Portfolio | Not the Same Old BS Process
As a designer, branding yourself is honestly an effing nightmare. We put so much importance on our own brand design that it's almost debilitating. How will we woo clients if our own brand falls flat? So we freeze up and do nothing (except eat junk food). Here’s how I worked through designing my own brand and small business website.
Having a tried and true process in place is the best way I know to conquer this. Solid steps to follow. I learned the importance of processes and systems while working on large national magazines with many working parts and lots of staff. We'd be working on designing the current issue, while doing photo shoots for the next few issues, all while planning a fresh new line-up for the year ahead. We continually worked our systems till it was a well-oiled machine to allowed us time to create great design, meet our deadlines...and have a life.
Not only do processes make for better productivity, but communicating them also makes for a better client experience.
The first step is the toughest, but the most important. This is where you have to put the foundation of your business into words:
Who you are (your story, message or elevator pitch)
Who your ideal client is (who you love to work with, and who will pay you!)
How you are going to help your clients (your superpower you want to be known for)
How you want to be positioned in your marketplace
Your voice (how you want to come across in your communications)
This step is most important as it's the core of your branding and the key to great copy and design that will attract the right people. And the part I needed the most help defining. It's especially difficult if you haven't actually worked with many clients in your target market. They are the best resource for researching.
I worked with a content strategist/copywriter, which helped a lot. I think many people are surprised with how much work is involved in this stage, before the branding and website design even starts.
Is it authentic? Is it professional? It's in inspiring? Will it stand out?... It can be an obstacle for progressing through the process, for sure. But like Marie Forleo says... progress over perfection.
For my clients, we have a discovery session where I ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. I talk about their business, their goals, and their dream clients. This is the most important step as it's the basis of the whole brand.
The next piece of homework is gathering inspiration. What brands, designs, and colours you like, and why. A great way to do this is with a private Pinterest board. It's an easy way to search and gather things that relate to both you and those you most want to attract. An alternative is to provide links to sites you like. I then create a mood board to help steer the look and feel of the overall design.
Here's a look at my brand as an example:
I love gardening and photography. I love the sun, water and everything about the beach. My fave colour is grey – a neutral palette for adding pops of earthy, warm colours. In my design I like to have some fun with contrast – light and dark, warm and cool, script and sans serif, big and small...
You're probably thinking "what the heck?!". It sounds so confusing, but now look at my mood board (below) and you can see how it all comes together. The colours, textures, contrast, and warmth.
The next step is where I do market research and design while my lucky client is chillin’ (or drinking) after all that homework. I come up with 3 variants of the logo to present, we have a couple of rounds of revisions, and finally, a fabulous final design.
For my logo I went with a logotype (type without an icon, like Nike without the swish). It's not only my typographic style but it's very in tune with the current simplified trend that's currently favoured in logo design.
Now that we have the final logo design, I create variations and save them in various file formats, and sizes for different applications and media. I put photos, patterns, colours and fonts that represent the tone and voice of your brand identity together in a style guide. This is a great reference for when clients are creating content and images for other platforms like social media, so there's consistency.
Consistency is what builds your brand identity. Use your fonts and colours relentlessly and you'll soon become easily recognizable.
How great are these cards? Yummy thick stock, rounded corners and you can have up to 50 different designs on one side. Gotta love Moo. If you want to stand out, this is the way. I recommend them to all my clients.
my first website
Some considerations with the design of my website were how people would be accessing it, how they would contact me, my competition, and communicating my competitive advantage.
For my first website (a portfolio/resume website) I decided on a 1-page scrolling website, including 6 sub-pages for featured case studies. I pulled the images, patterns and colours from my style guide to create a consistent look. Using the Webflow website building platform I was able to create a totally custom design and build it from scratch without coding. You can see this portfolio website here.
Alas, my copywriting was terrible back then! My site was all about me, rather than who I was trying to attract and what problems they were trying to solve. Live and learn. Thankfully, my current site is in Squarespace where you can pop in anytime and make updates.
Does a well-designed brand pay off?
You feel confident that you look professional – that you'll be taken seriously
You'll attract the people you want, who want to work with you
You'll show your quality and value so you can charge what you're worth
You make your friends jealous of your awesomeness ;-)
Have a project in mind?
For more about how I could help you stand out online, check out my Services page.