Imagine you’re about enjoy Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the local community theater. The stage is barren. No furniture reminiscent of 19th Century London. No painted scenery.
The narrator comes on and delivers her lines well enough, dressed in contemporary street clothes. Scrooge enters stage left, as mean-spirited and miserable as ever. But he’s not wearing a costume, either. And the lighting is terrible.
The story is there, except there’s no visual context. Just a few actors talking on an empty stage.
This is your brand, without the visual elements—basically just a story on a plain white page or screen.
Graphic designers are the set designers of small business branding. They create a visual context in which your audience engages with your brand story.
But before you can expect a graphic designer to work his magic, you need a script, or brand narrative. If you can’t afford to hire professional to help you define and craft a written brand narrative that describes the qualities and characteristics your brand embodies, at minimum you need to know:
1. Who You Are
Can you articulate exactly what your business is, what sets it apart, and the principles that guide it? What are the essential characteristics of your brand, who is your customer and why is your business the best solution to what ails them?
2. What You Want
“Just sketch a few ideas and I’ll tell you if I like them,” is a graphic designer’s worst nightmare. After you give them the full story of your business, provide links to websites (competitors’, too) and logos you like and tell the designer why you like them, and what you don’t like about them.
After a lot of thinking and sketching and research, most graphic designers will come back with three or more general design directions. From here, the ultimate design begins to emerge.
3. The Value of Good Design
Be willing to pay for good creative. In many cases, it’s the only face of your business that your clients will see. Most freelance designers charge between $75 and $100 an hour. A logo with business card and stationery design can run anywhere from $1000 to $3,000, a website starts at $2,000. It’s possible to get visual branding for less, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
4. Who The Expert Is
Nothing can kill a great logo or website like design by committee. Don’t ask for input from your mother or your best friend. Remember, you’ve hired an expert to create a visual brand that will make you stand out. So let them do their job.
The process is more collaborative then you might think, and most designers enjoy the challenge of integrating your ideas. It’s your brand after all.
Three Graphic Designers I Love Working With
Laura Stoll Design: A gifted visual brander, Laura began her career in magazine publishing. Now she creates highly original logos, collateral, and websites for a variety of corporate and small business clients. http://www.lstoll.com.
Molly Morris Design: Super creative and easy to work with, Molly does branding and print collateral for Cutting Ball Theater and other clients. She’s a fabulous choice for new business owners and solo-preneurs. http://www.mollymorrisdesign.com.