About the Author
Sarah is co-director of Malvolio. She brings her creative skills to the business, and loves concept development in commercial projects, illustration, and working on various self-initiated paper craft projects in her spare time.
Category: Brand Development
This year, our family has fallen in love with the kids cartoon Bluey. I personally adore it because it’s relatable. And that’s the gem we can take from this to improve any communication design we do.
In design, even with the best intentions, clients often fall into the style taking precedence over the purpose. While it’s important how any graphic design or website design looks, the purpose of why we’re designing in the first place comes first. Who are you trying to communicate to? Who are you trying to get the attention of?
And to get the attention of someone, if you make it something they can relate to, you will have all eyes on you. Your customers can feel familiar before even connecting with you, if how you are communicating to them relates to their emotions, needs/wants, age, life experience.
This is something that the producers of Bluey have mastered. It’s a simple show: the life of a family of dogs, centered around their 6-year-old. But it gathered a huge following almost overnight. How?
It’s a relatable show.
It’s not just a family, it’s a family in Australia, in a typical Queenslander home, doing typical family “stuff”. Episodes include visiting a friend’s swimming pool (and trying not to get sunburnt because they forgot sunscreen!), getting Chinese take-away for dinner (waiting for ages, then needing to go back to fix up what was forgotten in the order), kids playing a game of keepy-uppy with a balloon (and then the very last balloon popping).
The way it relates to other families (including ours), has people addicted to watching. They feel connected, because they can see themselves in those situations. And this is hugely important in communication design too. If you want to capture someone’s attention, relate to them. Use the words that they are familiar with. Use images that they can relate to, that they can picture themselves in. Make the personality of your business as someone your customers would want to be friends with.
Being relatable is underrated. While everyone else is trying so hard to be clever, strip back your ideas and plans, and think about how you can relate first. That will be the golden foundation to everything you build in your business. And all of your communication design will shine because of it.
Running a business has a lot of places where you need to stand out. Your service, products and communication are key factors customers evaluate when they interact with you. But what about your brand? That is important too.
The issue is, in many small businesses the owner is working in the business – not on the business – so while the day-to-day operations are working great, the higher things get less attention.
Neat and consistent branding adds a lot of value to any business, even the smallest of businesses who are run solo. But the flipside of this: if your branding is not getting the attention it deserves, you are likely devaluing your business without even realising. It’s the small things that build a much bigger picture: the image of your business. Your logo, your website, your signage, your stationery. All of those little visual “things” – customers evaluate all of these too.
But when it comes to neat and consistent branding, it doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t need to try to be clever about it – just consistent. A really simple logo and only using a few basic colours consistently will have a much more professional impression than no logo and random colours.
Below are some lists of what to avoid, and suggestions how to improve your brand (most you can already do with your tools at hand):
Avoid having no logo at all. We suggest to even have just a basic design that is used consistently. It’s better than nothing.
On the other side – avoid having too many versions of your logo. If you have too many different designs, using different fonts and colours, it can get confusing. A single design is easier to recognise, simply by seeing it everywhere. It might sound boring but it works.
These tips are mostly for those businesses using DIY website builders, who are managing it all themselves. We build professional websites, but we completely understand that everyone has to start somewhere when it comes to getting online. And there’s a few little things that can help until you’re ready for a custom-built website for your business.
Make sure that all photos you add to your website are high quality. If they look pixelated or distorted when you upload them, then they are likely too small. The quality of the actual photo is important too. Make sure they aren’t blurry or have dark shadows on them.
Keep the formatting of your text on each page consistent – same colours, sizes and fonts. Set formatting for your paragraphs and headings that is the same on every page. This is actually a space where it’s clever to not be creative. Keeping it simple is best.
And if you need to use a DIY website builder, make sure to remove the credit link, even if you have to pay to do so. It can look unprofessional – but we all have to start somewhere when it comes to getting online. So make your first online impressions as professional as you can, even when just starting out.
