How to DIY Your Brand – Part 2: Developing a Visual Direction

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Hey guys! Welcome back to the “How to DIY Your Brand.” I am basically trying to take you guys through a mini-course that will help you develop your own visual identity. These blog posts are outlining a light version of the branding process for clients and applying it in a way that I am hoping really helps you create your own visual identity! You can use these tips to simply give yourself a visual direction and more cohesive look or you can go full bore and design your own logo. This is part two of what will be a three-part series – I know, it’s a little long, but I want the information to be bite-sized and easily digestible, so please bear with me! Your branding should take a lot of time and research. You don’t want to end up looking like everybody else.

Okay – down to business! To start developing a visual direction and inspiration for your brand we are going to start by making a mind map using some of the descriptive words from our 10 essential brand discovery questions in part one – if you missed part on you can read it here. So, a mind map is: 

Graphical technique for visualizing connections between several ideas or pieces of information. Each idea or fact is written down and then linked by lines or curves to its major or minor (or following or previous) idea or fact, thus creating a web of relationships.”

Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/mind-mapping.html

For my brand, here are some of my keywords that described the personality, look, and feel of my brand:

Some of my keywords and terms:

-        My customers are tired of feeling stagnant in their business and want more out of their visual identity.

-        Creative, smart, trustworthy.

-        My brand looks like a solitary walk on a colorful beach at sunrise and feels like warm summer mornings, sitting on your porch. It’s happy, it’s playful, but muted.

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So now, how I would start is with a core idea and then branch out from there, writing down related terms, colors, and feelings to start to get a handle on what my brand design might actually incorporate. Try to focus on descriptive words and colors, patterns, and fonts that you associate with them. When you get to a color, refine it – so from pink you could go to magenta, light pink, blush – or from green think seafoam, dark teal, grey teal, etc. If you have “earthy” as a descriptive word, you might think muted greens, browns, succulents, leafy pattern, hand written and serif font – whatever.

Once you’ve got your mind map get on Pinterest and start a secret board. Look for colors, mood boards, and branding that strikes you and incorporates some of the colors, emotions, and descriptive words you mapped out. Also search out examples of logos, patterns, and fonts that you like. Going back to the example of an earthy feeling, you might search for earthy tones, leafy patterns, succulents, earthy colors, hand written fonts, etc. Here is what came up when I searched “earthy font” – these would be great to add to your board if you wanted that kind of vibe.

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Once you have a solid Pinterest board – don’t go crazy - I would let yourself work on something else for while and come back to it with fresh eyes. After taking a good long break pull up that Pinterest board again and scroll through. When something jumps out at you I would take a snip or screen shot and put it in an Illustrator document. If you are using something else, that’s fine too, maybe put your images in a Word doc.

Colors

So next, pick your colors. By using Illustrator, you can sample a few colors you really like from some of your mood board photos using the eye dropper tool. You can also select one of the colors and go to the color guide and look through some of the palettes in the drop down. I would pick 2 main colors and 2-4 accent colors.

Logo and Typeface Selection

I don’t recommend designing your own logo. Logos are much more complicated than they may seem. If you really need or want something I highly recommend a wordmark. This way you can avoid getting too complicated with your design, pick a simple font and write the name of your business – this will be fine until you can afford a professionally designed logo.

You can buy a font that you like on Creative Market or you can find fonts that are free for commercial use. Here is a pin of free fonts. Pair typefaces that work together and pick 2. These will be the fonts you use on everything.

You can seek out stock logos too. While they are not uniquely design to match your brand, they could work until you can afford to hire a designer.

Now, if you are going to create your own logo, it’s time to sketch out some ideas. Whatever you do – try to keep it simple. You can easily find textures and icons for sale on Creative Market if you want to. If you have sketched some ideas that you’re fond of you can vectorize them in Illustrator – I won’t get into that here though. Just be sure to create something that speaks to you – don’t just copy a logo you liked – you are unique and so is your brand! If you want to know more about my logo design process you can read about it in this blog post.

Once you have a logo you can make an alternate version. If you stuck with my recommendation of a wordmark your alt logo could simply be initials of your business name. For example, I use an “A” or just “Akari.” If you have an icon you can also use that a separate mark itself.

Pattern

Once again if you are not an artist, you can purchase a pattern or textures online, if you are and want to draw one, that’s great! You can easily upload a drawing and clean it up in Photoshop, then image trace it as a high-fidelity photo in Illustrator. I’m not going to get into the specifics of that now though.

If you buy a pattern, keep it simple and make sure it’s a vector file so you can change the colors to match your color.

Images

Okay, now you need to find some images you can actually use. You can check out Pexels for free images or go to Creative Market, Adobe Stock Images, or your favorite vendor and look for images. Try to search for your colors – for example if I type “mint stock photos” in on Creative Market tons of styled stock bundles come up.

Create a style guide

To do this you will bring together your colors, patterns, fonts, and images into a document or board. You can read through this blog post to learn more about what you may want to include in your style guide.

Woo! We made it! Okay, so brand design is kind of a big deal, and you may have noticed, difficult to pin down. Unfortunately, when you DIY your brand it can be hard to create something that is really unique, but you can definitely make the most out of premade creative assets. Your brand will likely evolve over time so don’t obsess over perfection. Part three will be out next week, so stay tuned! 

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Please let me know if this helped you with your DIY branding and if there are any questions you have!

I'd love to hear from you and see how your DIY brand came out! Be sure to comment below!

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