Updated: Jun 12, 2020
There is one very important part of my business I wish I had established sooner: my brand.
I was in a rush to launch my business. I wanted to find my first clients yesterday, so I jumped on Canva, picked a pretty font I liked, a few colors that seemed to play nicely together, and inserted my business name. Voila! Logo! All done, right? Not so much.
There is a huge and very common misconception about branding. Some new entrepreneurs think your brand = your logo. Sure, your logo is a very important piece of your brand, but it isn't everything. There are so many things you need to think about before establishing your brand: your values, your target audience, the services you're offering, the emotions you want others to feel, what you want it to "say", and so much more.
Since establishing your brand is such a complex process, I would recommend making a true investment and working with a graphic designer. Yes, even in the very early stages. When you have a professional brand that speaks to your audience, they'll take you seriously. Simply put --when you invest in yourself, others will want to invest in you, too.
To sort out some of the details regarding logo and brand design, I reached out to Kim Mesman of Mesman Design Co. with some questions. Kim and her amazing talent are responsible for my recent rebrand, and I hope her thoughtful answers will help clear things up a bit.
Can you tell us a little about yourself. How did you decide you wanted to be a graphic designer?
I always knew I wanted to pursue a creative path and, as a kid, one thing I remember drawing frequently was Garfield. Upon graduation in 2001 from Louisiana Tech University, I worked various design roles for startups, non-profits, agencies, and corporations. Before I went out on my own, I worked at a Bio-Tech company in Littleton, CO for almost 12 years, managing all the graphic design projects for the U.S. and International offices. At that role, I gained valuable experience about how to run a business and manage a diverse range of people. While I was working all of these full-time roles, I also did freelance work on the side, which allowed me to get my feet wet working independently. I always wanted to branch out on my own, so I could have the ability to work on a variety of client projects that were meaningful to me, while having freedom and flexibility. I decided to leave my corporate job April 2017 and pursue my calling. I opened up Mesman Design Co. in 2017 and finally became an independent graphic designer. Working for myself has allowed me the opportunity to work on some great brands, but has also connected me with some great relationships in my local communities.
Why is it important for any new business owner, particularly a virtual assistant, to establish a brand?
No matter what business you are in, investing in a strong brand provides credibility. When you have a thoughtful and cohesive brand, people will assume you’re composed and organized. A cohesive and established brand identity will span across any and all platforms that you operate on: your website, Instagram, Facebook, postcards, blog posts, and so on. Operating under your brand strategy (using the same logo/logo variations, fonts, colors, voice, feel, etc.) helps you become easily recognizable and builds trust at the same time. If your brand comes off as organized and consistent - ultimately leading to a more professional identity and trust in your brand - your target customer is more likely to spend their hard earned dollar on your product or service. Strong branding helps you carry yourself more confidently into everything you do. Feeling good about how you present yourself is irreplaceable, and, at the end of the day, how you feel about what you’re doing is the most important thing.
I'm a new business owner and I have no idea where to start or how to communicate what I like, dislike, envision. Do you have any tips for the early stages of the process?
I always tell my clients before jumping into designing anything think about these 5 questions below as they typically help provide clarity and direction.
1 - Think about why you do what you do. 2 - Write a list of words you want people to use when describing your business. 3 - Write out 5 adjectives or words that best describe your ideal customer. 4 - Consider the primary message you want to convey to your customers. 5 - Think about where you want your project or business to be in 5 years time, and jot down specific ways you can use a strong brand to help you get there.
Once I have a logo and brand kit from a graphic designer, what should my next steps be as a new entrepreneur?
Once you receive all your logo files and branding guide, your next step will be creating a cohesive brand. Your branding guide, which contains your colors, fonts, patterns, and various logo marks will be your road map to creating a cohesive brand. Your branding guide is a blueprint for all your brand materials – graphics, website design, social media, print ads, and more. You will want to keep the branding guide handy at all times so you can refer to it as a reference when creating your own marketing collateral or working with a designer. The logo files will need to be used across all mediums and make sure they are easily recognizable. Last, make sure you ask your designer for various logo formats and these typically include eps, png, and jpeg files.
I'm at the beginning stages of launching my business and I'm not sure about the initial investment that logo and brand design requires. Why should I feel this is important?
When you start a new business, there are a lot of costs associated, so it can be overwhelming and stressful. However, your business is like your home. When someone knocks at the door, you want them to feel welcome. A logo is more than just a graphic, it speaks volumes about your business and makes a good first impression. Investing in a professional logo shows potential clients that you care about your business to invest, making potential clients feel more comfortable about investing also. Investing in a professional logo could also save you time down the road. Attempting to DIY a logo may cause you hours of time and you may not get the results you wanted. A logo is also more than an image, but your brand identity. Just like we come up with a business name that explains what we do and who we are, we want the visuals to encompass that also. Once you invest in a logo it will be used multiple times after that. Think about all the places it could potentially be used (website, social media, business card, marketing collateral, emails, etc.). Talk to your designer about payment plans as that is typically an option and often times, there can be packages created to help save money if you do everything at one time.
What is your creative process like? What can I expect when I work with you?
My design is based on intention and purpose. Before starting any design project, I will take the time to listen to your unique story, so we can create the best strategy. I will start off by asking a series of questions so I can better understand your ideal audience. During this discovery phase, as I like to call it, we will gather inspiration and collect information before doing any design. Whether it be a logo or marketing collateral, I will provide some options to review based off the information we gathered in our discovery phase. We will work together to refine and polish your unique design. Last, I will provide final design files and I will always be available to answer any questions if anything comes up. Additionally, I am also available to provide further design assistant services, should you need help with ongoing design needs.
What are your thoughts on the lifespan of a brand? Should I go through a rebrand periodically to keep things looking fresh? Or can I keep my logo forever?
The life of a brand may not be forever because businesses can change over time. However, the key to a more long-term brand is to do that initial homework and understand who your key target audience is, what makes you unique, your values, etc. The primary purpose of a logo for example, is to identify and communicate a message. Your brand needs to communicate the right message and like it or not, when someone views logo your business can be perceived in a certain way. That’s why it’s essential to understand who your target audience is before launching a brand.
Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone in the beginning stages of starting a business? Is there a particular lesson you learned while starting Mesman Design Co.?
Here are a few tips that I like to follow and tell my clients:
Focus on your Why : Why did you start your business? Why are you motivated to serve people throughout your business? When you keep the “why” in mind, you set the stage for a purposeful brand.
Avoid Comparison : Everyone does business different. A great logo doesn’t mean great business and not-so-great-logo doesn’t mean bad business. Stay focused on your brand and you won’t go wrong.
Really Celebrate : Fully embrace your new brand and take the time to share your new brand with your readers, visitors, and followers. Share with them why you decided to rebrand and take them on the journey with you!
*Mesman Design Co. is a proud business partner of Christine Nicole LLC.