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First Steps in Brand Styling

Author

Irene Hardy

Irene Hardy is a graphic designer, brand stylist, citrus enthusiast and the owner of Magnoliahouse Creative. She specializes in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses build graceful and exuberant brands that attract their dream clients. When she's not working, you might catch her with a cold glass of rose on the back porch, cheering for the Texas Longhorns or cooking something delicious from scratch.

Download your copy of The Smart Website Planner.

Download your copy of The Smart Website Planner.

One of the questions we asked quite frequently is how to get started on the branding process before you’re ready to hire a designer. I absolutely love this question because a well-prepared client is a dream client for us – when you’ve discovered and developed the style that resonates with you and your ideal customers, we can embody that style in a brand that’s uniquely and authentically yours.

It’s not an overnight process to discover your brand’s signature style, but it’s work well worth doing whether you’re planning to invest in a professional rebrand, or taking more of a DIY route. The following steps are designed to help you discover your signature style and, if desired, prepare you to begin work with a brand stylist or graphic designer.

 

Step One

Create a secret Pinterest board for all your brand style exploration. There’s no judgement or expectation attached here – it’s just a place to collect color, pattern, texture, imagery and ANYTHING that inspires you. No self-editing allowed: this is all about collection. We’ll curate later.

 

Step Two

Make sure you have either the Pinterest Browser Extension or Bookmarklet installed so you’re ready to collect from a wide variety of sources, including your favorite retailers and blogs

 

Step Three

Start with your ideal customer. Take the pages from your copy of the Authentic Brand Workbook where we defined your target customers and start pinning images that represent THEM. What do they look like? What are her favorite products? What does he wear? What are her biggest interests? What images would inspire him to read a blog post?

 

Step Four

Next, turn to yourself. Make a list – on paper – of 35 things that fire you up. We all have them – what are those things that get your heart pumping a little faster, put a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face? For me, it’s heirloom tomatoes, thick cotton paper, craft cocktails with citrus and Kendra Scott earrings. 

 

Step Five

Go back to Pinterest and find a gorgeous visual representation of each of the 35 items on your list. At this point, you should have a pretty full board of gorgeous photos. 

 

Step Six

Now it’s time to get a little bit more intentional in your search. We’re now looking for color, textures + patterns and typography that appeal to you. Pin at least five specific examples of each that appeal to both you and your ideal customer.

 

Step Seven

You may also find that it’s helpful to pin logos or brand boards from other businesses, and that’s ok – with a couple caveats. First, make sure you’re looking for inspiration from industries outside of your own to avoid copycat syndrome or pigeonholing your efforts. Secondly, these should not replace the images you sourced in step 6 or make up more than 10% of your entire board. 

 

Step Eight

Take a break. Make a cup of coffee, take a nap or go for a walk to get away from your computer screen for at least an hour – but overnight is a great idea. 

 

Step Nine

NOW, it’s time to curate! Work through your (very large, at this point) board and eliminate any images that make you cringe, distract you or cause hesitation. Look at the board as a whole, and eliminate any images that feel incongruous with the rest. There’s no set number of images you should eliminate or have remaining, but aim for roughly half of the number you started with. 

 

Step Ten

Finally, selection. Look at your remaining images, and identify any patterns that you see. What kind of images keep coming up? What moods or tones are you invoking? What color palettes do you see forming? Go back to your Authentic Brand Workbook, and make sure that your imagery is consistent with the tone and values you identified – and if not, make adjustments to either accordingly. 

Remember, your brand style is going to evolve and change with your business, so don’t be afraid to revisit this exercise regularly until you’ve created a style that resonates beautifully with you, your team and your customers. 

Have you tried this exercise? If so post a link to your Pinterest board in the comments – we can’t wait to check them out!

Author

Irene Hardy

Irene Hardy is a graphic designer, brand stylist, citrus enthusiast and the owner of Magnoliahouse Creative. She specializes in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses build graceful and exuberant brands that attract their dream clients. When she's not working, you might catch her with a cold glass of rose on the back porch, cheering for the Texas Longhorns or cooking something delicious from scratch.

Download your copy of The Smart Website Planner.