On 18th August, we continued our marketing and communications bootcamp series with an event on the importance of good design in branding and marketing. The Work Crowd’s CEO Alice Weightman was joined by a panel of brand and design experts, including Vicky Hutchinson, Narcis Sauleda, and Andrew Whittle (bios below). From using branding to tell a good story to aligning your design with today’s environment and audience, our panel covered all the elements around why good design is so crucial to your brand and marketing efforts. Read on for all the highlights.
Our expert panel:
Vicky Hutchinson – An experienced Brand Consultant and Strategist with over 15 years experience in creative, well thought out design focusing on developing solutions that deliver creative outputs across digital, print and motion design. Passionate about using the design process as a tool to drive positive change, Vicky has worked with clients such as the BBC, Fairtrade, Clinique, V inspired and Ernst & Young.
Narcis Sauleda – Brand and graphic designer with a wider marketing and digital experience for more that 12 years from design studios to in-house teams working for brands such as Amazon (Audible) and Intrepid Travel, PR companies such as The Bright Hub and ESG coms and companies like Empello, and Novum Office amongst others. Since 2014 he is running his own design studio offering services across B2B and B2C design, brand identity and visualisation, creative brand strategy and digital.
Andrew Whittle – Andrew has worked as graphic and digital designer for 25 years and is the co-founder of Whittle Design Studio working with startups, SMEs, national companies, design agencies and marketing consultants across the UK and Europe delivering integrated website design, graphic design and branding solutions that transform and grow businesses.
VICKY HUTCHINSON, brand consultant and strategist
What is a brand strategy and why is it important?
Good design starts with a strong brand. It is only effective if you have the foundations to help elevate it.
Your logo is just the tip of the iceberg. You can have a nice design, but having a good design is an entirely different thing – it’s just something that looks nice. Without a strategy, a nice design is very generic and it won’t be impactful. It won’t engage the right audience, so it won’t work.
Your brand strategy is focused on building your brand, and it will help you grow your business and create that perception and experience that will gain you trust and an emotional connection with your target audience. That’s what’s important. That’s your brand loyalty.
Many of my clients work on the assumption that if they’ve got a couple of nice colours and someone sent them a nice logo, then that’s all they need. But if it’s something generic then it can be quite confusing for your clients and consumers. It might not talk to the right people, which will lead to lost engagement and a lot of brand inconsistencies.
Consistency is my favourite word. It doesn’t mean repetitive or boring, it just means cohesive. And if you haven’t got proper brand strategy, then it can get a little bit messy.
Of course, your logo is important. It’s the face of your brand, and that includes your visual identity — all the pretty packaging that we talk about when we talk about design, including font and colours. But what’s more important is the perception of your brand. Especially nowadays, when everything is online and people can communicate so easily. They will have an opinion of your key messages, your positioning, your vision, your mission and your values. All of it feeds into the emotional connections that people have for your product and service.
In essence, brand strategy is the blueprint. It clarifies what you do, what you stand for, and why people should care. And more importantly, what you care for. And it makes your vision and promise really clear.
Core brand strategy elements
Vision: What future do you want to help create? This is about creating the dream. Think big, exciting, and compelling ideas. It’s like when people ask you what you want to be in five years time. It’s the dreaming element of your brand. It needs to be really big and exciting and almost bursting with possibility. It should inspire people.
A really good example of a brand with a strong vision is Nike. Their brand strategy is so cohesive that they haven’t changed in 30 years. The core foundations have always stayed true. Their vision is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. And although that sounds specific actually they’ve got a caveat in there. They humanise that vision and talk about the fact that if you have a body, you’re an athlete. So really it’s for everyone – every person globally.
Mission: How do you create that future? A lot of people talk about vision and mission in the same breath, but they are different. Your vision is the future – what do you want to create. Your mission is the present – how will you create that vision, via what path. It’s the doing element. What actions are you going to take?
You’ll notice that Nike don’t talk about their products within their advertising or their campaigns, it’s all about the human element. That’s because they’ve got a cohesive brand strategy, which is all about empowering the individual.
If you can get your vision right and live it through every day with your mission, then you’re being consistent. And consistency is the key in amplifying your brand and gaining trust.
Values: Helping to guide you purpose, personality, and proposition. Values should always be unique, actionable, meaningful, and timeless.
If your values aren’t authentic and people can see through that, then it will affect your brand, so make sure they are unique. They should run through everything – from the way that you treat people to the way that you want your services to be perceived. Your core value should always stay the same, because they’ve come from the heart and they are what drives your brand and your purpose and your mission.
Positioning: It’s all about perception. Understand what your consumers want. Understand what your company’s and brand capabilities are. Understand how each competitor is positioning their brand.
Positioning is what makes you unique and valuable to your audiences. It’s a really hard one to do because you’ve got to understand what your consumers want and if your product fits. And then you also see what the world of your competitor is and how you can position yourself within that. So, if you haven’t done your market research and competitive analysis yet, then you need to do that.
Story: Storytelling is quite old in the sense of marketing, but it’s really coming to the forefront because everyone’s on social media that can talk about your brand and tell your story. Your brand story is a great way to communicate your values.
