The Newbie BusinessMums' Guide to making your Brand look good!
Before you read another word of this blog post, you really should read Branding part 1: How to Define your Brand Personality. Part 1 explains what a brand is, how a strong brand will help your blog grow and how to discover and define your own brand identity.
This lesson teaches you how to express your brand identity and message in your brand visuals. (And tells you how you can get your hands on a Brand Style Guide workbook!)
Your brand visuals are your brand's style. Its image. The design part of the branding process and what most people think of when they think of creating a brand.
Your brand visuals include:
- Colour palette
- Font choices
- Recurring website graphics
- Photographic style
In other words, everything that effects what anything to do with your blog looks like! Your visuals will be used on your site, on your social media, your products and any printed material you have, anywhere your blog appears in the World (online and offline!)
I could go on forever about this part of the branding process - I absolutely loved developing the visual branding for The Badass Businessmum! And, because I enjoyed it so much, I went a step further and created a whole new Brand for an imaginary wedding stationary business 'Love Laura x'!
I am going to try and contain my excitement though and keep to the important how to's of planning your brand visuals. But I have included some epic detailed resources for more information (coz I know you want All. The. Information!)
Aaaannd, because you need to use your visuals consistently, I've created a Brand Style Guide workbook and template for you. Not only will it teach you what a Style Guide is, and how to create one, it will help you actually use it to make your blog look ah-mazing! (<< Click that link or the image below to join us in The Badass Businessmum's Club and get your hands on your Brand Style Guide workbook)
My 4 Top DIY Branding Tips
Keep your visuals consistent
I explained the benefits of consistent branding in Part 1 so I'm not going to harp on about it much here (if you've not read part 1 you really should ;)) The main points to remember are:
- Match your visuals to your brand personality you defined in Part 1.
- Keep the same visual style (eg; modern / retro / bold / muted etc) across all of your branding.
Keep your branding simple
As a non designer creating your own visuals you can't go wrong with simple! Simple equals easy to understand, easy to read and inviting for your readers. Simple also benefits you and your readers by:
- Avoiding visual clashes / confusion / busy-ness which will put people off your site in a heartbeat.
- Making your life easier with less options. Stick to only a couple of fonts, 2 or 3 main colours and a pre-determined plan of what image style you are going to use. Spare yourself hours making design decisions every time you write a blog post, search for stock photos or create a social media post!
- Not offending anyone. Don't panic, I'm not for a minute suggest you try and appeal to everyone! If you don't have a clear idea of how to create a striking, but also attractive, brand, keeping things simple will avoid you scaring away the audience you want to attract!
Ask for help
Like everything in life, there are design and branding rules. If you are unsure of how to create your visuals or what they should look like, asking for help from the pros that know the 'rules' will stop you from creating something truly hideous!
Join a good Facebook group dedicated to branding and / or design (I can recommend the Badass Solopreneur Society and Blog Beautiful) and ask for help. You will find pro designers and brand developers that are willing to offer their valuable opinions and advice as you design your brand.
Be deliberate in your choices
Don't just choose elements because you like them. Make sure they add to / back up your brand message.
Keep your brand message in mind when designing your visuals and avoid creating a confusing and muddly blog!
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How to create a Branding visuals moodboard
The first step in creating your visuals is to create a moodboard. Your moodboard will help you see which elements work well together and which ones suit your brand personality.
- Add to your 'personality' board that you created in Part 1: Defining your Brand Personality or create a new one. Part 1 has more details on where and how to create a moodboard.
- Add fonts, colour palettes, blog design themes, photographs and print designs you like. You aren't looking for designs to copy. You are looking for elements that 'speak' to you by saying what you want your brand to say. Here's the one I created on Pinterest for 'Love Laura x' as a Branding Moodboard example.
- The next step is to remove anything that doesn't fit with the personality you developed for your brand.
- Pay special attention to recurring themes (eg; colours, motifs, styles of photography / graphics). Use these themes that you're obviously attracted to and narrow down your choices of fonts, colour palettes and logo design ideas to just a few of each before you make your final decisions.
How to make your Brand Visuals look Ah-mazing!
Your business Logo
Your logo needs to be scalable. It needs to look good small, so simple is best. If you do add graphics, do they still look like what they're meant to when reduced in size? Can you still read the text at a reduced size? Fonts with very fine lines go a bit wonky when made small, because the fine lines disappear!
