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Molly Hicks, brand strategist and graphic designer

The top 5 things you need to know about brand identity.

My brand identity is often over simplified into two things, fonts and colors. When we simplify a brand down to those two things, we are missing so much of the science of business, the logic. All the beauty and creativity that happens in order to have a brand that actually serves a purpose and that is intentional. 

Today, we’re going to take a few minutes to go over some of the major components of branding so that you can get a better idea of a) where to start, and b) why oversimplifying to colors and fonts is just not going to cut it.

YOU must ALWAYS be the brands heart

One of the things that is most important to understand when reading this, is that who you are must always be at the heart of your brand. It might not mean that every part of your personality is portrayed in your business, but the key components of who you are will be there. If we take those things out of your business then it becomes something that you don’t believe in, it becomes something that you have zero passion for because you’ve taken everything that makes you beautiful and unique away. 

And that’s actually one of the biggest reasons I hear from people as to why they resent their businesses; they built it for what people told them it needed to be, and they didn’t incorporate any parts of themselves. They become resentful, or hateful towards their businesses because it’s taking all their time, but it’s not filling them up as it has nothing to do with them and it has nothing special to them.

First :: Understand who you are.

So our first thing that we need to do is understand ourselves and who we are. Now, this is not something that you’re immediately going to know and it probably is going to be a process, it’s going to evolve over time as you continue to build your business and learn who you are. 

The things that I feel are very important for people to consider are; where are you on your journey and life? What obstacles have you overcome to this point? Why have you started a business, or why do you want to start a business? Are you neurodivergent? Is technology your thing? Are you super nerdy? What are all the things that make you who you are? And most important is to realize what you love doing. When you are building your brand, you’re making sure all the things that you love, (even in your nerdy, you know, watching Star Trek kind of way) and the things you love to do are represented there. For example, if you were thinking of starting a painting business, but you do not like doing commissions, custom portraiture would probably not be the best option, that kind of thing. 

So in this first step as you outline who you are and what you’re going to build your business around, the other thing that you have to think about is what are the things that you talk about all the time? What are the things that make your blood boil? Is it Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? 2SLGBTQIA+ rights? Is it the crazy bullshit that is whatever the heck is going on right now? Like what is it that makes your blood boil and that you’re passionate about, because what makes your blood boil and what you’re passionate about is a key component to your business. We never want to separate those things out from our business. There’s a giant difference between “these are the things I believe in” and letting people decide who they want to work with, to you finding out about a person and saying “I’m not working with you.” One is “this is who I am, take it or leave it;” the other is discrimination. We need to be upfront about what you believe in, and who you are, so that people can self eliminate; so that you’re not dealing with bad inquiries, people getting frustrated, or not liking what you’re putting out there, all of those things. 

Next, Know your niche market.

So number two on our list is niching down your niche as a part of your brand because what your niche – and I would say your ideal client – love and need, are the focal points of your brand. So a niche is essentially where you take a giant market and you focus in on a very specific subsection of that market. 

A market might be queer folks, and a subsection of that market might be queer parents, who are also nerdy, who are baby queers, who need guidance, who are introverts who are also neurodiverse. That is like a very small, minute niche. Or, it could be parents who went through an infertility journey, who have one kid, who don’t want more kids, and don’t understand why people want more kids, and have no place so you’re building a community for them to understand their feelings. Those are niches within a market that is larger. 

The struggles of that specific market, or that specific niche, are what you’re going to focus on. So what do they need? There needs to be a balance between what you like to do and what is actually needed. Sometimes we build products, because we think that people want something when in reality, they don’t. For example; if you are working with a business owner and they are in the middle of their business journey where they’re starting to delegate, teaching them how to manage things on their own is probably not a good service to offer as this will be a higher priced product, and it has to be offered to people in the middle of their journey. But these people don’t want to do things themselves anymore, so you have a product that’s missing a line. We need to make sure that when you’re looking at your niche, you’re not only looking at what makes them tick and what struggles they have overcome, but you also consider what they need at this specific juncture in their business journey, or their client journey, or whatever is particularly applicable to your people. 

Own your brand identities voice, but also, be yourself

So then, we come to brand voice, which is how you speak to people.

