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Blog posts tagged brand identity

Be brave enough to invest in your business

June 10, 2011 by Fiona Humberstone

Inspired by a post called Be Happy it’s Not Easy I read on Sarah Petty’s Joy marketing blog site, I wanted to share my thoughts with you about free marketing.

There is no shortage of experts who will tell you not to waste money on a website or smart brand identity – having you believe instead that social media will catapult your business to financial success alone. And there is probably no denying that somewhere out there, someone will have made their first million (probably selling info products) in spite of their “horror show” of a website. But they’re the exception, not the rule.

A powerful brand identity and website will attract the right sorts of client prepared to spend what you need to charge. It will differentiate you from your competitors and it will help you stay memorable. You can’t get that sort of design for free. To be honest, it doesn’t even come “cheap”. But the great news is, investing in marketing your business means your competitors can’t copy as easily as free marketing.

I’m not knocking free marketing. Social media is the lifeblood of my marketing activity – but only in conjunction with a range of activities. And it only works because I take myself seriously.

The problem of not being able to invest in your marketing because you’re not making any money is an age-old catch 22. I firmly believe that you need to invest in your business and get all of this right at the outset and the results will pay dividends. It’s all about being brave.

Ask yourself this: If I don’t believe enough in my business to invest in my brand identity and website, why should my clients?

Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing 

Does your graphic designer give you what you need?

December 23, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

I was talking to a potential client today who is tearing her hair out because she’s had a new website designed which she knows isn’t quite hitting the mark, but she can’t quite put her finger on why.

After a brief conversation we identified the issues: insipid stock photography; clunky use of fonts; and a less than inspiring layout.

“To be fair to the designer,” she said, “I wasn’t really quite sure what I was looking for, so I probably haven’t given him a very good brief.”

“That’s not your job!” I wanted to scream.

This poor lady was beating herself up because she’d failed to choose the right stock photos and failed to tell her designer exactly what she wanted. As a result, the design work was less than impressive.

Your job as a client is to give your designer the answers to the questions they ask you. I sincerely believe it’s not your job to tell them what you want and where, just get them to “construct” your vision. If you do that, you’ll get back, at best, what you wanted. You probably won’t get what your business needs.

So what do you really need?

When I meet with a client on any project we don’t discuss colours, fonts or layouts. I ask the client about their objectives, business and clients. We talk about goals for this piece of marketing literature and we get to grips with the messages they want to communicate. We might also talk about brand identity (if they have one) and about the impression they want to create.

At no point do I expect the client to tell me how they want the piece of design to look. And I actively discourage any client from creating a mockup.

What’s the point? You work with a creative, insightful and intuitive designer to add value to your business. You shouldn’t be expected to provide a steer on the design – that’s what you’re paying us for. Sure you need to give a decent brief – but it’s down to the designer (or account manager in my company) to ask insightful questions and draw the right information out of you.

You know what results your business needs. And if you can relay that information to a graphic designer you trust, they will be able to provide you with the collateral you need to achieve that result.

Now I appreciate that this level of design doesn’t come cheap. But it’s worth investing in for peace of mind, the value it’ll add to your business and the fact that you can get on with doing what you do best and leave the design work to the experts.

So next time you brief a designer, listen carefully to the questions they ask you. Do they reassure you that they really understand your needs and really care about the result you’re looking for or are they just trying to please you by giving you what you want?

Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing

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Logo finished – what’s next?

March 23, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

Those of you that have been following the trials and tribulations of the development of a logo for Flourish, my new branding, graphic design and marketing services business, on this and my own blog know how much hard work we put into getting it right.

And those of you that can read between the lines probably know how much I wanted to just put the finished logo in a box and forget about it. Designing your own logo feels a little like childbirth – you’re pleased with the end result but you wouldn’t want to go through it again. Of course, most of us do forget the pain and go back for more!

So I chuckled to myself when a friend emailed me and asked: “Great, I see your logo’s done. What next?”

“Well where do I start?” I typed back. “Erm… the stationery, business cards, website design, exhibition stands, brand manual, email signatures, folder, postcards, ‘leave behind brochure’… I could go on, but you get the picture”.

Designing a logo is just the start of it. The impact comes from everything we do around the logo, the identity we build and the image we create.

Most small business owners will invest in having a logo designed, but they often don’t see through the whole process. They take the logo and throw together their own stationery, “knock out” some leaflets or take up that offer from a friend to design their website.

Their brand identity doesn’t reach its full potential and they miss the opportunity to create the best impression. At worst, the homemade designs undermine all the hard work they’ve invested and that hard-worked-for impression goes by the wayside.

It’s only by designing several pieces of marketing literature, perhaps a website or some stationery as well, that you can build up a true picture of what fonts, colours, imagery and illustration styles really work for your identity.

We’ve test-driven several fonts and illustration styles before we’ve settled on the ones we’re using. Why? Simply because, when you put them into practice you find some don’t work as well as you’d hoped.

And I’ve found that my “extra stuff” – the fonts, quirky illustrations and the photos we’ve used – are what I love more than the logo itself. It’s the “heart” stuff, the magic, which blends so well with the sensible “head” decision of my logo. But you can’t have one without the other.

So if you can afford it, you should definitely have your logo designed by a professional. But from experience, I’d also strongly recommend you set aside some budget for developing the whole identity. It will make such a difference in the long run.

Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing

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Five reasons you shouldn’t design your own logo

February 18, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

I feel very qualified to write this post at the moment. As the owner of a brand and marketing agency, I work with a lot of small business owners who are missing opportunities because their logo (and brand image as a whole) isn’t sending out the right signals.

And as someone who has just been client, creative director and designer (along with my other fabulous designers in the studio) for her own business, I can see things from the other side, too.

The fact is you really shouldn’t design your own logo. Here’s why.

1 You need outside perspective. Our clients tell us one of the most valuable things we bring to the table, aside from design, is the perspective we help them gain on their business. Working with a branding agency on your corporate identity forces you to think about the way your business is structured and who your most profitable clients really are. Working with someone who is not as close to your business provides a different – and important – perspective.

2 It’ll cost more than you think. You think design agencies get their design for free? Think again. I’ve spent thousands of pounds on developing the identity for Flourish, my new branding, graphic design and marketing services business. The staff cost and the opportunity cost of both my designers and I working on our own stuff rather than billable client work has been significant. And if you’re not a designer I recommend you focus on what you do best and let us get on with what we do best. More profitable all round – and the end result will be better.

3 Unless you’re a graphic designer, you’re unlikely choose the right fonts or colours. I’ve studied typography, colour psychology and logo design for years, as have my graphic designers. We understand how to evoke an emotion through a colour or a font.

4 You won’t add the creative flair your business deserves. Great logos have wow factor. Usually, they’re simple, but clever. And I don’t mean a Photoshop drop shadow (sooo nineties!) or a web 2.0 glassy reflection (oh so naughties!). I’m talking about a clever icon or creative treatment that will get your clients taking you seriously.

5 You’re too close to it. Being so involved in the design process makes it incredibly difficult to make objective decisions. In the end, the only way we broke through our creative block was for me to completely disassociate myself from the design and act as creative director only.

I see now why other design agencies commission someone else to design their logos. In the end, we managed to crack it ourselves and I have to say, I’m delighted with the end result. But if you’re not a graphic designer I urge you to invest in a professionally designed brand identity. It’ll be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing

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