In my post last week, I talked about the strategic side of developing a brand, from defining your audience to honing the perfect voice. Today, I want to talk about aesthetic!
Creating your brand aesthetic
The fun part! What is the look of your brand? People are very visual, and the aesthetic of your brand will do a lot to communicate with your audience, so make sure that you create a look that is unique and memorable!
Your logo will most likely incorporate your business name as well as a symbol or graphic. I think the best logos are simple, clean, and somewhat indicative of what you do or sell. A good logo can work at multiple sizes and isn’t too busy or filled with too many colors; this keeps it versatile! It’s a good idea to have a primary logo as well as a variation that will work where the primary logo isn’t possible. Whatever you decide on, once you’re happy, don’t mess with it! Resist the temptation to rearrange it, skew it, etc. — recognizability is one of the main goals of your logo, and the more consistent it is, the more successful it will be!
The fonts you use will also contribute to the vibe of your brand. Fonts can have dramatically different personalities, so choose wisely! Some good resources for finding fonts include Google Fonts and Adobe Typekit. You’ll want to select anywhere from 1–3 brand fonts. Designate a font for headings and large text, as well as one that’s highly readable to use for body text. You might also want to include an extra font with a lot of personality to use as an “accent.” I like to pick fonts with very thin and very bold weights so that I can create good contrast between things like titles and other text.
Don’t really know where to start? You are not even close to alone. Typography is a huge topic and can easily become overwhelming. Check out this article on choosing and combining fonts.
Of course, color choice will play a role in creating an impression for your users. A good structure for creating a color palette is to select a main color that aligns with your brand and then build several other colors around it. Consider the implications of the colors you choose, such as associations people might already have with the color (green could be associated with nature or with money, etc.) as well as whether it is warm or cool, light or dark.
Once you’ve selected a main color, you should select a dark neutral color — something that you can use for text and have it be readable. You’ll also want a light neutral for backgrounds, such a white or light gray, as well as one or two accent or “pop” colors to be used relatively sparingly. It’s a good idea to define a ratio for how the colors should appear throughout your brand.
If you’re having trouble honing in on colors, look to a color wheel, to nature, or to fashion for some inspiration!
Don’t forget to think about what kind of imagery you’ll be using. This will come into play anywhere from shop listings to advertisements to your social media. For example, are your images very saturated and colorful, or muted? Do they include people? What kind of backgrounds do they use? Consider laying out some standards for the content and style of the images associated with your brand.
Make a mood board! This is a great way to compile all of the visual elements from your brand into one place for reference. Experiment with how they should be combined and test with whether all of your design choices mesh well together
Put it to work!
Once you’ve gone through the hard work of hashing out the nitty gritty details, put your brand to work for you!
1. Brand or style guide
A brand guide is a place for all of this information to live! (To give you an idea, I’ve been using images from style guides through this post.) While the extent of documentation needed will depend on your business, it’s always a good idea to write down all of the stuff we’ve talked about here — your target audience, goals, brand voice, image guidelines, etc. At the very least, this will help keep you organized and on-point. If you work with a team, it’s even more valuable because it creates a baseline for how to use the brand tools so that everyone is on the same page and doing things consistently.
You can also use your style guide as a place for details on writing conventions. Does your company say US or U.S.A? Email or E-mail? Put it in writing somewhere so that everyone knows how to do it correctly!
Need inspiration? Check out these awesome brand guides.
Speaking of consistency… man, is it important! Your brand is the thing that consumers recognize and associate with your business, and you should take care to apply it consistently. When you start changing it, you diminish its impact. That’s not to say that your brand isn’t a living, evolving thing. It can grow and adapt as necessary when new needs arise; it just needs to be done intentionally and with care.
Making big changes — like our recent rebrand! — takes a lot of consideration. Weigh out the pros, such as having a nicer looking brand that is aimed at your target audience, against the cons such as breaking people’s relationship with your existing brand. If you think a total rebrand is necessary, my advice would be to execute it all at once. That way, users only have to adjust once instead of constantly seeing changing information. Additionally, you can create a marketing effort around the change so that people who are familiar with your brand get the memo that you’re changing. You might also reach some new people this way, too!
There are many ways you might implement your brand, from physical collateral to social media and web ads.
On social media, set compelling profile and header images that will appeal both to people who are familiar with your brand and those who are encountering it for the first time. Create naming conventions across different platforms so people can find you easily. Implement your voice! It might vary a bit from platform to platform depending—Instagram might be a bit more casual than Facebook—but it should all feel cohesive. Create a list of on-brand phrases and hashtags to use, and consider layout schemes for posting images. (Check out our post on Instagram Marketing for Etsy Sellers!)
Apply your brand to business cards and to packaging! If you ship a product, create branded labels, packing slips, invoices, or any other piece of collateral you think will be useful. Your customers will appreciate the care and quality and associate that with your brand as well. It’s all a part of the customer experience, and the experience that your customers associate with your business is at its core what your brand is about. It’s everything you do that’s part of the story you’re telling the world about your unique business.
I’d love to hear from you — leave your questions and feedback in the comments!