This is excerpted from my recent interview with Erin Ferree @elfdesign. Erin Ferree is a branding expert who develops logos, print graphics and websites and online designs that make small businesses stand out from their competition. She is CEO of elf design and Author of the E-book; Stand Out! Differentiate Your Business to Build a Solid Foundation for Your Brand. Erin can be reached at http://www.elf-design.com or on her blog www.not-just-pretty.com. She also has a free gift for readers of this blog: “A Roadmap to Designing a Stand-Out Brand available here www.elf-design.com/roadmap.html
SmallBizLady: What Is Brand Design?
Erin Ferree: Many people think that Brand Design is just about designing a logo and marketing materials. That’s a part of it, but not the whole story. Brand Design means that you first create the Brand of your company: the story that you want to tell about your company.
Then, you design your graphics and the visuals for your company to tell your company’s story to your best potential clients.
SmallBizLady: Why Do Start-up Businesses Need to Design a Brand?
Erin Ferree: A brand helps your business look established, stable and successful and it helps you look more trustworthy, like you’re a “real” business and like your business will be there for your clients when they need you. A Professional brand helps start-up businesses overcome three of the most common sales objections you’ll hear:
Objection 1: That you haven’t been in business long enough to be trusted.
Objection 2: That your start-up business might “go under” at any moment, leaving the client without a solution – and out their deposit.
Objection 3: That you might not have the experience to complete the project successfully.
SmallBizLady: What Else Can a Brand Do?
Erin Ferree: A brand contributes to your business’s visibility, credibility and memorability. Visibility: You want your brand to be visible in the marketplace with a recognizable brand design that appears on all of your business materials. Credibility: Having a consistent brand makes your business look more believable. Your customers will be more likely to trust your claims and to trust your company with their business. Brand Design helps your company be more memorable – which means that it’s more likely that people will call you when they need your services. Memorability: 40% of people are better at remembering what they see (graphics) than what they hear or read. When you combine graphics with text or audio recordings, that 40% memorability skyrockets – to 70% and more.
SmallBizLady: How Should a Start-up Business Go About Designing a Brand?
Erin Ferree: There’s a 3-step process that every business should go through. Defining these factors will help you determine what your business’s brand designs should look like.
Here’s a quick outline of the steps:
Step 1: Define your business’s Brand Story: who you are, what you do, what makes you different and who you can best help.
Step 2: Brand Message. Determine your brand message to communicate: who you are, what you do, and what makes you different to the people you can best help.
Step 3: Brand Design. Develop consistent marketing and online materials to showcase your brand and to market your business. Making sure that these materials are consistent is key. Consistency gives your business the repetition and reinforcement needed to create brand recognition.
SmallBizLady: How Can a Company’s Brand Design Communicate Their Brand Story to Their Customers?
Erin Ferree: There are 3 major design elements that a brand design can use to communicate:
1. Choose a Symbol. Symbols, forms, shapes and even objects all have meanings. Choose symbols that have meaning for your specific target audience. And, make sure that meaning aligns with your Brand Story.
2. Font meaning. Fonts are a major design element. Each font has a different meaning or message. For example, Century Gothic is a modern, geometric font and Times New Roman is a more traditional font. Choose your fonts carefully to communicate your Brand Story.
3. Color. You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words? Once you add color to that picture, it can be worth ten thousand words. Colors have different meanings in different contexts and cultures. Make sure that your business’s color palette communicates the message that you’ve laid out in your Brand Story.
SmallBizLady: How Should a Start-up Use Design Elements to Communicate?
Erin Ferree: The most common way to use design elements (symbols, fonts and color) is in your logo. A logo should consist of a unique icon, or picture, that shows what your business is all about, and your business name. Your logo should have a color palette associated with it (though you will have a black and white version too)
SmallBizLady: Should a Small Business Design a Logo Immediately Upon Starting Up?
Erin Ferree: A logo may not be the first piece of marketing material you design — you should wait to design it until your business has its’ “legs”. You will probably need to design some temporary marketing materials when you first begin your business. This will allow you test your business ideas, refine them, and to get the first few paying customers. By waiting to design your brand, you can make sure your brand story is solid and that you have a story that you want to live with for the life of your business.
SmallBizLady: What Can Happen if You Design the Logo Too Soon?
Erin Ferree: You could waste money. You need to make sure that your logo will be your business’s logo for life — because you don’t want to redesign your logo. Redesigning your logo is not only a costly process, but means that you have to redesign all of your other marketing materials. And redesigning your logo means that you lose all the memorability that you’ve built up around your original logo.
SmallBizLady: When Should a Start-Up Business Approach a Graphic Designer?
Erin Ferree: Once you have a defined Brand Story then you should find a graphic designer and have them create a logo that communicates directly to your customers. I recommend working with a designer who has been trained in symbology, font meanings and color psychology.
SmallBizLady: Is a Brand Design Just a Logo?
Erin Ferree: No. A Brand Design consists of a logo and your company’s Visual Vocabulary. A Visual Vocabulary is all of the other design elements that you will use in addition to the logo on your marketing materials. The most basic Visual Vocabulary will include an extended font palette (headline and body fonts chosen to compliment your logo font)… and an extended color palette. These colors can be used for backgrounds, highlights, headlines, etc.
A more advanced Visual Vocabulary will have background colors, effects, specialized font treatments (such as a treatment for your tagline), the type of paper that you print your materials on. All of these elements, plus your logo, are the foundation of your company’s brand design.
SmallBizLady: What Brand Elements Should Be Designed First?
Erin Ferree: Once you’ve designed your logo, you can begin designing your print and online marketing materials. You should start designing a business card and a basic website or blog. Then, take stock of which additional pieces would help you communicate with your target audience — and design those strategically.
SmallBizLady: Why Is It So Critical to Invest In Professional Brand Design?
Erin Ferree: Brand Design helps a start-up — or any small business – to connect more quickly and efficiently with their potential customers.
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