Hey there, savvy DIYer – I know doing everything yourself can be challenging. DIY brand/web design is not for the faint of heart. It takes process, time, and patience, but I’m here to give you some actionable tips that will take your brand design and/or sanity to a better level.
When you start to uplevel your website and put some major intention behind it, magic can start to happen. Just because you don’t have a designer in your back pocket yet, doesn’t mean you can’t create and design a beautiful brand yourself.
I know you have brilliant things to share with the world, and your brand design or website should never hold you back from that. I’m going to share some juicy tips on how I’ve created brands for over half a decade (it sounds a bit more dramatic when I say it like that, right?!) and how you can use my tips to totally uplevel yours.
Put your learning + creative cap on, get your glass of wine 😉 , and let’s dig in!
#1 – Create a brand style guide.
This is my first tip because if you do this then everything else will fall into place much easier for you to design anything for your brand. It will help keep you sane and keep your brand a super cohesive masterpiece.
Here’s how you’re going to do it. If you already have all your brand colors, fonts, and logo then put them all in one place. I have a FREE handy brand board template (as an Adobe Illustrator file) you can grab by signing up below.
You can either use this to plug in your existing brand elements or use it as a template to design your brand. It’s amazing to use this template while you are designing your brand so you can see it all come together here instead of going through all the trouble of inputting it on your website over and over. Yay for time saved!
#2 – Don’t rush it.
Good design takes time. You shouldn’t rush something like this so block out the appropriate time to get this done. Your brand design and website are your online business’ most valuable assets. They are the home for your business and Rome wasn’t built in a day (neither will your brand). The best part about this is that you can keep tweaking as you go. Nothing will ever be set in stone when you are designing your brand.
I’m a full believer that you should start before you are ready, so if your brand design is holding you back then just start and put something up. You can always come back to it tomorrow, or in a week, or in a month. You do need a website and if you have an online business you need this website to start bringing you income so don’t let your over planning hold you back from creating the brand of your dreams.
#3 Do your research.
This is probably the most important aspect of designing any brand. Before you begin designing your brand you MUST research who your ideal client, customer, or audience is. You need to design a brand that will attract them and in order to do this you need to know exactly who they are, where they hang out (online or offline), and what visually turns them on.
If you don’t have a clear picture of who your people are then you will be missing out on an extremely powerful tool. That powerful tool is intentional branding. Pretty brands are great and all, but if there is no real substance behind them, then it totally defeats the purpose.
Here’s a good place to get started on your ideal client research. Take out your journal or a piece of paper and answer these questions…
- List general information about your ideal client (age, gender, marital status, career, income, hobbies, etc.)
- Where does ideal client hang out (online and offline)?
- Pretend your ideal client just invited you over to her/his house for coffee. What does the interior of their house look like? How did they choose to decorate it?
- What common visual themes are they subjected to every day. For example, what brands does she/he use? What does the packaging look like on those brands (especially her/his favorite brands)? What places does she/he frequent? What visuals are in these places?
Take your time with these. It can put you ahead of the game when you can step inside your ideal client’s eyes (I know, that sounds kind of weird) and see what they see. Getting to know what’s inside your ideal client’s world will be your secret research weapon to creating a brand that attracts them. You want to use this research to design a brand that when they come to your website they feel at home.
#4 – Don’t go on a color overload.
Hey, I’m a serious color addict, but you don’t need all your brand colors in every single piece of branding material you create. Your colors should be working together in the bigger picture.
This especially goes for blog title post graphics and your logo. These things should stand alone and represent your brand via the colors you choose, but you don’t need to overdo it here.
Let me give you a quick example. Say in every blog post title graphic you have every single color in your color palette. When these images are together, either on Pinterest or on your website, it may be overwhelming to the eye. When you keep things cleaner in the color department you can alternate between colors in your post title graphics and it can allow the eye to move easily through them without seeing a color explosion. I’m all for color explosions, but some elements of your brand need focus to get the job done.
A good rule to keep when you are creating your logo and post title graphics is to keep it at 2-3 colors. If your colors are more tonal, then go ahead and use more. If your colors are like mine (blue, pink, green, yellow… all really different) then keep it at 2-3 colors. This will really make a huge different in the branded materials you are putting out. It will keep things cleaner and visually not look so overwhelming.
