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HOW TO DESIGN AWESOME BRAND VISUALS WITHOUT BEING A DESIGNER.


I have always wondered why most small business owners spend tons of money on product creation, marketing, and sales yet ignore or dismiss investing when it comes to brand visual presentation.


I honestly don’t blame them for this. If they are business people in the first place, I understand that they care about sales, management, and making a profit; to them, it’s all about the bottom line and numbers.


I know that they are not designers or visual artists, neither they have time to be one, which is why they should hire professionals in the first place.

In this article, I’m going to talk to you as a business owner and a marketer, not as a visual artist or designer.


My job during this conversation is to simplify the overall picture of how to create an appealing and desirable brand presentation yet, at the same time, taking into consideration the marketing and sales aspect of it.


Before we begin let me be clear on one thing, as a business owner it’s not your responsibility to design your logo, website, or product packaging, neither is your judgment on what style or colors must be applied.


Your job is to understand the overall big picture, understand what your customers like, find great inspiration and resources, then hire professionals to execute.


Therefore I’m not going to share with you the details or a lot of information on how to design a logo or a website, but I will put you in the right place on how to get inspired and find the right people to design the beautiful logo and website of your business.


Every strong brand needs to have an appealing visual presentation of its overall experience; this visual presentation will directly affect the positioning of your brand in the customers’ eyes.


Therefore before you start lifting a finger or asking for designer help, you must be clear on what do you want to say to your customer and how do you want them to feel.


It’s the job of the visual artist and designer to transform your message from words, values, and phrases into visuals that match the mood, style, and attitude of your business with customers.


For a successful brand to create strong visuals and experience, it should start with five essential elements:

  1. A clear and bold purpose.

  2. A clear and bold positioning.

  3. A clear customer segment.

  4. A clear and unique visual theme.

  5. A collection of a diverse visual library and mood boards.

Once you have those things in place, then making a logo, visual identity, and website becomes easier and more straightforward.

1. A clear and bold purpose

The purpose of the brand defines the mission, values, and the story behind the brand; it should answer why does this business exist in the first place?


We always begin by identifying the identity of the brand and its values; a brand that is about love and caring will differ in its presentation than a brand the present power and desires, read: how to craft a robust brand vision, mission, values, and story.

2. A clear and bold positioning

The purpose of a brand positioning defines how the brand is perceived in the eye of the customer, does it serve a value base customer, or a traditional customer, what is the archetype and personality of the brand, read: how to attract the right customer.

3. A Clear customers segment

Each brand should appeal to a specific group of people likes and hates, desires, passion, and lifestyle; we don’t communicate verbally or visually to two separate groups with the same tone and language, read: how to find products for your customers.


4. A Clear and unique visual theme


A theme is a specific genre or style that people tend to identify, follow and enjoy, think of pop culture, boho style, minimalism, classical, it mostly attached to a specific type of music, art, time era, and culture.


A theme acts as a framework and structure to your brand overall look and presentation; instead of creating each object separately with different look and feel, a clear theme will tie the entire brand as a whole and make it identifiable.


When you are a small business, this will be your main competitive advantage; think of a Coffee shop Vs. Boho style coffee shop, which one would you visit if you are a bohemian and love to drink coffee?


Once you have a specific theme, then we can plan for our colors, fonts type, mood, patterns, and imagery to match and reflect a specific image that reflects the desired customer image.


Archery Cafe | Korea’s Most Unique Coffee Shops


5. A collection of a diverse visual library and mood boards


Without a diverse visual library, you have no benchmark; and your brand visual presentation will lack both beautiful aesthetics and the fresh style of the current market.


A rich in visual ideas mood board will serve as a source of inspiration you can rely on to plan for your brand visual presentation, instead of starting from a blank white canvas, this is a process that every creative team starts with, and there is no reason you should not.


It’s very critical to collect ideas inspirations from the best sources of media since this will define the prestige, style, mood, and visual quality of your brand.


Some of the best places to collect ideas are Pinterest and Instagram besides studying brands that invest highly in their brand aesthetics, brands such as Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford, Nike, Apple, and MVMT watches, look for and collect visual ideas from the top brands of your industry.


