designing a brand

08/06/2010

hand print - brandingDeveloping an all-new company identity – or brand image – in a competitive marketplace can be a very daunting task. What really constitutes a good versus a bad logo design or brand image?  Well, it really depends on your product or service, how you deliver on your promises, and the relationship you as a business owner develop with your clients or target demographic.  Yeah, I know that’s not what you meant.  You want to know what’s the best logo design out there, what company can I mention that really hit the nail on the head?  Well, I’m sorry to tell you that the answer is just not that simple.

A true brand is developed through several key factors in a client-to-business or business-to-client environment.  The success of a brand or logo design will ultimately depend on how you identify your business strategy, your marketplace competition and your goals for your new identity – to name a few.  Every business has it’s own persona – it’s own approach to doing business, and this needs to be inherently translated through your branding efforts to help bolster your business philosophy and marketplace approach.

The first area of focus as a brand is being developed should be defining your business persona.  Understanding who you and your business are vital to the success of a brand.  What three characteristics would you use to describe how you go about doing business?  How would you define your business strategy with regards to service, sales and support?  How do you think your customer base might define you as a business entity? These must first be defined in detail before a brand can be developed around you.  Doing some basic market research and soliciting participation from past customers can help you determine the answers to your questions without a great deal of effort.

The second aspect to define is how you and your business are different from the competition in your marketplace.  Have you developed a product or service that is like none-other?  Have you identified your business attributes that make your business more appealing to a client base that cross-shops other brands and businesses?  If not, I suggest you do so.  Again, with minimal effort (and some introspectiveness) these key elements can be determined.  If not, then there may be some opportunities to rethink your business approach to gain attention from those you wish to attract by adding features that you now know your competition simply doesn’t offer.

The third key element to developing a strong brand is to know your target demographics.  Identifying their spending trends, their ‘hunting’ triggers, how they shop, their age ranges and socio-economic stature can be crucial information to factor into your visual brand.  Without knowing who you’re targeting, the visual identity you design/have designed will never appeal to their spending triggers.  Define your target, aim, then shoot.

The final aspect to consider while developing a new brand identity is what sort of impact – or impression – do you wish to instill on prospective clients when it comes to the visual identity package you seek to have designed?  What emotions, key drivers or instinctual “triggers” to you want your identity to conjure up? Whether we choose to admit it or not, we all experience intrinsic emotional reactions to visual stimuli on a daily basis. Some of it occurs on a cognitive level, but most on a sub-conscious one.  So, on a daily basis, we react to brands without even recognizing it. Colors, shapes, imagery and unrelated personal associations can have an immediate impact on how we perceive a brand and whether or not we may eventually do business with said brand.  Being aware of all these elemental and influential factors will also be of paramount importance as you design your identity.

Although these are not the only determining factors in developing a strong brand within your marketplace, they are certainly key determinants to the over-all success of  brand development – not to mention how your clients will associate your brand with your product or service.

scm designs

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Logo design is a uniquely finicky business, considering the entire process is based on the ever-present, double-edged sword of subjectivity. The common denominator for so many designers is the bridging of design principles to a clients needs without breaking down the trust. I have read blog after blog on this, ranging from utter frustration to sheer elations of the rare finding of an “ideal client.”  In most scenarios, there is often a gap (large or small) between the creative and the client in terms of direction and construction of a design.

So what’s the source of the problem and how do we as designers find the happy middle ground? How do we knock our clients socks off while still giving them something that reflects their initial ideas in a fresh, creative way?

Well, there’s no elusive or self-evident answer here. Many factors come into play right off the proverbial bat that begin to emerge from the first client consultation.

First, in todays “The World is Flat” age of technology that knows no boundaries, creatives often result to email, facebook, twitter and sometimes phone or Skype – even texting to communicate ideas and thoughts with their clients – and visa versa. The inherent problem with this as a sole approach to contact is that it does not allow for the designer to truly get a sense of the personality and identity of their client.  Without building a strong client profile, the design process will most likely discover significant gaps between the designer’s renderings and the client’s desired look.  As we all have witnessed, many of us take on a distinctly different personality (good or bad) in our email voices compared to our true personalities.  So, ultimately, nothing replaces quality face-to-face time with a client when possible.

Second, we need to look into whether the phrase the customer is always right is truly applicable to your business or not. Frankly, it’s a meaningless rule on its own.  If a client was always right, then they simply wouldn’t seek out your services now, would they?!  Many designers hop on the ego train and can’t adjust their vision to better suite their client’s desires.   Others will simply render anything the client throws at them.  Either way – you’re doomed to fail in your client’s eyes!  Ultimately, the best recipe for success is to listen to, and utilize the input from your client while providing creative insight and adjustments to eventually present your client with a design that wows.

Finally, the most common error in the design process is not taking the time to explain the mechanics behind designing logos, brochures or whatever it is your putting together for them.  The more time a designer invests in describing their process, their tools and their normal steps of operation, the better off all will be.  Designer’s should avoid getting caught up in becoming a “yes” man/woman and focus on how to cooperatively coach a client through ideas that allow for a reasonable work flow and well-constructed design in the end.

The more either side understands each other’s intentions and undertakings the stronger the outcome will be.  Mutual understanding are often significantly under-appreciated.

SCM Designs

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