The Yellow Cat Design 8-step guide on how to create a brand
Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of creating a strong brand.
It’s also common to think that a brand is simply a logo, a font, and some colours. A brand is more than just how your business looks, it’s how it communicates, how it behaves, how it feels, and ultimately how people perceive it.
A brand is the personality of a business
As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon once said “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”.
At Yellow Cat Design, we can help you to design or develop your brand to create the right personality for your business. This does start with an identity – logo, fonts, and colours etc – but can also include working out your tone of voice and other aspects of your brand that can help shape the perception.
What is our process for creating a brand?
We’re going to assume in this article that you already have a name as naming is a separate process in itself. Creating a name can be an important part of creating a brand and we can help with this too but for now, this article focuses on visual brand creation.
The branding process can vary depending on the brief as every business is different. However, to create the initial identity we follow these basic steps:
Questions, Questions, Questions!
It’s possible that we could get really annoying during this first stage as we’re going to be asking you a lot of questions!
It’s important for us to understand as much about your business as possible, such as:
- What do you do?
- How do you do it?
- What’s the story behind the business?
- What are your aims?
- Who are your competitors?
- Where do you see the business sitting in the market?
- What are your USPs (how are you different)?
- Why would someone pick your business over a competitor?
- What personality does your brand have or want to have?
To help gather this initial information we have created brand questionnaires that cover the key questions. Get in touch if you’d like to make a start with your own brand creation or re-brand. We can also help you with wider discovery exercises to help understand what your brand values are or what you want them to be.
A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
Mood boards and ideas (optional)
Some of our clients have very clear ideas of what they want from a brand and what they’re aiming to create. If that’s the case then creating a mood board using something like Pinterest can be a great way to let us know what you have in mind.
Even if you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re aiming for, creating a mood board of styles and existing brands that you like can be a great way to start thinking about what your brand is going to stand for and how you want to shape it. It doesn’t have to just be existing brands, it could be an advert or social media post that hits the right tone, some colour combinations that you think would work well, or a video or photo that conveys the sort of image you want.
We’ve listed this step as optional as often, the first step of asking questions can be enough to generate a brief. However, in general, and especially for larger branding projects, we would definitely recommend this stage to really help focus the design brief.
Products are made in a factory but brands are created in the mind.
Once the initial information has been gathered we use it to generate a brief. This is basically condensing everything from steps 1 and 2 into a plan of action which is then shared with the client to make sure we’ve understood everything and we’re on the right track.
Sometimes, steps 1-3 can be achieved in one go in a face-to-face meeting or over a video call but it’s usually best to take a bit of time to draw up the brief in order to make sure everyone is clear as to the direction that the new brand is taking.
Once the brief has been finalised the task of visualising the brand can begin. This usually starts with a good old fashioned pen and paper or, the modern equivalent of an iPad and Apple Pencil. The idea of starting with simple sketches is to not restrict our thinking to the boundaries of what is possible in a particular piece of software. An example of this can be seen in the brand we created for the Spiritual Spa that was built around real paint marks or The East Street Deli Branding that was centred around a hand-drawn sketch.
Once we’ve sketched out a few ideas, we’ll then develop these initial sketches into more high fidelity designs using Adobe Illustrator.
Our approach to the first set of designs is to keep our options as wide as possible. We try to include as many variations as we can and prefer to show our clients a lot of different designs at this stage. We know that many of the ideas will be discarded at the first stage but this is part of the process and helps us move on to stage 5.
Logotypes vs Logomarks vs Combination
A logotype is a text logo based around the business name, while a logomark is a logo that focuses on a picture or icon. We briefly explain the difference below and how this influences our initial designs.
One of the most well-known examples of a logotype is Google:
We normally start with logotype ideas and look at the relationships between the letters to see if the word form creates any interesting shapes. Logotype designs can be some of the most powerful logos but, because of their simplicity, are often the hardest to get right.
Here at Yellow Cat Design, one of our favourite logo designs is FedEx because it’s just so wonderfully simple but brilliant at the same time with the hidden arrow in the negative space between the letters.
