Hands up if you’ve got a logo but not a brand? And when it comes to DIY-ing your own website, you find yourself lacking inspiration and creating a website that you don’t really love and that lacks polish?
Please don’t worry – you’re not alone. It’s a really common scenario for many creative entrepreneurs who take the DIY route. Luckily there is a process that works every time, when it comes to creating a solid brand foundation for your website.
Say goodbye to ‘brand shopping’ and ‘panic designing’. What you need is a brand guide to keep you on track.
But before we dive into how to create your own design roadmap, let’s talk briefly about hitting that sweet spot that makes a brand stand out and feel totally you.
Your visual branding relies on getting the right balance between your work, your ideal client profile and your personal taste. This is why brands need updating from time to time, because our audience, our personal style and the work we produce changes over time.
Does your brand feel out of balance?
So what’s a brand guide and why do you need one?
A brand guide is a document that sets out the components of your visual brand and how you should use them. It should include logo variations, colours, fonts and any design elements. It may also include UI (user interface) items, like buttons and calls to action that you might use in your website.
Having even a simple brand guide can keep you on track when you start creating your marketing materials, whether that’s your website or printed items.
Without it, you’ll start making design decisions in the moment, and you’re unlikely to achieve the consistency you need to achieve that polished professional look that you really want.
Over the next few days, we’ll be exploring the different components of a brand guide….
Permission to Pinterest
Before setting up your brand guide, you’re going to need to do some visual research, so I’m giving you legit permission to go down a Pinterest rabbit hole.
You can create a random ‘mood board’ but I’d encourage you to be more purposeful and segment your board into different sections. The genius part is that these sections will correlate to the sections of your brand guide, so you can work through it methodically.
And having a plan is better than creative chaos, believe me!
Here are the categories you need to pin in…
- Design elements (texture/shape/pattern)
- Your style (a catch-all category for anything that catches your eye that doesn’t fall into the above categories)
- Layout ideas
- Your own work
I’d like to give you two important pieces of advice here.
- Keep things high level at this stage. Now isn’t the time to pin down the exact hex codes of your dream colour palette or choose a font. You simply want to be looking for recurring tones and styles that catch your eye. The detailed work comes later.
- Make sure you upload your work or products to the board. Remember the Venn diagram from earlier? We want to achieve a balanced brand and you can’t do that without your own work in the mix.
Working Through Colour Options
You’ve done your Pinterest homework and now what? Making the leap from inspiration to brand creation can seem overwhelming. This is where your neatly segmented Pinterest mood board comes into play.
Start with your colour pins and work through your colours one at a time. You’re looking for:
- a main brand colour,
- a mid range ‘anchor’ colours
- a pale background colour or matching tone that can cover a large area
- a highlight or accent colour
- a neutral colour for text that is easily readable
Note: This doesn’t mean you need 5 different colours. You might have just 1 or 2 colours which can perform all of those roles. I’ve designed many brands and websites which are completely monochrome or just use one colour for contrast.
Working Through Font Options
Who doesn’t love playing around with fonts? No one, right?
If you’ve done your Pinterest homework correctly, you should see trends across your font pins. For example, you might see several pins with handwritten fonts, or maybe you’ve been drawn to fashion-inspired serif fonts.
Now’s the time to take yourself off to Google Fonts, Creative Market or Fonts.com and have a browse. The fun thing about font marketplaces is they usually allow you to type in some sample text (like your business name or a phrase you use often) and see it rendered in the font you are looking at.
Just as with the colours in your palette, your fonts have different roles to play. You’re looking for:
- a main heading font that isn’t going to fight with your logo
- a contrasting subheading font that complements your heading font
- an easy-to-read body copy font
- a highlight or ‘call-out’ font (this is often a script of display font that you should use very sparingly and it’s completely optional)
Again, this doesn’t mean you should have 4 fonts. Some fonts can play several or even all roles. I’ve designed websites which only use one font, but in different weights and styles.
Before adding another font into the mix, first ask yourself if using a different weight or style (ie. italic, uppercase, underlined) will work instead.
Creating Your Style Tile
If you’ve never heard of the term ‘style tile’, it’s the area of your brand guide where you bring together your fonts, colours, any graphic elements and real images of your work.
This is where I have the most fun, playing with the different elements to see how they interact and work together. You won’t be surprised to know that there is a corresponding area on your Pinterest board: the Style and Layouts pins will give you the inspiration you need in this area.
Revise those pins, looking for layout and design features which you are drawn to and which you think will work well with the fonts and colours you’ve already selected. You may even need to create some graphic elements at this stage, or take inspiration from your logo.
Tip: Don’t forget to bring some of the images you’ll actually use in your website or for your marketing into your style tile. It’s important to keep checking that we’re achieving that balance we’ve been striving for from the beginning.
Pulling It All Together
If you really want to go to town, you can add usage guidelines, like font sizes, font combinations and recommended colour combinations.
You should now be able to review your finished brand guide and see the balance between your work, your ideal client and your personal style.
If you’re not feeling it, it simply means that you need to continue tweaking your guide. And remember, just as your work and your business will continue to evolve, so will your visual assets. Your brand guide is a living, breathing document, meant to be consulted frequently and refined as often as you need.
If you’d like to join an inspiring online community, you can find out more about Melissa’s online membership, The Marketing Fix, at www.themarketingfix.co.