Understanding the 5 Key Steps of the Branding Design Process
As the representation of your company or organisation, branding is arguably one of the most important things that businesses both old and new should consider. Once you understand what branding is and why it really matters, it’s time to nail yours, but where do you start and what does that process even look like?
Although branding is much more than just the visual elements, encompassing your content, tone of voice, collaborations, history, ambassadors and more, the logo design, identity system and overall visual brand are often the first steps in articulating who you are and what your message is. This process usually means involving a designer, whether external or in-house, and can often seem overwhelming, but if you have a good designer on your side to guide you through it, it’s actually quite a simple and fun experience!
To better prepare you for this branding design process, here is a run down of what it usually involves. Now, each freelancer, agency or studio will probably do this differently, but the overall direction is generally the same, and hopefully this overview will calm the nerves and settle the overwhelm of designing your brand.
The branding design process will begin with an initial conversation. Usually, you as the ‘client’ will contact the designer/s that you wish to work with and the talks begin there. This initial stage is really about getting to know each other, understanding your needs and establishing what the project will entail.
After you and your project have been introduced to the designer, there are some formalities to sort out. You will likely discuss cost, timelines and deliverables, and agree to these terms by signing a contract. Depending on the designer, you may also be required to pay a percentage of the total project cost as a deposit up-front. This is usual practise in the design industry so don’t be alarmed!
Conversations & Questions
Once the formalities are out of the way, it’s time to get into the details. Whether through email, over the phone, via video chat or in person, you’ll start to discuss the direction of your brand. Again, this process will depend on the particular designer, but could involve questionnaires & surveys, research, workshops, interviews and other methods to further understand you and your brand.
At this stage, the designer is working to get the fullest understanding of your business, including who your staff are, what your values may be, what your goals are, where your brand is at currently, the history and story behind your business, who your audience is, what their goals and aspirations are, what they already think of your business, what other businesses they enjoy and more.
The designer is painting a picture of your business that will eventually turn into your brand. This is a vital stage in the process as a comprehensive understanding of your business enables the designer to create the perfect visual branding for you and ensure the best results possible. Therefore, it’s important for you to work with your designer as much as possible at this stage, to ensure that they get all that they need.
Now that the (hopefully) designer gets you and your business, it’s time to get creating! Here, initial concepts will be sketched, mocked up and presented to you for your feedback. These initial concepts may not be high-fidelity and shouldn’t be expected to be as polished as the final product as they are just ideas, (again, the detail and quality of these concepts will depend on the designer and how they like to work) but you will get an initial idea of where your brand could go.
These initial concepts could include variations of the logotype, icon, mascots, colours, typography, illustration style, photography style, mockups of the logo in possible situations, and more.
When you see these initial designs, the designer will be after some feedback from you. They’ll want to know what you like, what you don’t like and what you’d like to see going forward. This is about working with your designer to get the right result, so talk to each other, discuss how you’re feeling openly and honestly, and make a plan together to move forward.
Sometimes the next step will be taking one concept and developing it further, sometimes it will be combining elements from multiple concepts and taking them forward, or it might be coming up with new concepts altogether.
With your feedback, the designer will take the initial concepts and develop them in the direction you discussed. This process is often repeated a number of times (the amount of iterations (rounds of changes) is often discussed and agreed upon in your contract) with the designer making changes, you offering feedback and continuing until you are happy with the results.
When you are happy with your branding, the designer will finish everything off. This could include adding final touches, creating a brand guidelines document, creating mockups of your final logo in situ and more.
Here is where you will pay your designer - this may be the full amount, or the remainder of the total if you have already paid a deposit or installments along the way. Your designer will invoice you and provide you with their payment options. This could be expected to be paid in 10 working days, on the 20th of the following month, or within another time period that the designer will explain. This is often outlined in the contract at the beginning of the project so you should already know what is expected to be paid and when.
Your designer may send you the deliverables before or after you pay, depending on the situation, project and the designer. The deliverables may be sent to you, your staff members or external teams, whichever you have agreed upon.
These deliverables may include logo files, collateral files, your brand guidelines, templates and more.
Once the project is complete and you have received your assets, it’s likely that the designer will ask for some kind of review, survey or testimonial. As designers, we like to improve our services and the experience for our clients, and get feedback on our work. It is also helpful to have testimonials on our website of past clients, so we often ask for this at the end of a project. Be honest, answer as well as you can, and don’t feel pressured to answer at all if you don’t want to - it’s completely optional!
You and your designer may have agreed to work on other things together or utilise their other services. They may arrange printing for you, adapt your branding to websites, apps and campaigns or other services. This may extend or alter this process, depending on what those services are and what you have discussed with your designer.
Like I said, this process may vary with each designer and client relationship, however the basic construct remains the same. I hope that this gives you a better understanding of how the branding design process works, and what to expect when working with a designer to create your visual identity.