What does your logo look like in black and/or white? The logo design you use for your watermark will need to be recognisable at low transparencies too.
You will need different versions of your logo for different business purposes. Make a list of all the different ways your logo will be displayed throughout your business activities. As well as your standard logo which you will probably use in your website header, you might need a version to use as a watermark, a submark (normally round or square to take up less space. You could use your submark design as your watermark) and a favicon (the tiny 16px square symbol displayed in a browser).
A text based logo is a lot easier for DIY-ers. This simplest type of Logo is basically your business name in an attractive font (or fonts). Using text only makes life easier for you by removing the need for complex graphic design software. It gives you room for updates should you hire a designer in the future and you're less likely to accidentally create a mess of a logo that ends up not saying what you want it to!
Can you read what it says? Or more appropriately, can someone who doesn't know what it says, read it? Pretty fonts are fun, but your logo is no good if no one is going to have a clue what your business is called!
If you are looking for an affordable way of getting a professional looking logo, you can purchase pre-made logos or logo templates from places like Creative Market or Etsy. You will be sent a file (or files) with the logo layout that you can then customise with your business name and colours. Some sellers will do this simple customisation for you (you may have to pay extra) if you don't have the correct design software or the technical know how (or just want someone else to do it because it's quicker and easier!)
One important thing to bear in mind when purchasing pre-made logo templates is that they are sold multiple times, so other businesses will be using the same logo.
More Logo Design Information
your Brand Colour Palette
Stick to 2 or 3 main colours plus an accent colour as well as dark grey / black for text. Again, simple is good!
Use light and dark tones of one colour to expand your colour palette while keeping it simple.
Have one contrasting colour to use as your accent colour. Contrasting colours are opposites on the colour wheel (eg; blue and orange or red and green) and are used to draw attention to something. Contrasting colour elements next to each other visually push each other apart. (Eg; I make my subscription buttons in my sign up forms teal so they contrast with the hot pink in my branding)
Use a couple of complementary colours to create a harmonious, cohesive effect. Complementary colours are next to each other on the colour wheel (eg; blue and purple or yellow and orange) and pull objects together. You might use complimentary colours in navigation buttons to differentiate the choice of options but still show they are all part of the same menu.
There are many discussions about colour psychology, including some that maintain it doesn't exist. But personally, I think we can't help associate certain colours with certain meanings (Eg; pink = feminine, gold = luxury, pastels = calming, bright = exciting). Your choice of colour will say a lot about your brand personality.
The amount of colour you use will make an impact on your site visitors. Lots of white space is restful to the eyes so if you're using bright colours use them sparingly and keep the other elements of your branding simple. (Eg; I use hot pink as the main colour throughout my blog but my fonts, layout and logo are all very simple and minimalistic)
Dark text on a light background is the easiest combination to read so for your main body text I strongly recommend using black or a dark grey. The easier your visitors can read your text, the longer they'll stick around to keep reading it!
To get inspiration for your colour palette use a website such as design seeds, or simply search colour palettes on Pinterest. Narrow down the choices by searching for colour palettes with a specific colour if you know at least one colour you want to use. This simple site will create a colour palette from a photograph.
More Information on Choosing your Brand Colours
- 'What your Brand Colors say about your Blog and how to choose the perfect Color Palette' by Julie Gibbons on Design your own (lovely) Blog
- 'Finding a Color Palette to match your Blog's Personality' by Julie Gibbons on Design your own (lovely) Blog
Your Brand Typefaces and Fonts
There are 5 different categories of typeface: serif, sans serif, display, handwritten and dingbat. Serif fonts are the ones that have serifs (which are the little lines at the ends of the letters), sans serif fonts don't have serifs (pretty obvious huh!), display fonts are your elaborate, artistic fonts that are quirky and cool but not always easy to read, handwritten are those that look... well, handwritten! (script and cursive fonts) and dingbat fonts are the ones where the letters are replaced with icons and symbols.
When pairing typefaces, pair opposites; serif with sans serif or sans serif and display.
Sans serif typefaces are easier to read on a screen and are the font category of choice for body text. Serif typefaces are traditionally used in print publications.
Choose 2 fonts (3 max) plus a different logo font, (if you feel the need!) Choose a plain font and an accent font. Your accent font can be more decorative and is used to draw attention to important information (you might use it for your headings, blog title images or quotes).
