As a small business owner you wear many hats. Your responsibilities range from customer acquisition to customer support, accounting, VP of product, order fulfillment and much more. These responsibilities often change daily and are just the nature of managing a small business and operating on a limited budget. Great branding is something that’s difficult to fake if you don’t have a graphic design background. This article will highlight 9 helpful tips for small business owners who also have to take on the role of in-house graphic designer and brand strategist.
Use Your Logo as the Foundation
Your brand assets and overall branding strategy starts with your logo. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of looking at their logo as something different from their business cards, brochures, website, and social media posts. In order to look like a professional brand and have a consistent look it all needs to be connected. What dictates the overall brand appearance is the logo. If you are just starting your business make sure you set aside enough time to come up with a strong logo that will lay a successful foundation for your overall brand. If you are on a budget you can create your own logo with a free tool like the GraphicSprings Logo Maker or hire a professional designer.
Pair Your Fonts
As you build out your brand assets it’s important to be consistent in the use of fonts. Many entrepreneurs and sometimes even designers make the mistake of mismatching fonts, whether that’s in their logo, on their website or social media posts. Using more than two fonts in a logo isn’t advisable, as it gets too busy. In a content piece like a social media post or website you should try and avoid using more than three different fonts. The number of fonts used is one factor but they also need to pair well. This is a difficult task, even for some graphic designers, so a free tool like FontPair comes in handy. It allows you to quickly find font pairings that work well.
Matching Your Colors Carefully
Choosing the right colors and then matching them properly is crucial to graphic design and branding. Different colors convey different messages so it’s important to learn the differences. Once you understand which core color best represents your company’s message it’s time to figure out how to match it properly. You could use a color wheel to find complementary, analogous, or split complementary colors, or you could use a free color matching tool like Colormind. Another mistake to avoid is to utilize too many colors. For your logo design try to limit yourself to three colors. For other brand assets you have more freedom but it’s recommended to mostly focus on the color scheme set forth in the logo.
Choose Safe Web Colors
When it comes to color choice and the web it’s important to understand Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Some old web browsers can’t display certain colors. If one of your visitors accesses your website from an old browser it won’t display properly. Colorsafe is a free tool that gives you color recommendations based on WCAG guidelines. This will ensure that your website will always look picture perfect.
Make Sure Your Design Looks Good at Any Scale
Whether you are designing your next brand asset yourself or working with a professional designer keep scale in mind. Scale plays a large role in how well a design comes across. For example if you want a logo that is timeless it has to look good whether it’s blown up on a large billboard or reduced to a favicon on a website. Before you finalize your design try to scale it as much as you can to see how it holds up in different dimensions.
Design With Different Media in Mind
When embarking on your next design project keep in mind where it will be displayed. Your design will read differently depending on the media used. For one, scale is a factor as highlighted above, but so is media type. Your design will read differently if it’s printed in a magazine, published on a blog or embossed on a merchandise tote bag. Knowing exactly in what way a brand asset will be utilized makes it easier to come up with an effective design.
This can’t be stressed enough. One of the biggest differences between professional and amateur branding is consistent implementation. Once you establish your primary and secondary branding colors in your logo use those across all of your design consistently. The same goes for the usage of fonts, icons and imagery. A customer should be able to recognize your flyer or brochure without seeing your business name or logo. The consistent use of brand color, messaging, images, etc. should be sufficient to trigger the association.
It’s Ok to Break the Rules
Of course the tips above are just guidelines and any design rule can be broken. Generally it’s easier for professionals to successfully break the rules because they have a solid foundation in design principles. If you don’t have a design background and only wear the branding hat part time it’s best to keep things simple and consistent.
Gather Feedback Before Publishing or Printing
Your branding efforts need to resonate with your core demographic. It’s good practice to conduct a survey before publishing or printing your next brand asset. If it doesn’t speak to your customers you can make appropriate adjustments before launching. You can do traditional surveying where you directly communicate with existing customers or use a tool like Google Surveys. It’s quick and easy to set up a survey. You can display a few different options of your design to see which concept works best.
Small business owners often overlook or rush the design and branding process. It’s understandable; at the end of the day you’re an entrepreneur juggling many balls. Having the right brand assets in place can make a big difference in supporting your marketing and sales teams and ultimately drive more revenue to your business. The importance can’t be stressed enough. With the tips above you are now equipped to tackle your next branding initiative with confidence.