Mysterious design secrets no. 3: do first things first

Planning pays off

There will always be people who fly by the seat of their pants. Some succeed through dumb luck or charm. I help my clients operate differently, through a groundbreaking method called planning. We do just enough to set a course, before paralysis by analysis can set in, so chaos and play can happen too. If this appeals to you, read on.

Planning and implementation process


The following Q&A is for people who value being thoughtful and prepared, know the facts about their business, and want to lead the way to meaningful relationships with their customers and prospects. A strong visual identity and voice will ALWAYS shine through the mass of lazy or misguided marketing efforts in the universe. Yes, the bar has been raised for all of us, but putting in the initial effort can mean many nights of peaceful sleep knowing you’re on the right track.

Spending just one month on brand identity planning and collaboration can provide you with a living document that grows with—and adds value to—your company for many years, even through major changes in services or leadership. Here are just a few benefits you’ll enjoy when you invest time and energy up front on your brand identity:

  • No more chaos and second-guessing
  • Freedom from reinventing the wheel
  • Clear direction and a library of images
  • A style guide and messaging tone

Q: Do you need a brand identity in place before you design a website?

A: Yes! In fact, that’s the best time to create your brand identity. If you skip this essential step, you’ll find yourself redoing your site within a year, and if you’ve ever created a site from scratch, you know that this is no day at the beach. It is demoralizing to say the least—and you know in your heart of hearts that skimping on the foundation of your business will be more costly in the long run. You’ll also discover that websites are never really finished—it’s essential to set aside some time and money to maintain them.

Q: What if you just need a quick and dirty site? Just an internet presence?

A: There is nothing wrong with a simple site, but you need to consider what information you’re using to make your decisions. Most small business owners aren’t aware of website standards, writing for the web, typography, color, formatting, or image selection and optimization. As if that’s not enough food for thought, here are a few more key elements to be aware of: engagement techniques, social integration and forms. Crafting your online presence has a huge learning curve that becomes very public, very quickly. The mistakes you make can turn into liabilities in mere months, and some are more fixable than others. Head these issues off with appropriate planning and hire professional help.

Q: A brand identity seems like overkill, and isn’t it awfully expensive?

A: It depends on how much you usually invest in your company. Brand identity is an investment in getting to know yourself, your motivations and your message. Your brand identity builds trust within your network. Your prospects make a choice to follow through with you—if they can risk trusting you. A solid, authentic identity can help build that trust. This is the edge the investment can give you.

Q: How do you price a brand identity, and is it scalable?

A: Yes, it is scalable. If you know your customers well, this can save time during the research portion. If you’ve met with a marketing professional within a reasonable time and have a report (or have completed a marketing workshop and have results) this can also be utilized. Contact us for a quote on your unique situation.

Q: What’s included in brand identity guidelines?

A: The table of contents typically goes like this

  • Company values
  • Personality compass
  • One-page marketing plan
  • Your top competition
  • Audience personas
  • Visual tone
  • Writing tone
  • Language and typographical styles
  • Font guidelines
  • Color palette
  • Logo usage
  • Brand identity elements

Q: What are the brand identity elements?

A: A brand identity is a combination of color, typography and imagery. It’s the balance, the pacing and the message in combination with the visuals.

  • Is it aesthetically pleasing?
  • Is it true?
  • Is it trustworthy?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Are the business goals fulfilled?

It is the end product, the deliverable—the visualization of the research!

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