Don't think you have to choose a different typeface for every different way you use text. Use text styles eg; bold, size, italics to emphasise text for different purposes (eg; my body and header text is all the same typeface, I simply change the size, colour and boldness to differentiate them.
There are many free fonts available for commercial use from sites such as Font Squirrel. Google fonts is a massive resource and you don't even have to download the font to your computer to use it on your site. If you are looking for something less commonly used, you can purchase a font from somewhere like Design Cuts.
Wherever you get your typefaces from, you MUST make sure you can use them for commercial purposes before using them on your website or blog.
More Information on Choosing Fonts for your Brand
- 'A Non-designers Guide to using Fonts Effectively' by The Branded Solopreneur
Creating your Brand Graphics
Your graphics are your recurring images and 'extras' to enhance specific features or important aspects of your brand. Your graphics add personality and can be used to make a point that something is important.
Your blog / website graphics include your header and elements like text dividers, backgrounds, buttons, hand drawn social media icons, graphics for menu options or recurring shapes (like the circle I regularly use on The Badass BusinessMum graphics)
You can purchase 'website graphic packs' that will supply you with a variety of editable graphics such as social media icons, navigation buttons, header design and background patterns. As with the fonts, make sure anything you purchase (or get for free!) for use on your website has a commercial license.
More information on Blog and Website Graphics
- '8 Must-have blog graphics for your Blog's visual branding' by Hello Brio
- '7 Great Alternatives to Photoshop to Create Graphics for Your Blog' by Chaitra on The Nectar Collective
Using Photographs to enhance your Branding
Did you know your brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text! (source). Your Photography creates the first impression of your website. And your photographs are an effective way to make an otherwise simple brand stand out as yours!
Take your own photos for maximum originality. If you take your own photos a DSLR camera and camera equipment is a worthwhile investment for you to make.
Create a cohesive brand look by using photographs with the same style and similar colours. When taking your own photographs, use the same props, layout and backgrounds to tie your brand photography together.
Your photographs need to be excellent quality. Bad photos = bad first impressions.
Stock photographs are your best friend if you don't want, or aren't able to take your own photos. Simple edits to stock photographs (eg; cropping, bluring, changing to B&W or sepia, adding a text overlay, creating a collage or adding a transparent coloured overlay) can make them unique to you and avoid the exact same images you've used appearing on a whole load of other websites or blogs.
Do NOT. Ever. Just use photographs from Google! (other search engines are available) Only use photographs that you have permission to use for commercial purposes, whether you get them for free or purchase them. If you sell products, particularly digital printables, look up 'product mock ups' to make your life (lots!!) easier!
More Brand Photography Resources
- '47 of the best, most beautiful websites for Free Stock Photos (because risking your biz for a free photo is silly!)' by Olyvia Media
- '20 Photography Hacks for Awesome Blog and Instagram Photos' by PinkPot Design Studio
A Badass Business Branding Re-cap!
Here's a quick re-cap for you, because that was a long, information-packed post!
- Keep your visuals consistent
- Keep your Branding simple
- Don't be afraid to ask for help
- Be deliberate in your choices
- Start the process by creating a Branding Visuals Moodboard
- Your Branding visuals include your:
- Fonts & Typefaces
- Colour Palette
- Website and blog graphics
- Keep your Branding consistent across your whole Business by creating (and using!) a Brand Style Guide. Get your hands on your Free Brand Style Guide workbook when you join us in The Badass BusinessMum's Club
And to show you how it all works together, here is the completed moodboard (with images taken from this Brand Inspiration Board on Pinterest), together with the finished brandboard and a website mock-up.
My process is completely DIY from start to finish, using Photoshop Elements, free fonts from Font Squirrel, free stock photographs (see link above for an awesome list of free stock photography resources) and paid for stock photographs from Big Stock Photo, some graphics purchased from Etsy, free moardboard templates (find out more about creating a moodboard in Branding Part 1: Defining your Brand Identity) and Squarespace to host and create my website.
Time to Take Action! Start creating your Brand Visuals Moodboard today and develop a brand that creates a great first impression, communicates your Brand's personality clearly and attracts and retains your ideal customer.
Join us in The Badass BusinessMum's Club and download your detailed Style Guide Workbook (as well as all the other Business Idea to Business Beginning bonuses, access to the exclusive Badass Biz Lesson archive, the private Facebook Group and weekly actionable Badass Biz Lessons delivered direct to your inbox!)
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