You can define your story by thinking about things like who founded the business, what it was set up to do, and what was the spark that kicked everything off.
Messaging: Consistently consistent. Messaging is about inspiring, connecting, and motivating. Messaging should always be relevant to your audience, not overpromise, and should be incorporated across all of your communications.
Only after you have solidified your core brand elements should you then think about your logo and all of the visual and tangible things that represent your brand – colour palettes, tone of voice, etc. Once you put all this in place you can create some really good tactics and branding marketing campaigns.
NARCIS SAULEDA, brand and graphic designer
What is good design?
Design isn’t just how something looks or feels – it’s how something works, as Steve Jobs said. Many people think that design is just making things pretty; I think design is before you make things pretty. It’s thinking about the final user and how to solve a problem. It has to be functional – it has to work, otherwise it is not a good design.
Why is good design important?
Design is important because it builds trust and gives the perception of value. Design should be coherent with your pricing. If you are a luxury brand, your design should have a luxury feel. It’s like when you dress yourself in a suit, you feel empowered. Design can do that too. It provides brand confidence. And finally, it can help your employees to engage with your brand and build employee pride.
How do you achieve good design?
Consistency and coherence! It’s all about consistency. For instance, you go to a networking event and get a business card, and later you go to that website and the business card is blue but the website is yellow; that would be a bit strange. You might think you’ve typed in the wrong address or landed on the wrong site. That’s why design consistency is important in brands. If you look at any brand asset you should feel consistency – they all belong together.
There are many design elements that can help you achieve consistency and therefore good design. Lines, for instance, can be used for emphasis, to divide, to organise, or guide the eye.
Colour is one of the most important design elements because it not only catches the eyes, but also helps express an idea. Colours have emotional connotations that have to be considered. You also have to consider print and screen, because colours behave differently in different places.
The colour wheel is really useful when you’re trying to match colours or find good colour pairings. Matching colours is one of the most difficult things to do. You can use colours that are analogous, when they are next to each other on the colour wheel, or you can use complementary colours, opposite on the colour wheel. There are many options in colour theory.
Tool tip: Adobe color
The next element or the next element of design is typography. This is about hierarchy, it helps the user’s eyes. Like colours, every font expresses something different. You have classic design fonts like Serif, which are good for readability. Or you have something like Times New Roman which is good for writing a lot of text and still have credibility. Or if you’re trying to find something more modern, you want a Sans Serif, without the little endings on the letter, like an Arial font. It’s clean and modern.
Less is more with typography. You should stick to one or two fonts. If you use too many, it’s going to get messy and confusing.
Tool tip: Google fonts is a free tool with many well designed fonts – it can save you having to licence expensive fonts.
Imagery should also build on the design’s consistency, taking into consideration the colours in the images and the emotional side of the brand.
Tool tip: One is unsplash, which has lots of free images, and another is Lightroom for Adobe, where you can change the colour or light and saturation in the images to again create that consistency.
Layout is very important in design. Proximity is used to show relationships in the content, for example, things that are closer together are in a group. White space provides room to breathe and helps to guide the eye. It also helps to group information. Alignment helps to keep your content organised. Contrast catches the reader’s eye and creates emphasis. You can do this by colour, size, or styles of text. Contrast is often used to help draw attention to something like an advert or CTA button on a website.
Tool tip: A good layout tool is Canva. You can create templates and build in your own fonts and colours and logos to create consistency in all of your designs.
ANDREW WHITTLE, graphic and digital designer
Brand versus logo
Branding is not your logo. And your logo is not your brand. Your logo is a small visual part of your brand and identity. It doesn’t have to tell people what you don’t – often it can’t. A logo needs the context of your brand around it to tell the whole story. Putting too much in a logo can confuse people. Keep it clean and sharp.
Establishing your brand
Establish your brand personality and visual tone of voice. It can help to create a mood board when you are establishing your brand and the visual elements. Think about what you are selling and what you want to brand to inspire or evoke.
Then you need to research and monitor your competitors. This is something you should constantly do – not just at the start of developing your brand. Keeping on top of your competitors will help you to stand out from the crowd and be different. Illustration can also play a powerful part in your branding and help you stand out as it’s a bit different.
Build trust through consistency
Making sure you have consistency is also key, as Vicky and Narcis have said. Brand consistency builds trust with your customers. And it has to be consistent online and offline. When you’re developing your brand elements, they have to be versatile so that they can be used in different formats whilst maintaining that brand consistency. For instance, on a website you might use a slimmer format of your logo whereas on signage you may want something big and bold that really stands out. And then you’ll want something even more paired back for social media icons.
Bring authenticity into your brand
You have to be honest and authentic – be you. That authenticity should come out in your brand design. Tell your story. Share your process with your customers. That demonstrates how you are different and helps you build a bond with your audience and add real value to them.
How can we help you?
Thanks for reading! If you are looking for expert freelance talent to help you drive your business forward during these uncertain times, please do get in touch with our team at The Work Crowd. We are a community of marketing and communications experts and we’d be happy to discuss your needs and connect you to the right professionals in our network.
Take a look at our previous events: