Your visual brand identity should always be unique to your business. It’s unique to your business because it represents the purpose, intent, mission, and most importantly the WHY of your business. As a graphic designer, I can create premade logos and brand identity kits all day, but if they don’t properly resonate with a client’s audience, then they’re not doing their job.
I’m all for going the economical route when it comes to getting started out in your business, because many times you simply don’t have the funds for a custom work. However, purchasing premade brand identity kits and logos can really cost you in the long run. It may be that it doesn’t just cost you money, but time, and we all know how crucial that is to a business!
Shortly after I started my current Etsy shop, the term branding blew up! Everyone everywhere was talking about it and doing it, so I thought as a graphic designer that I should offer up my skills to design brands too. At the time, I didn’t understand what branding really was, and that brand identity was only a part of it, not the entire thing. The reason I was so misguided was because I saw a lot of other graphic designers offering branding services, but the basics of their services were designing a logo, brand board, and other graphic elements that were only consistent with the logo, not the purpose or positioning of the brand.
I saw, and still, do see premade brand identity kits and logos ranging in price from $10 to $800. Yes, $800 for a none custom brand identity or logo is highway robbery in my book. For nearly a $1000, you should get at the very least a brand assessment to define your core values and mission with a branding expert or strategist. Offering someone just a logo serves them no purpose if it doesn’t properly represent their brand and isn’t in alignment with their mission. This is the entire point of branding, as the visual aspect of it is only a small part. Without any assessment of the brand’s core values and mission, you really can’t create proper graphic elements to represent the brand.
I believe this is where many graphic designers have mistaken their design skills, for strategy skills. A branding expert or strategist need not be a graphic designer, but they do need to be able to convey the purpose, tone, and mission of the brand to a graphic designer. If they supply both strategy and design, they need to be able to understand the strategy before they can even think about the design. When you hire someone to help define your brand or to strategize it, they should be offering you the insight about your brand through conversations with you. You should not have to come up with these things completely on your own and then make predesigned graphic elements match them. This is why purchasing pre-designed brand identity kits and logos are such a huge mistake.
A while I designed a logo header for a blogger, and within the design process I really struggled because we had not defined their brand. The blogger, in fact, had no brand, and a clear purpose or reason for their blog was never defined. When I started the design process, I had nothing to go off of and so I ended up creating a generic header (for $20 mind you!) and at the end of the day, it ended up not even being consistent with the rest of the blogger’s site or social media. A huge part of branding is consistency, so without it, the branding isn’t really effective. It not only needs to be consistent in imagery, however but in tone and messaging as well.
Basically, the whole thing was a wash and the end result was quite embarrassing to me as a designer. The $20 I earned from the job was nothing compared to the time, energy, and disappointment is cost me. If you’re a designer, you know that any project you complete that doesn’t accurately represent your design skills and that you can’t add to your portfolio is extremely disappointing. In addition to being compensated for your work, another perk of being a designer is being able to show it off and provide proof to potential clients of your skill level.
Branding at its essence is comprised of three elements; messaging, strategy, and design. If one of the three elements isn’t present in your brand, then you don’t have a complete brand and it will most likely be ineffective in resonating with you target client.
Here’s a breakdown for better understanding:
Messaging – Purpose:
- Your WHY
- Conveyed through Copy
- End goal
Strategy – Positioning:
- How you’ll serve
- Used to drive results
Design – Presentation:
- Graphical elements
Download the free Branding Breakdown Quick Reference Guide below:
As you can see in the breakdown, your brand is quite complex, and can’t just be captured through a pretty logo or brand board. You’re much better off DIY’ing your brand yourself than purchasing a premade logo or brand identity kit that may not properly represent your brand. Branding takes works, and at the core of it is the messaging, how it resonate with your target client. We all love pretty things, but if they lack substance then we don’t get much out of them.
So whether you DIY your brand yourself or have someone help you with strategy, know that it takes doing some homework to hone in on your voice, how you’ll serve your clients, and then the visual representation of that. Take the time, either by yourself or with someone to think through these things before trying to come up with the visual elements. The creation of the visual elements will actually come quite easy when you have a clearly defined purpose and strategy to position yourself in the market. You don’t want to make the visual elements fit these things, but rather create the visual elements of your brand around them.
When you approach the visual component of branding first, it’s like trying to fit a square into a circle. You’re starting backward for one, and that square is never going to fit into that circle no matter how hard you try. Better to have a minimalist, simple visual identity that actually gets you clients than a pretty one that will never allow you to reach your full potential. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can always tweak your visual elements, but your purpose and position must be consistent from the jump. Of course, as your business evolves, so will those things, but they shouldn’t change drastically. You don’t want to keep changing the two most important components of your brand throughout time just to make them fit with the visuals of it. It should be the other way around.
If you need help defining your brand; finding your purpose, and learning how to properly position yourself in your target market, and having cohesive and consistent visual identity elements that represent them, I would love to help! You can check out my Branding services for more information or email me directly here. I’m also available for coaching and consulting, which includes brand audits and one-on-one help! You can learn more about those services here.
I’ve been there, trying to fit that square into a circle, wasted a lot of time and didn’t earn any money. I definitely don’t want you to do the same! I had to learn the hard way and there’s no reason for you to be misguided like how I was when I’m here to help. If you’re not quite sure what you need or where to start, you can begin by downloading my free 30-page Building An Authentic Brand to help you start defining your brand. You can even sign up for my accompanying free 14-day self-guided challenge, which has even more brand building resources in it.
So tell me, how do you feel about your brand? – Have you struggled with creating and defining it?
Let me know what I can help you with. Don’t be shy! 🙂
Don’t forget to download the free Branding Breakdown Quick Reference Guide!