When you run a small business, especially when you work alone, your brand can feel like a direct extension of who you are. Because your business comes from following a passion, your story and personality should be present throughout your message, marketing, and brand to be authentic. However, a brand needs to find the balance between you and your ideal client. You want potential customers to see your business and want to be a part of it. So how do you find that magic sweet spot when it comes to your brand visuals?
First, we should discuss what a brand really is. The easiest way to do so (because I know you’ve heard a brand does not equal a logo) is to break up a brand into its 2 major parts.
The foundation of any brand that connects to its audience is the heart behind it. When I say heart, that encompasses your mission statement, your content you create, and your story. This is the half of your brand that is all about you but also how you can best serve your clients and what makes you the ideal choice for them. This step is often overlooked but is the difference between a brand that stands out and lasts to a brand that is hollow; a beautiful logo or website but nothing to ground it and keep it authentic for its viewers. Balance begins in this stage because that’s where you’ll learn more about yourself and where in your brand design your personality should shine, making your brand unique from all the others in your industry.
Any part of your brand that is viewable, like your logo, colors, fonts, patterns, or website falls under this category. Your brand’s design is so important in drawing in your ideal client. You know the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well this is the time when that does not apply. People will get a feeling for your business within a few seconds of viewing any visual from it; from a post on Instagram to your website. You have a limited time to make a lasting impression. This is the part of your brand that should be mostly about what you client is looking for. Your brand’s design should always resonate well with you so you feel confident sharing it with others. But you want to keep any personal preferences out of the design if they simply don’t fit.
For example, if you absolutely love bold fonts and neon when looking at other brands but your business is geared towards the wedding industry and you love creating classic calligraphy invitations for your brides, you may want go for a softer palette to appeal to those clients but incorporate some unique fonts that aren’t used often by other calligraphers so your personality shines through.
As a brand designer, I strive to find that a-ha moment where your ideal client and your story meet and become best friends. It’s a magical process sometimes. As you can see, I start with the heart behind a business anytime I work with a new client. Not only do I learn the most about them this way so we have less refinements in later stages, but it gives me a chance to find those magical parts of who they are that I really want to highlight in their brand’s visuals.
When I design for a client, these are the 3 most important aspects I consider to find the balance they need in their brand to exude confidence and still be genuine.
Now there’s a really good chance after completing their client homework (including an ideal client profile so we can really understand who she is), there are going to be some similarities in who they’re looking to work with and their own personality. I know personally, I love working with other business owners who also love reading, comfort food, and being comfy in yoga pants. Those aren’t requirements of course, but when I know who their brand is speaking to, it helps to see what similarities that person has to my client.
That’s when I incorporate colors they’ll both be drawn to or a logo that my client loves but will also make their audience feel a spark that makes them follow the business journey and get to know the person behind the screen when viewing their website. Branding is really a presentation and the first moment that a potential relationship begins. Putting their best foot forward with great design ensures people are more open to trusting them and their products or services.
This may be the hardest part of the process but also the most eye-opening. During the research phase, I love getting to dig deep into my client’s industry and see what has been done and figure out what works. It’s important to still belong while standing out. You don’t want to try things so daring for your brand that people mistake what you do. So with a few hours of Googling and reading like a fiend, I better understand the rules that can be broken to make my clients truly stand out and shine in the darkness of a saturated industry while having kinship with fellow creators that do similar but very different work.
This can manifest as a watercolor pattern for a traditionally serious industry like real estate. Or perhaps I get to create some fun, hand-drawn icons for a tech startup where flat, modern design is king. It’s a process that takes some experimentation but by the time my clients see their brand concept, I strive for them see where this rule breaking fits into their personality and appealing to their ideal client.
So, the easy way to remember the balance rule is this:
The Heart = YOU
The Visuals = CLIENT
It’s that simple when you break it down! What about your current brand? Do you have a balanced brand or one that’s tipping the scales? Let me know in the comments below! And for more awesome and exclusive content directly to your inbox, sign up for the newsletter!