What the Heck is Branding, I just Need a Logo
You are soooo ready to start selling your handmade crystal jewellery, or coaching other women to help them see the love within themselves, or you want to give virtual assisting a go and get some extra income while you take care of your super cute #brandnew baby.
First of all, wait a moment here.
Are you realising how FREAKING AMAZING you are? Just to remind you: you did it, you decided to take the reigns of your (professional) life! Let’s have a little (vegan brownie) moment of celebration.
And, then, let’s look at your need for a logo like a #girlboss.
Your business doesn’t need a logo, it needs branding
Because thinking you just need a logo is not for you. You know you deserve more, your business deserves more. Let me tell you what you need: you need branding. And don’t you dare inviting confusion to the party, because we’re going to strip back what branding means and how you can create it for your business. And it’s not going to be hard. It’s going to be FUN.
So, what the heck is branding?
You’ll find heaps of definitions of what branding is, but I’ll tell you what it is for me. Branding is what your business feels. Follow me, I’m sure you can relate. Do you know when you meet a person and go for some small talk, but can’t really tell what’s inside them, or you feel something doesn’t quite click? And, on the contrary, you absolutely love it when you connect with someone in a deeper level, because you understand them, the way they talk and connect with you sounds honest and genuine? Even when they don’t have all their s*** together, you relate to them because they are real and authentic. You don’t need a lot of convincing or hanging out to decide you’re going to be friends forever. That’s soul-to-soul connection, sista!
So it happens the same with brands.
The soul of your brand is your branding, paired with a kick-ass why or purpose (read Lisa Messenger’s book ‘Purpose’). If you’ve heard that branding is your logo, business cards, email signature, etc. let me tell you that you’re falling way short. That’s not enough for a #girlboss like you. You need to think bigger from RIGHT NOW.
We’ve always identified branding with aesthetic, and this is what I’m going to cover from a visual standpoint here with you, to give you the power to create some basic branding to get your business out in the world as soon as possible. But think of branding as every single thing you do. To give you an idea, at a Business Chicks event I attended in Sydney, Smack Bang Design’s founder and #girlcrush Tess Robinson said that branding is even the toilet paper you choose for your office. And I couldn’t agree more! Have a read at their article about ‘What separates good from great’ to set you in the right branding mode. And when you’re done, come back here and we’re going to tackle together how you can brand your business from where you are right now.
Oooook, I’m glad to have you back! Let’s start by asking yourself this super essential question that will be the pillar for your branding:
Do you know who your customer is?
If you haven’t asked yourself this question before, now it’s the perfect time. Give yourself some 15 minutes right now, close all the other tabs in your laptop and grab a blank piece of paper and your favourite kikki.k pen.
And you can’t play safe by just saying that ‘my client is women, between 25 and 50 years old, who live in big cities and love to travel’. Are you joking? Choose one specific person and get to know him or her as you know yourself. Specially, understand her biggest fears, needs and frustrations. This is the most important thing, as it will allow you to think of ways to help her, to add value to her life. And what’s the point in business if we’re not adding value to the world, or to other people?
For example, let’s take us as an example. If I’m writing this is because I know that you are preparing the launch of your business and don’t have the time or space of mind to bring together everything that’s been said about branding, and you’ve been procrastinating and feeling lost in the vast ocean of logo creation. And you may not have the money to hire a brand strategist to help you out, so you’ve decided to do it yourself. But you’re also just wasting so much energy google-ing and pinterest-ing answers for yourself. I hear you.
Your need? A freaking logo!
Your fear? If you do the logo yourself (#bootstrapping), you’re afraid that it’s just going to look super ugly and you’ll waste a lot of time trying to make it look right.
Your frustration? Why can’t designing a logo be an easy, straightforward and, voilà!-here-is-my-amazing-logo kind of thing?
Let me introduce your Branding Masterplan
So let me tell you it’s going to be straight-forward if you’re willing to do some inner and playful creative work. I’m going to help you be more clear about your brand (beyond your business), whether you’re selling a product or a service. I’m going to cover the very basics for your visual brand, and give you space to think about how you’re going to apply branding in every other area of your business: your website copy, the look and feel of your shopfront, how you write your emails, etc.
