Image is Everything
Okay, so image may not be everything, but when it comes to business, it is pretty important. It’s the face you put out to the world, so it should be presentable, at the very least. Branding and design are tied into your image, but the specifics of how you link them are very much up to you: you might be all about the website, or maybe a social media assault is your method of choice for getting your message out. Perhaps an awesome logo or branded company stationery (because really, who doesn’t want a pen with their name on it?) Whatever route you choose to go down, you might find you need a bit of help, not least for corralling all your ideas into a coherent, marketable concept – when you’ve got that concept, where do you go from there?
Ask the Expert
Today’s expert is Alan, from A Creative Feeling, who designed both our fabulous logo and the very website you’re on right now. We asked him some questions on image, branding and design, to help you navigate the sometimes complicated world of shiny design jargon. We also asked him to explain about SEO, as it’s another of those concepts we’d heard about that might help on the marketing front. Finally, we quizzed him on what we should look for in a designer, and what we could expect them to offer. After all that interrogation, he was exhausted and unable to work…in case you were thinking of stealing him!
Q1: For new businesses, what are the priorities for image? Should it be a website, a logo, or something else?
When starting a new business, it’s important to get across who you are to potential customers as early as you can. This is where your brand identity comes into play.
Your brand identity is made up of the visual elements of a brand, (your image) such as logo, color, design, name, symbols and the essence of the brand, i.e. what you do, how you do business, your values, etc. They should both come together to identify your brand in the consumers’ mind, making it stand out from the competition.
Once you have this in place you can start to introduce other consistent elements that will help make your business successful, including your website, print materials and social media; tying everything in together.
Q2: As a designer, is it more helpful if your clients have an idea for their branding, or is it easier for you to start from scratch?
I find there are benefits with both scenarios.
For me, if the client has ideas in place it’s much easier to get us both on the same page quickly. It will also speed up the whole process, saving the client money.
On the other hand, I get a lot of satisfaction creating a logo from scratch and watching it develop into the finished article.
Either way works, as long as both the client and I are happy with the final design.
Q3: What’s the process when it comes to designing a logo?
The first thing I do is research the market the client is in. Which trends are obvious and what their competitors are doing.
This gives me a feel for what type of customer my client is aiming at and what they would respond to. The idea is to get a unique and memorable logo, however there may be certain aspects of the logo which a potential customer would simply expect, i.e. mentioning the profession, if it’s relevant, e.g. accountant.
Brainstorming ideas comes next. Whether it be for the company name, tagline, message or design, this is a key element to finding some useful ideas to take forward.
Any worthwhile ideas will then be developed from basic sketches until there are 2-3 decent concepts. These concepts will be proposed to the client to get as much feedback as possible. Generally we agree on the best option and move it on to the next stage, but sometimes it can take another round of concepts, though this is rare.
The chosen design will be fine-tuned and crafted from a rough sketch into a final proof, which will require the client’s approval. Small details, including colour and the position of elements can be tweaked until the perfect outcome is achieved and everyone is happy.
Q4: How important is SEO for a company’s website, and crucially, are there any tools/techniques that make it easier for beginners?
SEO is something that anyone managing a website should have some level of understanding of; it’s good practice and will help your website be found by as many potential customers as possible.
Having said this, it does have slightly less importance now than it did a few years ago, as Google has put more focus on using paid advertising to drive traffic to your website. However, it should not be ignored entirely.
If you’re building your website on a platform like WordPress there are loads of useful SEO plugins that will point you in the right direction and give a helping hand.
(Editor note: We use Yoast and it’s great!)
If you decide to be bold and create your own website from scratch then it can take a bit of time to get used to it and have it running well. The main thing you need to consider is how the content on a particular page will be read and how relevant the elements within the page are.
Take a look at the following article to understand what I mean…
Q5: What should new businesses look for in a graphic designer? What services should they offer and what can we expect from a pricing perspective? (e.g. Should pricing be per hour, per project, etc?)
As with most services these days, you get what you pay for. There are a large number of graphic designers out there but a good one may be more difficult to come by.
You need to think about your budget before you consider talking to a designer. If you only want to spend £40 on your new identity then there’s really no point approaching a reputable designer, as you will just be wasting their time and your own.
There are plenty of cheap (or even free) services available out there, which will get you ‘something’. However, it’s unlikely that the outcome will be very good – this is often because the image (for the logo, for example) won’t be high quality or be in a format that is easily used.
If you plan to have a unique, memorable, well-crafted design that you are proud of, then expect to pay a reasonable sum. A good designer will probably work on a rate in excess of £25 per hour. However, they will more than likely quote you for the total of the entire project, so bear that in mind.
This will be the cost you should expect to pay, unless you make any changes or additions to the brief. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a breakdown of what you’re paying for.
If you haven’t worked with the designer before, you should expect to pay half of the agreed amount up front and half on completion. A designer is unlikely to do all the work without some sort of security, should you pull the plug.
Finally, for me it actually goes beyond the outcome of the project, it’s about the whole experience from start to finish. A good designer should not only provide a beautiful design, they should be good at communicating, be approachable and understanding of your needs.
If you can find someone that ticks all these boxes and is also affordable, then you’re on to a winner.
Alan’s company, A Creative Feeling, has five key areas of focus: Branding & Identity, Logo Creation, Digital Art & Illustration, Photoshop and UI Design. Over the years, Alan’s interest has broadened from a pure love of art, to crafting an idea from the point of conception through to realisation, whether this is in the form of a logo or an illustration. You can visit his website here and see some examples of his work, or you can follow him on Twitter…I will warn you though, he sometimes tweets about football. I guess we can’t all be perfect.