Brand Identity

Brand Identity for Small Business | The fundamental guide to an unforgettable business

As a small, creative business, creating your brand identity can feel overwhelming or intimidating. Not knowing where to start or what to consider, especially when you know that consistency is so important for brands, can hold you back from building your brand and getting your business going. 

To help you break free from that uncertainty, this article is your fundamental guide to all of the things you need to consider in order to create an unforgettable brand!

Before you create your brand identity...

Before you dive into creating the different aspects of your identity, it’s important to make sure that you have done any and all of the brand strategy side of things first. Determining what your message is all about, how you want your identity to come across, how you want to convey your message to your audience, and who that audience is the key to an effective identity. 

Getting clarity on these things will inform everything that you will decide about your identity. There’s no point in doing your brand identity without doing this because then your identity is likely going to attract the wrong people or say the wrong thing. Consider your strategy first so that you don't waste time or money or effort down the track when you realise that your identity is not doing its job. 

Once you’ve got clarity on your brand and have been through the process of defining your vibe, you’re ready to build your brand identity!

So, what goes into building a brand identity?

Logo

First and foremost, the big one. The thing that everybody worries or stresses about; the thing that stops people from achieving the dream and just starting the thing that they want to do, is a logo

There are so many different types and styles of logos, and there are some fundamental things that are important to consider when creating your logo. Those are things like making sure that your logo is easy to read, that it works at big scale and small scale, and that you can use it if you have to in somewhere that's just black & white. 

These things are important in ensuring that your logo can stand the test of time and is usable everywhere, not just on Instagram or in certain locations. It has to be applied and used absolutely everywhere. You can't just have a million gradient patterns and images in there, it has to stand alone, stand strong, and allow you to make the most of your logo.

Want to learn more about crafting an effective logo? Read 8 Practical Questions to Ensure a Good Logo Design.

Colors

Color increases brand recognition by 80%, so having a clear and distinct color palette that you use across all of your branding is crucial. 

Just like logos, there are a lot of different types of colour palettes, but this is my suggested formula for choosing an effective brand color palette

  • 1–2 core colors
  • 1–3 secondary colors
  • 2 neutral colors

This should give you a flexible but consistent colour palette that is applicable in many situations while creating a recognisable scheme for your brand.

Looking for some help creating a color palette? Read 8 Powerful Tools for Perfecting Your Brand Color Palette

Typography

Typography is the use of fonts or typefaces. Across your brand, you may use typography on your website, in social media graphics, printed material, and more. And there is an infinite selection of fonts that you can use, ranging from script fonts to modern sans serif fonts, to old retro fonts, etc.

Fonts have meaning - They tell a story without you even having to read the words that are written in those fonts. You can tell and feel the story through the fonts themselves. Understanding those meanings and the way that different fonts communicate will help you understand how to choose the best fonts for your brand.

Both your colors and fonts should be chosen carefully to represent the feeling that you want your brand to convey. When you thoughtfully put these two together it can be extremely powerful in telling the right story, but if you do it wrong, it can tell the wrong story. 

Not sure where to start with finding fonts? Read 10 Places to Find the Best Fonts for Your Brand

Patterns

Patterns provide you with more graphic elements that you can use across social media, your website, and on printed materials. They are flexible in that you can use the individual shapes and elements of the pattern on their own, or use the pattern in its entirety. 

Patterns are great for creating backgrounds, indicating new sections, adding interest to simple information, and branding your content. Having a pattern or two is a really helpful and flexible asset for your brand to be able to use, so think about what patterns you could use!

Icons

We use icons all the time to break up information. If you have a long amount of text on your website, a presentation with complex information, or you have an opt-in with a lot of text, icons are super useful. A picture is worth a thousand words, which means that icons can be extremely powerful in conveying information, and breaking down and simplifying information to your audience. If you are wanting to make your content really easy to digest and bullet point the information, then having a set of icons is going to be extremely helpful for you. 

There are a bunch of different icons that you can use in many different styles, and you can find sets that already exist or create custom icons depending on how complicated and unique you want to make your icons. 

Choose a style of icon that fits with your brand’s message, and use them consistently across your assets, to convey information in an informative and on-brand way!

Illustrations

Along a similar vein as icons, are illustrations. Illustrations allow you a bigger, more complex way of conveying information through visuals. While icons are small and bullet-point information, illustrations are used often to convey more complicated, more complex pieces of information. 

Illustrations have so many different styles that you can choose from, allowing you to create especially unique graphics for your brand. There are so many amazing, talented illustrators out there that you can work with, or if you feel like doing it yourself you can do that too!

Illustrations add a lot of character and a distinct style to your brand. I highly recommend looking into illustrations and thinking about what style you will use if and when you use illustrations in your branding.

Brand Photography

Every brand ideally needs to have a set of photographs that are uniquely yours. It's fine to use stock photos when you need to, but it can be difficult to find the perfect photos for your brand when using free images from somebody else, and you’re missing out on an amazing chance to stand out. If you're trying to level up your brand and get to a place where people see you as a serious business and a badass creative who is smashing it, then I highly, highly recommend getting some custom photographs taken. 

These photos can be of you, your work, your creative process, your space, your team, and any other aspects of your creative business. 

You can use these images on social media, in presentations, on your website, in opt-ins, in emails that you send, on Patreon, and many more places. You can use them absolutely everywhere and they really add a unique style to your brand that allows you stand out from other people who are just using stock photography. 

And they let your audience into your world, allowing them to see how you create your work, where you work, what you look like, what your personality is like, and more. It really brings a special kind of magic to your brand when people can see you, your process, your work, and your space. Have a think about brand photography, reach out to somebody in your local area who is a photographer, and get some professional, beautiful, unique brand photos taken.

Want to learn more about brand photography? Read What is Brand Photography and Why is it Important?

Animation

Animation adds a lot of fun and energy to your brand and makes your content really dynamic. I recently did this with my friend Devon Moodley, a motion graphics designer, who created animated assets for my brand such as a rotating logo for my website, animated introductions to podcast episodes and IGTV videos, transitions for within those videos, and more. 

These animated assets add an extra level of finesse and wow-factor to your brand. If you wanna go to the next level, wow people, and really show off your brand, then I highly recommend trying out some animation. 

Music

Often we don't think about music being a part of branding but it is, and it's something that more and more people are thinking about these days. MasterCard did a whole project on their "sonic branding" - that's what they call it - all about what noises it makes when you swipe your MasterCard, use the ATM, or watch the ads. This is all part of the experience of using MasterCard and needs to be considered. 

You can think about this as well. For example, the music that I use on this podcast tells a completely different story than somebody else's podcast because of how it feels, the tempo of the music, and the vibe that it gives off. 

You can think about what music you are using on your videos or podcasts, what sounds happen on your website, the voice actors you might use, sound effects in your videos, or other pieces of content. 

This isn't something that's massively necessary – it's not the first thing that you should be thinking about when you start building your brand – but if you are doing any video or podcast content, thinking about the music and the audio is vital. 

We have covered the 10 most important elements to consider when putting together your brand identity, and the fundamental things to be thinking about as you do. Which will you be designing first? 

Want to know the exact steps for building your brand?

Download the Ultimate Branding Checklist!

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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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