March 2016

4 Reasons You Need A Strong Branding Foundation

If you’ve stuck around me for a while you’ve heard me talk about the foundations for your branding (and your business). I spend a lot of time thinking about this in my own business, as well as for clients and peers. I find it immensely difficult to start working on visual branding before having this foundation established. What I mean by foundation is simple: you’ve figured out why you are in business, who you are in business for, and how you will serve them.  Here are four reasons you need these answers and a strong branding foundation.


IDENTIFIES YOUR ACTUAL PASSIONS

Getting started with a business is so scary and overwhelming. I know what it is like to feel like you have to “do it all” and the idea of saying “no” to a potential (paying!) client is terrifying. But, I’ll say this: you don’t have to do it all and you should say no to people that aren’t a good fit. But how do you know what that even is? By understanding what you actually want to do. There is a small overlap of your passions and skills and a thing people will pay for – and we need to find that. That is something that should be uncovered very early on! It shouldn’t be “I’m a graphic designer, I’ll do it all,” but rather “I’m a graphic designer, I can do it all, but I really love working with new businesses to establish their branding.” See what I mean?

Your passions are definitely allowed to evolve and change throughout time and as your business grows. That’s to be expected. But, initially, you shouldn’t set out without knowing what you truly are excited and passionate about, and will want to spend all your time working on. Because you will spend all your time working on it. We can uncover that, and more, by talking about why you are going into business.


HIGHLIGHTS YOUR UNIQUE CHARACTER

Not only do we need to figure out what you actually want to do during this foundational time, we also need to determine what makes you unique and relatable. That might sound inauthentic when I phrase it like that, but it’s not meant to be. I want to highlight facets of your personality or your story into your branding, but we need to determine what fits into the overall plan for your business (and branding).

It might be a unique feature that you practice yoga every day or that you own 12 dogs, but does your audience need to know this? What does it accomplish to share that? In this foundational time it’s best to think through your “origin story” to how you got to where you are today and then think through sharing portions of that with your audience that will feel real and human. My personal thought is the more you share the better, but if you pay attention to those that have had a lot of success, they share things that tie back into business. So though I would want to live-tweet my reactions to The Bachelor finale, it doesn’t really tie back into business in any way, shape, or form. Instead I can briefly mention that I watch it (or eat Chipotle regularly, or quote Harry Potter) and give you a glimpse into my personality without overwhelming or affecting my actual business or purpose in a distracting way.

Outside of just personal things, we also want to make sure to highlight your skills and experiences that are directly related to what you do. So I could mention working at a worldwide advertising agency and highlight my degree from a well-known and respected university because these might be unique enough in a really saturated market to make me stand out to a potential client. You could be doing the same. It doesn't have to feel gimmicky or salesy, either. Rather, incorporating your past experiences and personal skills and attributes should feel natural and conversational, but ultimately serve a purpose.


CREATES A TARGET AUDIENCE

You need to have a strong foundation for your branding so you actually know who you are branding for. It’s not just about looking nice or using your favorite colors. So throughout developing a foundation or base for your business, one of the MOST important things you can do is define your target audience.

This is a process. Not only do you need to identify your target audience based off of demographics, psychographics, values, and so on – but you also need to identify how that affects and works with your answers to my two previous points. What unique trait about you will resonate with your target audience? What are you passionate about that can somehow help or solve a problem for your target audience?

It’s definitely one of the hardest questions to answer because you have to think about so many things simultaneously to develop a good, strong answer. I joke that you should be able to tell me what your target client had for lunch yesterday, but to be honest – you should. You should also be able to tell me what keeps them up at night or stresses them out that you can somehow offer a solution to.


FOCUSES YOUR GOALS

I’m not ranking one of these reasons over the other, but having a real, actionable, and an attainable goal for your business is the only way to actually succeed. It can’t just be shooting in the dark and hoping something works. But developing these goals should be done in the initial phases of creating your business and your branding.

I look at branding as the way to make your business work. You can have the best idea ever, but without proper branding you can’t get it out there and visible. You can’t impact the people that need to be impacted, or reach the people who will help you succeed. So right off the bat we need to analyze and figure out what your goal for your business is. The big goal. The vision. The thing that will motivate you no matter what. Then we can create visual branding and brand strategy to make that goal become attainable and accomplish it.

If you thought, “to make money” then you’re not thinking hard enough. Yeah, businesses need to make money. We need to pay bills. That’s a result of your business working, but that’s not the goal. The goal is why you do it, why you matter, why people should care.