Avoid using templates that use colours or images not connected to your business. It’s safer to start from scratch and stick to the colours in your logo so the look is consistent. Same goes with fonts and formatting. Everything online and in print, in an ideal world, should use the same colours and fonts, building that tidy and consistent brand. The more consistent everything looks, the more professional your business looks.
When it comes to printing – where possible, avoid the cheapest option. As an example, your business cards are an item left as a reminder of you and your business with a (usually potential) customer. If they are flimsy paper, with rough looking colours, they won’t leave as positive of an impression as an impossible-to-bend card with embossing or a gold foil finish.
Social media is where I often see businesses get a bit casual and “forget” about their brand – but ironically, it’s sometimes the place that your business is seen the most, especially relevant for micro and online-only businesses. Especially with text-based image posts (such as quotes), make sure to choose some fonts and stick to them for all posts. Use colours from your website and stationery, so when your customers interact with your business elsewhere, they feel like they’re with the same business.
Think simple. Think consistent. These will add value to your brand, and improve your business with more impact than you realise.
We go all the way back to 2011 with Lizi. Her business has evolved over this time in extraordinary ways, and we’ve been involved in the branding each time.
I remember the first time I met Lizi. She had just rented a shop in Koo Wee Rup, and wanted to create a logo to match the colours of her walls to save painting costs. The walls were bright green, more suited to a garden shop than a beauty salon. She agreed that maybe thinking outside the box wasn’t a bad thing! The eventual logo design became this:
She soon outgrew her first studio, and moved to a bigger space on the main street using her branding. The studio was decked out with chandeliers and beautiful wallpapers – all in line with her brand.
A few years later, she sold Respect For Beauty and became a mobile make-up artist. She was spending more time out of the studio on location for brides and fitness competitions, but the studio was still running well – so it was time to hand the reigns to someone else.
She rebranded to Glamourfied by Lizi Hance, and the below logo was designed for her new endeavours:
Fast forward to 2018, Lizi has made a name for herself as a bridal make-up expert on the Mornington Peninsula, and wanted to rebrand to reflect that market:
It’s been an amazing journey to be a part of. There’s something really special about the long-term relationships we build with our clients. They become like old friends, and we are so proud of watching their businesses grow.
When it comes to branding products, there’s a lot of options out there. I’m going to explain three ways that can be used, especially for small businesses.
The most traditional way to brand products is to print straight onto the packaging – but this is also the most expensive, so I see a lot of business owners get put off. It ties them down to a specific size of packaging, and there’s usually minimum print runs required. For those who are craftspeople and small businesses, full packaging printing can seem really daunting…but there are other options.
Sometimes packaging might be in plastic or cardboard but direct printing isn’t suitable – this is where stickers can be a great way of adding colour and branding. Stickers come in any size or shape you can imagine, and they can be standard colours or even metallic for a special finish. Here’s one of our client’s products branded with stickers – Inspired By Spice.
If the packaging used is porous, such as fabric or uncoated cardboard, stamps can be another way to brand your products. Stamps are generally one colour, although you can buy any coloured ink you wish (or get creative and mix inks together for some pretty cool effects!). They are also a little limited with details, but can work incredibly for line drawings or logos. We designed a coffee cup stamp for our client The Winey Cow.
Photo credits to Inspired By Spice and The Winey Cow.
Building a brand for a business has its challenges. If you’re just starting out, you might think of the difficulty in deciding on the right logo and colours, or your business card design – but the challenges change as your brand develops.
Once you have the visual parts of your brand set up – such as your logo, business cards, stationery, website and social media presence – it’s then onto developing a plan to build your customer base and loyal followers. This doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes some thought into what your customers are expecting (or hoping) from you.