Another source of visual inspiration is Magazines, especially food, traveling, and luxury fashion magazines, here is a list of magazines I think worth studying and extracting ideas from.


Food magazines:

  1. AllRecipes

  2. Bon appétit

  3. Delicious

  4. Eating Well

  5. Food & Wine

Luxury fashion, cosmetics, and fashion magazines:

  1. Harper’s BAZAAR

  2. Marie Claire

  3. GQ

  4. Elle

  5. InStyle

  6. Vogue

Interior design magazines:

  1. Elle Decor

  2. Architectural Digest

Premium lifestyle magazines:

  1. Robb Report

  2. Travel+Leisure

  3. Real Simple

In addition to magazines, you can look for different creative design ideas and inspirations on the web, here is a list of the top websites to regularly check for new inspirations: 

  1. Behance

  2. Dribbble

  3. Awwwards

  4. Creative Market

Regardless of what source you extract your visual ideas from, always keep an up-to-date folder or mood board of the latest trends and styles for your brand visual presentation, to keep your brand fresh, modern, and creative, to better learn how to design your mood board read: Canva.com | How to create a beautiful mood board.


Now that you understand the basics let’s talk about the design aspects of things; it’s good to realize that great visuals stand as a competitive advantage on their own. If you look around you at your competitor’s work, you find that most did not invest in the visual presentation of the brand.

The visual elements of a brand visual presentation


1. Logo


The logo is the face of your brand; you can not neglect your brand logo, I hear many marketing gurus make and repeat the same mistake, your logo is not important, hire someone on Fiverr for $5, I could not disagree anymore, most people on such platforms are immatures and has nothing to do with good design.


Your logo must be:

  1. Bold, so it’s clear and stands out. A fussy logo will blend in the background.

  2. Authentic, so it differentiates you from the competition.

  3. Expressive, so it Reflects your brand personality, a generic logo will make you look like a commodity.

We do judge people by the way they look and their styles; we attach different meaning to those looks and styles and then categorize them into different social hierarchies and meaning.

Elegant Logo = Elegant Brand = Elegant Me 😎 Funny Logo = Funny Brand = Funny Me 🤣 Crappy Logo = Crappy Brand = Crappy Me 🤢


Your logo does not have to look fancy or complicated, you don’t need to spend $50,000 or hire a large agency, but you do need to be sensitive to your brand presentation, a professional graphic designer in your area with the right communication and vision should be able to do the work.


How to design great brand visuals


If you have watched the above video realize that those principles are only guidelines and not rules, you need to understand the big picture and your market, then adjust accordingly.


Now that I helped you to understand the big picture, I think you are ready for some action.


1. Get a clear understanding of what type of archetype, theme, and brand positioning you would like to be perceived.


2. Get inspired by good designs and have a clear idea of what makes a strong brand logo strong and sellable, some resource to get inspired by are:

  1. BrandBucket

  2. Logomoose

3. Create a small swap file and collect the logos that seem to be simple, expressive, and bold.


4. Once you have a clear idea now, it’s a good time to work with a small design agency or hire a freelancer on Dribbble, Behance, 99designs, or Upwork.


Once you know what you want and armed with the right knowledge, this will make your life and their job so much easier, faster, and more effective.


If you are just starting and want to design your logo on a tiny budget, I understand, starting a small business is tough, and you got to know how to allocate your cash properly.


You might try to use cool online software that uses artificial intelligence to generate logo designs and brand identity for you.



Placeit Logo Maker


Those tools are easy to use that my ten years old brother can come up with a cool design in a matter of few minutes lying down on his sofa, relatively cheap, and you only pay for results.


I would not mind using those tools if I were in a hurry or working with a client on a tight budget, no matter which approaches you to choose always remember to look BSD (bold, simple, and different).


Such tools are:

  1. Place it, logo maker

  2. Wix Logo Maker

How to Create a Great Brand Logo Design.

2. Colors

Colors are the lifeblood and soul of your brand; without an attractive color presentation, your brand will look dead, meaningless, and lifeless.