Look at the example below. Keeping 2-3 colors here looks more put together and isn’t too visually overwhelming. When you put too many colors into a graphic, it can even become hard to read. You spent so much time designing your graphic and that would be a huge bummer if the readability was poor. Keep this tip in mind before you begin designing and you’ll totally rock it.
#5 – Don’t go on a font overload.
This one goes together with #4. Your brand font palette should have 2-3 fonts. This palette should consist of a header font (this you are going to use for your blog titles and page titles), an accent font (this you are going to use as a secondary font; this will be used very sparingly and mostly in conjunction with your header font as subtitles), and a body font (which is what most of your copy will be in).
When you use more than 3 fonts it can become visually overwhelming just like if you were going to use too many colors. You don’t even need to use all 3 fonts on one graphic or in your logo. Keep it simple and remember your brand is a larger picture. You don’t have to fit everything into each element all at once.
Look at the example below and you can see that too many fonts looks unfocused and can be hard to read and visually digest. Fonts are important to creating an intentional, beautiful brand. Less is usually (always) more with fonts. If you want some info on font pairing, read my post here.
#6 – Keeping things minimal + always add space.
When you are DIYing your own brand design it can be a good idea to be more minimal. When you have tons of different patterns, colors, and design elements it can be hard to make them all work together in perfect design harmony if you aren’t a professional designer.
Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with a minimal brand design. It keeps it clean and focused and I know you’ll create something beautiful. Once you get further along in the process, you can add more to what you have going on. Keeping your brand minimal doesn’t mean less work. Good design always takes time so don’t feel like if you decide to have a minimal brand that you are being lazy.
This tip is a little 2 in 1. YAY! It’s always best to keep space around your graphics. Do you see what a difference it makes in the example below? When your graphics become crowded it can be visually overwhelming. Do you notice it is easier to read the example on the right instead of the left? You want to create space between the edges of your graphics, buttons, and logo with the type or focal point of the design. This goes for pretty much any type of brand design. This tip is a quick way to make your graphics look even more professional and high-end.
#7 – Invest in the proper tools.
In order to create professional looking graphics for your blog, I HIGHLY suggest investing in Adobe Illustrator. Canva and Pic Monkey are great tools, but in order to create vector graphics you need Illustrator. There are limitations in Canva and Pic Monkey that don’t allow full control over your graphics. You can get more details about subscribing to get Illustrator here!*
You really don’t need to be an expert to navigate your way through Illustrator either. I’m going to be honest with you, there is a learning curve for Adobe programs but once you have an understanding of one the rest is pretty easy peasy.
If you already know Photoshop, it won’t take you very long to get an understanding of Illustrator. Plus, I will be teaching an online course on Adobe Illustrator so be sure to get on the waitlist. There will be an AMAZING early bird deal, so don’t miss out and click here to be the 1st to know when I launch in April.
#8 – Don’t fear being different.
Trends come and go. Some last a super short time and some take years to pass. Don’t be afraid to be a trailblazer and create something different for your website. But hey, don’t just be different for the sake of being different. Lead with the value you can provide to your audience. If your something different can put your skills in the best light and create an even more amazing user expierence then go for it!
Some of my favorite websites and brand are ones that are so unique that it makes them extremely memorable. That’s an important aspect of branding. So go ahead and get weird, different, and unique, but always lead with value!
#9 – Stay focused and clear.
When you are searching for inspiration to design your brand it can become overwhelming. I know for me and some of my clients it’s hard to stick to one consistent theme for your brand, but remember your brand doesn’t have to be set in stone. You can change and should change your brand every 3-5 years.
Keep in mind (as hard as it is) that staying focused in your brand design will allow your brilliance to shine with more clarity. When you stay visually focused you are making your brand work more effectively for your business. Keeping this thought in the back of your mind will help you know that there’s some major advantage to staying focused.
Remember if there are two visions you have for your brand, you can always marry them together to create a unique visual theme. Visual juxtaposition is amazing and can create some major dimension and uniqueness to your brand.
#10 Ask for feedback (only from your ideal audience).
This means if your ideal clients and customers are women business owners, don’t ask your dad for his feedback. He might say it’s pretty or he might hate it, but why does that matter? He or anyone like him will never be interested in buying your products, reading your blog, or booking your services.
