One of the questions I'm asked the most, is "Can we use this particular pattern or texture within my brand?", Or "How about we go for this kind of style for the logo?".
When I get asked this question, particularly before we've done any of the groundwork and foundation-building for your brand, I tend to sit down with my clients and ask them a question in return: "WHY do you want to use this pattern, or create this style of logo?"
You see, most of the time these sorts of styles tend to be something that you're seeing elsewhere or online at the moment. For example, one of the biggest trends of the moment is an abstract-style painted texture. It's not to say that these sorts of textures aren't beautiful – because most of them are! But if the reason that you're choosing these is because you’re seeing the design style around and you like it? I'm sorry to say that your brand visuals and design will not last for the long term.
The problem with design trends is just that: they are a trend. Trends come and go over time, and if you create a brand brand design style that is purposely fitting in with a particular trend then as soon as that trend is over and no longer fashionable, then your brand will soon look outdated and unfashionable itself.
The other reason that trends are bad when it comes to designing your brand is that you are often basing the visual style for your brand on your own personal preferences. Instead, you should be creating brand visuals and styles that help you to connect with your ideal audience, reflect your values and personality, and make clever use of design theory to craft brand foundation and style with real intention and purpose behind it.
Using design trends as inspiration can be useful. You can get a feel for where the market is heading in terms of visual style and what works with real audiences. After all, trends are a trend for a reason.
However, using design trends as your main source of inspiration for your brand visuals and styles can also be harmful to your business in another way. The more businesses that create brands that blindly follow trends, the more these businesses blend together. You can no longer stand out from the crowd because your visual style (and therefore your brand and your business) looks just like everybody else's does. I bet you don't have to look far to find a gold (or some other 'precious metal') texture used in someone's brand, or an editorial style serif typeface.
And where does that leave you? Well for one thing, it makes it incredibly hard for you to differentiate yourself. Let's also link back to your values. Let's say that one of your values is ‘being unique’, because you create incredibly intricate and unique cake designs for your customers. If your brand is looking like everybody else's, you're not living your values out through your brand – because your brand looks like everybody else's.
This is why brand strategy and brand foundations matter. There's no point in diving straight into the visual part of your design, without first taking the time to establish your goals, figure out your vision and mission, and work out a way to weave all of this together with your brand visuals.
I also want to encourage you here. Creating a brand is hard work. Imagine having to do that every couple of years, which is what would happen if you followed design trend blindly when creating the visual style for your brand.
One of the most important pillars of any brand – from your foundations through to your visuals – is consistency. Consistency breeds familiarity. If you want to redesign your brand every couple of years, your audience would only become confused.
By taking the time to properly consider what your brand should be on all levels, you're going to create a more consistent feel, style, and tone to your brand. And this ripples out into your business at large as well. Because by choosing to focus less on what is popular in the world right now, and being a little bit more introspective and figuring out the real nitty-gritty of your brand, you can craft a brand that is built to last.
Now don't worry, I'm not gonna leave you high and dry. Here are a few tips of things you can do instead of following design trends in your business and brand. These are things that you can either do yourself, or you can work with your designer on to weave into your brand.
First of all, you need to figure out what your core values are. These can be both values for yourself or for your brand. As an online business owner, it's more than likely that you are your brand. Your customers or audience by into who you are as a person, and how you present yourself in your business. By figuring out your core values you can make sure that these are weaved into every single aspect of your brand, from the brand foundations all the way up to your brand visuals, and the content that you put out into the world.
You also want to review your vision and mission. These are two of the core aspects of your brand foundation that will help you to create a more sustainable business in the long run, because you're always going to have this vision and mission that shape what you do and the decisions that you make.
Finally, you can use design theory to help you shape the visual brand that you want to create. For example, learn more about colour theory and how the colours you choose will impact the way the audience interacting with your brand will feel. For example, it might be that one of your values is calmness, in which case it is unlikely that you will use colours that are more energetic in feel and nature.
By using these three tips, you can shape how your brand appears visually, as well as how your audience will feel when they interact with it. From that point, you can make decisions on your visual brand that unless design trend led and are instead based on the feelings, values, and theory that is most relative to your own journey.
Choosing a designer to work with on your next creative project can be a scary task. After all, you want to find someone that understands your vision but can translate all of your best ideas into something that not only looks beautiful, but serves its function too.
But when you do find the perfect designer to collaborate with, who can do all of the above and more...how do you prepare yourself to work with them - and to take full advantage of their time and talent?
As a designer myself, I’m so excited to share with you my top 5 tips for prepping to work with a designer - bear in mind that every designer will work differently, but this should give you a good headstart:
Every designer will have a different set of systems and processes that they use when working with their clients. This is for good reason - these systems are in place to help streamline the work that you do together and take full advantage of putting your creative ideas together with the skills of your designer.
