Creating an identity for a brand is a creative and fun process. Think of each corporation as a blank canvas, and the images you associate with it drive how others see the business. Most graphic design projects happen for firms already established. There are still a lot of things you can do to enhance their image and bring better recognition.
Although there are a few big corporate players in the United States, most companies fall into the smaller category with fewer than 1,500 employees. According to the Small Business Administration, 30.7 million small businesses exist in the United States, employing around 59.9 million people.
No matter what size organization a client falls into, stellar graphics create an opportunity for name recognition. Rather than focusing on a single product by the firm, corporate branding focuses on the entire entity. No matter what industry or size of the client, you should also employ excellent basic skills that stand the test of time.
1. Tell a Story
Logos should tell the story of the brand, reflecting the values and mission of the company. Think about some of the famous ones you've seen. Amazon's arrow is a stellar example of a story within a logo. They want people to know they carry everything from A to Z. The arrow starts at the letter A and points to the letter Z to signify the principle. What story does the logo you designed tell?
2. Look at the Big Picture
Whether you're building a full package for the client or only creating a logo or webpage, take a step back and look at the scope of the project and how it fits into the overall brand image. A logo redesign should match the company's color palette and style guide while still looking fresh and remade. If creating a landing page, does it fit into the mission of the company?
3. Research the Competition
Before you put pen to paper or stylus to art pad, spend time looking at the images of the brand's nearest competition. Some elements make sense for a particular industry, such as the outline of a house for a construction company. The last thing you want to do is come up with a new logo that looks similar to someone else's.
4. Double-Check Style Guides
If the company has a style guide, check it over carefully. Is everything within the guide still consistent? As companies change their branding over time, there may be conflicting elements. Clean these up before you begin the project to be sure you're on the same page as the owner of the business. If you make any major changes, run it past your client and update the details for future project managers.
5. Think of the Brand as a Person
Whenever you take on a new customer, take a step back and look at their company and the image it portrays. Give the brand a personality. You can even create a persona for the brand if it helps you in the design process. If the brand is young and hip, then the element must reflect the same attitude. Just make sure your interpretation of the company's personality matches the way the owner wants their business seen.
6. Get Input Along the Way
One of the most critical elements in corporate branding design is ensuring your creations match what the company wants for its image. Make sure you're on the right wavelength by gathering input along the way. When you come up with the initial concept, wireframe the idea and pull the client into the conversation for input. Make any required changes and sketch out the element. Then, gather more feedback.
By involving corporate leadership along the way, you'll avoid any major errors. You also prevent frustrating your client.
7. Check for Consistency
Anytime you complete a stage in the design process, double-check for consistency. Does the new element match what's already in place? Look at the style guide again. A nice added perk for your clients is when you double-check all the mediums on which they appear and let them know if you see anything inconsistent.
For example, does their Facebook page match up to the look and message on their website? If someone walks into the brick-and-mortar store, are the colors and signage the same as what they see online?
8. Add a Pop of Color
While you might be limited to a specific palette developed long before you came along, you have a lot of leeway in adding a bit of contrast, especially for web designs. A pop of color, such as a red against dark blue or yellow with green, can draw the user's eye and establish the immediacy of the brand. You don't want to change what the client already has, but you can enhance it and add to it to create an emotional reaction in the viewer.
Don't Be Afraid to Rebrand
Following a few of the rules above allows you to design for business and keep the image consistent. There may be times when you run into a situation where the style guide is hopelessly outdated, and the looks are all over the place. Don't be afraid to ask for a complete rebrand when that happens. Small businesses on a budget can take the rebrand in stages, first focusing on the logo and then the website and social media.
Share your expertise in the area of branding and creating a unique image. Your clients will appreciate your attention to detail.
Lexie is a digital nomad and web designer. When she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her Goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.