The business world is becoming increasingly competitive, and more than ever, having a compelling brand is essential. Think of your brand identity as a first impression; it helps you to visually communicate who your company is to your audience. A clever logo or bold color scheme can deliver just as much information as a carefully crafted business report.
Good design makes your brand look better, it’s that simple. So what exactly helps make up the visual identity of a great brand? Here are some of the basic building blocks to get you started on your journey to create stunning design!
1. Choosing A Colour Palette
Colour theory is serious business, and there are many things you need to consider before choosing your colour scheme. People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with a brand, and between 62 to 90 percent of that assessment is based on colours alone. Prudent use of colours can not only differentiate your brand from your competitors, but it can also influence attitudes and beliefs towards your products. For instance, when the decision to include teal in the QMA colour palette was made, we factored in teal’s association with dependability and strength and decided that these were traits we wanted to emphasize in our recent rebranding.
Due to our experiences, cultural perceptions, and personal preferences, certain colours instantly produce certain emotions. Blue, the most commonly used colour in branding, is perceived both as serene and reliable. The degree of brightness within each respective colour produces different feelings as well. Bright, light blue, for example, has a friendly vibe. Muted colours, on the other hand, represent the more reserved end of the colour spectrums. The more white collar the company, say a Capital Management firm the more muted the colour schemes tend to get. On the opposite end, smaller and more niche brands such as 5Crowd tend to push creative limits by incorporating unique fonts, shapes, and colours into their logos.
That being said, no amount of colour wheel analysis can generate a scheme that represents your brand. You’re absolutely allowed to go for the unorthodox – it worked for Ikea!
2. Typography Choices
Put simply, typography is the art and technique of arranging type. Choosing the right typeface is crucial, as it can truly make the difference between good, great, and poor design. The typeface you choose represents the voice behind your brand and can convey a particular feeling to your audience.
There are a ton of amazing resources to help you start learning the typography basics. If you’re looking for fonts to experiment with, Creative Market & DaFont have several unique font choices to play around with. One of our personal favourite typography resources, Type Genius, helps you find the perfect font pairing. While there are tons of tools out there to help you match fonts and get introduced to the discipline, a lot of the time it can come down to creative intuition. Go with your gut and choose a font that you think best suits your brand’s voice!
3. The Logo
As unique, creative, and nuanced as your brand may be, all of your efforts can be undermined upon first glance because of something as simple as a poorly positioned logo. Consider the almost-immediately-redacted 2010 Gap rebrand that left their consumers confused.
Think of a logo like you would a three second elevator pitch – it should showcase enough of your company to give your audience a general idea of what you’re all about, but simple enough that the message to your audience is clear. In addition, your logo will likely have to withstand resizing and alterations depending on where it is used, so make sure you are designing it on a vector based software. If you’re comfortable playing around with different softwares, we recommend you check out Adobe Illustrator because it’s very user friendly and does the job well! Without graphic design experience, Creative Market also has many logo design templates available at various price points, and 365 PSD has a ton of free images you could could use for the creative.
4. Consistency Is Key
Staying consistent with your style is very important when it comes to building a strong visual identity and driving brand recognition. It’s important for a designer to create work that fits within the aesthetic, perception, and tone of voice a brand has rather than constantly reinventing the wheel. Some designers fall into the trap of chasing the design trend of the moment, but like any trend, design fads come and go. The creative challenge is to find a way to incorporate elements of the latest design craze into the style your brand already has.
A great way to do this is to get inspired by what other designers have already come up with! Some of our personal favourites to help us refocus when we have creative block are Designspiration, Behance, or Pinterest which we’ve both used to save some of our favourite layouts, color schemes, and font combinations.
“Where do I start?” is sometimes the single biggest roadblock that prevents one from diving into the world of design. Thankfully with the help of the Internet, there are endless resources at your disposal. Photoshop is your springboard to graphic design, so if possible, we suggest purchasing this as step one. Once you start to get familiar with the software, you can then play around with colour schemes, typography, and ultimately building a logo. With some practice you should be able to determine your personal design style that compliments the brand – then you can push boundaries and try to incorporate some fun and creative trends into your designs. Ultimately, you’ll want to create a brand guide to ensure consistency in the publications you develop.
The most important thing to remember as a new designer is that these skills are not going to come overnight or without lots of practice! No matter how many years of Photoshop experience you can put on your resume, nothing can guide design quite like exploring your creativity, personal style, and having an intuitive understanding of what your brand stands for and who it serves. A failure to understand your own product creates design that comes off as uninspired and confused. Take Instagram’s unpopular recent logo revamp – the complete change in colour scheme and shape not only went against their brand image, but also confused their users. Remember that consistency is key!
A strong brand does not exist in a vacuum. It is not only the visual face your company puts forth, but also how consumers perceive your brand. The last step to branding is to deliver on your brand promise, whether it’s your promise of being an industry leader in cutting edge design, or a reliable giant. Brands and the company they represent are one entity, so before you embark on your design journey, remember what and who you are designing for.
Jessica is a third-year marketing student at the Smith School of Business. As a born and raised Vancouverite, she can often be found without an umbrella or at a cafe flipping through design magazines on rainy days.
Jennifer is entering both her second year at SSB and also at the Queen’s Marketing Association. You can find her running from class to class at Goodes wrapped in at least three blanket scarves at any given moment.