Brand Design: Step By Step

The title is about brand design and those steps, but first we need to talk about value because the value is a major player in hiring a designer and understanding what you’re getting when you do hire a designer. And this doesn’t just mean your deliverables. The major part of value to remember is that a transaction is nothing more than an exchange of value. In this case, it would be money for design and development of your brand. So let’s lift the curtain and take a look at what designing a brand looks like from start to finish, including tips for each section from a designer to potential designer clients.

The title is about brand design and those steps, but first we need to talk about value because the value is a major player in hiring a designer and understanding what you’re getting when you do hire a designer. And this doesn’t just mean your deliverables. The major part of value to remember is that a transaction is nothing more than an exchange of value. In this case, it would be money for design and development of your brand. So let’s lift the curtain and take a look at what designing a brand looks like from start to finish, including tips for each section from a designer to potential designer clients.

Remember that this is broad strokes because every designer is different but it should be generally applicable if you work with me or someone else. So let’s get in it!

Step 1: Discovery

Although I may end up saying this about every phase (I take this seriously, y’all), discovery is probably the most important part of the whole process. This is before money changes hands, before contracts are signed, before everything and it matters the most. Discovery is all about the designer and designee getting to know the project, the each other, and the relationship that they will or will not have.


Watch for those red flags, watch for the little tells, and of course always, always make sure that you’re comfortable and confident.

This can be done (in no particular order) by:

  • Emailing
  • In person
  • Through a document (like a PDF packet)
  • Face to face (virtual)

No matter how it’s done, this step should not be rushed. This is all about reading each other, getting those questions answered. Think of it less like an interview and more like a date. There is power in listening. There is power in give and take. Watch for those red flags, watch for the little tells, and of course always,  always make sure that you're comfortable and confident.

Tip for clients: You have questions and designers know it. We will be happy to answer them, but let us ask ours too. This helps to prevent crossed wires or people locked into a wrong fit with a contract.

Step 2: Onboarding

Otherwise known as the paperwork phase. But don’t run for the hills! I’ll get to why it doesn’t have to suck and really why it shouldn’t. By paperwork, I don’t mean forms upon forms upon forms. It’s more along the lines of contracts (they should protect you both. Period.), data collection for goals and design information (usually in the shape of a pretty questionnaire), and that first invoice for the deposit (it’s an industry standard, depends on the designer, I’ve seen most commonly 50% down upfront.)

Being really real here, sometimes after booking, you’re going to find that your project may not start for six weeks. Six weeks can feel like a super long time. And something that can be really hard is to stay excited for six weeks. And while you have a responsibility to keep an open mind (more on that later in the tip), it is the responsibility of the designer to keep you engaged. This can mean sending emails that just randomly pop up in your inbox. This could also mean something that gets mailed to your house. This engagement is something that keeps you onboard, excited and looking forward to your project.

Tip for clients: As much as the designer is responsible for your engagement, you are responsible for your part as well. Keeping an open mind, remembering why you are doing this in the first place, and trusting your choice in designer is vital to the process.

Step 3: The Work

From the outside, when I’m working on a project, I look like I have everything under control. I look like I am calm and cool and put together. If you get bath bombs sent to your door from your designer with a note that says, “I’ve got your project. Go take a bath and relax yourself.” In fact, some designers strive for this appearance. But in the spirit of being totally honest, this is really not the case. My desk looks like it got hit by a tornado. Sketchbooks open, top knot in my hair, possibly a glass of sangria waiting for me in the kitchen. I may not be sleeping because I’m questioning the layout of your about page. I may be talking to my husband about hex codes and custom CSS (he hates that shit). This is where all the swearing, second guessing, chin tapping, and Adobe fighting comes in. But you’ll never see it.

Your designer is working for you, creating what your business needs. And that is no small feat.

Tip for clients: Your designer should be checking in with you at this phase. Radio silence shouldn’t be a thing. They should either be updating a portal that is yours of some kind or they should be sharing progress with you via email, Slack, or really however you’re communicating.

Step 4: Peeling Back The Curtain

So while you’ve been taking baths (good on you, boo, you deserve it) and living you life, your designer has been working hard to design your brand and is now ready to show you what they have developed for your company. Now it’s time for one of the scariest parts of the design process for most designers. The editing phase. First and foremost, from your contract in the onboarding phase you should be really clear on how this works, how many edits you get, and if there are additional charges (something I’ve seen).


The edit conversation should be an actual, human to human conversation.

I cannot say this enough. The edit conversation should be an actual, human to human conversation. I encourage you to get face to face for this. This will remind you that you are human people and that a conversation doesn’t have to get feeling hurty or ugly (I’ve seen this too).

Tip for clients: Remember that while your designer isn’t painting the Mona Lisa, the art that they create is near and dear to their heart. A designer may not always be able to have the criticism conversation well. Do your part to be cool and make them the asshole.

Step 5: Project Completion

Ta-da! It’s done. Things have been edited. Things are ready to go live and get launched and your designer is showing you how to use everything they made you. Yeah. They should be showing you how to use their designs. This can either be included in the package (mine do) or you can speak to your designer to see if they could take some time to train you on your website, talk to you about printing, etc.

In a perfect world, everyone gets what they were promised, everyone gets paid, everything goes smoothly. And I wish smooth upon you every time. I truly do. But sometimes, people are people and people can be late, they can be hard to get a a hold of, just don’t take it personally. Roll with it, be kind, and remember that we are all human people.

If everything does go well, you’ll probably be asked to give a testimonial and your brand will show up in the designer's portfolio.

Tip for clients: While not every designer does it, if you have tech insecurities of any kind, make sure that the designer you entrust with your project either includes training and/or printing instructions with every project, or speak with them before signing your contract about adding this to the project. Better safe than sorry.

Confidence

Wow. All of that looks so simple and cut and dry in a blog post. Sometimes is can be and sometimes it’s not. Either way, this journey takes days, weeks, and develops a relationship and at the risk of sounding cheesy, a bond between the designer and the designee.

I hope you found this post helpful, but if the client tips just weren’t enough, you’re super in luck. See I’m hosting a Work With Me AMA on Feb. 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm CST (7:00 pm EST) where you are going to get to ask questions til your heart's content. If you have questions about working with a brand designer and are ready to get real, honest answers, sign up by hitting the button below.


HAVE MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT BRANDING, DESIGNERS, WHAT MY CAT'S NAME IS? I'M AN OPEN BOOK FROM 6:00-7:00 PM (cst) ON FEBRUARY 28TH!

ARE YOU IN FOR THE WORK WITH ME AMA?


We can hang on Instagram until then...