As a new start up, it’s often hard to get noticed. To truly stand out, new businesses need to invest in unique, quality branding that differentiates them from their competitors. The list of design needs can be daunting – and potentially expensive – so where do you start without breaking the bank? I know, everybody seems to have a cousin or neighbour or best friends ex sister-in-law who knows adobe and will do you a favour. Not to mention all those cheap online options that promise amazing packages for next to nothing, but, RESIST! You truly do get what you pay for and as tempting as a $50 branding package may be, you will pay far more in the long run.
In reality, solid, impactful branding requires a lot of thought and effort – far more than you get with a free favour or a logo mix n match site. But, if you invest properly in a few key elements, the branding process can become infinitely easier and won’t necessarily decimate your start up budget. There is room for some “do-it-yourself” elements but careful planning and smart design is crucial for any savings you might want to see down the road.
To kick things off though, you’ll need some essentials:
It will appear on absolutely everything and will set the tone for your entire business. Hands down, the most important decisions you will make, lie in your logo design.
Do your research and take your time to ensure that this piece of branding is true to your company, differentiates you from your competition and has longevity. The best logos are clean, simple and memorable. Trying to be too trendy will date you within a few years and relying on intricate patterns or gradients can land you into trouble when applying your logo to different media. Above all, ensure it is versatile and remains impactful whether it appears in colour, black and white, knocked out to white or at any size. It’s also vital that your logo – and all versions of it - be designed in the correct formats – and Photoshop doesn’t cut it. Vector files with EPS or AI extensions are absolutely necessary. Having access to PNGs and JPEGs are also useful for digital use but a clean, properly built vector is a must.
After your logo, one of the first branding pieces most businesses require is stationery. This includes letterhead, invoice templates, business cards and any other day-to-day operational items you may require. This is your first opportunity to expand your branding and develop your overall look. Keep in mind, not all stationery pieces need to be physically printed anymore. For instance, developing digital letterhead and invoicing templates within Microsoft Word, rather than printing reams of pre-printed paper can, both, save money and be far more efficient.
Advertising, brochures and, even some social media graphics can be templated for future projects. This certainly requires a fair bit of foresight and careful design depending on the programs you wish to utilize when revising future pieces, but, this strategy can result in significant cost savings down the road as well.
A strong, optimized website is a must for every business, but for those requiring only a basic site to promote themselves, cloud based development tools like Wordpress, Wix or Weebly, among others, can often be a great choice. These types of web design platforms offer a host of options and are relatively user friendly, however, close attention still needs to be paid to your branding to ensure you are not relying too heavily on any pre-designed templates. Integrating effective SEO optimization can also be easy to miss on these platforms so it’s important to fully understand all aspects of these services before fully taking them on internally.
Those that require an extensive site or one with a significant amount of functionality, on the other hand, may still need to consider hiring a professional web developer to get the job done right. Depending on your needs, it may be possible to transfer some future back end updating to save on your fees but, the larger and more complex your requirements, the more important it will be to have a professional looking after the technicalities for you to ensure a stable and effective site – and no lost profits due to an weak one - in the long run.
Branding Guidelines Document
Fonts, colours, icons and graphic treatments are all part of your overall branding and are important to keep consistent across your entire business. Standardizing these elements and identifying exactly how and when they should be used through an in-depth brand guidelines document can help keep you on track and ensure your business always looks stellar across all media, now and in the future.
In truth, all good branding costs money but it’s an integral part in making it too. When you choose the right professionals to work with and plan your long term design strategy well, the budget you do allocate to design and branding will effectively shape your entire business and help catapult it into long-term success.