As a designer, I find the biggest mistake business owners make when it comes to their brands is misrepresenting their business through design by not fully understanding what a brand is and by hiring a designer who doesn’t have expertise in branding design. Just as the phrase goes, “the eyes are the windows to the soul,” the design should be a glimpse into the soul of your brand. Without a professional brand designer, this essential aspect of the brand is easily overlooked.
Let’s talk about what a brand is. A brand is not a logo or website, a brand is not something tangible. Your brand is you. It is what you provide and how you provide it. If you are an existing business, your brand is how you are perceived in the marketplace. If you are a new business, you will initially have control over how you portray your brand to the world, but ultimately your audience will decide if it’s accurate or not. If you currently have a great product and amazing customer service, that is what needs to be represented in your brand design.
Think of a dating website. Each single man and woman is a brand and their branding design is their dating profile. They are in control of the impression they make on others. They might choose their best photo, write about their best qualities and focus on traits that they think will be most appealing to others. But it is an important element of branding that the profile accurately represents who they really are and the things that are important to them. In person, they need to represent the same message that initially made the profile attractive to their date, otherwise the date probably won’t go too well. Just like with online dating, as a business your message needs to be consistent with who you are.
Layout, colours, typography, icons, and illustration styles all evoke feeling. A handwritten or script typeface will feel more casual and organic, whereas an uppercase sans-serif typeface will feel more professional and serious. Blues will make the user feel relaxed whereas reds will invoke a sense of urgency. Business owners often pick designs, colours, etc. based on what they like or prefer, without considering whether or not it is a good representation of their brand.
As a brand designer, I’ve had many clients ask for feedback from their partners, employees, husbands/wives, etc. The problem with this is that those people may not be the target audience, and therefore their input may not be relevant. The best way to measure the success of your brand design is by whether or not it is engaging your target audience. One of the best compliments I ever received from a client was, “My business is doing great. I’m attracting the exact type of customers I want.” That is far more important than simply having a beautiful design.
A brand designer knows that a successful brand is created through more than just design. It’s about research, persona development, setting measurable objectives, creating a brand strategy and often much, more depending on the business. This process will help you define your brand and will result in a design that represents the core of your business. Any designer can create something “beautiful,” but a designer with branding expertise will tap into the heart and soul of your business and create a design that conveys your message through colours, typefaces and icons.
For instance, imagine there is a woman (let’s call her Sarah) looking for an elementary school for her daughter. Through a Google search, she comes across a website that has a beautiful crisp, clean logo, contemporary lines and simple colours. Sarah loves the cleanliness of the brand and assumes the school will have a similar look and feel, so she schedules an appointment for a visit.
Expecting clean, white hallways and well-behaved children, Sarah is disappointed to arrive and find an environment with children busy as bees and a noise level to suit, art work covering the walls and the general mess and chaos you would expect from a building full of active and happily engaged children.
The design of the school’s brand gave Sarah a certain expectation, and because the design didn’t represent the core of the business, Sarah’s expectations weren’t met. On the other hand, the audience that is looking for an environment full of messy, playful children might be put off by the brand design, assuming the school is more high-end and sedate than what they are looking for. The brand is beautiful, but it doesn’t accurately represent their business and as a result, the school most likely won’t reach their target market.
At the end of the day, the core of your business will always shine through, regardless of how it is portrayed through the design. Hiring a brand designer will ensure a strategic design that isn’t just made to look beautiful, but will also help you reach your business goals by appealing to your target market, offering a glimpse into your message and values, and accurately represent the essence of your business. A great brand design that fully represents your business is the key to your success!