In the last week's post, What Designers Should Know About Branding Themselves, I talked about common problems that designers run into when they're branding themselves and solutions to help make it past. The problems I discussed in that post were all things I struggled with when I was creating my personal brand identity. It's hard to hone in on one specific style when you like so many things, and it's hard to find focus when you're designing for yourself instead of for a client. Since I just worked on my personal branding earlier this year I thought it might be fun to share a behind-the-scenes look at the Gillian Tracey Design brand and how I developed it.
Designing the Logo
The first step to designing any brand identity begins with the logo. It's the keystone of the brand, the identifying mark that will be used on just about everything relating to the business. Since I use my name for my business, I wanted to give my logo a personal touch. When I started working on my logo, I knew that I wanted it to be my handwriting or something that I created by hand, since I do illustration and hand-lettering work alongside graphic design work. When creating my logo, I also had in mind that I would want to incorporate some studio art-type elements into my branding. Painting my logo in watercolor seemed like a fun and effective way to meet all those needs.
After figuring out a basic vision for my logo, I sketched out a few options, chose the one that was compact in size/shape and would give me flexibility in creating a submark, etc. Once a final draft was lightly sketched out, I painted it with black watercolor, scanned it in, and removed the background in Photoshop. I also went ahead created a submark, which I use as my favicon, by removing everything but the "G" and the "T." I also used Illustrator to create a vector version of my logo to give me more flexibility and usability.
I love using my sketchbook to get ideas down on paper and to help me organize my thoughts and concepts. Sketching is a key step to my design process! It helps get me focused and pushes me to use my creativity rather than searching around online for ideas, which is what happens when I skip out on spending quality time with pencil and paper. If you're not sold on the idea of reaching for a sketchbook before you reach for your computer, here are three reasons why keeping a sketchbook is a great thing to do as a creative!
Writing the Creative Brief
After I had my logo designed, I decided to take Courtney Eliseo's Skillshare class to help me stay focused, organized and make intentional and thoughtful decisions for my brand identity. I wrote up a creative brief for myself, which served as a framework that I could build the rest of my brand off of and refer back to when I got stuck. While writing up my creative brief, it got me thinking about the tone I wanted my brand to have (I wrote down organic, hand-crafted, clean), as well as think about particular creative considerations, like the type of color palette I wanted. I've always loved colors in the teal, turquoise and mint family, and since they worked well in reflecting the tone of my brand I decided that those colors would be present somewhere in my branding.
Click here to download a free printable of a creative brief to use for your next branding project, whether it's for yourself or a client! If you want to read more about what information should be written out for the specific categories, you can find them here in last week's post.
Brand Inspiration Board
After writing up my creative brief, I went on Pinterest and started to gather images that evoked the look and feel I wanted my brand to convey. When I was selecting images, these are some things I took into consideration:
- Do they reflect the tone and personality I want my brand to have?
- How will these images work together as a whole?
- Will these images help me find a color palette?
- Can I pull inspiration for other brand elements from these images?
- Is there enough variety in the types of images?
Once I had gathered all my inspiration, I sifted through the images and pulled together the ones that had the feel I wanted as well as ones that incorporated the color family I was planning on using. Puzzling together an inspiration/mood board is one of my favorite steps of the branding process! It's fun to search around to find images that embody your brand and then figure out how to arrange them. Plus, I think it's super helpful when you're trying to nail down the personality and tone of the brand you're creating.
Below is the inspiration board that I came up with for the Gillian Tracey Design brand identity. My goal was to blend a laid back, woodsy/organic feel (think summertime in the mountains) with a minimal, contrasty color scheme, and juxtapose clean lines with hand-crafted, textural qualities.
Once I had gathered my inspiration, I moved forward on selecting my color palette and fonts and creating other elements, such as patterns and illustrations that I could use in various ways. Those were all eventually brought back together and made into a branding board. Creating a branding board is a great way to show a summary of your brand identity and to see how all the moving parts work together.
Since I had already decided on the basic color family when writing out my creative brief, I used the eyedropper tool to pull out different shades of teal and mint from my inspiration board. From there, I tweaked and finalized the colors and decided to keep my primary palette very minimal.
I wanted to use a clean-lined sans serif as my main font, so I chose to use Gotham since it fit the bill perfectly (and it's one of my all-time favorite fonts!). I used a classic serif to contrast with the clean lines of Gotham, plus the italic in the Miller Banner family has a lovely feminine feel that suited my logo.
A lot of the inspiration for my other branding elements came from my inspiration/mood board and the watercolor painting that I done for my logo. I painted a watercolor illustration of pine trees, which I used for the image on my home page, on my business cards and a spin-off pattern of tiny pine trees. The buffalo plaid blanket and the other patterned image in my inspiration board lead me to paint my own watercolor patterns, which I use for creating my blog post graphics and my business cards.
Since social media is such an important aspect to promoting your business and networking with others in your industry, carrying your brand identity over to your social media accounts is crucial. How can you make the most of your cover photos for your Twitter and Facebook profiles? What about branding your Instagram images so they reflect the personality of your brand? Everywhere your business is present, take it as an opportunity to put your special stamp on it to build brand recognition!
Creating a brand identity from scratch, building it up, and seeing it span across different platforms and mediums is an exciting part of the process! It's so rewarding to see something that was once a concept grow into something big and beautiful that you can share with others. Besides building a website and social media accounts that reflect your brand identity, designing printed collateral for your brand is the best way to create a cohesive look. Printed collateral can be anything from business cards, media kits and price sheets, thank you cards, or a PDF designed to welcome your new clients and introduce them to your services. Also, don't forget about non-printed items like email signatures!
The exciting part about building a brand identity is the infinite possibilities for creativity! I hope you found this behind-the-scenes look to be helpful in figuring out the steps to take when creating a brand identity and keeping it cohesive. Remember that consistency is key to a successful brand identity!