That said - do NOT be afraid of asking questions, particularly when you don’t understand something or want something clarifying. A good designer will not be worried or phased by you questioning something and will want to reassure you and ensure that you are happy with the end result. I know that you know your business better than anybody else, so this is something I actively encourage my clients to do. Asking questions will make the end-result of the work we do together better - no doubt about it.
That said - you also need to be comfortable with putting a lot of trust and faith in your designer. They know what they are doing - they have the skills to take your incredible vision and turn your message into something visually amazing.
Trust in your designer - they know what they’re doing, have often trained for many years (and I’m a big believer in that our training never ends!) and they can make decisions for your brand and designs much more objectively than you can. As a designer, I am always invested in my clients and want them to succeed - and the work I do will reflect that.
This might seem a puzzling point - after all, if you’re hiring a designer for something, you might think you know exactly what you want. However - I would encourage you to dig a little deeper. Ask yourself questions you might not have considered before: what is the objective for this piece of work that’s being created? How do you want your dreamy, ideal audience to feel when they see this design (whether it’s your logo, a graphic or your website)? What is the purpose of this work - where will it be used, integrated, etc? What is the larger vision that you have for your business? How does this vision play into the work you want completed?
All of these questions - and many, many more - will help you to discover exactly what you want from the work and will help you to communicate this to your designer more clearly. And the clearer the spec you hand to your designer, the more likely the work you get back at the end will match what you envisioned from the start.
One of the most useful things you can hand to your designer is a brand style board. Yep, that’s right - I’m giving you an excuse to go Pinterest crazy! Firstly, start off by creating a mind map of different words you’d associate with your brand. Think of feelings you want to evoke with your ideal audience, words that you would use to describe your business and look at the language that your ideal audience use when interacting with your business. Using all of these words, start searching Pinterest one word at a time and add all images that you connect with to a special Brand Style Board. This is an invaluable resource to pass to your designer, because they’ll get a great insight into your favoured styles and will help you communicate what you want much more easily.
This, for me, is the most important thing you can do. Get excited about the work you’re doing together with your designer and bring all of that excitement, passion and incredible energy into the fold. Enjoy the opportunity you have to work with your designer and really appreciate the effort that goes into creating your work. I get so heavily invested in my clients and their work - I truly want them to succeed and hope that my work will help them to do that. When my clients feel the same way and are truly excited by the opportunity to collaborate...it’s a designer’s dream come true.
Please note: This post was first featured on Passion Junkie but is now being republished on the Rachilli blog.
When it comes to standing out in the online world, it’s pretty hard to look unique.
Take a look at a few brands and businesses that are in the same field as you. I bet that preeetty much everywhere you look you’ll find gold textures galore, really hard-to-read text overlaying some obviously-not-stock-but-is-stock photo images and glitter. Glitter everywhere.
Now these are just a select few of my pet peeves (I’ll explain more of why these are a BAD idea to include in your brand another day), but can you see the problem here?
None of these businesses or brands are powerful, because they’re all trying to be the same.
To create a truly powerful brand, you have to accept that you are a creative-minded person, with your own opinions, your own values and your own beliefs. And own the heck out of them.
While there are 3 main actions you can take to build a more powerful brand, I believe that you have to start from within. And by that, I mean dig deep to figure out exactly what matters to you. Ask yourself some of these questions: What do you believe in? What do you stand for? What matters most to you in your work? What message do you want to share with the world? What do you really want to say?
The key to knowing all of what you want to say - and doing it? Don’t be afraid of what other people will think of you.
It’s easy to say you believe in something, but until you start sharing it and injecting all of that goodness into your brand + business at a larger level, I’m sorry - but it means nothing.
Once you know what you want to share with the world, you can start to take action. And that’s where the 3 secrets to a powerful brand step in.
Now I’m talking about true connection, that REAL relationship that you choose to build with somebody - not making friends with everybody you see in Facebook groups. In business, you want to build connections with three types of people:
A few practical ways that you can start connecting more are:
Once you start focusing on connection as one of your primary aims in business, you are one step into creating a more powerful brand. It’s so easy to not focus on building real relationships and focus on the numbers - like building your list, your twitter followers or Facebook page likes. But in the end it’s the true connections you’ve made that will create a long-lasting, long-term difference in your business.
I’m laughing as I write this one, because this is something I’ve REALLY struggled with. But that said, consistency is one of the most important things you can create in your business.
When you are consistently getting in touch with somebody (not so often that you’re RIGHTINTHEIRFACE 24/7), you start to become familiar. And familiarity is what builds trust. And trust (and credibility) is what makes a member of your audience more likely to become a customer.
Consistency isn’t just sending out your weekly email newsletter (though that will help). Consistency is built into everything that you do as a business and everything that you release into the wild. This might include:
Consistency is normally a challenge for anybody - it’s harder than it looks to keep up with a schedule that can easily suck hours out of your normal working week. But the payoff is more than worth the time it takes to implement and consistently communicate with your audience.