There are a lot of common misconceptions that you have to speak in a very specific way to be quote unquote, “professional;” but professionalism is total bullshit and a holdover from an archaic patriarchy – it’s just a measurement that people use to gatekeep. So we’re gonna throw out the word professional and move into what connects you with the people you want to work with. If cussing is what your people do, and that’s what makes them feel comfortable, then cuss away! Why do you think I say “fuck” so many times? I talk like that on a normal basis; every time I put an email out that says “fuck,” I get an email back that says “I feel seen,” or “you had me at ‘fuck,’” or whatever it is. It’s a connection point. Yours does not have to be that word, it could be something else. One of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow is “cookiesmut” and she has a whole bunch of products that are just “fuck,” and “cunt,” and all similar things – “twat;” it’s hilarious, and I love it, and it’s what makes me connect with her. 

But anyway, I digress – so – brand voice is very important. It could mean that you’re going to use an Oxford comma every time, or it can mean you’re not. Maybe you don’t give a shit about grammar because that’s not what your brand is about. It could be that you’re going to use every pun that you can possibly imagine, it can be telling stories through poems. Whatever your brand voice is, it really should be a reflection of how you speak because you want things to be consistent. I would encourage you to write examples of your brand voice, things that resonate with you, small snippets; keep a collection of them so that when you do eventually delegate things off, you have something to show as your ideal brand voice. 

4) Yup, Colors and Fonts Time…

Colors and fonts do a very interesting task, they visually connect with people; and, certain shapes, patterns, and shades will connect with people for different reasons. A luxury brand might have a lot of whitespace with a lot of spacing, and perhaps some bold colors and rich textures. There are differences between font types as well; Serif fonts are very traditional, (while) some are becoming more modern, whereas sans serif can go into a super low end market or a super luxurious market as they have a modern feel. We go over this in my “Canva for the Not-So-Graphically Inclined” masterclass, you can take the same elements of something – the same graphics, same fonts, same colors – and with minor tweaks to letter spacing, line spacing, whitespace, and the size of your graphics, you can change the feel, and who a specific piece of graphic attracts.

There are typically five colors, base colors, to a brand color palette, and then you have every tint and shade from 0 to 100. You will also want to stick to about three fonts at the most, your heading font, your subheading font, and then your body font. I really encourage people to choose a body font that is an email safe font, this helps keep things super consistent across the multiple platforms you’re no doubt using. Lastly, keep ‘scripts’ to a minimum and use them as accents only as they’re hard to read for many people. 

Where colors are concerned, there’s so many different ways to use them; and there’s not really a right or wrong way to do so. However, certain colors evoke certain emotions, and so when you do want to attract people who are calm and aligned, you might want cooler colors that help people stay that way. Passionate colors are deep, and rich colors.

I avoid red – a lot – as it’s generally the color associated with power and control; usually in a negative connotation. Successful use of the color red depends on the kind of fonts it’s paired with, the letter and word spacing used, and also requires consideration about what elements it’s paired with to avoid a negative reaction; whereas, yellow evokes happy/positive feelings generally, like personal power. Your audience will see colors differently and based on their lived experiences, you may find that some may have a different relationship with color than the average person. It’s just like word use; in different regions, they mean different things, and so certain words are completely appropriate to certain markets where they wouldn’t be to others. 

5) Its your brand identity, time for consistency, consistency, consistency…

The fifth part of branding is consistency; and I don’t mean consistent timing (although that can be important if you are a larger brand trying to grow at a consistent rate), I am referring to consistency in your brand. Once you implement a brand, everything – everythingneeds to be a part of that brand. 

Your brand may evolve in a way that is refining, but it shouldn’t never (unless you are rebranding), incorporate new fonts, new colors, or new elements, it should always be a complete and all encompassing representation of your brand. If you ever feel like “this doesn’t feel like me,” then it’s time to relook at your brand and figure out which parts of these five components don’t feel a part of you. Your brand should light you up and make you feel like it is wholeheartedly representing what you want to put out into the world, and what you wanted to put out to the world three years ago, may not be what you want to put out into the world today. Forcing branding that no longer feels a part of you is serving no one – it won’t help people feel connected to you, nor will it help existing clients to stay connected to you – if anything, it may make you feel resentful as you’ll be attracting people you don’t want to work with. Refining that story, that palette….refining your branding…is important. 

Choose the right people, to set the brand up right for you!

My team and I are here to help with all your branding needs, always; but there are a lot of brand designers out there helping people. It is so powerful to work with a person who totally understands what you want to do, especially if branding is not within your wheelhouse. Make sure that the person you choose has the ability to represent what you want to bring into the world. There are many brand designers that make beautiful things but they might not identify with what you want to put out there, and that journey can be a struggle if you guys are not on the same page.

If you need help with your brand, let’s talk and see how TeamMolly can elevate your brand identity and amplify your voice!

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