Recently, I announced that I’m pivoting my business from mainly Custom Calligraphy & a hint of Illustration, to a much heavier focus on Illustration - which includes the occasional Illustrated Brand design when the right client comes along. This is not to say that I won’t be offering calligraphy services anymore, simply that I am cutting back on my calligraphy offerings in favour of more illustration based projects.
After I shared this news, I realized that maybe not everyone knows exactly what I mean when I talk about brand design - so, allow me to elaborate!
What is Brand Design?
I think the best way to explain this is by offering myself up as an example. When I first designed my very own branding back in 2016, I did it all backwards. I started with the logo - the icing on the cake, if you will - without first focusing on my brand identity (which, in this scenario, is the cake itself). I designed a logo for myself thinking only of what I wanted it to look like, instead of thinking about what I wanted my brand to be. Earlier this year when I re-designed my logo, I did the opposite: I started from the ground up, and my logo was the last thing that I designed, once I had fully evaluated my brand, and re-designed it to reflect who I am as an artist. Your brand identity is the foundation, and your brand visuals are there to convey it. The process of establishing your brand identity and then creating corresponding aesthetic elements (logo, colour palette, pattern, icons, etc) is Brand Design!
So… it’s not just about the logo?
Say it with me - it’s not just about the logo. If nothing else, I would hope your biggest takeaway from reading this is that branding is about so much more than a pretty logo. Am I much, much happier with my newly redesigned logo above? YES. But would I have been able to design something that so perfectly reflects my brand, my personality and my artistic soul without first putting in the work to re-discover my brand identity? NO.
Having gorgeous brand visuals is great, but without a complete, cohesive brand design and clear brand identity, they will fall flat. Just like with everything else I yammer on about incessantly (finding your calligraphy style, creating original content, etc) I believe that the path to success is built from individuality. Those little quirks, obscure interests and unique qualities are what make you different, and they are also what will make your brand stand out.
Why does Branding matter?
First things first, strong branding means having both a solid understanding of your business, and having a killer aesthetic to match. This combination can take your business from just fine (cue exaggerated shrug) to flourishing. Not only that, making sure your brand is on point will only serve to attract your dream clients and communicate your value to them.
I was inspired to revisit my own branding while co-writing the course content for The Badass Brand Academy with my fabulous work-wife Sylvia Wong of Via Calligraphy. Syl is a fountain of marketing & branding knowledge, and after many long text exchanges, phone calls and one fabulous in-person wine & pizza date (we live in different cities so we’ve only been able to hang out in person twice!), my eyes were opened to everything that a personal brand really could be. As a testament to how much I believe in our course, I revisit the content regularly to ensure that I’m staying true to my brand, and myself.
What steps are involved in Brand Design?
It depends on whether you are hiring a Brand Designer, or going the DIY route.
If you are working with a Brand Designer: You will usually just have to do a questionnaire that will help them get to know you, your business, your personal tastes, and your goals. Then, they will do most of the legwork for you - creating a mood board, crafting a cohesive identity, assembling a colour palette, designing corresponding graphics, etc! Meanwhile, you get to sit back with a glass of wine and a box of chicken nuggets and choose from the beautiful things they present you with! A word of advice: If you hire someone to design your brand, it should be someone you trust, someone whose work you covet, and someone that you click with and feel comfortable giving your honest feedback to. It’s super important to have complete confidence in an artist when you hire them, so that they are free to do their best work and you are free to trust the process, and know you’ll be getting the results you deserve.
If you are an artist or designer yourself and want to DIY: To design your own brand, you need the following 3 things: Self-Awareness, An Eye for Aesthetics, and A Deadline. Self-Awareness, because you have to be intimately acquainted with your brand’s mission, values and purpose. An Eye for Aesthetics, because as much as building a strong brand behind the scenes is all-important, the aesthetics are the first thing that potential clients will see, so they have to be impactful. And A Deadline, because since you’re already a creative, you might be prone to Shiny Object Syndrome (I know I am!). Designing for yourself is usually much more difficult than designing for someone else, so you have to be disciplined, and give yourself deadlines (that you can actually stick to!). If you can master all three, you should be able to DIY a killer brand design without changing your colour palette and font pairing 45 times.
Because I know the struggle of designing for yourself all too well, I created a DIY Brand Design Self Questionnaire to get you off on the right foot if you’re getting ready to design your own branding. Just enter your e-mail below to download it and get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with yourself and you brand!
Thank you so much for reading! If you found value in this blog post, it would mean the world to me if you would share it on Pinterest by pinning the image below!
Looking to DIY your Brand Design, but don’t know where to start?
Book a Branding Brainstorm Sesh and I’ll help you design a brand you can be proud of!