Creating A Small Business Brand From Scratch
One of my favorite types of projects is small business brand design. The creation of something sparkly and new … it’s very, very exciting! If you’re thinking about starting up a new venture or rebranding your current business, then keep reading! In this blog post, I’m going to share the steps I take to create a small business brand from scratch.
Before doing a cannonball into the sea of fun stuff, the very first step in the brand design process is creating your buyer persona(s). Who exactly is it that you’ll be marketing your brand to? This is extremely important because the tone, style, and feel of your brand must … without a doubt ... resonate with that person.
Step 1: Create your buyer persona!
“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” -HubSpot
When creating a target buyer persona for your small business, here are some things you’ll want to identify:
Where they live
Their relationship/family status
Their education level
Their annual income
Websites they like / what blogs or YouTube channels they subscribe to
Magazines or books they like to read
Podcasts they listen to
Brands they like
Social media platforms they spend time on
TV shows they watch
When writing the profile for your persona, it’s important to get as specific as possible. When you’re crystal clear on who it is you’ll be marketing to, the marketing part becomes a whole lot easier!
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After your target buyer persona has been developed, read the profile over a couple times. You’ll want to have your character front and center in your thoughts as you move through each of the next phases in the brand design process.
Set The Mood
I begin every small business brand design project with a mood board on Pinterest! Remember back in the day when you used to make those colorful collages out of magazine clippings? You’d forage your favorite publications for photos, words, or quotes that inspired you and then excitedly glue them to a poster board. (Yeah, I deeply miss the days before technology took over everything. 😭) Well, think of a Pinterest board as that old school poster board!
Create a new Pinterest board and, keeping your target buyer persona in mind, start searching for all the inspiring things. It literally doesn’t matter what it is. If you see something that you think would strike a chord with your buyer persona, Pin it to that board, baby! Pin until your little heart’s content.
Pin all the inspiring things!
When you feel like your board is filled with awesomeness, take a step back and look at it as a whole. As you scroll through and relish your Pins, make a list of any themes that stand out to you ...
If you see any patterns on your board, be sure to write them down!
I love interior design. All my friends know this and often seek my advice on decorating their homes. A few years ago, my friend Kim was struggling to decorate her townhouse. She would go to Homegoods, for instance, and try to find things that all matched a certain color palette she thought she wanted. When she got the stuff home, she realized that she hated it and would then return everything. It was a vicious cycle.
One day she was sharing her style struggles with me and I gave her this advice:
Just buy the stuff you like and don’t overthink it. It will all come together because it’s your style.
I’m going to give you this same advice for your Pinterest board. Pin all the things you think your buyer persona would like and don’t overthink it. You’ll be amazed at how everything does in fact come together and the unique themes that will be born from it. It worked for Kim and it will work for you, too.
Picking A Color Palette
I freaking LOVE this part of the brand design process! Picking a color palette gives me immense joy … I’m very weird like that. Here’s how I suggest you do it.
Scroll through your Pinterest board and find one picture that totally stands out to you. A photo that gives you a fantastic vibe when looking at it. Save the photo on your computer and then head on over to the HTML Color Codes website.
Click the blue Upload File button and upload the inspirational image you just saved. As you hover your mouse over different areas of the photo, you’ll see the swatch in the upper right section of the box start to change.
In my example, I want to choose an orangey-pink hue from that beautiful bouquet.
Click on a color you like and, voilà! You’ll see the HTML color code for it appear in the lower right section of the box. If you see a hue within the color swatch that you also like, you can click directly on it to get the code.
Go through your image and select five or six colors from it. Be sure to jot down the HTML color codes for each.
(Pro Tip: I like to type my codes into a Note so I can easily copy and paste them when needed.)
Here are the colors I picked from my photo:
Next, go to Canva.com. Canva is a free online tool for creating graphics. If you don’t already have an account, you’ll need to set one up. I use the free version of Canva all the time and highly recommend it! (There’s a paid version that offers more features if you’re interested!)
