Brand Identity

Building an Identity | Deciding Whether You Need a Brand Designer, or a Brand Coach

Do you have some branding goals on your to-do list this year, but don’t know who you need to be hiring to make those goals happen? Is it a brand designer? Is it a brand coach?

Well, I started my career as a brand designer and now am a brand coach, so I’m here to clarify both for you! I’m here to tell you what a brand designer does, what a branding coach does, and how the frick you know which one you need to hire to grow your business!

What is a brand designer?

“A Brand Designer ... produces designs across a variety of formats, platforms and environments including logos, visual identities, apps and websites, out-of-home media, social media, magazines, games, physical environments and more.” – Theteam.co.uk

What is a brand coach?

A brand coach is a strategic branding expert who knows how to build and grow successful brands and shares that knowledge and experience with others to help them achieve their goals. Having a brand coach is like having an expert by your side and in your pocket to guide, support, and empower you to build your brand.

What’s the difference between a brand designer and a brand coach

Before we dive into these differences, a disclaimer: there might be some crossover here! Some brand designers may do some elements of strategy or coaching, and some brand coaches may do some design work, so if you come across people doing both or parts of both, that’s amazing! Everyone has different skills and packages. I’m just sharing the usual differences between the two roles, so you can have a better understanding of what we each generally do!

Also, one definitely isn’t better than the other in any way! They’re just different roles that solve different problems for different people at different stages in their businesses. These differences are just here for you to evaluate which one you need, not who’s better than the other!

Okay, let’s dive in!

1. Brand designers do the work for you. Brand coaches do the work with you.

Branding designers are all about doing the work, designing, and implementing things for you, so you don’t have to do any design work yourself! Yes, you’ll be involved in the process to provide context, give feedback, and make some decisions, but the designer is doing the hands-on work for you! If you need someone with a creative eye to transform your brand visually for you, these people are your people!

Whereas a brand coach is here to help, support, and coach you as you do that work and work through it with you. We help you make a plan for what work needs to be done in order to achieve your brand and business goals, and support you through implementing those tasks whether you do them yourself or outsource that work.

2. Brand designers focus on the visual side of your brand. Brand coaches cover the whole picture.

Brand designers do the visual side of your brand and do it super well! They might be doing lots of different aspects of your brand’s visual identity, from logos to colour palettes to social media posts, websites, and more, but it’s all visual. That’s their jam and they’re experts at it!

On the other hand, a brand coach is going to help you with all aspects of your brand, from your brand strategy, through to your visual identity, messaging and other tangible parts of your brand, and then how you’re going to grow your brand. It’s the whole package!

3. Branding designers work with you on one-off projects. Brand coaches work with you across a long period of time that may cover many projects.

A branding designer will usually work with you on branding or rebranding your business as a one-off project. You may book them again later on for another project, but it’s usually on a project-by-project basis.

You can book a branding coach for longer-term packages that could cover a month, 3-months, 6-months, or 12-months, and that coach will work with you that whole time on lots of different projects, solving many different problems, and coaching you through many different parts of the branding process.

4. A brand coach helps you understand the meaning behind your brand. Brand designers helps you convey that meaning visually.

Brand coaches work with you to get clarity and confidence around the meaning of your brand, from your vision to your mission, values, goals, story, personality, and more. They can then help you make decisions about how to convey that meaning through visuals.

Brand designers are focused on how to convey the meaning of your brand through visuals, such as colours, fonts, patterns, and more and do that for you.

5. Branding designers focus on and help you with the individual details, brand coaches focus on and help you with the big picture.

A brand designer is here to help you with those individual details of your brand, such as colours, fonts, illustrations, icons, patterns, and how they work together.

A brand coach is here to help you see the whole picture of your brand, from its meaning and purpose, to its audience and positioning, to its visual identity and recognition, to its growth and loyalty, and more.

6. Brand designers give you tangible assets that have a limited shelf life, brand coaches give you lifelong lessons, tools, mindsets, and strategies.