Now don’t get me wrong, black, white and grey are considered to be color as well, each color will determine the attitude of your brand, do it right and you get your self the most energetic, desirable, or elegant brand, do it wrong and you will get a weird looking rainbow brand.


Your choice of color should not be determined by what color you like the most, but by the overall feeling of your brand theme and archetype, those color choices should be consistent and united across all your brand assets.


Colors and Meanings


For choosing your colors, my advice to you would be:


1. Get a clear understanding of what type of personality, emotions, and cultural meaning your brand will represent.


2. Think in terms of standing out Vs. Blending in, you want your brand packaging and design to be clear and obvious, not fuzzy, and dismissed.


3. Get inspired by other colors schemes:

  1. Canva colors combinations

  2. Colorhunt

3. Work with a small design agency or hire a freelancer on 99designs, Dribbble, or Upwork to come up with a professional color palette for your brand. (not the right place to allocate your budget if you are “just” starting with a small budget, if so then read on)


4. if you still insist on designing your colors with a small budget, I understand, you might try to use cool online software that uses artificial intelligence to generate brand colors.

such websites are:

  1. Canva brand kit

  2. Coolors

  3. Colormind


How to Create a Color Pallete With Coolors


3. Patterns


Patterns are the shapes and elements that define your theme and style; they give your brand character, and life.


Different patterns could be inspired by various art genres and cultural tribes; you could apply those patterns into your product design, your packaging, and different elements of your branding.



Different Notebooks Patterns | Etsy


You can purchase different styles of high quality, affordable, print-ready licensed patterns from Creative Market.


Creative Market Patterns


4. Products photography

Photography in marketing is all about creating a desirable presentation of a product that attracts people and pulls them to buy.


I have met some entrepreneurs who have done their product no justice; they blew it up when it comes to photography, and it all comes to one primary reason, they took the images themselves, usually using bad lighting, complex background, and frustrating visual composition.


You must understand that selling online your product photography could make or break the purchase of your product. Your customer can not touch the product. Therefore, the image should be clear and attractive.


If you have some money to spend on your photography, then I highly recommend working with professional product photography studios, or professional freelancers in your area.


These studios are specialized in taking high-quality pictures for an e-commerce website, just google search for products photography studios around your area, contact them to get pricing details, examples of such sites:

  1. Thriveproductstudio.com

  2. Theproductphotographystudio.com

  3. Productphotography.com

If you are on a tight budget, then at least take a few product photography courses on websites like Skillshare and Udemy.


Free product photography YouTube channels:

  1. We Eat Together

  2. The Bite Shot

How to Design Your Brand Photography

Once you understand the basics of product photography, make sure to get inspired, and have a framework in mind, Pinterest and Instagram will do just great!

Products Mood Board & Inspiration

If necessary you can shop for a simple lightbox from Amazon or any photography equipment store, you can also shop for inexpensive products photography backgrounds such as marble, wood, or a simple flat color background which would add a sense of beauty and increase the value of your product.


On the other hand, if your product is considered to be in casual fashion selling t-shirts, leggings and other apparel products you could save you save tons of money hiring professional photographer and model by using websites such as Placeit, you only have to upload your design and Voalá your design are on a beautiful model with an amazing pose.

Placeit Mockup Generator


They not only provide you with images that you can use on your websites and social media pages, but you can also buy videos of your product being displayed on different models, give it a try.


If your product tends to be more of a generic packaging product, such as a bottle, a box, a bag, or a generic product, you can purchase a pre-designed 3d mockup with different views from Creative Market and apply your design on top of it.


Creative Market Packaging Mockup


5. Website

Building a website was tough, but now it does not have to be that way, In the past, we had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire a design agency, right now most of the time especially if you are starting you don’t need all of that.


Thankfully, we got some platform that allows us to build a website in a matter of a few hours. However, some platforms are more convenient than others; it all depends on what type of service/product you want to deliver.


E-commerce:

Shopify: The most advanced e-commerce platform available to this moment, they make it super easy for you to install websites, plug-ins, and themes in a matter of minutes, with no coding required.


