Committing to a brand identity, for yourself or a client, can easily become paralyzing. There is this sense of finality, rightfully so, that comes with establishing a brand identity. There’s no going back, better get er’ right from the start.
But that can feel daunting, restrictive and paralyzing. The opposite emotion of what drove you to create a new identity — the excitement of starting a new brand, or refreshing your current look. Rather than embracing paralysis, I wanted to share a few tips from a brand identity designer’s perspective on how to diversify your brand so you don’t feel “stuck” with limiting brand, and instead feel inspired.
The trick to overcoming the “my brand is restrictive” mindset, is to toss in a few elements to add variety to your brand, while also maintaining a cohesive look & feel. Below, I will walk you through a recent project we wrapped up for the lovely ladies over at Little Poppy Co.
A Case Study — Little Poppy Co.
Because a brand identity is only as good as the strategy + concept, I’ll share a bit about Little Poppy Co. to give you a frame of reference. Little Poppy Co. is a subscription based bow company for stylish parents who enjoy having new bows delivered to their doorstep every month. Their bows are simple and professional but at the same time innovative and surprising. They offer color combos/patterns that people wouldn’t typically put together, but love.
The challenge was to craft a unique brand identity that didn’t fall into the “cutesy” category, as you would typically associate with bows, and instead up level the brand to have a sophisticated quality to it. There was a fine line in creating a brand that was playful + youthful by nature, yet also stylish — both elements that show in the bows they sell.
Below is the final logo we created for Little Poppy Co. Jessie, the lead designer on this project, did such a great job answering this challenge for the logo! The playful script provides a soft look to the logo that alludes to the fact that the product is for children. The strong + modern san serif font keeps the brand professional. The typography coupled together creates a youthful, yet sophisticated, look and feel for the brand.
This is where a lot of brands stop. They develop the logo + color palette… and then they feel stuck. They want their brand to shine, yet feel so limited by the logo only and therefore the paralysis steps in.
Not to fear! In the next few steps I’ll give a glimpse into a few elements to add to your brand that will not only provide depth, it will allow you to generate excitement about your brand.
Sub-marks + Badges
The next step beyond creating a logo (and its variations), is to create sub-marks or badges. These are totally optional, and not every brand has them, however they do make a huge difference in versatility. I can speak from this personally within my own brand, as well as our clients. Sometimes you don’t want to place your entire logo, but prefer to have something else to use as a supplement. These sub-marks are great to use in the footer of your site, on Instagram images, promotional materials, bio images or even as stickers. They don’t replace the logo, but allow for a bit of versatility within the brand.
See the examples below, and you’ll find that they connect with the primary logo, yet allow for some play within the brand. I showed the sub-marks from Little Poppy Co., as well as a few other brands we've had the pleasure of working with. (*The Honeysuckle primary logo already existed, and we expanded the brand into sub-marks, patterns, etc.).
Hands down my favorite way to add versatility to any brand is through adding a custom pattern! I adore creating patterns, and have found that they provide a much needed graphic element for any brand. Again, this is totally optional for your brand, but if you are looking to diversify — yet maintain consistency — this might just be the route to go.
For Little Poppy Co. we created a few simple patterns that they can use throughout their brand. You can see below how we used them in the collateral, and how the colors, sub-marks and primary logo are all working together.
I also provided a few other brands in context with custom patterns we created to coordinate with their brand.
Another step you could take in diversifying your brand is through brand photography. Little Poppy Co. has done a great job in investing in quality brand photography to show off their adorable bows available in each month’s subscription. Photography adds a much needed visual face to a brand, and can often be the most instantly recognizable element of any brand. I’ve experienced this especially on Instagram, when scrolling through I can identify a few images from different brands without looking at the username, because they have done such a stellar job in creating a consistent brand through photography.
Below are a few images from Little Poppy Co.’s instagram feed showing the consistency in the brand. You will find throughout their feed they include an overlay of “three bows, every month, $11.99 per month.” This was an image we created along with their brand identity, to ensure consistency on their instagram.
I’ve put this to practice myself, and invested in brand photography for Spruce Rd. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to have a wealth of images to choose from at any moment, that are truly unique to my brand.
One of our newest Spruce Rd. services is to offer custom illustrations for our clients. Our illustrator, Bailey, is SO talented with illustrations I literally get giddy each time I see a proof! So thankful to have a team that shares a love for the same aesthetic, and clients who adore it as well :). Though Little Poppy Co. wasn’t the right fit for a custom illustration, some brands benefit greatly from this added brand element.
Of course for Spruce Rd. I had to have it all — so I reached out to Bailey to provide a custom illustration for my Share-worthy Design course (launching version 2.0 in April!). Below you will see how this illustration adds so much depth to the branding, and a bit of whimsy as well. These illustrations can be broken apart to use as various icons, which add even more versatility to your brand.
Another illustration example comes as a sneak peek to a current brand that is almost ready to reveal. This playful illustration allows for more context to the brand. Creative, She Wrote provides content strategy and implementation support to stream-line and stress-proof content marketing for small businesses. On the surface this might seem hard to visualize, however the illustration shows a sort of “spy girl” uncovering various aspects. This represents the mystery of uncovering strategy + content.
These are just a few ways to add a bit of versatility to your brand, and hopefully allow you to board the excitement train, rather than feel restrictive! In the Share-worthy Design course I walk through how to add these elements yourself, along with creating a logo, if you are interested in taking the next step! Save the date for April 27th when the course launches!