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What’s your business design style? And do you even have one…

By Janice Carter, Janice Carter Design


Does the design of your brand truly reflect your personality? If someone took a peek at your website, or your business card, would they say, “oh, that looks like you?” Just like you choose shoes that express your personality, the visual elements of your brand need to do the same. To properly build your brand, you need both stellar design and copy. The union of words AND a distinct visual language gives birth to a successful brand. I have seen all too many brand projects fall flat because the design was impeccable and the copywriting was horrific, or, because the design was poor and the copywriting was excellent. You need both. Think of it like this: you make a charcuterie board with the finest prosciutto, truffled Manchego and olives. Are you going to wash it down with Tang or Spumante Bambito? Hell no! You’re going to pair it with a fine wine, just like you want to pair good copy with good design. I’ll leave it to Danielle to cover the value of copywriting and stay in my lane: graphic design. I’ve been refining my craft for over 20 years and I’ve observed that visual literacy is lacking in many circles. A greater understanding of design helps you build your brand. Here are some key design components: 1. Design genre/style (modern, traditional, corporate, edgy, etc.) 2. Imagery 3. Colour palette 4. Typography


Design Style

This is a huge piece of personal branding. Think of it like this…whether you’re working, socializing, parenting, or going for a bike ride, you’re the same person. As you play each of these roles, you bring your own unique style to them with your personality and your style (hair, clothes, shoes, etc). If you tend to have a lot of clothes from the Gap, I’m going to guess that you probably don’t have a Mohawk. Whether you’ve done it intentionally, or not, there’s likely a common look between your home, your shoes, your car, your clothes, etc. We tend to gravitate towards a certain style. What’s your style? Traditional? Transitional? Edgy? I love minimalism with a hit of spice. I wear a lot of classic black, and spice it up with jewelry and big hair. My website has a lot of negative space, black and white, and then it’s spiced up with hits of vibrant colours. The interior design of my house won’t be quite up to my desired aesthetic until I have the $$$$ to hire Shea McGee. Whatever your style, apply it to your social posts, website, business cards, proposals, etc. Logo design is a whole other conversation. Hire a professional to do it.


Imagery

If you go to a stock image site and pick the first image that matches your keyword, it’s probably the wrong image. There are so many cliché images out there and you really should avoid them at all costs. They denigrate your brand. For example, in the coaching and personal development industry, I’ve seen some amazing quotes plunked on top of sunsets and more butterflies than I can count, paired with “transformation” verbiage. No, no, no! Explore juxtaposition or metaphors. If you’re drawing a blank when I use words like visual metaphors, hire a professional. Yes, you can make lots of cool graphics on Canva and get free images on Unsplash, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a thought-provoking, professional brand. You need a dose of creativity – and sorry AI, I think you need a real live person to do it! It’s also important that you use a consistent style of imagery. Maybe it’s photos with a lot of negative space. Or maybe it’s photos that are close cropped. Or maybe it’s black and white images. Or it could be macro photography: an extreme close-up of something small. You could also use illustration instead of photography. Whatever the case, choose a style and stick with it. If you want some eye candy, check out these gorgeous images.


Colour Palette

This is so basic, yet if you don’t do it, your brand looks grossly unprofessional. Use a consistent colour palette. I know this may feel boring and restrictive, but it’s imperative to your brand. What colours come to mind when you think of these brands?

  • Coke

  • Google

  • Amazon

Very specific colours, right?! You don’t see Coke suddenly running ads in purple. Or Google using pastels. Whether your business is big or small, stick to your colour palette. And make sure you use images that compliment it. Want to get some colour inspiration? Check out these sites:


Typography

This is a repeat of what I said about colour palette: pick one and stick with it. Use the same fonts on all of your digital and printed materials. And if your print typeface isn’t web compliant, find one that’s similar. I could bore you with details about kerning and leading, but I’ll spare you. If you want a highly professional brand, hire professionals who understand typography. It will truly elevate your brand. One of the most glaring indications of a poor design, is lack of typographic refinement. Trust me on this one.


Have fun building your brand. Take baby steps. Building a brand need not be fast and furious. Let it evolve over time as you get more and more clear about who you are and how your business solves your clients’ pain points. And if you’re not a designer, or a copywriter, invest in yourself and collaborate with them to create your unique brand.


Janice Carter

I just want to draw bunnies. Since childhood, I’ve been deeply fascinated by the prolific little fuzz balls. Since there isn’t such a huge market for bunny drawings, I’ve expanded my skill set to graphic design. To my delight, the joy I found drawing bunnies as a wee one now comes from designing logos, style boards, brochures and such. Same love, different subject matter.


A highly organized creative person (yes, this is often an oxymoron). I’ve been refining my design craft for over 20 years — first at downtown Toronto agencies and then as my own boss at Janice Carter Design. Whether you’re a marketing executive, business owner or agency, I offer you my expertise in brand identity and print & digital marketing, as well as project management.

Beyond bunny drawings, I’ve also recently completed my training as a life coach. I love helping people become who they are meant to be.

When I’m not working, I’m parenting, trying new recipes, expressing my extrovert at social engagements, playing my favorite Coldplay tunes on the piano and singing along, or re-watching episodes of Seinfeld.

To follow along with my design exploits, sign up for my newsletter, and to keep up with my life coaching, I’ve got a newsletter for that too.

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