You will be able to launch your e-commerce store as fast as you can. If you want to learn more about how to launch your Shopify store, you can take advantage of Shopify academy free training.

If you are planning on using Shopify, you should always start with a beautifully pre-designed theme; this theme will boost the visual presence of your brand, add to that your beautiful product photography and great well-written product description, you can buy the pre-designed themes from ThemeForest or Shopify themes marketplace.

Information product:

Click Funnels: Probably the most widely used platform for building a sales funnel, webinars, and online courses, Click funnels comes with pre-designed pages, templates, and layouts, which makes it pretty easy for non-designers.

Simple local store / Simple E-commerce / Personal Brand / Blogging

Wix | Squarespace: If you are starting with a small budget, unable to hire a web developer and designer, then you could definitely start with Wix or Squarespace.


With hundreds of beautifully designed templates, drag-and-drop menus, and tens of amazing widgets, you could build and run a beautiful website in a matter of a few hours, watch the video below to learn more.


Greg Gottfried | WIX Tutorial For Beginners 


6. Brand Identity

This is what people used to call branding; you hire a design agency to come up with a company branding identity elements such as business cards, envelops, T-shirts, and some other stuff; they charge you a $50,000 and call it a day.


By now, you should understand that this is not branding; if you follow me in the past, I explained that branding is the overall experience of how customers feel about your brand.


Logo, business cards, and all the other stuff are some parts of the visual presentation of a brand, and they are not the brand, I have mentioned this section somehow at the end of the conversation because it’s the last part that your customers care about.


Visual Identity “brand stationary” won’t move the needle for your small business unless you are a consultant, lawyer, doctor, or other businesses that depend on the prestige of the company and business owner.

Looka Brand Identity Mockup Generator

You can it skip altogether if you are starting with a new business and on a tiny budget, however, if you got few extra bucks and would like to expand the branding image of the business elements you could definitely use some sites as Looka entirely free to try, and you only pay for the design that you like.


If you are not a fan of mockup generators tools, you can browse thousands of beautifully designed brand identity templates on the Creative market then hire someone on Upwork or Fiverr to adjust the design to fit your brand message.

Creative Market


Don’t assume if you hire a design agency they will do all design work from scratch, most of the design agencies buy a pre-designed work then adjust it and charge you thousands of dollars.

7. Social Media Assets

Today we can not ignore the fact that every brand requires a great visual presentation across all the social media channels, be it product photography, ads, banners, and promotional graphics.


If you are an already established brand then you might hire an in-house full-time small marketing team rather than working with an agency or freelancers, within this team, there should be a graphic designer who can handle all the graphic work regarding your brand visual presentation.


If you are just starting or your business does not require a lot of promotional graphics, then you should consider using tools that come with already pre-designed templates.


These tools will take off all the design hassle over your shoulders and make you focus on your message, remember our goal as business owners are to focus on the selling aspect, not the design aspect, I would like to share with you a couple of tools that might be helpful:

Bannersnack: a helpful tool that comes with tons of pre-designed templates, it saves you the hustle to design each banner size separately, and with one click, you can apply your design across all sizes.

Banner Snack Benners Generator


Crello: a great tool as well, it’s similar to Canva, comes with hundreds of beautifully pre-designed templates, the downside is that you still need to design each banner size separately, it works perfectly if you are only looking to design a single banner.

Crello Banners Generator


8. Product Packaging

For packaging design, it’s wise to be aware of the presentation of your product, stay away from the mentality of being a beginner salesperson, jamming your entire packagings with tons of information, this visual presentation will make it very challenging to stand out on a product shelf.


Rule No.1: Be Bold and Attractive.


When designing the packaging of your product consider the following:

1.  The first purpose of packaging is to protect the product inside out; the product needs to be shipped, handled, pushed, squeezed, and some might be thrown or mishandled, the product might need to be stored for months if not years.


If the packaging is not protective, then no matter how attractive its, the outcome is not what the customer expects.


