Design advice for non-designers
Your brand is the heart and soul of your organisation; it’s the one thing everyone thinks of when they hear the name of your product or service, advertisers often call it the “brand concept”.
Branding is everything. Branding is why Coke wins loyalty over Pepsi almost every time and why people think Volvo is the safest car around. The power of branding goes hand-in-hand with design; without strong visuals, your brand won’t be remembered or accepted into the hearts of the people.
The branding of your company is critical in driving the perception you’re trying to get through to your audience, whether you’re a sweet shop, an advertising agency, or a finance start-up. A brand is brought together through psychology, science and visually pleasing design. Design is an essential piece of the branding puzzle that every business needs to focus on in order to achieve optimum success.
It’s becoming more common everyday in the workplace for people who aren’t designers to be assigned design related activities, whether that’s resizing photos, editing an image in Photoshop or choosing an image from a stock image database. At this point in time, anyone involved with a company’s online presence should be aware of the visual branding of the business to ensure everyone’s on the same page. It’s essential that the company is presented professionally and inline with your style guide across all mediums. Employing the services of a branding specialist or designer is key to getting your brand off the ground and for paving the way for future projects.
If you're involved with your company's online presence, this design guide will be very useful for helping you to get the most out of your brand’s visual assets.
1. Ensure consistency using brand guidelines
A brand style guide is what your company’s founders, designers and brand specialists agree upon when it comes to the visual presentation of your business to the public. This includes what colours to use and not use, what types of images are acceptable and not acceptable, how to visualise the story of the company, proper logo usage, which fonts should be used, and so on.
The most important aspect of design is consistency across all your intellectual property online and offline, which is why an official style guide is so important. Consistency allows for measurement of what is and isn’t working, which is essential in the constant process of your design overtime.
Pixel8’s brand has developed over time, our initial font, for example, was a clean and crisp Arial, however, after listening to our client’s feedback, we realised that the clinicalness and sharpness of font didn’t represent the look and feel of our people at pixel8. Now we have our beloved Google font, Lora, a smooth and flowing type which, we think, has a certain charm to it (it looks blimmin’ lovely too!)
2. Don’t use stock footage that looks like stock footage
Many businesses make this mistake and it really must stop. Nothing makes us cringe more than seeing a cheesy stock image of a ‘happy team’ or someone ‘hard at work’ on a company’s website. It’s completely acceptable to use stock footage, but do not select images that look staged, that are low quality, that don’t relate to your style guide or subject of the content where they’ll be used, don’t be cliché, don’t be afraid to be abstract, don’t fear a simple image that gets the point across and lastly, collaborate! Spend time with your team choosing images that represent all the company and are not just personal taste.
Here at pixel8, our image choices are very important for getting the message across about who we are, what we do and what we can do. Pixel8's imagery has a heavy emphasis on textures and natural finishes which set-off the modernity of our products perfectly. Personality is also a key aspect of all our photography – we want people to know who we are and that there are real people beavering away on your projects. Images of Nigel's son's baby sneakers hanging from the pipes gets the message across that we're a family orientated business, the Chopper appealing to an audience who has a love for retro and vintage styles and array of quirky personal trinkets and memorabilia, gives you yet another subtle insight into how the pixel minds work and what makes us tick.
3. Collaborate with a designer through consultation
By working with a design agency once a month, a quarter or a year you’ll be able to get actionable insights on the ongoing visual branding of your business for a lower cost than hiring talent internally. If you'd like to get an insight from one of the creatives at pixel8, we're always at the end of the phone if you'd like to organise a chat over a brew and a biscuit about your brand’s visual identity.
4. Match brand imagery across all mediums - social media, Ebooks, blog and email newsletter
Visuals in your content are crucial to helping different types of learners absorb the information you’re providing, people react quicker to visuals as opposed to other mediums such as text. Also, visuals help break up text in a document making it easier to get through and comprehend. Be consistent across all platforms – this is key to embedding the look and feel of your brand to your audience, it adds credibility too as it shows you know who you are.
5. Refer to competitors and other companies as a reference guide for design
Have you ever thought about how your tweets should appear visually? What about the design layout of your e-mail newsletter? If you ever need some insights on the direction any of your visuals should take, refer to other companies and competitors online when it comes to their website, e-mails, social media, banner ads, content and more to give you some direction and ideas. Your style guide should help give the final direction on your visuals, while competitive research can help fuel creative inspiration.
6. Listening to design feedback from users across social media
The design of your company is a two-way conversation amongst your staff and your clients or customers. Listen to feedback on social media, from existing customers and react to reasonable criticism. Experimenting with different creative on social media presents a free opportunity to gauge how interested your audience is in one piece of creative over another. The risk of experimenting and asking for feedback from your followers on social media is very low. The value added from constructive feedback can really help drive insights as to whether or not the visuals of your business resonate or not. Listen to how your audience responds and note which posts receive the most likes, shares and comments. Its the visuals attached to these that will be playing a key part - afterall, visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.
7. Learn how to perform basic photo editing on Photoshop and other programmes
It’s important that you’re able to successfully use these tools to perform basic photo editing and manipulation to assist with the various design processes across the business; printing store signage or editing a product image for your website. The best way to learn how to use tools like Adobe Photoshop, Pixlr, Inkscape and others is by using them consistently to learn what works and what doesn’t. Browsing through ‘how to videos’ on YouTube or reading step by step articles on how to best utilise these various tools for your needs will be very useful also.