The first thing that comes to mind for many businesses wanting to build their customer base is to use social media. Social media is a great tool, but it shouldn’t be the only tool. If you are an online business, make sure to build an email database of past and current customers, and stay in touch with them regularly. If you are a retail business where customers come to you, you can always provide incentives to return – or it may be as simple as giving each customer a flyer about your business when they make a purchase. It’s all about setting up ways of being kept in the mind of your customers, so your business is the one they remember (and want) to come back to.
The other aspect that I see businesses often not consider as part of their brand building is customer service – I think everyone cares about their customer service, and many do a wonderful job at it – but do remember that it can be a part of your brand building and development too. Planning how you talk about your products and services can be instrumental in captivating potential customers interest. The follow-up communication is also important to have in your plan to build a loyal customer base.
Visually, always make sure that any communications you make with customers look consistent with the brand you originally set up – and this is important whether it’s online (website and social media), printed (flyers, cards, posters), and even down to any temporary signs you might pop up in your store. Your logo, brand colours, fonts and images are assets to making your business look professional, so use them to back up your amazing customer service and communications, and your brand will flourish.
After starting up Respect For Beauty a few years ago, Lizi recently had the exciting opportunity of moving into a new premises, and decided that she wanted a revitalised brand to launch her salon with.
The direction of her beauty salon had evolved since first opening, and in turn had become more sophisticated. Her new salon interiors included flocked wallpaper, chandeliers and metallics, and wanted the brand to reflect the atmosphere of the salon.
A new logo and stationery were designed to complement the salon. A styleguide was also created to be implemented on any future advertising and marketing collateral, to ensure the brand is maintained for years to come.
Business Strategies for Tradesmen does just that – provide business strategies to tradesmen, improving their businesses as well as their work-life balance.
One of the services provided by Business Strategies for Tradesmen are group workshops. They began with a simple black and white text-only flyer, but found they weren’t getting the response they anticipated.
A redesign of the original flyer brought new interest to the workshops, while the attendance rate exceeded double from the previous workshop.
After the success of the workshop flyers, a brand was designed for the company. Until this time, they didn’t possess a logo, and relied on templates.
The new logo brings personality to the brand, and is specifically targeted towards tradesmen – their core client base.
As part of the annual Rye Easter Carnival, the Rye Kids Festival caters for children up to 12 years old, providing rides, activities and entertainment on the Rye Foreshore.
This project began a little different than the usual: the organiser of the event came to us with the clown artwork started, but they couldn’t get the colours to work.
We changed the colours to a softer scheme, bringing out the features of the clown. A child-like typeface was used for the bulk of the text on the posters and programs, preserving the “young at heart” theme of the festival.
Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? I hope so.
I am personally glad that I don’t need to see the inside of a shopping centre until after Christmas now, but I’ve never been more aware of the “retail experience” than I have this year. Maybe because we’ve been working with a lot more small businesses in the retail sector I’ve been watching how retail operates more closely.
With the doom and gloom of the economic downturn this year, a lot of retailers I’ve spoken to have been fretting about less sales. However, there still seems to be a great number of stores doing remarkably well. But while walking through Southland, I noticed something strange: some stores were packed, and then the store next door would be empty – and I had to ask myself why.
Why couldn’t I get past the door of T2 – it’s a packaged tea shop, it’s not like they’re selling gold – but when I walked in I noticed there were people at the bar in the middle of the store, getting drinks. Then there were other shoppers all around a big table smelling all the open tea leaves available. And people were in the store for what seemed like an eternity.
The Apple store was no different. And why? They have experiences in their stores. They aren’t just shelves of products with a counter to pay for goods. You get to try things out, you get to touch, sense – experience. If retail is going to move forward in the time of online sales skyrocketing, I have a feeling this is the way more stores are going to go. A good experience is worth going back to – not just to purchase something for the cheapest price, or the closest store – but to be able to leave a store and tell a story of what you did while visiting.
It’s beginning to change the way I look at retail.
That’s it for 2011. All of us here hope you have a great Christmas and new year, and we will see you in 2012!