Damaged goods unboxing | George Chang


2. The second job of packaging is to compete on the shelf with other products in the same category and attract attention, don’t assume that people will look at your product by chance, far from that.


You will compete with tens if not hundreds of products sharing the same area, which means that your product needs to stand out immediately and not blend with its surroundings. That means large, bold and attractive graphic, vibrant colors, and large text.


A Shopper Making A Decision


3. The third job of packaging design is to sell a desire; most people assume that the packaging is a separate part of the product, far from that, your packaging is a part of your entire sale experience if your food packaging design is not desirable then no matter how healthy it’s, it just not going to move off that shelf.


If your clothing brand packaging does not look and feel expensive, it won’t reflect the high-status image of your customers walking across the street.


Chips Packaging

4. The fourth job of packaging is to provide clear and relevant information, some people when they buy products, especially dairy and food product searches specifically for information that is related to the consumption and component of the product.


State your product’s most critical information clearly. Many businesses make the mistake of crumpling the information together, leaving the consumer frustrated and unclear about taking a decision.


Lay’s Chips Back View


5. The fifth job of a product packaging is to sell the brand, have you noticed that most large brands have their logo or word-mark so big on the packaging, it’s because the packaging sells the quality, prestige, and the experience of the product and the brand.


Nike Packaging Box

6. The sixth job of a product packaging is to sell onboarding experience. Remember the first time you took your iPhone out of its packaging? What does it make you feel? How about Nike shoes?


Those two companies know it well when it comes to building an excitement while you are opening the box, study the packaging of the iPhone, and you will learn everything you need to know about great packaging.


iPhone Packaging Design | JostenDooley2


Notes to consider:


1. If you can have a brick and mortar store, or have your stand in a convenience store, or better sell online would be a great strategy, it’s very tough to compete with the large brands in the convenience stores, they spend a large amount of money on stocking their products in the best position, lighting and eye level.


They also make sure to place as many products as possible; this will make the probability for the customer of choosing their products over yours much more possible.


Bud Weiser In-Store Stand


2. Think in terms of gifts and occasions, the packaging itself could serve as a gift box for company employees, mother’s day, valentine’s day, baby shower, and more.


Cadbury Valentine’s Day | JJ Kids


3. Think in terms of seasonal themes, characters, and personalities; there are so many single product brands that built their entire businesses on the variation of their seasonal packaging themes, adding a spark of life through a cartoon character or adapting a cultural style, will bring your product to life, add themes variations and freshness to the entire brand experience.


Zara Kids Packaging | Paperspecs


4. Think in terms of low cost, handmade and sustainable packaging, if your products are small items, a personalized and handmade packaging with written letters and cute designs are a great alternative for a mass print solution.


DIY Packaging Ideas for Business | Sarah Types


People buy products for many reasons, and to be honest, the design of the packaging could be one of the main reasons why people would buy your product in the first place.

My advice to you is before planning on designing your packaging:


1. Visit a nice and fancy supermarket and start taking pictures of different products section then notice:

  1. What does make a successful product jump out?

  2. What colors do they use? Black on white, red, or yellow?

  3. Which product attracts you the first?

  4. What does make the product look desirable? Bold? Trustworthy? Is it the quality of the materials? Images? Printing techniques?

2. Buy and collect the most eye-grabbing packaging of your industry and other industries and study them well.

3. Reach out to a professional graphic designer who is specialized in packaging design and works hand in hand with them to produce packaging that increases the perceived value of your brand and makes it desirable.

Conclusion


Here you go, now you have a basic idea about how to build visuals and creatives for your small business, reach out to a design agency, work with freelancers, or do it yourself, It does not matter; just make sure that the presentation of your brand is a priority.


Also learn from advanced brands how they present their brand image as a complete with a consistent and solid look, from colors to images, patterns, and typography, rather than separated parts, an ununited theme, and a broken style keeping in mind that your brand needs to communicate in one clear and consistent visual language.


Visual design only needs to be done once and could serve you for a year or two, once it’s made, it’s only a matter of little adjustment and print, it’s repeatable and scalable, make sure to treat it as an investment and not as a cost!