Try asking your favorite past clients or customer what they think. You can always join facebook groups that are filled with your ideal audience and ask for their opinion. Be wary if the advice and feedback is coming from people who could really be your customers and clients. Anyone else’s opinions don’t matter that much here.
#11 Have a call-to-action color.
Call-to-action colors are super helpful in guiding your website viewers to the places you want them to go most. It’s a subtle way to use your color palette to be covert in creating more sales, sign-ups, or whatever other magic you have going on.
Here’s how you do it! Pick a bolder color in your color palette and use it sparingly. Use it on buy buttons, sign up buttons, or anywhere else you have a call-to-action. You want to use it sparingly so when it is used it has a powerful impact. BAM! You have yourself a personal assistant in color form 🙂
#12 Create templates.
This is probably the most useful time-saving tip I can offer you so please take it in and use it. Pretty much everything I design in my brand is from templates I have created. Clearly, this takes a bit of time in the beginning, but will probably save you hours and hours of designing everything from scratch.
Not only does this help with the design aspect, but it also keeps your dimensions consistent for different things you will be creating.
For my blog post titles, I have templates that are for the actual blog post title graphic, the graphic for twitter, facebook + instagram (I use a 6 x 6 inch template for FB & IG). In Adobe Illustrator, I create different artboards in the same file and export them as .jpgs for different purposes.
I have templates for all my website buttons, banners, and worksheets for my courses and freebies. I cannot stress this enough how useful this will be for you. Go ahead and start creating your magic templates!
#13 Have your personality shine through.
A major part of personal branding is connecting with your ideal client or audience on an authentic level. You can do this through your brand design. The more of YOU you put into your brand the deeper your potential clients can get to know you and then make a clearer decision if they are the right fit to work with you or not.
If you’re all about those sparkles and rainbows then don’t be afraid to let that shine through. The clearer you get with your brand, the clearer your audience can get on whether they like you or not. You’ll kick those undeciders to the curb quicker with a clearer brand!
If you get scared of doing anything out of ordinary, your website and brand can become a little sterile. Having your website be sterile can make it so that no one can relate and feel a visual connection to you. Be sure to let your brilliance shine through!
Don’t know what you visual personality is? Head over to Pinterest and create a secret board. Pin anything and everything that visually attracts you. Once you start seeing common themes you’ll have a clearer idea of what your visual personality is. YAY!
#14 Kick analysis paralysis in the butt!
As you go through all these tips it may feel a bit overwhelming. I know, I get it! Make sure to not go on information overload and get stuck. If you do get stuck, take some time away. Maybe that’s an hour, day, or week. I’m sure you’ll know exactly what’s right for you.
The best cure from analysis paralysis is shifting your focus. Go for a walk, work on another project, or anything else that can give your mind rest when you are designing your brand. There’s a balance between taking a break and getting shit done, so don’t abandon your designing efforts just yet.
Say you’ve taken a break from all of this and you’re still feeling super overwhelmed. I have a solution for you. Make micro goals! Micro goals are tiny, achievable goals you can make for yourself that will be stepping stones into the larger picture. For example, if can’t seem to get your logo done because you are feeling overwhelmed then put on your to-do list that you’ll work on it for 15 minutes. If you can’t seem to get that done, then make a smaller goal. Write down that you’ll sit at your computer for 5 minutes. Or go even more micro until you have a goal you can achieve without crying. From there, keep increasing it or committing to it and always cross it off your to-do list (I know you like crossing things off your to-do list just like I do). You’re 100 micro steps closer to achieving your branded masterpiece!
#15 Remember it’s a process, not a final destination.
Last, but definitely not least! This is the last trick I’ll leave you with as you head on your way to creating your brilliant brand.
Starting, growing, and building a business and brand is a process. There is no point that you reach that constitutes as the end. Remember this when you are starting to create your own brand and build your own website.
The best part about this whole things is learning along the way. You’ll be able to test what works and what doesn’t until you find that magical combination of fonts, colors, and design elements that works for you and attracting your ideal audience! You’re totally going to rock this! xo
PS – If you’d like to take your graphics and visual brand to the next level, be sure to check out my Adobe Illustrator Masterclass where you will learn how to become the ultimate DIY branding boss. Hope to see ya there, love!