Our goal today is to get your visual branding basics done, so you can start showing up in the business world as soon as possible. And, yes, so you can create the best logo for your biz. But before you face your logo, you need to follow these ACTIONABLE steps:
Step 1. Identify who your client is
And I’m not talking about your ideal client. I’m talking about your real client. Think of it as a real person, not as someone imaginary that we both know doesn’t exist (especially if you’re a Disney generation child like me). Scroll above and ask yourself the basic questions: what are your client’s needs, fears and frustrations? How does she rock her world? What does she wear, what colours does she like? Is she conscious of the environment, is she a cat or a dog person? What other brands would she buy, or what people would she follow on Instagram? What type of books does she read - or, wait, is she a reader?
Open your Keynote app or Power Point, or grab an A4 or A3 paper, place some images that represent your customer and scribble notes about him or her. Make it specific and concise, I know it’s hard, but that’s the picture you’ll go back to every time you’re confused about who you’re talking to, or who you are creating your product for.
Step 2. Define your brand personality
I know, this couldn’t be a more general statement. How are you going to define it? Some people like to write about it, using adjectives and specific descriptions, others just go crazy on Pinterest. Choose the best option for your type of business, and the one that helps you be more clear about it.
Also note that, specially if you’re a service-based business you may want to consider creating your personal brand in relation to your business. What do I mean by that? Your values and your interests are not separate from your business. Look at brand guru and another #girlcrush Jenna Kutcher. She’s created her own personal brand in relation to her photography business, brand expertise and mac-and-cheese love! I do feel that by doing so, it makes your life easier, as you’re able to show yourself in every area of your life just as you are, and by only feeling the way you do, you can convey it through your work. That’s when you’re giving to the world in a way that feels truest to you.
Choose writing or ‘pinning’. Describe your brand as if it was a person. If you write 3 or 10 pages, or if you pin 50 photos, try condensing it to only 1 page, or a slide in your preferred software, and fit it in there. And don’t be cheeky and use font size 8 or resize the photos to 100px. It’s time to make a decision and choose what elements are more important for your brand. Edit, and ditch the rest. Grab your decision-making hat.
Step 3. Select the visual vibe (aka photography) of your business
If you selected Pinterest in the previous step, you may be a bit ahead of us. However, think now of the type of photography that you would use for your business. Imagine your Facebook feed or the type of photography that you’ll use for your website. For example, when I created Marbaii, I knew I wanted to use photos that included people in active, relaxed poses, enhancing natural beauty instead of polished looks, pairing shots featuring Marbaii’s clothes with eclectic surroundings and local people and, essentially, having photography with a rustic, lived, and textured feel.
Below was my first mood board for Marbaii. This process will also be incredibly useful and you’ll be able to use it whenever you think of the style of photographer you want to hire.
I want to invite you to do the same as I did with Marbaii. Get a blank sheet of paper (again, virtual or actual paper) and decide on the type of photography that you want for your business. Visualize your **Instagram feed or your website. Get on Pinterest, or Unsplash, and copy and paste some photos to your board. Again, edit it down to 1 page.
Step 4. Choose your brand colours
Look at the page you just created, the visual vibe of your business.
Slightly close your eyes… do you see a common colour theme?
That’s the colour palette of your brand! If you don’t see a clear winner, choose the photo that best represents you brand and reach out to Canva (#lifesavers). Upload your image to Canva Color Palette and it will automatically generate a colour palette for you. Don’t distrust your decision-making power here. If you followed the previous steps, you now have a quite accurate feeling of your business as a brand, so let your gut guide you. YOU are the one who decides which colours are going to best represent your brand. Remember that you will use them throughout your marketing materials, your website, your social media graphics, etc.
