Brand Strategy Overview
Before you can really dive into your visuals, you need to take a more holistic view of your brand. It’s not just about your fonts, colors, and logo, after all, as important as those things are.
The foundation of your brand is who you are, what you stand for, and who you serve. Once you know that, the details get a lot easier.
The foundation of your brand is who you are, what you stand for, and who you serve.
To help you get a better sense of your brand, try answering the following questions.
What do you do?
Why do you do it?
Who do you serve?
What do they need?
What makes you different?
And remember—you can’t be everything to everyone, and you shouldn’t try. The best brands are the ones that stand for something, so don’t be afraid to put a stake in the ground.
This might even mean adding some questions to the list:
- What do you not do?
- Who do you not serve?
For example, if you’re in a traditionally male-dominated industry or niche, but your brand focuses on a female audience, that’s an important note. Or maybe you’re a yoga brand, but you’re for people who never thought they’d be a “yoga person.”
It’s a lot easier to make choices when you’ve got a solid foundation in place, for all aspects of your brand—not just visuals.
Building a Visual Brand
Now that you’ve got a good foundation, it’s time to get down to the visuals.
Companies with strong visual brands have a leg up on the competition, because most of the time, you can recognize an ad or a post from them without even seeing their logo. That’s because they’re consistent with their visuals, from the fonts they use to the treatment of their images.
Here’s an example. Who do you think made this ad?
Or this one?
You probably knew immediately that the first ad is from Apple, from their long-running iPod ad style, and the font in the second ad screams Nike. That’s the power of consistent visual branding, including consistent logo use, font use, and product design.
You can build a brand that’s as identifiable as these big brands by adding consistency to your visuals too, so that any time they see a pin on Pinterest, or a Youtube cover image, they know it’s from you.
One brand that does is well is The Financial Diet. Here’s some images from their Youtube page, their website, and their store, all of which are clearly part of the same consistent brand. As soon as their fans see an image, they can tell it’s from TFD.
Consistent branding is one more way to help your future fans and customers find you, and over time, those visuals will clue them in that they can expect the same high-quality content or products they’re used to from you.
As you make decisions about what you’re going to use for your brand, make sure to write down what you’ve chosen for:
- Fonts: which ones will you use for headings? Which ones will you use for body text? Do you use any fonts for emphasis?
- Colors: what colors feel right for your brand? How many colors will you use? As you choose them, make sure to record the hexadecimal codes for each one, which will look something like #5c6ac4. That’s how most web platforms will make sure they’re using the exact color you want.
- Patterns: do you use stripes? Polka dots? No patterns, ever? Make a note of it, and save any examples you love.
- Image Treatments: are all of your images black and white, or do you go for vivid colors? Do you always have people in your images? Do you only want to use illustrations?
- Logo Variants: what are the different ways you’ll use your logo? Do you have a text-based logo, an icon, or both?
This is where a brand style guide can come in handy. It can help you keep track of all the decisions you’ve made about your brand, so that the next time you need to create something, it will look like it came from you.
A style guide can also be helpful if you’re handing off graphics creation to a virtual assistant (or other employees as you grow), and keep you on track if you’re using an app to build your graphics.
Create a Logo
Creating a logo can feel tough when you’re up against icons like the Nike swoosh, but there are a few simple rules that can help you create a logo that does everything you need (and a little more).
Keep it simple
If this is your first logo rodeo, you might not realize how many different sizes you’ll need, but it’s more than you think. At the smallest, you’ll need some variation of your logo to work for your website’s favicon, which is the teeny image you see in the URL bar or the tab in your web browser.
The easiest way to make this work is to keep your logo simple.
Very detailed logos might look great on a full webpage, but end up looking cluttered, busy, or just plain bad when scaled down to the smallest sizes you’ll need. Even scaling down to an Instagram avatar or Twitter profile picture can be rough with a detailed logo.
Simple is your friend.
All of the examples we’ve touched on so far are square images, but what about your website header or your Youtube banner image? Those both usually give you much more horizontal space, and a rectangular logo or wordmark might be a better fit.
Here’s an example from Walmart. They use a square icon in their Facebook profile photo, but they also have a rectangular wordmark—that incorporates the icon for consistency—that they use in other places.
You might have specific items or shapes that are commonly understood to be part of your industry. Think dollar signs for finance, makeup brushes for cosmetics, that kind of thing. There might also be common colors used in your industry.
Whether you want to lean into it and use those common symbols, colors, or conventions, or avoid them entirely is up to you. Just make sure you’re making the choice intentionally.
How to create your logo
This is where you’re probably getting nervous, thinking that this is a lot to remember—and hey, wasn’t the promise that you didn’t need to know Photoshop to do all of this?
You’re right. That’s where apps come in that can do the heavy lifting for you.
Branding Your Platforms
These days, it’s not enough to brand your website and call it a day—and depending on your project, you might not even have or need a website yet.
But no matter where you’re starting to build a brand (your website, Youtube, Instagram, you name it) you need to pay attention to your visuals everywhere.
That means you need branded social media images, in the right sizes, with the right colors, for every platform you’re on.
You need branded social media images, in the right sizes, with the right colors, for every platform you’re on.
We could share a whole laundry list of each image size for each platform, but not only would that make this a very long list, it would also be out of date as soon as one platform changes their layouts or preferred image sizes. (If you are looking for the sizes, Sprout Social does a great job of keeping them up to date in this post.)
But why not use tools that will handle all that image-size-knowing for you?
Canva keeps track of the recommended social media image sizes for you, so all you need to do is select a Pinterest graphic, a Twitter image, a Youtube thumbnail, or any other pre-sized social media image. All you’ll have to do is make sure the fonts, colors, and the layout match with your existing branding.
You can also create images optimized for social media posts using Pablo, an image editing tool from Buffer that’s specifically designed to help you create great social media images in a snap.
Branding Your Site or Store
At some point in your project, you’ll probably want to build your own website.
Sometimes it’s the first step, sometimes it’s the last, but having a place to call your own on the internet gives you full creative control—and can be a big factor in generating revenue from your project.
SWC can help you create a compelling and engaging web store experience and we would love to discuss your options with you. Drop us a line.
Blog post first created at https://www.shopify.co.uk/blog/how-to-diy-a-visual-brand