Top 10 tips on design for small brands
1. What is a visual identity?
A visual identity is the combination of type, colour and image
that will make your brand visually distinctive and announce you
to the world. Consistency here is of the utmost importance, it
generates recognition so that the public can begin to put their
faith and trust in repeated communications from your business.
The best way to get a great visual identity is to seek out a good
But before you engage with a designer do some homework. You
are probably familiar with many of the visual identities within
the sector in which you mean to operate. If not, have a good look
at them, far and wide, in this country and overseas. This is easy
on the web. It will give you a really good idea about what your
competitors look like. This will help you distill your ideas about
what you like and dislike. Your designer will also go through this
process and it will help them to position you in that marketplace
whilst differentiating you from your competitors.
3. Why hire a designer?
Designers are experts in visual communications. They work across
a great range of media and surfaces producing anything you can
think of where image and type need to be applied. You need to hire
a designer to help you position your brand in the marketplace.
It is true that modern software has brought desktop publishing
within most people’s grasp. But just because you have a chisel
doesn’t mean you are a sculptor. A good graphic designer will have studied the art of composition; will have a passion for typography and knowledge of both current trends and classic styles. They will combine all this with imagination and, in many cases, a style and approach that they have developed over the years.
4. Which designer do you hire?
A recommendation is the best place to start. However, most
designers have online portfolios. Look at all their work and think about whether it would meet your needs. Do they have experience in a similar field? Do they have a visual style you can identify with? Look for client recommendations on their website. Obviously cost is a major factor.
Most designers will evaluate your project and quote based on the amount of hours they think it will take. It helps to have a budget in mind for yourself. If you find out you can’t afford what they are quoting ask them what they could do within your budget. Failing that, ask them if they can recommend a designer who could work within your budget.
Remember that design isn’t a commodity; if you shop around on
the internet you could get a logo designed for as little as £100, but
in the end you get what you pay for.
5. The first meeting
Designers are as individual and as distinctive as their handwriting.
Give 100 designers the same brief and you will get 100 different
interpretations. You need to use your instincts to fi nd someone
on your wavelength. Don’t be afraid to talk to several designers in
order to find that special spark with someone; it is about trust and
understanding. Let’s face it, it is your idea and when you express
it to a designer read how they react. If they get interested and
excited that is obviously a good start. You want them to believe
in your business. If they don’t, it will show.
6. A visual landscape
The designer will show you their work but a good starting point
might be for you to take something visual that you really like, for
example other brands’ marketing material, pictures, inspiration
from magazines, paint swatches, etc. This helps to set a visual
landscape, which should inform the work.
7. The brief
The brief is a conversation. Between you and the designer.
Pour out all your ideas, what you love, what you hate. What
you think you need. Describe your business from top to toe.
Be clear about your requirements and expectations and let the designer then make the process clear to you. Recap at the end of the meeting and agree on the outline of the brief, a timescale and the understanding that a quote will be forthcoming. Expect the designer to formally write up the brief for you both to refer to later on in order to see if the initial requirements are all met.
8. Listen to the expert
After you have agreed to the brief and the initial quote, your
designer will proceed. When the designer presents their initial ideas don’t discount anything. The best approach is to consider all the routes presented and live with the designs for a while to see how they feel after a few days. First reactions can often be correct but sometimes subtleties in a design may come out in time.
Don’t forget, they are the expert and often know best! However,
you are the client and you will have strong ideas so express your
ideas and make suggestions if you need to. Your designer will
incorporate them whilst producing their interpretations. Once
you have decided on a particular route, the designer will then go
away and perfect that version. Keep working together until you
Once you have chosen your visual identity you will then want to apply it to all your marketing material and get it out there in to the marketplace. Your designer will be able to advise you on what to actually produce for your target market, such as a brochure, catalogue, posters, etc. The designer’s job is to make sure this is consistent and free of technical errors. In digital media mistakes can be corrected with the click of a button, but print is fraught with danger. Make sure you proofread everything and get a colleague to do the same before you sign off the final artwork.
10. Staying close
Don’t say goodbye once the work is done! A designer should be
an integral part of your business. Graphic designers see a lot of businesses and see a lot of people with ideas. They are creative people with active imaginations. A designer may be able to suggest innovations and ideas that could elevate your business idea to an even higher level. And lastly, recommend your designer. Be a champion for them as they are for you.
Scott Poulson, Special Design Studio