What Comes First: The Wording or the Visuals?
Updated: May 31, 2019
When launching your business, or undergoing a rebrand, it can sometimes be easy to tie yourself up in knots. Where do you even start? Do you crack on with the design, throwing yourself into colours, shapes, typographies and textures; or do you get scribbling and start with the copy, selling your product and services and shouting about what makes you unique?
You're going to be hearing this from me a LOT here, but your brand is so much more than any one or two of its constituent parts. It goes deeper than your logo and your website, and beyond your wording - these are ways in which you're expressing your brand identity to the world, and putting across what it is you're all about.
So, Where The Heck Do I Start?
When you're building your business from scratch, it's very tempting to jump right into the pretty and think about how you want things to look. But this can end up bamboozling you even further. Without knowing what you want your brand to represent, and the values you stand for and can bring to your clients, how do you even begin to design a logo and a visual identity? You'll quickly end up reduced to selecting colours and styles 'because I like them' or 'because they look nice'. No! No, no, no. A big buzz word that you'll be hearing a lot around here is 'purpose'. Every single decision you make in regards to your brand needs to have a clear purpose and reason behind it.
So, I'd urge you to step away from the moodboards and colour wheels and the Pinterest vortex, and instead get out your trusty notebook and pen. It's time to think about your brand value key words.
Your Brand Values
Don't worry, you're not about to start writing your full web copy here right off the bat. The first step towards creating a brand with clarity and a consistent message is working out its values. Forgive the very slight sense of woo woo here, but it's not about how your website looks, it's about how it feels. You want every element of your branding, from the logo and the site design, to the story and the social media to have a cohesive and clear atmosphere about it, and to speak directly to your ideal clients (a concept about which there is a l-o-t more to say, and which deserves a blog post of its very own. Watch this space!).
So, have a think about how you want people to feel when they visit your site. If they had to sum up your brand in three words, what would they be? Time to get scribbling! These three words will become the cornerstones of your future content, and will be a hugely helpful reference point for you as you get more confident in writing as your brand.
You'll probably find that there are an awful lot more than three words that spring to mind, and that's ok. Start with everything, and then get ruthless and edit them down to the most crucial.
Case Study: Jackdaw Editorial
Let's look at how nailing down brand values helped me when it came to my visual branding. When I first came to Sarah at Studio Spence (who is not only extremely talented but is one of the loveliest and most patient humans on the planet!), I hadn't done this exercise. I had an idea of what I wanted, but couldn't put my finger on exactly how to represent it visually.
I knew I wanted to have an affinity with wedding industry websites, but shied away from watercolours and calligraphy. I wanted to have a logo and site design that felt natural, eye-catching and a little different, without being overly edgy.
As briefs go, that's not horrendous, but it's still vague and lacking in some of that all-important purpose. Sarah got designing, and sent over the first round of logos, which looked like this:
Now, all of these have a lot to like about them, and each of them reflects the brief I sent to Sarah. I could objectively say that I liked several of them, but knew that none of these were right for my business. You see my problem? I sent a looooong feedback email, taking bits of several of the logos and asking to see them put together. I was careful to go into specifics, but looking back at those emails now, it's clear that I was still relying on things I liked and things I didn't, rather than looking deeper and thinking about the values these logos and designs were conveying to my potential clients.
Here comes round two:
We're getting closer, and you can start to see some of the colours and elements that have made it into my finished branding. It was at this point that I sat down and really got to grips with my brand keywords (and immediately wished I'd done this from the get go!).
I brainstormed and scribbled and scrawled, then categorised and whittled down to three brand key words for Jackdaw Editorial, and the way I want my brand to feel. Ready? These are:
There are lots of other important words that need to be represented within the brand, but these end up falling into sub categories under each of these three 'headline' words. For example: friendly and approachable fit nicely under the 'warm' headline; creative and quirky slot in underneath 'expressive' and so on.
Once I'd found these cornerstone key words for my brand, I found giving feedback to Sarah so much easier. I was able to express what it was that was needed without floundering around in my own personal tastes, and could translate the values onto the visuals.
It wasn't long before we hit on the final logo, and I immediately knew it was the right one - no more second guessing myself!
So, if you're early on in your branding journey, and need a way in and a place to start, get cracking on those key words. You'll find they come to be something of a mantra for you as you develop your business, and will help you in making the right decisions to grow your brand and get noticed by the right people in the right ways.