is time to continue building your brand by getting consistent with your visuals.
So how do you do this?
Go back and read through how you want your business to be perceived by people. What words came to your mind when you considered the way you want your brand to be thought of by your potential customers? Now we need to make those words visual.
I would again recommend making a Pinterest board (or a folder on your computer) and finding a bunch of images that represent your branding. Remember to take into consideration the colours you chose for your brand when developing your logo (see, I told you these would be important!). Try to get clear on whether you want to use bright coloured images or whether you want to create a more monotone scheme throughout your branding. Do you want to create high contrast across your visuals or a more relaxed and harmonious colour scheme? Do you want to add in bold font-based content or just images?
By the end of this task you should be able to clearly define your brands' visual personality and use it to keep the content you use consistent.
Step 5: Decide on your voice
Your last step in your branding is to find the unique voice that you want to use in your brand. Just like your visuals, you need a consistent voice across your customer touch points, this includes your website, blog, Facebook, Instagram (and any other social media platforms that you use) and your marketing material. This voice should be appropriate for your audience (Not sure who this is? My next blog post is all about defining your audience, sign up to my email list to make sure you don't miss it).
To be honest, I am still getting this part right. In person I use a lot of sarcasm, which is super hard to translate digitally without sounding like a bit of an a-hole, so I use a lot of emojis on social media to help me get my message across.
I'm also a teacher so my fun, brand voice is often competing with my direct information voice that is used for writing lesson plans and rubrics...
Nevertheless, now is the perfect time for me to start trying to organise my voice and make it consistent, and this is something I can do for free, just like you can. To help me, there are lots of valuable resources out there. I've found the Stevie Says Social super helpful with developing a brand voice, especially when it comes to social media and Oh My Digital Agency has some awesome blog posts too.
And that brings us to the end of developing your brand for free.
If you need help with any of the above points, feel free to reach out for some free advice or services here.