1. Your logo
Some people think of this one element as your “brand”, but it’s not, branding is several different things that all come together to give your customers a sense of the personality of your business. Your logo is just one part of that. However your logo is perhaps going to be the most recognised symbol of your brand, and so it is still very important.
When designing your brand you really should consider your logo and what you want it to say about you. Consider the shape: a logo with angles and sharp points can indicate strength and reliability, whereas a logo with lots of curves and circles can suggest softness and flexibility. You can read more about the importance of the shape of your logo here.
It’s also important to consider whether your logo is a word only (called a logotype) or whether it also has an icon. A lot of people think 'logo' and then automatically think 'icon', but you don’t have to use an icon, and lots of famous brands don’t. Think Disney, Coca-Cola, Ray-Ban, Sony, FedEx and Google - they all use typography only. It is the interesting type choices that make those famous logotypes memorable. However an icon can also be really fun and useful, and a lot of brands use icons in their logo, like Apple, LG, Nike, Pepsi, Target and Ford. It doesn't matter which you choose in terms of memorability, it is more important the icon or logotype fits with your branding.
As well as shape and the icon, it is also important to consider the legibility of your logo, both of the text but also the icon. It’s likely you’ll be using your logo, or parts of it, in all sorts of places (from social media to business cards) so you also need to make sure it works in those spaces. You can read more about that here.
So when thinking about your branding it is crucial to consider the shape of the logo, how legible it is, whether you’ll use an icon or not, and overall what your logo says about your business. It is also important to consider the colour of your logo and your overall colour palette.
2. Your colour palette
When designing your overall brand, it is good to choose about 5 colours. Too many and the branding can get confusing and the message lost, too little and your limit your variability and scope. So you need to decide what colours will work best.
Think about the meaning of the colours that you want to use. Some colour meanings are pretty common sense, but some can be less known. For example, most people could confidently guess that yellow can mean happy, blue can mean calm, and green reminds people of plants. But blue psychologically also indicates strength and reliability, yellow can indicate enlightening and awareness, purple is linked to royalty and hereditary. These colours also have some negative connotations too, such as blue can be linked with depression and sadness, yellow with cowardice, and purple with distance and subdued. That doesn’t mean you can’t choose those colours, but it is important to be aware of their meanings, both good and bad. So before choosing your colour, it is really good to do some research (or hire someone who has! Ahem, like me!) when you choose your colour scheme.
That colour can be used for your logo, your website, colours you might use on social media, colours on your business cards and more.
3. Your typography choices
Have you considered what your typography choices might say about your brand? Serif fonts are the fonts that have little strokes at the end of letters - like this (EXAMPLE), and sans serif has no strokes (the ‘sans’ means “without”, so it’s “without serif”). Just for clarification - a typeface is the name for an overall family, the font is the specific style. So Times New Roman is the typeface, and then that particular typeface in bold at size 12pt is the font.
Back in the day, all printed or formal typefaces were serif fonts (handwriting was still sans serif), and a lot of old-style formal writing made use of blackletter typefaces. This long history still influences our thinking now, black lettering still tends to lead people to think of tradition, which is why a lot of newspapers still use them.
Serif typefaces generally also have a bit of the traditional formal feel, while sans serif typefaces feel more modern and clean. Calligraphic or script typefaces can denote luxury and style, while display typefaces can feel playful and informal. There is heaps of research and writing on this, and possibly one of my favourites so far is “Why Fonts Matter” by Sarah Hyndman.
You don’t have to pick just one, often serif and sans serif look great mixed (like on my website!), but you should put thought into why you’re picking a certain typeface, and what that says about your brand.
4. Your photos
Lots of people don’t think of imagery when they think of their brand, but this is really important! Do you use playful, bright imagery, or soft vintage looking imagery? Each says something different. It’s important you aim to pick images that are consistent with your brand so that your images help tell your customers a story about your business.
Perhaps you could take your own photos in order to help portray your brand. Or you could consider using photos that have a similar style or even similar colours used. Most stock sites (free and paid) will allow you to search for photos by colour so you could use this feature to help create consistent branding.
Of course, if you sell things you also need to take specific photos of your items. This is where you can also consider the background colours and style - for example, do you shoot your photos on a white background or staged layouts, or do you shoot your product in real-world examples? Looking at Donna Hay’s website can give you an idea of how you can shoot a variety of products (or meals in her case) with a similar branding approach applied.
5. Your tone of voice
And by this, I mean how you talk to your reader/customer. Do you use very formal language, or informal playful language, or something in between? I try to write my content in my own voice, which I consider to be a friendly formal style. I also always write in the first person. This is my brand and how I choose to represent my business, and considering it is just me and I am in the creative industry I feel this works. However if I was a doctor and was part of a practice I might write in the 3rd person as it can be more formal, and feel a little more strong and scientific.
There are no hard rules here, but again, this is something to actually think about when you consider your branding, as this will be something that permeates through everything you do.
This is not an exhaustive list of your branding, but I think it covers some really important aspects that should be considered when you think about your business and your branding.
It may not always be explicitly discussed with you, but a good designer will take all of those elements into consideration. For example, if I know I am designing for a medical practice, let's call it North Practice, I might consider using shades of blue for strength and trust, and sans serif fonts for tradition. This example might be a little predictable, but it is just to give you an idea of how these elements can work together, and how a designer might consider those factors even if they don’t always communicate them with you. I might also choose images for North Practice that are light and bright, helping to convey hope and a sense of cleanliness. I might suggest using a 3rd person formal tone of voice and using a logo that had a mix of round edges and corners to give a feeling of strength and approachability.
To help you get started when considering your branding choices, it can be useful to think about what you want your customers to experience when they engage with your business. Do you want them to feel trust, and feel safe? Or do you want to make them smile and laugh? Or feel inspired and energised? Thinking about what you want your customer to feel will help you clarify what your branding needs to deliver. And then from there you can research and make informed decisions to get this across to your customer, or hire a designer who will do this for you!