A brand designer will give you assets such as logos, colour palettes, font suites, social media graphics, illustrations, and websites. These are incredible tangible assets that you can use to attract your ideal audience, wow your customers, and stand out in the market. These assets are likely to run out or need updating at some point however, so you may need to hire the same designer or someone else again when that happens.

A brand coach, while helping you with those tangible assets, is also teaching you strategies, tools, techniques, and mindsets for building and growing your brand that can last a lifetime!

How to choose who you need to hire right now?

Now that you know the differences between a brand designer and a brand coach, let’s figure out how you decide who you need in your corner right now! Who do you hire and when?

1. What problems am I having with my brand right now and what goals am I trying to achieve?

The problems that you have in your brand are going to determine what sort of help that you need.

If the thing that you're struggling with right now in terms of your branding is that your visual identity is all over the show, you’re making stuff up as you go along, every time you go to make a graphic, it's all different and doesn't really represent you how you want it to, then that is kind of an issue that you have with your visuals. So in this case, a visual designer is who you want to be hiring.

Whereas maybe your issue with your branding is that you are struggling to find clarity about what you want to do, you don't know what your goals are or are unsure of where you're going, or how you're supposed to get there. Or maybe it’s how you communicate what you're all about, you're struggling to have the confidence to promote your brand, or you need the accountability to make sure you're working on your brand all the time. If those other sides of your brand are what your issue is, then a brand coach is the person that you want in your corner and in your back pocket every day.

2. What skills do you already have yourself?

if you have the skills of a graphic designer and you are able to do the graphic design yourself, even if it's just the basic design that's going to help you start your brand and you have that capability, then you're not going to need a branding designer.

If you don't have those skills or your skills aren't at the level that you need them to be in order to get your brand to the level that you need it to be in, that's when you are going to want to hire a branding designer.

So look at your skills, and analyse where they're at compared to where your brand should be at and where you need to be right now. Then make a decision based on the skills that you already have.

3. How much time are you willing to spend on your brand?

You can also look at the time that you have.

You might have the skills to do graphic design but you might not have the time to do it. So think about how much time you have, and how much time you want to spend.

Like I said, brand design is more of like a shorter project based experience, whereas coaching is a longer term investment and a longer term experience. So if you just want to work on growing the visual side of your brand for a shorter period of time and invest a limited amount of time into this project, then you can work with a graphic designer.

But if you're willing to invest the time over three, six, or twelve months with a coach to consistently and regularly work on your brand every week or every two weeks or however your coach works, then a coach is going to be awesome because you can have that time to put in.

4. What kind of support do you need right now?

If you are somebody who really needs accountability to make sure you're working on your business, not just in your business, then a brand coach is who you need on your side. If you are somebody who really needs encouragement, empowerment, permission to grow and work on your brand, then a brand coach again is who you are going to need. If you need somebody to check in on every week who's going to be like, “Hey, are you doing the work? How are you feeling? How's your brand going? What have you been working on? Let's talk about your strategy. Let’s talk about your mission.” And who's going to give you kind of direction, accountability, and encouragement, then a coach is who you are going to need.

Whereas if the support that you need isn't like that, and it's just like practical hands-on support that you need, then a visual branding designer is who you want to hire!

5. Do you need both?

You might need the accountability, support, direction and strategy of a coach, but then you might also not have the time, skills, or the patience to do the design as well. So maybe you need to be hiring both people.

You might want to do the work with your coach, and as you're doing that, or after you're doing that, be hiring a designer to implement all the things that you're going through with your coach!

So now you know the difference between a brand designer and brand coach, and have a guide for choosing the right person for you!

If you’ve discovered that you need a brand designer, you can check out Blacks Who Design, the Directory of Women Designers, or Unicorn Factory!

And if it’s a brand coach you need, I could be your gal! Check out my 1:1 Coaching program here, or join the Creators’ Brand Club, my monthly membership!

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Hollie stands resting her hands on the white desk behind her, wearing a black t-shirt tucked into orange pants and clear glasses, and smiling into the camera.

by hollie arnett

The brand coach for creatives, hand-lettering artist for herself, and cup of tea lover forever.

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