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How to Know Your Business is Ready for A Professionally Designed Brand Identity – Q&A

One of the biggest saving graces, for me, throughout these past 2 years has been the communities I’m part of. Communities like Work In Progress. In WIP we there are a ton of community events – one of which is an office hours session I host once a month.

Members who attend my “Ask a Visual Designer Office Hours” come with great questions. And because there are topics I may be too close to, it’s an invaluable practice in uncovering design-related topics others want to know more about. Something I’ve learned along the way is that when one person is struggling with a particular item, others probably are as well. So, I’m spotlighting one of those questions and sharing it with you. ?

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Q: How do I know when to hire a professional to update my DIY assets and do the visual branding properly? When is my brand definite enough to HAVE a style?

Context: I DIY’d my first brand visual style guide (colors, font, logo, when to use what colors). I went DIY partly because of money, partly because the design bar is LOW in the world of my particular services, and partly because what my brand IS still feels pretty nebulous. It all still feels like arbitrary dress-up.

A: I love this question! After all, DIYing your visual style guide is much of what my eBook, “Logo-To-Go” is about. Let’s get into it!

First, let’s talk about the feeling of arbitrary dress-up and the clothing analogy. It’s a comparison I use often to describe part of the process of creating solid visual brand identities. It probably feels like arbitrary dress-up because you don’t have the data to back up the design decisions you’ve put in place. In this case, data represents the key elements that describe the personality of your brand.

A fun way of thinking about this is to define who your brand would be if they were a person. If you were going shopping for an outfit – one you feel good in and that presents you the way you’d like to be perceived to the world – you probably wouldn’t pick the first thing you saw or what is readily available. You’d most likely explore a bit to find a look that really suits you and your sense of style, right? What we wear is an outward expression of who we are and how we’re feeling. Clothing is a way we can share something visually about ourselves without having to say a word. And whether we like it or not, it influences first impressions.

The same goes for your brand. Why dress it up in clothes that don’t fit or make sense? And why dress it up in clothes that you see everyone wearing if you’re interested in standing out from the crowd?

Investing time to answer questions like these before making design decisions is arguably the most crucial step in this process. Strategy informs design decisions.

When DIYing, you may not be prepared with which questions to ask to help you through the process of developing a solid visual strategy. In addition, if you’re DIYing you’re limited to the clothes that everyone is wearing by what’s offered in the templated DIY software you’re working with. And, hey! You probably don’t have time or desire to learn more robust software – this is what you’re working with. It’s okay. It’s enough to get you started. Still, these questions are important to consider and can help inform a direction in choosing a template that makes sense and doesn’t feel like a random – hmm… this is pretty. Let’s go with it! – choice.

As for the part of this question about not working with a professional due to budget; the feeling of the design bar being low in a particular industry/service offering; brand feeling nebulous; I have some thoughts.

First, it goes without saying that bringing a professional to the table from the get-go is an invaluable investment. As described above, it’s not only about knowing how to use software to create something visually appealing. Many are shocked to learn that the majority of time spent on developing a brand identity is in the strategy phase. The brand identity strategist and designer you choose to work with will more than likely guide you through exercises to outline your messaging, vision, value proposition, core values, and more (if you don’t already have those items clearly outlined). This is a deep dive process where they will sift through your answers and the data you provide to pull info to inform the design phase.

BUT working with a professional isn’t always within the budget – especially when you’re just starting out. In that case, and before you dive into DIY alone, I recommend checking out my eBook. There, you will find important foundational steps to get you on the right track. The small investment you make in reading it, will better prepare you for what’s involved as you DIY. You’ll gain peace of mind and feel more informed and confident in what you’re creating. Plus, you’ll get a few tips and tricks to use along the way.

As for an answer regarding when your business is “definite enough to have a style“… Your business is definite enough when you decide to start a business. While you may not be able to invest on the front end, everything you do from day one will be part of how your brand is perceived. Your visual identity is part of that. By working out an informed visual identity on the front end, you’re saving time and money in having to rework/redesign it later (sometimes more of an investment due to brand recognition being influenced and established through an identity that may not speak best to your messaging).

Hero Image Nicola Black Design

All said, knowing when the best time to hire a professional is a choice that’s influenced by varied factors and is different for everyone.

It may be time to hire a pro if:

  • You don’t like the limitations of DIY software, but you don’t want to invest in professional software, or you don’t have the time to learn it.
  • You’re, unfortunately, not that creative. You thought that things just had to look “attractive” to work. Who knew?!
  • Design is an unknown language and you have no idea about design principles or psychology. You aren’t interested in spending the time to learn them right now.
  • You didn’t realize the need for front-end research to inform your design strategy. You don’t have time to do that on your own.
  • You’d rather let a professional handle things while you give your time to places in your business where it’s better spent.

If any of the above sounds like you and you’re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out. Let’s discuss your project and how I can help. In the meantime, you can also download the first full chapter of Logo To Go for FREE to help you on your way.

Did you DIY your visual brand identity?

How are you feeling about it? Not sure if what you’ve developed is working for your business? Interested in a professional opinion to see if and where you can improve? Try one of our Light Brand Identity Audit packages!

By booking an audit, you’ll get
  • An understanding of whether or not your messaging is aligned with your current visuals
  • Insight on how you can improve your design assets to better convey your brand messaging
  • Suggested ways design elements can be used to engage your target audience
  • Tips on how to adapt visuals to improve brand recognition
A PDF Report Outlining:
  • What’s done well
  • What needs work/pain points
  • Areas of opportunity for better visual execution
  • Our recommendations
  • Suggested Next Steps
PLUS: A bonus credit:

Once you receive your report, you can implement our recommendations by either DIYing, working with a vendor of your choice, or working with us. If you choose the latter option, you’ll receive a credit in the amount of your chosen Audit Package to apply to one of our custom Visual Brand Identity Strategy and Design packages. ? Sound interesting? Learn more and book your audit today!

Have another project you’d like to discuss? Book a complimentary 30-minute consultation where we can learn more and get to know you and your business. Have questions or want to send a message? Contact us here.

Or read “Logo To Go: A DIY Visual Brand Identity Assistant”

Logo To Go book cover design mockupI wrote Logo To Go to serve as an in-between for small business owners who aren’t quite ready to invest in a professionally designed brand identity – think of it as the missing link between choosing to DIY and hiring a professional. It’s specifically written for small business owners, who are not designers and don’t have any knowledge of what actually goes into creating a full brand identity.

Jumping straight to DIY can be dangerous without some idea of the process or the insight a professional would bring to the project. That’s why I created Logo To Go – so small business owners could come away with some peace of mind feeling a bit more informed and confident that what they’re creating is more strategic and well-designed than if they go it alone. Read more about Logo To Go and download the first chapter FREE.

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