I’m here to tell you that your business’s story, its “brand,” already exists. My role as a designer is merely to step in, listen to the heartbeat of your company, and shape those loose thoughts and dreams into a cohesive, compelling message.
When you are starting out, the world is at your fingertips, and you're met with a sea of opportunity, but don’t get lost in the comparison game. You have a unique voice and an original story. Let’s discover it!
1. What makes your business unique?
This can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Think about the initial idea for your business. What inspired it? What unfulfilled need did you see? How are you doing things differently? At the end of the day, what do you want to be known for? All of these components about you and your business unite to create your business’s unique perspective of your industry.
2. Whom in particular are you talking to?
Don’t be vague here—you aren’t talking to everyone. If you need a jumping off point, think about the projects you have loved, the people who have inspired you, those who NEED whatever it is you provide. What is it about them that makes you passionate to help?
Take a moment to scroll through your social media and categorize this “ideal candidate.” What is their personal style, their story, their lifestyle? What are their hopes for the future and their hidden fears? How does your product or service meet their needs and improve their life? What are they in search of when they find you?
Take it even further and imagine their name, age, gender, and occupation. This isn’t to limit you, but rather to give you a specific idea of what would or would not appeal to your specific niche. It will help to eliminate your weaker ideas in favor of stronger solutions.
A great exercise is to create a Pinterest board specific to this imaginary person. Go back to it every time you are brainstorming new products, content, or ways to promote your services.
3. Now that we know whom you’re talking to, let’s set the mood.
Spend a few minutes describing the feeling you’d like this person to get when they find your website or social media account. Is it peace? Inspiration? Motivation?
From the copy and the visuals to the platform on which they first encounter you, intentionally shape the first impression you want them to have. The consumer market is like online dating: you wouldn’t want to meet the customer of your dreams with a bad profile picture, would you?
4. Once the tone is established, begin to source the photography for your brand.
I will always be an advocate for original photography, but I know it isn’t an option for every entrepreneur when they start out. But this doesn’t mean you have permission to cut corners in this department. If your funds are limited, block out time to source quality stock photography that specifically tells your story in a relevant and personal way. (Don’t think that the beautiful foggy mountain landscape will help you sell your calligraphy services).
For those who do plan to use a photographer to elevate their brand visuals, help them create great content for you by sharing your creative direction, examples of photography you love, and an idea of who your target audience is.
And when taking pictures for social media, take some time to learn the ins and outs of natural lighting, composition, and color consistency. The key to visuals is to keep them cohesive and relevant.
5. Nothing goes better with photography than a set of perfectly paired brand fonts.
A good rule of thumb is to choose one serif and one sans-serif font for your brand. Serif fonts have little feet on the end like Times New Roman and sans-serif fonts are more modern and geometric like Helvetica. Serif fonts tend to be classic and editorial. Sans-serif fonts are approachable, digital, and have a modern feel. You can also mix in a decorative font—but only use it for headlines.
6. Now that you have the LOOK of your brand down, it’s time to decide on the TONE.
This element of a brand is often overlooked, but it makes a big difference. Your copy can either make your brand seem cold and confusing or warm and inviting. Think about whether it is appropriate for your brand’s tone to be established and trustworthy, funny and personable, or dreamy and inspiring. This is another time to consider where your ideal candidate is at journey when they encounter you. Do they need an expert to relieve them of their confusion and insecurity? A friend to walk alongside them as they experience something new? A boost to improve their lifestyle?
7. Lastly, design the experience you want your customers to have.
List the components of your client process: every point of contact, deliverable, and phase. How can you build upon your brand’s message by reiterating your mission every step of the way? How can you build in surprise, imagination, and convenience? A cohesive brand message paired with an intentional customer experience will create a lasting business with incredible success.
For more prompts to help you identify your business’s unique voice and story, head over to www.designbykadie.com to grab your copy of my Brand Scratch Pad workbook. Filled with questions and insights, you’ll find that your story was there all along; it just took a bit of digging to bring it to light.