Believe me when I say consistently creating content (try saying that fast 10 times!) is one of the biggest challenges for me - but there are a few things that help me personally to cope with that challenge:
Once you start building your routine into communicating and displaying your brand consistently to your audience, you’ll notice that your engagement should start to lift. People love consistency as it feels familiar to them - and you can then use it to your advantage, by being inconsistent to really get the attention of your audience at a time outside of the norm.
In any business, trust is a huge factor in whether someone or not will buy from you. In online business? It’s even more important. We don’t have the advantage that brick-and-mortar stores have by being able to be there, right in front of their customer. Instead, we have to use the previous two points, and many more, to help convince our audience that we are trustworthy, credible and an expert at what we do. The advantage we do have is that we can use many more neat tricks to convince our customers to buy from us…24/7.
Building credibility isn’t something that will happen overnight - it will instead take time and due diligence to build up slowly, over time. If you think about Spiderman or Superman helping their own cities - the trust didn’t arrive straight away, but instead built up over time as they helped more and more people out.
In the same way, you can build credibility and your reputation by being someone that gives back to your community, your audience and your customers. Make sure that every level of interaction that they have with you is top notch and without fault. One simple way of doing this is to create nurture sequences for people that join your email list, so instead of them being thrown into your weekly newsletter, they are welcomed gently into your online tribe.
But remember as well: that nobody is perfect. If you want to build credibility and get your audience to trust you, you need to be real and down to earth with them too. Keep it real, share your struggles AND your achievements and don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. Try to think of a time when you felt more truly connected to one of your favourite online entrepreneurs - I bet you felt reassured and that they were like YOU when they shared where they were truly at in that moment in time.
So there you have it. The 3 secrets to a more powerful brand.
These are things that you can put into action straight away - but results won't necessarily happen overnight. Take the time to implement them properly in your business and you’ll notice a huge difference in the way your audience engages with you and connects with you over time.
I’d love to know - which of these do you think you struggle with most? For me - it’s consistency. Let me know your own in the comments below.
Have you ever felt that something is out there, calling directly to you? Is there something pulling you towards something great - but unknown? Do you ever feel like there's something bigger than you, just waiting for you to help bring it to life? Have you ever dreamed so big and so far that it scared you?
And now, I wonder...have you ever allowed yourself to feel that calling with all of your strength, all of your passion and all of your power?
For the past 18 months, everything has been leading me towards one thing. I know now that one of my callings is to create a revolution of soulful, visionary - yet empowered - entrepreneurs. And everything I've done since then is working towards that "end goal", though I personally doubt it'll ever end.
Elle Luna wrote an incredible book on choosing your "must" over the "should". That was my tipping point, where I realised that I truly had to pay attention to what the world was trying to tell me. I had to listen to my intuition and understand that I am here for a reason.
I've always felt a desire to change the world. When I was younger, I'd tell myself "But you're no scientist, you can't cure the world of horrible disease. There's no way you can change the world." Now, I realise that if we have a mission that we feel - or rather know - that we need to complete, we can access the true power that we hold inside and use this for good.
I know that truly incredible design can create lasting impact and change for the better. I realised that my own calling, to create a revolution and to change the world, was in reach simply through the very skills, knowledge and talent I have inside of me. By empowering other entrepreneurs, helping elevate their businesses and make the world more beautiful one entrepreneur's brand at a time...I'm creating the change that I truly desire.
So you might wonder why this is a call out to you: the soulful, visionary entrepreneur who longs to create something good through your own work.
Well the reason is quite simple.
I know that I wouldn't be where I am now - or where I will be in 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years time - without taking the time to truly realise my own potential.
Knowing what I am capable of gives me the power and the determination to carry through on my mission, even when it becomes difficult to do so. Entrepreneurship is not an easy thing - it is something that is full of ups and downs, plenty of roundabouts and twists and turns. But when things get hard to deal with, I know that I can come back to that pure vision that I have for the future and remind myself of my own potential. And it is that which offers me the power to move through my life and work towards the dreams that I have for my life and those around me.
So my final question to you is this: what revolution are you going to start?
Answering that question might be a little hard. It might even make you fearful, for it feels too big to handle or for any one person to accomplish in one lifetime.
But know this: I believe in you.
By simply having these dreams and visions for your life and the change that you can create in the world, you already hold the power that you need to charge forward and just DO IT. It's all there - you just need to find it, nurture it and hold on to it.
Do not be afraid of owning that revolutionary power that you have.
We are all here to make a difference.
We all have a purpose.
You just have to find yours, and be willing to share it with the world.
— Rachel xo
Rachilli is a creative studio dedicated to empowering every independent creative, business owner + small business to brand their business authentically, aligned to their core values, mission + vision.
We also want to empower other's with chronic illnesses to carve their own path and create a life + business that works for them, and to lead the way by creating a platform for, and being a voice alongside, those with chronic illness in business.
Rachel, the founder, is an award-winning designer + photographer, published logo designer + author, and is mama to two - slightly crazy - dogs, Storm + Jasper.