For many new business owners, it goes something like this… You have these big dreams to build a business and are ready to get your product or service out into the world. You’re so excited and with all of this momentum, you feel like it’s time to hire a designer. But then you hear the price and suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a great idea anymore.
Look, I totally get it! As a designer and a small business owner myself, I know that investing in your own business can be tough and sometimes there just isn’t room in the budget. Design is expensive, but only because it’s important. When done thoughtfully and effectively, your branding can give you more credibility, make you more memorable, and help you build strong relationships with your customers. It’s a worthy investment and you definitely should make it at some point. BUT, if you aren’t ready yet, that's completely ok! Instead of trying to find a cheap designer (because you get what you pay for), I’m going to help you create your own DIY brand that will give you a professional look while you save up to work with a real designer down the road. Let’s dive in!
Step 01 – Finding a Creative Direction
First thing’s first, you need to ask yourself some questions about your business. Your story, your passion, the way that you make your customers lives a little bit better – these are the foundations that meaningful brands are built on and are super important to think about before designing anything. Below are a few questions that I ask my own clients. Take a look and feel free to answer them yourself!
What is your business name? What’s the meaning behind it?
What is the main purpose of your business? What do you want to be known for?
Who is your audience? Think about their location, age, occupation, hobbies, values. What problems do they have and what are they looking for when they come to you?
How do you want to make your audience to feel? Write down 5 adjectives that you resonate with the most and want your clients/customers to associate with your brand.
Next, get on Pinterest and find some visual inspiration that speaks to those feelings.
Below are some examples of my own Pinterest boards that I’ve created for clients. Typically, I like to pin examples of all sorts of things like packaging, illustrations, and collateral. But since you’re DIYing all of this, feel free to just focus on the basics – fonts, colors and photography.
Step 02 – Creating Your Logo
First, let’s take a bit of the pressure off. Since you’re DIYing your logo, it doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. Honestly, the simpler it is, the more professional it will look and the easier the transition will be when you work with a real designer one day. Believe me, they’ll appreciate having a simple, clean brand to build on rather than a hot mess to fix.
Now to the designing! First, we’re going to find 1-3 really great fonts. Check on these websites for lots of free, high quality fonts that you can download: Google Fonts, FontSquirrel. We’ll use these fonts for your logo, but you can also use them for any type of collateral that you need, like your business cards, stationery, website, etc. While you’re choosing fonts, keep these things in mind:
Does it align with my creative direction?
Will be audience be drawn to it?
Is it timeless? Will it last beyond this year’s trends?
Next, set up your logo! Like I said, it doesn’t need to be too over the top, just type out your business name in one of the fonts that you’ve chosen. If you want there to be a little more than that, why not add a tagline, location, or the year that you started? Adding a little sub-headline in a different font that compliments the font of your business name is a great way to add more depth and life to a logo.
Below are a few examples of beautiful, type-driven logos that you can use as inspiration! They’re simple, but notice how the font alone automatically gives you a feeling of what the business is like – modern, friendly, classic, sophisticated, casual, etc. Having that great font is key!
** DESIGN TIP – Confused about what program should you use to create your logo?
No worries, there are lots of options! If you’re a creative, you might already have an Adobe subscription for programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, which are both great! They also both have free 7-day trials which you could use to create your logo and save all the files before the trial ends. Some other free programs are Canva, Vectr, or Crello. Use any of these to create your logo and save it as a JPG, PNG, or EPS file to use wherever you need it!
Step 03 – Colors + Photography
Now that you’ve got your logo, let’s find a strong color palette and some stock photography to complete your DIY brand. These can be used on your website, social media, business cards, or wherever else you’re advertising your business. The easiest thing to do is look back at the Pinterest board that you put together because there’s bound to be a common theme of colors and styles of photos.
If you’re having trouble putting colors together, check out Design Seeds. It’s a great blog full of color palettes and you can even search by colors or different categories. After you’ve picked your colors (2-4 is plenty), save your logo in each color so you can use it on different types of backgrounds.
For photos, my go-to resource is Unsplash. It’s a curated collection of beautiful photos that are totally free for you to download and use however you want! You can search for photos of just about anything and always find something high quality. Gather a few photos that you can use and save them somewhere so that anytime you need a photo (for your website, social media, etc.), you’ll have a nice variety to choose from that all follow your branding and evoke that same feeling in your audience. P.S. When using stock photos, it’s always nice to credit the photographer when you can.
Wrapping Things Up
So there you have it! If you’ve been wanting to create a strong brand but can’t invest in a professional designer yet, I hope that this post has been helpful in guiding you through planning a creative direction, designing a simple logo, and gathering colors and stock photography to tie it all together. Your DIY brand doesn’t need to be fancy or extravagant. As long as it’s thoughtful and has your audience in mind, you’ll be all set! And then one day when you’re financially ready, you can hire a designer to build on everything that we’ve done today and create something more unique that will speak to your audience even better.
Happy designing! 😃
Abbey McGrew is the ladyboss behind Wayfarer, a traveling design studio specializing in branding and website design + development.