Make the logo bigger
I want it to pop
Make it pretty
These are actual words out of entrepreneurs' mouths. Don’t be that person! Don't be someone who believes branding & visual design (BVD) is just how something looks. It's much more than “making it pretty”. Without well thought out and consistent branding and visual design your product will lack the targeting it needs to give your potential customers trust and confidence in your product. Your product can be amazing and growing but ultimately it will be what your company stands for and projects that will help it speak to your customers in a way no other company can. In The Path Forward I will cover the most important pieces of branding, web design and print design for that first 12 months of product development and growth.
What is Branding?
First things first. When creating the branding for your startup it’s important to remember what branding is exactly. In short, it’s more than just a logo, (don’t "make it bigger”). It’s the sum experience of every touch point your customer has with your product so it’s important you provide a thoughtful and consistent experience. There are many of these touch points that help define the kind of company you want to be and who you want to target. These touch points include personality (philosophy & messaging), logos, colours, imagery, typography, textures, shapes, homepage design and print design. Remember, it’s the sum of these parts that make up your brand and how it connects with your customers.
Personality - philosophy
What does your company stand for and how does that help your brand grow? These are important questions that will help define who you are as a company both to the customer and your employees, so I’ll go over best practices on how to find that philosophy and how to implement that to create a strong company perception. Think about the green initiatives Apple Inc. have implemented. Do you think that has helped their brand perception?
Personality - tone
The way your brand is portrayed in your content is a big part of the brand jigsaw. There’s a fine line between being pushy and being a helpful guide. I'll cover tone of voice and actions words that will help give your customers a clear view into your brand personality. Tone also helps drive other design decisions such as colour and imagery. Think friendly, inviting tone paired with imagery of people having a good time and lighter toned colours.
One of the first visuals your customers will see is your logo. It helps identify you and separate you from the pack. In this section we’ll go over what makes a good logo and how it can help your company gain the trust and in turn, wallet of your targeted audience. Take a look at the graphic below. Which logo better communicates a personality and gives off a memorable and professional look?
Colours aren’t just used to make something “pop” or look pretty. Think about this, would you slap black and other heavy colours on a Christian Dating site? Or do whites and softer toned colours help comfort and persuade people to use their product? There is real science behind colour selection and I’ll go over the research that leads to colour choice and how it effects your product position and tone.
Quality, tone and treatment of imagery help cement your company as unique and trust worthy. You wouldn’t use a sombre toned image to help sell ice cream would you? I will overview image types and how they can make or break a design as well as the pros and cons of using stock imagery versus a professional photographer.
The way copy is presented and what font is used can change your brand perception positively or negatively. Do you think using a whimsical script font for a lawyer product would be appropriate? Or would a solid, sturdy sans serif better capture the professionalism of lawyers? I’ll run down examples of typography moods and best practices to target specific audiences. Never underestimate the power of typography.
Textures & patterns
Clean, modern, minimal. These are all popular buzzwords right now in the design world. But what if you’re a company that sells off-road driving experiences? Does clean and minimal work for that brand? Or would a dirtied, textured tone help convey the experience better? I’ll show you how subtle textures can help a design go from good to excellent.
Website landing page design
Having a great landing page design is crucial for customer first impressions. How crucial? According to Google and other publications you have 50 milliseconds to make a good impression, so you better make sure your design communicates your brand and it’s product/s in an easy, simple way. To help you pass the 50-millisecond test I will cover the general rules of designing a great landing page experience, which include;
- Conversion Centred Design
- Bold, uncluttered design to grab and retain attention
- Depth & Detail - Explaining the product and how it’ll benefit you the customer.
- Creating Trust
- Clear & Consistent CTA button
Take a quick glance at the 2 landing pages below. Which do you think would pass the 50 millisecond test?
General graphic design
Imagine meeting someone in a coffee shop and giving him/her your business card. That person hops on the train and loads up the website you have printed on that card. The webpage loads and it looks like a totally different company to that on the business card. The person does a double take and your first impression is ruined. That inconsistent experience screams amateur. Your brand and visual design must be consistent across all mediums to help strengthen perception and trust. I will cover general design rules for creating consistent experiences across all mediums including;
- Collateral Design (business cards, stationary, envelopes)
- Investor Decks
- Web Ads
- Print Ads
- Brochures & Flyers
- Social Media Posts and Pages
Miscellaneous customer interaction points
Emails, text messages, answering the phone, coffee shop run-ins and many other customer interaction points need to all be consistent with the brand you’re building. I will you show you examples of good practices along different customer interaction points and how that helps strengthen your overall brand perception. Lastly, always remember brands and in turn visual designs are never set in stone. They evolve as their products evolve and now more than ever it’s their customers that are helping driving brand evolution, not the other way around. Try to remember that any branding and visual design during the minimum viable product (MVP) phase and first 12 months will no doubt evolve just as your product does. The product and the BVD will walk along that line of evolution together to better target customers and provide the consistent experience across all touch points.