A pure logomark is a logo that contains just an image or icon. Just using a logomark can make it very difficult for a new brand to establish itself so most of the notable examples are from well-established brands. Logomarks like Apple, the Nike swoosh, and the McDonalds arches are all instantly recognisable on their own. However, even with these well-known brands, they also have hybrid versions where they use the name with the logomark in some instances.
We have worked with clients, such as Credas, on brand development projects where we build brand recognition around their logomark so that as they build brand awareness they have been able to slowly use the logomark in isolation.
The reason why many businesses favour one or the other rather than having a combination logo is for simplicity. A logo that is too complex with too many component parts can be hard to use, especially in tight spaces or at smaller sizes.
Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.
As mentioned in stage 4, we usually like to generate a lot of different ideas in the concepts stage. Not only does this keep our options open it also ensures that we don’t try and push our clients down a particular route. We like to show all the options and then during the iteration stage, the narrowing down of the options is as important as the designs themselves.
We ask our clients to rule out the designs they don’t like but we actively encourage them to tell us what they don’t like and why. This is very important and many clients don’t like to say what they don’t like as some think that we’ll take it personally (don’t worry, we really don’t)! We encourage as much feedback as possible, positive or negative because this is vital in the iteration stage to help the ideas evolve.
It is also important during the iteration stage to clearly explain where our ideas have come from and how we see them progressing and the relative benefits of each design. For example, as mentioned earlier, some combination designs that use elaborate icons along with a logotype can really catch the eye but it’s important to remember that this logo has to work in various contexts from large signs or billboards to a business card, website or mobile app. This is where stages 5 and 6 can sometimes overlap.
After the first round of ideas, we would expect that at least two or three versions emerge as favourites with a few maybes and some ruled out altogether. Once we understand the reasons for these choices the next round of iterations should be clear. We may include additional designs at this stage but ultimately we’re looking to narrow the selection down to one or two with maybe some variations in colours and fonts.
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.
Now that the ideas are starting to be narrowed down and we have one or two different options with slight variations to consider, the next step is to start seeing them in-situ.
As part of the design process, we will have already considered how the designs work for different applications but it always helps to see the designs in use so that clients can see how other brand elements such as colours, fonts, and images might be utilised to build the wider brand.
This stage will often involve mock-ups of relevant items such as clothing, signage, website, app, or business card. Seeing a logo in use and with supporting branding elements can help to build a picture in your mind of how your brand is going to grow.
Sometimes, in-situ mock-ups might be presented at an earlier stage in the creative process if the strength of the idea relies on seeing the logo in use or it’s built around strong supporting brand elements.
The Yodel brand shown on stage 7 is a good example of how the logotype alone does not effectively communicate the brand personality. Therefore, seeing it in-situ would have been an important factor in the design process.
Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice-versa.
Finalise and tidy up
We should now have a final logo idea selected so this step is really about the finer details. This will include things like tightening up the kerning (space between letters) and paying close attention to the colours.
For more information about colours please see our article on the difference between RGB, CMYK, and Pantone. We will use some of the points from this article to make sure we choose suitable brand colours.
Not only should the colours suit the brand personality but we must also consider the application. For example, a very bright green will work brilliantly on screen but will be harder to produce in print without more expensive Pantone printing whereas subtle gradients and light shades can appear nicely when printed but could be completely washed out when viewed on a bright screen.
An example of how these wider brand elements are really important can be seen in this example for Yodel. We like the Yodel brand for it’s simplicity but the simple logotype on its own doesn’t tell you much about the brand or it’s personality. However, when paired with bold, bright colours and powerful typography the brand comes to life. This is where even some simple brand guidelines can be used to outline how the elements should, and shouldn’t be used in order to create the desired brand personality.
Brand launch, building, and strategy
Once the designs have been finalised and we have the building blocks of a brand, it’s time to start planning how you launch and then build on your brand.
We won’t cover the detail in this article but your brand should have a plan about what it wants to achieve. Much of this might have been covered in the brief stage so it’s worth referring back to the brief to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
Depending on the type of business there are many options to build your brand such as PR, Social Media, Networking, Advertising, Web, SEO, and Email Marketing to name a few. To help work out a strategy businesses should consider defining target audiences and build brand personas for those audiences to make sure they’re targeting the right people with the right messages.
For help with brand strategy, to find out more about creating a new brand, or for any other enquiries then please send us a message: