You ask everyone else’s opinions all the time but ultimately it is up to you. So how do you know when to trust your own opinion?
There are a few types of people that read this blog. One group may be my fellow designers and others, which I hope as I’m targeting you, are the solopreneurs… even more specifically, female solopreneurs.
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I say this because sometimes I want to start a blog post by greeting like you do when you public speak… Good afternoon, fellow designers, solopreneurs and…. mom.
However, I am dividing this reading group because I want to ask my fellow designers if this has happened to you:
You are at a networking group or even a party, and it is a very social scene. When you tell someone that you are a graphic designer, their first question is to critique their logo, card or website on the spot at that moment.
Now that happens to me all the time and I HATE it. I hate being put on the spot. It feels as though the person asking is auditioning you as though, if you will say the right thing will win their business. Like there is a magic answer to the critique question. Another reason I loathe the on the spot critique, is that there is no right answer.
If it is beautiful, there is nothing really to critique and you may appear like your nitpicking. On the other hand, it could be butt ugly for any number of reasons and you need to tread lightly as to not offend the person. (Let’s be honest, we all have different tastes and when something is GREAT, no one walks around asking what you think of their brand… you have confidence in your brand.)
However, despite all this, the most important reason I despise that question is that, who am I to critique your brand? And, this last point is the basis of this whole blog post.
I don’t mean that I am not qualified to give a designers point of view, but to be put on the spot without any knowledge of the business, the person or the strategy behind the brand, I can not properly critique a brand. People usually want to hear that their logo is awesome or their website rocks but anyone who is actually asking that (aside from Trump), doesn’t truly believe in the design. So the answer usually if not ultimately comes down to one thing… what is the planning & strategy.
Very often, when novice solopreneurs are designing a logo themselves, they build something on what they think looks ‘nice’. However, not all design that is effective is pretty.
GREAT design can be both effective and attractive. GREAT design(yes, caps every time) speaks for itself. It needs no explanation. Rather, GREAT design communicates, evokes a reaction and and is visually attractive.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever gone jean shopping and you pull 10 pairs into the changing room? You see your butt goes through a variety of shapes & sizes but then after trying everything on, there is the one pair.
The one pair that does everything you want it to, flatters your legs, is the right length, lifts the bum, doesn’t give you muffin top & most importantly, it is a look you like. The wash is the right colour, the stitching is good and there are no massive weird embellishments. What is the reason for the perfect jeans? GREAT design.
Your brand should be that perfect pair of jeans. Yes, there are certain criteria that needs to be met: Who you are, who is your target market, brand promise, vision etc… And just like a perfect pair of jeans, what worked 5 years ago, may not fit today.
So let’s talk Brand Review: The Who’s, The What’s, The When’s, The Where’s, The Why’s.
I said that sentence to be cute but honestly it is the best way to break this down.
I left off how because that is what we are doing now…. The How. We are performing a Brand review by asking the right questions. When we delve into the strategy of a brand, we can review how successful it has been for you.
The who is simple. The WHO is you and/or your company and WHAT we are doing is reviewing your brand. When reviewing the brand we are looking at all aspects, not just a slice of the big picture. (The WHERE).
The basics of a review include the logo, business card and website. However, depending on your business, there are varying other materials like brochures, advertising, blog and very importantly, social media. That in itself deserves its own review which will come in another post.
For simplicity’s sake I will focus on the basics in this post.
So the WHO is you, the WHAT is the review, the HOW is asking questions, the WHERE is the basics and so we are left to ask the WHEN and the WHY?
I put these questions together as they essentially go hand in hand and that is because usually the when is the why.
You may want to give a brand review before you launch & are in the depths of the design process. Far too often, we can get caught up in the process and forget to step back & look at the big picture.
Perhaps you are forward thinking and may also do a brand review each year as a annual review/revamp. This may revolve around assessing if you are reaching your target market & making tweaks along the way. Another instance may be that you have more money to invest in your brand.
As well, another reason may be that you are not getting the traction you were hoping for or that you just plain hate your own marketing material. (many people come to me with this last option as they didn’t have a budget in the beginning & made something to tide them over or tried doing it themselves)
SO let’s get deeper into the WHAT… I consider this the fun part. I do this with most of my clients when starting a brand so it is fun to do it here too. Because you are an existing business, hopefully a lot of these questions will be a breeze to answer. However, often after time passes, we are able to see what is working, what’s not working, and notice an evolution of our business and must respond to the changes.
The ultimate goal from this exercise is if we are staying true to our strategy & that your logo, business card + website resolve the criteria you have set out in your brand. Does it attract your target market? Does it communicate who you are? Does it make your target market act as you wish them too (be it sign up, phone, purchase etc.. )
So let’s start!
PART A: The Guts of the Brand
- What is your business? What is the Name? What is your vision of the business?
- What makes you different then your competitors?
- What are your services? What is your X Factor?
- What are your Strengths?
- Who is your target market? What is a snapshot of a typical client?
- Where do you source new business? How do you close business?
PART B: The Look of the Brand
- What is your logo?
- Why did you choose this for your business?
- Does it still hold true? If not, why?
- Does the concept still ring true? If not, why?
- Do you feel the colours are working or were they fashionable 5 years ago? Do you think you stand out from your competition? What about the fonts?
- Do you feel proud to show your logo? If not, why?
- Do you get comments on your logo, if so, what are they?
PART C: The Marketing of the Brand
- What are your business cards? Are they a standard size? Do they use colour? Are they double sided? What kind of paper do you use? Are there any special features
- Do you feel proud to show your cards? If not, why?
- Do you get comments on your cards, if so, what are they?
- Where do you print them? Do you find this is economical or expensive? Do you hand out a lot of cards?
- What is your website? – This is key. This is the online moniker that is speaking on your behalf, well, because you are a you .. not a virtual you.
- Did you build the site yourself or use a designer? Why?
- Is it from a kit or is it a theme? (ie: squarespace, weebly, go daddy standard, blogger?)
- Do you need to hire a professional to tweak the extra areas that you have been putting off.?
- Are you proud to show off your website? If not, why
- Do you get comments on your website, if so, what are they?
- Are you mobile friendly?
- Do you have a clear call to action on the home page? (go to another page, sign up, email, call for more information, shop?)
- Is it clear upon landing, we know what your website is about?
- Is your contact information available?
- Does your imagery support your message?
- Do your colours work for you or against you?
- How many pages do you have?
- How is your content?
- do you need to revise the copy?
- Do you have a blog? Do you post often?
- what about social media? are your follow links easily available? can you be found easily online? Do your posts help support your messaging?
This is what I call the basics. Everything else is sauce on the ice cream. Brochures, vary in scope because they can speak specifically to one service or story or can be general. Advertising is the same way. Social media is another ball of wax because far too often we get caught up in the social aspect and forget about why we have these platforms in the first place. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram all have their own set of rules & choosing to stay on brand for these.
In conclusion it is important to remember a brand really does 2 things. The logo is there to identify WHO you are and all of your marketing materials are there to tell your story. The questions above help identify what your story is. It is a matter of staying on point & not going off on massive tangents.
If you are wanting to give yourself a Brand Review, you can download the “Brand Review.. Like a Boss Worksheets Below”... As well, you will receive the additional bonus guide: “Top 5 Mistakes Websites Make” and you can vet your website a little more to see if your site is performing as well as it can.
Til Next Time…