How to design a brand from scratch

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March 11, 2021
5 minute read

Designing a brand from scratch can be a daunting task. Where do you start? Which features should you focus on? How do you distinguish the brand from the get-go? But, it can also be a terrific opportunity to explore your creativity, push your design skills and flex some strategic muscle. If you're building your own design business, or if you're doing freelance work for a client, check out our brand design tips below.

1. Get to know the brand inside and out

Before you start digging into the visual elements be sure you have a handle on the brand itself. What values does the brand represent? Who is the target audience? What is the brand personality? Get familiar with the brand platform and keep it handy throughout the process. It’ll help you stay on track.

2. Choose your design style

Once you’re familiar with the brand personality, give thought into how you’ll express that personality through your design aesthetic. Is it classic? Retro? Modern? Quirky? Serious? Luxurious? Adventurous? One exercise that can help you develop that style is a mood board – a physical or digital collage containing images, words, colours and other objects, that acts as an interpretation of your vision to help give it focus and clarity.

Need inspiration? Check out:

Pinterest: ‘Pin” ideas to your board or browse boards that have already been curated by other users.

Sampleboard: Pull together design trends, color schemes, textures and products to create, store and share beautiful mood boards.

3. The fun stuff: typography, colour palette, iconography and logo

Typography

Typography refers to the type of fonts you choose for your logo and communication. It’s akin to your tone of voice in that it’s central to the brand expression and helps to convey your brand personality. Your font “family” should consist of two fonts for your communications – a primary font for headings and a secondary font for text. Your logo will likely consist of a third font that complements the other two.

Here are two helpful resources you can refer to:

Font Pair: Offers a wide selection of fonts that go well together.

Fontspace: Provides 76,000+ free downloads of legally licensed fonts as well as a free copy and paste font generator.

Color palette

A color palette generally consists of one main color, two primary colors, three to five secondary colors, and two accent colors. Similar to your choice of font, your color palette will help convey the brand personality and emotions. Before creating your palette, get to know what different colors communicate:

  • Red can mean danger, excitement, and energy, as well as love and passion.
  • Orange is known for being fresh, creative and adventurous. It’s also aligned with being cost-effective.
  • Yellow is associated with being playful, happy, and optimistic.
  • Green is considered natural and is often used to demonstrate sustainability. It can also be associated with prestige and wealth.
  • Blue is thought of as being stable, trustworthy, and reliable.

Of course, different hues within a colour can also represent different emotions. Pink, for example, is thought to be sentimental and romantic, while hot pink, can be energetic, youthful and bold.

It’s also worth thinking ahead to how the palette could be used down the road, such as in package design, store signage or on the web. Will your colors blend into those used by competitors? How can your colors help the brand get noticed? Before you commit to your palette, test some colours in a couple of different print and digital formats.

Here are a few ways to gather inspiration and get up and running:

Canva: Create color combinations in seconds using their color palette generator.

Color Hunt: A free and open platform with thousands of trendy hand-picked color palettes.

Iconography

Form and shape are key parts of brand identity. For example, logos and iconography that are circular or have soft edges tend to create feelings of softness, warmth, and unity. Straight edges tend to have a no-nonsense feel to them—they can communicate efficiency and directness but can also be impersonal.

Need inspiration? Check out:

The Noun Project: A massive catalogue of symbols created and uploaded by graphic designers around the world.

Logo

Creating a logo is both an art and a science. It’s the cornerstone of your brand identity and should be briefed, brainstormed, and mapped out like any other project. This will help keep your team aligned and provide parameters so that the process doesn’t run amok.

While some designers prefer to work with sketches, others jump straight to digital art. The key is to start in black and white so that the idea behind the logo works in its starkest form and you’re not swayed by colour choices.

Here are some of the general steps involved in logo design:

  • Start broadly with as many rough ideas as you can come up with.
  • Categorize your ideas into themes.
  • Evaluate your themes. Are there some that capture the brand personality better than others?
  • Evaluate which ideas best express your preferred themes.

Remember the brand platform from #1? Keep returning to it as well as the brief to ensure that your logos align.

If you’re left with a few contenders at the end of the process, test, test, test! There’s no better judge of what works and what doesn’t than putting your work in the hands of your target audience.

For fresh ideas, heck out:

Logospire: This logo inspiration gallery has been closed for new entries, but you can browse the archive for ideas.

Logooftheday: Features one logo design per day and has an extensive library of logos, which have been archived under the Logo of the Month page.

4. Look at how to bring it all together

Once you have all your elements together ask yourself if they’re:

  1. Unique: Do they stand out among the competition?
  2. Memorable: Do they make an impact?
  3. Timeless: Can they evolve with the brand?
  4. Cohesive: Do they work together?

In addition, you’ll want to ensure all of your visual elements:

  • Comply with your local accessibility guidelines.
  • Work well across different mediums such as print, digital, mobile, and social media.
  • Align with the non-visual elements such as the tone of voice and copy to create a single customer experience that’s consistent at every touchpoint.

Ready, set, design!

Designing a visual identity is a crucial step in setting up the brand for success. Striking the right tone, evoking the appropriate emotions, communicating the precise message – every element needs to work together to help the brand come across as professional, trustworthy, and unique. Ensuring that these visual elements ladder up to your strategy and work across all mediums will help contribute to overall brand recognition and loyalty.

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