Again, you need to make a decision. Choose 3 main brand colours, one of them may be more neutral (will it be a soft light grey? Or a strong here-I-am black?), and 2 accent colours. Now, you can use any software that you feel comfortable with. I personally use Adobe Illustrator, but you may use Canva again. Click on ‘Create new design’ and choose an A4, just to keep the same size as the previous pages you’ve created. Create a shape (for example, a square). Copy it 3 times, so each of the shapes fits on the same page. Represent your 3 brand colours, and write below each of them its Hex colour code #. This will be your colour cheat sheet and it will help you use your colour palette consistently in the future, whenever you create your website or design your business cards.
Step 5. Choose your brand’s typography
This is probably my favourite part. I’m a typeface nerd! The most important thing you need to remember about choosing the right typography is not the font itself, but using it consistently. If you have chosen a Sans Serif font (like this) for your main communications (business cards, packaging, website), try to be consistent and use it throughout all your written communication. The usual recommendation is to choose 2 typefaces, the main one, used for headings and taglines, and a second one used for the biggest bulk of written information.
You may be wondering: how do I choose the best fonts for my brand? First of all, don’t look only at your own personal taste. Think from your brand’s perspective. I mean, you still need to LOVE everything you create and choose for your business, but you know what I mean. Have a look around at what type of fonts your competition, or other businesses in your same industry use. Do they usually use Sans Serif fonts? Is there a consistent choice of types of fonts?
Jump on Google Fonts and have a look around. Try typing the name of your business to see how it looks with each different typeface. Once you click on a font, you can have a look at the most common pairings, so it gives you a hint about which second font you could choose. You can also jump on Pinterest and type ‘font pairings’ to see recommendations. You can also find fonts on websites such as Dafont, or buy one on **Creative Market (my favourite design resource, make sure to sign up for their weekly free downloads).
One of the most important things is that you make sure you have the rights to use the font professionally Also, take into account that when you create your website you might be using Google Fonts, so it’s quite smart to choose fonts from their library from the start.
Create a new page on your brand document (this time, digitally) and add a sample text. Duplicate it, and change each of the excerpts into the chosen font. Decide which font is going to be your main one (used for headings) and the secondary one (used for longer chunks of texts). Again, this will become your cheat sheet to give your brand even more consistency.
Step 6. Ok time to create your brand’s logo!
When you get to this step, you wouldn’t even need a logo. I know you got here mainly because you needed a logo for your business, so you may be surprised to learn that if you have diligently gone through steps 1 to 4, your brand is pretty strong and speaks for itself. So you don’t need a logo. But I know you want one. And I’m not going to leave you empty-handed!
A simple step?
Simply take the secondary font you chose, play with your brand’s colour palette, and voilà! You got something to get your business out there right now. If you still want to play around, and considering that you got to this point because you’ve chosen to go for it yourself instead of hiring a graphic designer, I would suggest you jump on our beloved Canva. If you’re own a product business, it’s essential that you’re satisfied with your logo, as it will be printed on your products or packaging. If you’re a service-based business, your logo will probably only sit on your website and social media profile picture, so can always keep on tweaking it. However, it’s important that you’re happy with it but, most importantly, that it reflects your brand personality immediately.
Imagine that someone doesn’t know anything about your business, what would they tell about you by only looking at your logo? Consider jumping on your fave Facebook group and without giving a hint, ask people what they think your business or brand is about. They got it? Then, you got a winner. You can also ask your family and friends, but they probably are not your ideal/real clients, so thank them and love them. But, at the end of the day, always trust your gut.
Jump onCanva, click on ‘Create new design’ and ‘Logo’. Look and play around.
Nowadays, a lot of people use Canva, so you may see a similar looking logos out there. In that case, if you want something a bit more unique and you still want to create it yourself, another option is to download a logo template on Creative Market for only around $20.
Get 3 to 5 options together. Do your market research with them, select one and decide if it needs any more tweaks. When you’re 99% happy, lock it in in the last sheet of paper of your brand kit.
Last step? Celebrate and get ready to rock’n’roll!
With the mission of making your lives easier, I’ve created 6 sets of (beautiful) customisable branding templates that you can use for your business. They all include templates for a logo, social media, plus colour palette, a selection of photography and much more. Have a look at them here, and let me know if you’re interested!