4 things to know before beginning your branding journey

Building a start-up or new business is one of the most exciting and inspiring journeys someone can take, but it can also be a really confusing and daunting process, especially for first timers.

Here are some tips to keep in mind before embarking on your branding journey, from a designer’s perspective.

1. What is branding? (Spoiler alert: it’s not just a logo)

It’s easy to think of your brand as your logo and brand colours but in reality, it is much more than that. Your brand is the accumulation every communication you put out into the world, and what your customers think about what you put out.

So, while a great logo and visual identity is really important, it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your brand. Behind your logo you should have a solid foundation made up of the things that give your brand substance.

Things like:

• Tone of voice and personality

• A visual identity system applied consistently

• An understanding of your purpose and your people

All of these things together will create a great brand that your customers will love to get behind. So make sure that you aren't just skimming the surface when it comes to building your brand.

2. Agency, Freelancer and In-house: what’s right for you?

• Creative Agencies are multi-disciplinary teams who specialise in the various aspects of design, normally hired on a long-term basis to handle all of your design needs.

• Freelancers are normally either highly specialised individuals who focus on one particular aspect of design/style or generalists who dabble in most aspects of design on a surface level.

• In-house are staff designers who have a deep understanding of the business.

Which is right for your company?

This depends on many factors, such as your available budget, project scope and how many aspects of your business require a designer’s touch (starting out, an IT company might require less visuals to be created than a restaurant which has a physical location, a higher volume of social engagement, printed media like menus that all require graphical consideration).

Creative Agencies are more expensive on a short-term basis, but when a great partnership is built up, the expert advice and maintenance of high quality and consistent design pays off.

If you have a really specific style in mind and have a limited budget, a freelancer could be a good option to get started with a logo and visuals.

In-house designers can be a cost-effective way of maintaining great brand consistency, most new businesses and start-ups don’t have the requirement for a full-time designer on staff.

Whichever type of creative supplier you decide to partner with to build your brand, it's important to know that you can work with them closely and communicate ensuring you are on the same page as they craft your brand from idea to reality.

3. Branding and other design aspects (graphic design, website design, packaging, print…)

There are so many different areas of design for new businesses and start-ups to think about. Your branding goes hand in hand with your website, packaging, print, location and social media design to name a few.

These things can be (and often are) designed in isolation from each other. But having your logo and visual identity designed in tandem with your main touch points (e.g. physical location, signage and menu for a restaurant; or website/app for a digital solution) can ensure a consistent identity which is versatile and easy to implement in the places it is important for you to utilise.

This is where working with a creative agency pays off, as they are able to manage the whole process, advise and hire in specialists if required for any particular aspects.

If you're not sure that your logo and brand as a whole is going to be suitable for all touch points, make sure your creative partner is aware of the applications where it'll be used.

4. When to hire a designer?

When in the process should you start thinking about design? A branding project can take anywhere between 1 and 6 months (or more) depending on the scope and your particular requirements. With that in mind, you should hire as early as possible if you have a strict launch deadline.

Investing in design before your market research stage and proof of concept would be premature, but you should start considering the visual and branding aspects of your business from the very beginning. Your tone of voice, purpose and mission will heavily influence your brand, so having a deep and solid understanding of these things will help you communicating your vision to your designer.

Start talking with creative suppliers early, and make sure you are leaving a few months of buffer time for the branding process to take place ahead of any launch deadlines you have in mind.

I hope you found some nuggets above that’ll help you on your branding journey. If you have any questions, feel free to send us a message.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this illuminating insight James Watt of BrewDog recently shared about his branding journey:

Happy branding folks!