Congratulations, you have now defined your position in the marketplace – who you are, what you do, and how you’re different. Now it’s time to communicate your brand on a visual level.
At a a bare minimum, a small business should consist of a logo, a business card, and a website. You’ll need these to establish Brand Awareness, the ability for your customer’s to recall and recognize your brand under different conditions, and link to the brand, logo, colors, and jingles to certain associations in memory. To begin, let’s look at some basic branding design principles that you’ll need to consider during the designing phase.
Why care about typography and fonts at all? The brand is the unique personality that identifies a product, service, person or place. Design gives us the visual representation of a brand. The selection of typefaces and the arrangement of them can be as important as the use of color, images or abstract graphics in creating a brand, and this is usually easy to explain.
Typography selection is the difference between a professional look, and the look like your 10 year old neice threw it together. A good way to explain this is Apple. One reason that Apple’s stores look so good is the careful and consistent application of the typeface, Myriad. On the flipside, Kmart’s careless mashup of Helvetica, Gill Sans, News Gothic and Gotham (and any others I missed) looks like, well, Kmart. So being consistent is good, but why not just be consistent with Times or Courier? New fonts are developed every day, why do we need more?
Typography is much like the automobile industry. With few rare functional exceptions, the world doesn’t “need” another new model car, but people want to look different, be unique, and express who they are through what they drive. The same could be said about fashion, or furniture, even what our homes look like. While true innovation is rare, designers are consistently come up with variations of the Ford Taurus (Ford Fusion?), or combine existing elements in new ways, whether in it’s in type design or on the showroom floor.
When picking what fonts you would like to use, do not use more then 2 fonts in your piece. Ideally, use one font for text, and a seperate font for headings. Avoid typefaces that are similar in appearance (style, size, and weight), use fonts that compliment each other. Some good examples are combinations of Arial and Tahoma, Oswald and Droid Sans, and Josefin Sans and Arimo. The possibilities are endless.
Your color palette is also a critical factor, not just for a visual expression, but it also tells a story. It is a powerful tool to captivate an audience. It conveys emotion and a message. It’s symbolic of who you are, or the message you are trying to convey. It will define the mood of your clients and customers. It’ll also instruct people what to read or look at first. Let’s take a look at some colors and what positive qualities they represent.
Red: Red is one of the most powerful and attention-getting colors. Red symbolizes passion and fire, love and lust. It has been proven to raise blood pressure and cause perspiration. Red reflects energy and can motivate an individual to take action. Pink, however, is the softer side of red. Pink is romantic, calming and feminine.
Orange: Vibrant and warm, orange is associated with autumn, pumpkins and Halloween. It inherits many of the traits of red, but is less passionate. Orange has been known to stimulate the appetite. As a citrus color, it can also symbolize health.
Yellow: Yellow symbolizes sunshine and warmth. It can mean hope, light and energy.
Green: Green signifies health and growth (vegetation) and wealth (money). Green symbolizes spring, renewal, and fertility.
Blue: Blue is one of the most calming colors and is associated with the sky and the sea. It is considered to be a “safe” color and signifies intelligence, reassurance, and trust.
Purple: The combination of red and blue, purple is one of the most intriguing colors and symbolizes creativity. Purple is spiritual and mysterious. Deep purple is associated with royalty and richness while
lavender is associated with romance and nostalgia.
Black: Black can represent power, elegance, and sophistication.
White: White represents cleanliness, purity, and spirituality.
Grey: Grey is the combination of black and white. It is a conservative color. Grey can symbolize security, maturity and reliability.
Brown: I like to classify brown as a “special” color. Sometimes brown can be used as a neutral and sometimes as a warm color. Either way, brown represents credibility and stability, the hearth, home and the earth.
Once you understand the significance of colors and their connotations, you are ready to begin choosing a color scheme for your brand. Where do you begin? Let’s look at the color wheel, and the different types of color combinations.
The color wheel an abstract illustrative organization of color hues around a circle that shows relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, and complementary colors.
Fun Fact: The original color wheel was credited to Sir Isaac Newton, who successfully joined the red and violet ends of the visual spectrum into a circle.