Foundation for your business and branding

I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!


5 Tips For Creating Cohesive Social Media Graphics

I recently asked for some feedback on Twitter about where people feel they struggle or are stuck with branding. I heard back from some people and there was some concern about creating cohesive social media graphics. I thought we could talk about that today, since for a lot of us with online businesses social media is responsible for growth and success. 


REFER TO YOUR STYLE GUIDE

In this post I talked about creating a style guide for your branding. This will definitely contain rules that carry into developing your social media graphics. For example, maybe you have already set the precedence that you use Raleway font or that you emphasize things by switching to a heavier weight. Carry those rules from your website, or printed collateral, into your social media graphics. Create them to reflect the same stylistic decisions – colors, fonts, spacing, and so on.

Depending on how in-depth you previously were in your style guide, this might be a good opportunity to update it with more detailed information. As stated in that post the more specific, detailed, and elaborate you are – the better.

With social media graphics you’ll want to create versions (or sizes) for different platforms, but follow the same feeling across the board. You can have some room for variation – especially if your branding incorporates things like stock photos. My social media graphics for TheCrownFox are extremely consistent across the board – the biggest change being in color. There are other examples of great branding that are less obviously consistent, but keep things like black and white stock photos with whatever typographical treatment to tie things together. You can definitely be less obviously consistent than me, but you’ll want to keep things like your fonts and colors as consistent as possible to be that visual reminder of who’s social media graphic it is.


USE TEMPLATES

If you’ve already caught the Systemize Your Branding Masterclass you saw my templates for social media graphics in use. My favorite tool is Adobe Illustrator and I use it to create a multi art board document with all the variations of my graphics (since my variation is color based, there are 12 options of how my graphics might look).

I can’t stress how vital making a template is, whether you’re using Illustrator, Photoshop, or even Canva. Having a pre-made, already designed in the right way graphic, where you just need to update text will save you so much time and give you so much consistency. Creating something new each time will leave a lot of room for error, difference, and not build up that cohesive approach. In general, if there’s an option to create some sort of template for any avenue of your business – I strongly recommend doing it.


POINT TO YOUR WEBSITE

I recommend having your website visible on your graphics, so that even if at that point and time someone isn’t clicking through to your website, they still are being shown in multiple times.  For example, a lot of my blog post pins on Pinterest say the word “branding” somewhere in the title, and my website is on it. Over time the hope is that you’ll see branding and TheCrownFox in conjunction enough times that when you have a question about branding or need a graphic designer I will pop into your head.

To the last point, in your template, keep your website in the same consistent area of your graphics. The standard seems to be just at the bottom of your pins, but if you want it elsewhere that’s fine – I would just keep it pretty similar across all your graphics. This will help to start building up that recognition for people viewing your graphics on Pinterest or Twitter or Instagram.


LEAVE ADJUSTMENT ROOM

Earlier this year I updated my graphics because my original design had no room for adjustments and had become incredibly limiting. I used to justify everything and try to put the emphasis word of a blog post title into the center. This became SUPER limiting on how I could title blog posts and caused some weird design rules to be broken. I realized the error in my ways and have since created a design that has a little bit more wiggle-room, which has made my life much easier!

So I recommend this to you too. Think about practically, not just the one thing you are designing when you make your template. Think about how you usually word your blog posts titles (or quotes, or whatever it is you are posting the most of). Make sure what you are using will fit that easily. If you are starting to feel too limited by your social media graphics, then it might be time to switch it up and use this newfound knowledge to create something easier to work with.


KEEP SIMILAR ELEMENTS

Depending on the rest of your branding and what special or unique details you have, you’ll want to carry those into your social media graphics too. So I use the bottom color bar across graphics on my website, which then made sense to carry into my social media graphics as well. Just another visual reminder or cue to anyone finding me on any social platform or on my website that I’m the same business.

If your website graphics look way different than your social media graphics I recommend you take the time to find consistency between them. If someone was to navigate to your website via a social media graphic and then it looked completely different they might think they found the wrong website and leave. The aim is always to represent the same cohesive branding and business across all the possible ways someone can see or find you.

Take time to find what these unique details are that you might be drawn too, or be using elsewhere, and then pull them into your graphics. If you like emphasizing words with another font, then pull that into your graphics. If you double underline important things, then pull that into your graphics. I will say – less is more with social media graphics (and with branding in general, in my opinion) so don’t put 100 unique details and the kitchen sink on your graphics, but do pull in a way that someone will be able to recognize them as your graphics.



kaitlyn.jpeg

I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!