Branding Basics: 3 Tips for New Business Owners

Have you ever bought an outfit that wasn't really your style because you needed something to wear that night? We all have. It's easy to pull the trigger on something for the sake of urgency or just wanting to get it done and move on. Branding is no exception. I have had clients reach out to me asking if we can create a logo in less than a week, because they have a convention to go to and they want to have business cards in hand, or other instances of that nature. Can I design a nice looking logo in a week? Absolutely. Is it the best strategy to approach branding? No way, José. 

A brand should tell a story and it should be developed with a holistic approach. Sometimes I feel like a broken record saying this, but branding is a strategy, not just a logo. It's your own unique message that will set you apart from competing businesses. Your goal is for your clients to believe in your brand SO MUCH that they ONLY want to work with you. Here are 3 tips to elevate your brand.

1. Think Long Term

Don't get me wrong, the brand design process is super fun, and I can see why my clients are often eager to dive right into color palettes, mood boards and logo comps. It's creative, collaborative, and the end result is pretty! But that's not what it's about at its core. A well-defined branding strategy is based on your business goals, your vision, your purpose, your target market / ideal client base, and most importantly how you wish to be perceived by your audience. This applies whether you are an attorney, a restaurant owner or an eyebrow specialist. (Trust me, I work with all of the above!) Before I even begin designing a mood board, I have my clients fill out an in-depth questionnaire about their business and branding goals. The answers to this questionnaire are the foundation for their brand strategy, and they are extremely helpful later on in the process. 

2. Be Confident!

How is confidence related to branding? In more ways than you think. Confidence will take you far. It's attractive. It's a statement of power. When someone is confident, you take them seriously. On the contrary, if you don't believe in yourself or you doubt your abilities, that negative energy will be felt by those around you. Whether you are just starting out as a brand new small business owner, or you're 20 years into your career, you can't expect people to be confident enough to pay you for your services if you're not confident in yourself. Having a professional, cohesive brand identity that you're proud of can help you let your potential clients know that you're legit and you mean business. 

3.  Repetition is Key

Aristotle said "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." This is so true. Someone told me a long time ago when I was looking for a tattoo artist to look for the worst piece in their portfolio. If you are okay with getting THAT tattoo, then go ahead with that artist. That is great advice. To have done one kick-ass tattoo is cool, but to have a large portfolio full of outstanding work is much more credible. The same goes with any industry. You wouldn't want to hire an attorney who's only won one case, would you? Or a doctor that's only seen two patients? Whatever it is you do, do your best but also make sure you do it consistently. When you are consistent, people will recognize and remember you. How does this apply to branding? It means you define your voice, develop a brand style that tells your story, and consistently put out the message that is uniquely your brand. Have questions or need help with your brand strategy or design? Start to take action today!

New Logos, May 2017

This is an initial round of logo concepts for a new client in Denver, CO. Even though most of my clients have an idea of what kind of logo they want, I always try to provide a range of styles (from conservative to playful) because it never hurts to explore different options & aesthetics. I especially love #4 in this set, the words on a slant represent pieces of hair flying during a cut. Edward Scissorhands style!

And here is an initial round of logo concepts for another new client who has a Criminal Justice education program. More coming soon on this project... 

These initial logo concepts are for a gym in Simi Valley, CA

Queensborough Cocktail Lounge

Queensborough Cocktail Lounge is scheduled to open in San Diego's Gaslamp District at the beginning of July, 2017.

the concept

San Diego County has become an emerging city in the craft cocktail and beer movement in the U.S. and it continues to grow. Every major “Mixed” District (business and residential) near downtown San Diego has a staple neighborhood craft cocktail establishment except on 5th Avenue in the heart of the Gaslamp District.

"QUEENSBOROUGH WILL BE A NEIGHBORHOOD BAR AND RESTAURANT PAYING HOMAGE TO THE NEW YORK CITY COCKTAIL CLUBS OF OLD WITH ENGAGING FOOD AND BEVERAGE OFFERINGS FEATURING AN INVITING, UNPRETENTIOUS, RELAXING SPOT FOR LOCALS AND TOURISTS-ALIKE. AN ABBREVIATED YET ARTISANAL FOOD MENU FEATURING SMALL BISTRO-STYLE SANDWICHES AND SHARE PLATES. A BEVERAGE MENU FOCUSING ON CRAFT, LOCAL AND SEASONAL: AMAZING SAN DIEGO BREWS, A SHOWCASE OF BROWN SPIRITS, AND SPECIALTY COCKTAILS FOCUSING ON SEASONAL RENDITIONS OF THE CLASSICS."

To sum up the concept in one sentence, Queensborough is “the Gaslamp’s elevated cocktail club that is known equally for its amazing service, inviting atmosphere, drinks, and great food”. It is very much a place where every table will be imbibing and enjoying themselves.

step one: mood board

Mood Board for Queensborough Cocktail Lounge

step two: logo concepts

step 3: the final brand & styling

queens_brand.jpg

step four: temporary signage

My client wanted to wrap the windows during construction. Here is what I came up with. The style is art deco, which will compliment the remodeled interior design very nicely. The building is old and the interior features lots of wood, old tiles, and brass. 

step five: cocktail waitress uniform

My client asked me to help choose the uniforms for the Queensborough cocktail waitresses. I found the following five dresses at American Apparel. It's important to have a variety of dress styles that will look flattering and classy on various body types. I also made sure to include a long sleeve option in case the bar is sometimes cold. 