Monochromatic color schemes use a single color, most often black. Differing values of the chosen color can be used to create the feel of different colors. Monochromatic color schemes are harmonious and peaceful, even elegant. Using a single color creates unity and can help to create or tie things together.
Analogous color schemes use colors that are related, but not the same, to create a visually appealing canvas. A selection of blues and purples, or reds and oranges create a warm analogous color scheme. Two or more colors can be used in an analogous color scheme, however, one color is often used as a dominant color while others are used as accents.
Contrasting colors schemes are complimentary and pleasing to the eye. Colors that are opposites create contrasting color schemes. For instance, yellow and purple or red and green are contrasting colors. Contrasting color schemes generally use a warm color and a cool color but it isn’t necessary to use the startling and obvious combinations, like blue and orange. You might try beige and light blue or maroon and forest green to create very pleasing and contrasting combinations.
A word of caution concerning contrasting colors. Generally, the human eye has some degree of difficulty focusing on contrasting colors at the same time. Orange type in a blue background is very difficult for your viewer to read. Use contrasting colors for your accents and avoid setting strong contrasts as background and type colors or take them down a notch. A light orange, almost cream, dark blue background is much more readable and still a contrasting combination.
Triadic color schemes are comprised of three opposing colors of equally spaced on the color wheel. The primary colors red, yellow, and blue would be a triadic color scheme. Like contrasting color combinations it is not necessary to use full strength, startling combinations to create effective triadic color schemes. Using a more subdued value of one or more color can help to create greater subtlety, harmony and readability for your site.
Quadratic color schemes are four colors that are chosen by selecting the four corners of a rectangle incribed on the color wheel. Red, orange, blue, and green would be an example of a standard quadratic color combination.
Split complementary color schemes are created by choosing one color and then two more colors that are adjacent to the complementary of the initial color. Think of it as a combination of a contrasting and analogous color scheme.
Your logo is the heart of your brand. It is the main visual element that will identify your brand. A logo can consist of just text, just an image (think about the Nike “swoosh”), or a combination image – text and image. As a small business, it’s most beneficial to use a combination logo because of the advantage of increased memorability that comes from associating a graphic and text with your business. A good logo will assist a product or service realize it’s full potential. It’ll make an impact and give direction.
Some tips to creating your logo:
- Take some time before you even begin to sketch out a logo and look at the logos of other businesses in your industry. Do your competitors use solid, conservative images, or flashy graphics and type? Think about how you want to differentiate your logo from those of your competition.
- Focus on your message. Decide what you want to communicate about your company. Does it have a distinct personality? What makes it unique in relation to your competition? What’s the nature of your current target audience? These elements should play an important role in the overall design or redesign.
- Make it clean and functional. Your logo should work as well on a business card as on the side of a truck. A good logo should be scalable, easy to reproduce, memorable and distinctive. Icons are better than photographs, which may be indecipherable if enlarged or reduced significantly. And be sure to create a logo that can be reproduced in black and white so that it can be faxed, photocopied or used in a black-and-white ad as effectively as in color.
- Your business name will affect your logo design. If you’re a jeweler, you may wish to use a classy, serif font to accent any letters (especially if your name or initials are featured). For a company called “Lightning Printing,” the logo might feature some creative implementation of-you guessed it-a lightning bolt.
- Use your logo to illustrate your business’s key benefit. The best logos make an immediate statement with a picture or illustration, not words. The “Lightning Printing” logo, for example, may need to convey the business benefit of “ultra-fast, guaranteed printing services.” The lightning bolt image could be manipulated to suggest speed and assurance.
- Don’t use clip art. However tempting it may be, clip art can be copied too easily. Not only will original art make a more impressive statement about your company, but it’ll set your business apart from others.
- Avoid trendy looks. If you’re redesigning your old logo, you run the risk of confusing customers-or worse, alienating them. Create a logo that will stay current for 10 to 20 years, perhaps longer. That’s the mark of a good design.
In our next edition, I’ll go over the next phase: DEVELOP. This is where we take all of those choices you’ve made in the last two phases, and begin to apply them to the various marketing assets of your brand, from your letterhead and business cards, to your up-coming website and social media.