Many small business owners are familiar with what a logo is. We all recognise at a glance Nike´s swish icon or the Starbucks´ mermaid.
However, creating a brand goes well beyond having a pretty logo to display. This is especially true if your brand is in a business area where your target customers are design conscious or design savvy, but this is also true when you really want your customers to feel in a certain way while making use of your brand.
You want your brand to become an experience.
Think of how many successful cafés care about their interiors, their coffee blends, even their mugs! This is exactly why we love them so much - for the overall experience.
In this blog post, I would like to share with you a real life example of what a brand styling entails and what makes a good brand styling. I´ll do this by sharing the branding work done together with the wonderful Dove and Dovelet, one of my (favourite) customers (ever).
Introducing the brand
Dove and Dovelet is an Australian based small business selling conscious functional design accessories for babies and their parents. Their style is minimalist and directed to parents who like Nordic/ Scandinavian styling in both home decor and fashion.
The business started in 2014 and at the time of our collaboration it was already pretty mature. That is when they knew it was time to re-brand and revamp their logo and image.
Before diving into the design process, it is important for a designer to get a clear idea of what the business´s goals and values are. This is why I always start collaborating with my clients by submitting a questionnaire. Many small business owners have never really sit down to think through who is their ideal customer, what values their brand has, how they want their brand to be perceived. This is a good time to get these things clear.
Once this step is done, you can move to the fun part!
The Brand Style Guide
As mentioned in many other posts, I am a big fan of moodboards as a tool for collecting ideas and brainstorming over a style (if you want to learn how to create a moodboard, you can read this blog post I wrote - it guides you step by step through the process).
So, the first step towards the actual brand style guide is creating a moodboard. This is meant to gather inspirational photos of what vibe you want your brand to communicate to your audience, plus getting a visual idea of who is your target customer. You can see Dove and Dovelet´s moodboard at the bottom of the brand style guide (see the first photo).
The moodboard lays the foundations for the rest of the graphic choices that will make up the brand style guide. Typically, these elements are logo, icons or submarks, patterns and fonts.
In the specific case of Dove and Dovelet, we picked:
LOGO: a clean, geometric logo that incorporated the original D+D elements of the previous logo. Since the brand is catered towards a minimalist style, the design needs to be clean. As Scandi style is an element in the moodboard, the hexagon is a good choice, since geometric shapes are often used in Scandinavian design.
Typically, I create a main logo and some logo variations that can be used for profile pictures. The latter ones are usually an icon or a simplified version of the main logo. Since icons and profile avatars will be displayed in small sizes, it´s better to keep any potential clutter away and leave in the design only what is readable.
COLORS: being D+D a minimalist brand, we picked a simple black and white palette, which pairs well also with the natural materials used in many of the brand´s items (wood, linen). The combo creates a nice stylish Nordic feel.
PATTERNS: taking the elements from the logo (D, + and hexagon), I created a pattern that is coherent with the style and colour palette of the brand (see the second photo!). Again, Scandinavian design is often associated with geometric elements, so this pattern aims at communicating an influence from this type of design.
FONTS: We picked two fonts - one for the D+D and one for displaying the brand´s full name. Both fonts are clean, but different. The D+D part of the logo is in the font Merlo Round from the Merlo typeface (or font family). The full name is written in Prestige Elite Bold, which is a clean font with an old typewriting feel.
The corollary design material
Keeping in mind the style visualised in the brand style guide, we then proceeded to create two corollary branding material designs - a business card and a label.
THE BUSINESS CARD: the design created was a simple and clean one, to keep in line with the minimalist vibe - just the logo in the centre and few necessary pieces of information.
THE LABEL: the label was designed with the vintage apothecary labels´ style in mind. This style is nicely clean but interesting and not boring. Plus, it pairs well with the Prestige Elite typeface, as many old apothecary labels were filled out with a typewriting type of font.
So, what makes a good brand styling?
If you had a look at Dove and Dovelet´s website, you might have seen that the design is very aligned with the graphic work that I showed you in this blog post.
Dove and Dovelet is in fact a brand that has a very clear idea of what their style and aspirations are, so much that the owner herself already had a clear vision when she came to me and could clearly pinpoint the best design for her brand.
So, what makes a good brand styling? Cohesiveness.
As you may have guessed, at the base of all is a clear idea of your goal. Without this, it will be difficult to create a coherent style - something which really reinforces a brand´s image.
When you direct your message to a clear target customer, your branding becomes a mirror of your customer´s aspirations and ideals. This creates a natural draw towards your brand, but this can be achieved only if you have a clear idea of what makes your brand unique and how to visually express it.
Then, to help you keep your styling cohesive and coherent, you may want to create a brand style guide to guide your future branding efforts. This will keep you on track, so that you will not get lost in thousands different directions.You can refer to it for picking your colors, your decorative graphic elements, your fonts and - ultimately - your "vibe".
Every small business needs a period of experimentation when they are not sure about which style suits them best. Therefore, the brand style guide will probably serves you best once your business is starting to settle and needs to reinforce its image.
After reading this blog post, I hope you will be able to evaluate whether your brand styling is directed towards cohesiveness or if there are elements to be changed and re-directed.
I will be sharing in the future on my Instagram feed some of the questions I ask in my brand styling questionnaire - so keep an eye on it!
As of now, let me know how you feel about your brand. What would you change to make your brand styling stronger?