Rewarding Schools

A new client, Amber T. found me on Google and hired me to design a logo, color palette, and supplemental fonts for her start-up. Rewarding Schools is a rewards program that incentivizes families via a mobile app to 1) practice healthy habits that lead to success in school, and 2) engage in school programs and activities. I knew the challenge of the project would be to design something that balances a fun and corporate feel.

step one: mood board

After having clients fill out my official Gretchen Kamp Design Logo Questionnaire, my first step when designing any new brand identity is to put together a mood board. Pinterest is a great resource for this. I typically will create a private board and then invite my client to share as a collaborator, meaning they are also able to add images to the board. (Amber has great taste and found most of these awesome images that I ended up using!) Once we had a substantial amount of imagery, I put together the mood board, which will serve as a guideline for the brand. As a general rule of thumb, if something clashes with the mood board, it won't work well with the brand. 

Here is the mood board I designed for Rewarding Schools:

Mood Board for Rewarding Schools

Mood Board for Rewarding Schools

step two: logo concepts & refinement

We didn't have a specific direction in mind when we started this project, which made it a challenging one. In her questionnaire, Amber expressed wanting her logo to feel brilliant, cool, interesting, fun, and trustworthy. Amber and I both liked the idea of including some sort of imagery that denoted a reward or prize. A star ended up being the perfect solution for this. The other challenge of this project was to design something that feels appropriate for education, but also feels fun and makes kids and parents alike want to be involved in the program. 

Rewarding Schools Logo Concepts

step three: color palette

Since my Basic Logo Package does not include a full color palette, Amber chose to make it an add-on. (I am always happy to customize my branding packages or add items a-la-carte, like in this case.) Color is one of the most fun and important parts of designing brand identity. A logo can feel one way in one color palette, and totally different in another color. I love the balance of deep teal and bright yellow we chose for this logo. It has a Midcentury Modern feeling to it. 

Rewarding Schools Color Palettes

step four: supplemental typefaces (aka fonts)

Arch Brow Studio

This is my first blog post ever! Yayyy!

I'm working on a full re-brand & brand identity package for Arch Brow Studio in Lacey, Washington. This is my first client in Washington, and it's always very fun and exciting to work with clients in different cities. 

The owner Falisha contacted me at the end of Feburary. Her eyebrow business grew faster than she anticipated. (I love seeing other #GIRLBOSSES slaying like that!! GO GIRL!) She had a logo which she made herself a few years ago... on her phone. Not bad in my opinion! But she reached out to me because she wanted to take her business's brand identity to the next level. Falisha said her current website is too dark (lots of black) and she knew she wanted a color palette featuring blush, light pastel rose colors, hints of gold / sparkle, soft warm grays, and black accents.


this is the original arch branding / "before" look: 

Current brand identity for Arch that we will be totally revamping

Current brand identity for Arch that we will be totally revamping


step one: mood board

After having clients fill out my official Logo Design Questionnaire, my first step when designing any new brand identity is to put together a mood board. Pinterest is a great resource for this. I typically will create a private board and then invite my client to share as a collaborator, meaning they are also able to add images to the board. Once we have a substantial amount of imagery, I put together the mood board, which will serve as a guideline for the brand. As a general rule of thumb, if something clashes with the mood board, it won't work well with the brand. 

Here is the mood board I designed for Arch:

Obsessed with this one. Love the blush mixed with black, white, and grays. 

Obsessed with this one. Love the blush mixed with black, white, and grays. 


step two: logo development & refinement

Falisha knew she wanted to incorporate a handwritten script into her logo somehow. I'm not a calligrapher, although I did take a class once at Pigment here in San Diego... and it was HARD! Fortunately there are lots of BEAUTIFUL calligraphy-style and handwritten fonts available online. Some are free and others you have to pay for. (Some of my favorite resources for fonts are creativemarket.com and dafont.com, although DaFont is kind of like shopping at a thrift store. You have to rummage through a lot of terrible $H!T to find gold.) 

Drumroll please... here is the first round of logos!

Arch Logo Options

After some tweaks, the Arch logo has been finalized! This is always one of my favorite parts of the branding process. Time to pop some champagne! :)

Here is the final logo and variations. Variations are important because sometimes you will need a version of your logo that fits in a square space (such as Instagram or Facebook profile pic.) However, horizontal logos usually look the best at the top of a website.

Arch Logo

step three: color palette

Choosing the color palette is one of the most crucial parts of designing a brand identity. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well that's how I feel about color palettes! The same logo could look completely different in one color from another, and tell a totally different story. 

Fortunately, Falisha had a pretty good idea of what she wanted, so for this project it just comes down to picking the specific palette. Oh how I loooove these blush and golds!!! I can't even...

Arch Color Palettes

step four: patterns

Patterns are important for creating brand consistency. While color does this to an extent, using a few special brand patterns will ensure the brand message is carried through from print collateral to a website, even to an interior space. These are the options I selected for Falisha. Patterns like this are available for purchase on iStockPhoto.com

Falisha wasn't crazy about the patterns I chose, except the bottom left. Here are some more patterns I showed her. So I went back on iStock and looked for some more. 

Falisha loved number one and three from this round. Those were my favorites too. So awesome!


step five: supplemental typefaces (aka fonts) 

Now it's time to choose brand fonts. You never want to use the logo fonts within the same brand, for the simple reason that then it just looks like you chose one font for everything, and the logo doesn't feel special anymore. And you don't want that!

I typically have my clients choose one Serif font and one Sans serif font. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but you want to, click here. If the fonts they choose don't pair well together, I will suggest an alternative option. 

Falisha choose Brandon Grotesque as her Sans serif, and Playfair Display as her serif. Two of my favs! She has great taste. :) 


step six: brand board

Ta da!!! Brand board is complete. This is basically a mini version of the style guide. A nice visual display of what Arch is all about.