I feel that there is no right or wrong way to approach a branding project, it truly is up to the individual designer as well as the type of project they will be tackling. There are of course guidelines that can help one’s quest to the final product, suggestions from clients and blog posts just like this one that can help a new designer, or one simply new to freelance, navigate their way to the route of less headaches and maximum creativity. The following is my own personal approach to branding projects; hopefully it can help you on your path to awesomeness.
A lot of questions, too. I have a brief that I pass on to most my clients (especially those that have either limited time to chat or a lot of specifics that they need to share) to fill out before we start working together. It allows me to receive a lot of the answers to the usual questions I would ask in the client’s own words but answered on their own time. A lot of important details can be missed in a phone call, so it’s always handy to have a filled-out brief from your client in their own words to guide you through your process.
I always like to see what other companies/products/campaigns that are similar to my clients are doing. It’s a good way to gauge what is the “standard” for this field as well as what I should avoid. It helps to narrow down what sort of needs will be met such as whether I should really work on a comprehensive website over print marketing materials, or whether Instagram, Facebook or Twitter is the best platform to engage potential viewers/customers. I always like to look at the general mood, color palettes and take on visual components for the field. For example, just from looking up products for newborns it’s easy to see that pastels, rounded fonts and simple illustrations are the most commonly used visual structures.
I personally feel that writing the name of the company or drawing the initial object that comes into your mind when you hear its name are all great ways to warm up your creative muscles. It allows the designer to be spontaneous and try new things without the constricts of a computer. You can make more mistakes and possibly discover a new path to venture into when you do. And if you’re a paper lover like me, it really helps fill up all those sketchbooks and notepads you’ve been hoarding for rainy days.
Bring Sketches to Life
I usually scan in and recreate my sketches while also playing around with the digital tools at my disposal. It’s always nice to see a sketched-out idea become pristine and perfect on your screen but I usually tend to stray from the original concept once I do have that perfectly clean version. Sometimes, unfortunately, the final product doesn’t have the same impact, look or feel as the sketch does; this is where I usually will go off on a tangent, duplicating the image or layout and making two new versions.
One version remains as that clean finished logo, poster or package design. With the second replicant I usually try to tweak to fit the same mood as the sketch— does it need thicker, bolder lines? Do the edges need to be frayed like my shaky pencil lines? Does it need to go back to black and white instead of color? Eventually, that ends up as a new option to present to a client.
Sometimes a third version is needed to be pulled in the more digital direction. Sometimes it needs to be even more geometric, even further aligned to the grid for it to excel. Whatever your initial design needs, it’s always good to keep copies of your past drafts as you may end up going off tangent (all designs are useful though, all are learning experiences)
Check the Consistency
If there’s one thing that really hurts a brand, it’s inconsistency. It’s one thing to have a few options in color or a few different logos for different needs, but it’s another thing entirely to make each piece of your creative package feel like it’s a misfit. Using less options is always better than pushing for all that customization. Double check that all the fonts are the standard, that the ratio of white space to logo makes sense for all the products you create, that the color is correct straight down the hexadecimal equivalent. Think hard about how all these parts come together and how they work together to strengthen and embody the entire business motto of your brand.
Mock It Up
Unless you haven’t looked at my portfolio recently, it’s pretty obvious that I love mock ups. I feel that there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing something you put so much effort in on a tangible surface. Plus, they’re great to show clients to further visualize your content. I always mock up my finished work before doing anything else as seeing the final product in its final stages is really helpful in putting it into a real world context. How do all these pieces really look next to each other? Can you see the details of the logo? How does the color scheme and visual presence stack up against their competitors? How does that typeface really read at that size? A lot of important aspects of a design can be overlooked when it’s blown up on your screen in HD. Assuming your finished work is ready for application when you deem it so on your computer screen is a surefire way to a d’oh moment!
Moving forward, this is usually how I begin and end my branding projects including the creation of my own logo, business cards, invoices and even my website! I hope you took some inspiration from my process, but I’d also like to hear what you all think! Leave a comment below letting me know any other little steps you take when taking on a branding job!