Once you’re in Canva, click the Create A Design Button and then choose Instagram Post. We’re going to make 1080x1080 pixel swatches of the colors we picked out of our inspiration photo! To do this, click the Elements button on the left side menu and then type Square into the search box. Click on any solid (Free) square image that you want.
The image you choose will appear in the white box. Resize the square so it fills the entire white space. Then click the little square color swatch that is sitting above it. A menu will open and you’ll want to hit the + option. This will allow you to change the color of the square to one of the colors you selected from your inspiration photo. All you have to do is enter one of the HTML color codes you jotted down and the box will magically change to that color!
Next, click on the Text button in the left side menu. Click on Add A Heading and a text box will appear in the middle of your color swatch. Click into that text box and type the HTML Color Code you used to make that swatch. Think of this step as creating those paint swatches you’d get at Benjamin Moore. (If you want to get really geeky (like me 🤓), you can also make up a name for your color.)
Click the Copy Page icon in the upper right (it looks like two pages overlapping each other) and repeat the process above for all of your colors! (Just click on each design element to make your changes to it.)
When you’re finished making all of your color swatches, go ahead and download them to your computer. Click the Download button that’s at the very top right corner of the screen, then choose Download from the menu. For File Type choose .jpg and for Select Pages choose all your pages. Click Download.
A zip folder will be created of all your images. You can unzip the folder and save the images to any location on your computer.
Designing A Logo
Now that you officially have a color palette, you can move onto the logo design phase. In this section, I’m going to teach you how to design a simple logo using Canva. Before we get started, let’s quickly review the elements of a good logo:
Simple and timeless works best.
Logos with overlays and background imagery do not translate well across different printing applications. Your logo should be versatile and have the ability to be placed on a variety of back drops without losing its integrity.
Ok, now it’s time to jump back into Canva. Click on Create A Design and then choose Logo. I like to start with the text and then build my other design elements around it. So go ahead and click the Text option in the left side menu, then click Add A Heading.
Replace the placeholder text with your business name by simply clicking into the text box, deleting the placeholder, and typing in your business name.
If you look above the canvas, you’ll see a white menu running across. The very first option is fonts. With your text highlighted, play around with some different font styles until you find one you like the best. (Note: Think back to your Pinterest inspiration board. Was there a font style that stood out to you? Try to pick something similar!)
There are MANY fonts to choose from so take your time and have fun with this step however, do not overthink it! Just make sure that whatever font you go with is easy to read. (Think about scaling it down to business card size. How would it look?)
To change the color of your text, highlight it and then click on the A icon in the top menu. Click the + and then enter in one of your HTML Color Codes.
Moving along to adding some design elements (This step is optional. If you want your logo to just be plain text, that’s totally cool).
Click on Elements in the left side menu and go crazy ... but not too crazy. I recommend sticking to basic shapes and lines; nothing too intricate.
As you add your design elements, you can resize them and change the colors using the same steps we used for making our color swatches. Be sure to stick to the HTML colors in your palette.
Tip: If you need to arrange elements behind or in front of one another, click on Position in the top menu and choose either Forward or Backward.
After you’re done creating your masterpiece, download it as either a .png or .jpg file. (If you want to preserve transparency, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid version of Canva.)
BOOM! You officially have a brand design!
Make sure you create a branding doc that outlines all of your HTML Color Codes and fonts so you can always have it for reference.
Finally, one last thing to mention: HTML colors are for the web. If you plan on printing your logo/colors, you’ll need the equivalent PMS color codes. (PMS stands for Pantone Matching System.) To get these, visit Code Beautify. Enter each of your HTML color codes into the HEX field and choose 48 for the distance. Look through the PMS swatches that appear and take note of the one that most closely matches each HTML color. Add this info to your branding doc!
If you follow these steps to design your small business brand, hit me up and show me your design!