Consulting

Questions to ask if you want a new or refreshed brand

A couple of weeks ago, a client selected my design firm to help with getting their brand on merchandise to sell at events and in their online store. I asked if they had their brand in various layouts and file formats for digital and print purposes. If the answer was, “Yes,” they were ready to go. 

It turns out that what they really wanted was a new or refreshed brand, as they felt the current one was outdated. 

If you want a new or refreshed brand, find answers to the following eleven questions before you speak with your graphic designer. 

Great Explorations | Original Brand
Great Explorations | Original Brand

Arm yourself with plenty of information before you start the design process. If you don’t know where to start, seek advice from a graphic designer in knowledgeable in design, business and marketing issues and trends. 

1. What are your business goals?

Believe it or not, a brand is more than a logo or graphic design; it is about your organization’s message, and how you communicate that message verbally and visually. So, it follows that business goals are connected to your brand. What is your organization’s “big picture?” Are you expanding into new markets? Are you planning new products, services, locations, or methods of reaching out to current or prospective clients? 

2. What do you want this Brand to accomplish?

Think about how the graphic design of your brand fits into your marketing plans. If you have an established brand, you might want to update it to capture new markets. If you plan to launch a new brand, how will you generate brand awareness in the marketplace?

3. Who is your target audience?

Do/will you use digital marketing–social media, email, blogs to communicate with current and prospective clients– or traditional print, TV, radio and merchandise marketing methods? Where and how will you display your brand?

4. What marketing channels will you use?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

5. How Do you want your brand perceived?

What 3-5 adjectives describe your brand’s personality? For example, “youthful, urban, and edgy,”  “corporate, seasoned, and traditional,” or something else? Do you see your brand as casual or formal; modern or traditional? Where do you see your product or service positioned in the market?

6. What are your brand/company values and mission?

If you closely tie your business model to your values and mission, then your brand design may reflect them. A preschool might want to incorporate a school or students. An environmental organization might want to use a tree, a leaf, something green, or something related to the earth. 

7. Do you want to avoid certain topics, themes, imagery or colors?

Images and colors mean different things in different cultures. You may think that all firms that cater to your target audience have brands with similar elements, and you want your brand to stand out. Or, you simply might not like the color orange or purple. 

8. Who are your key competitors?

What do you like or dislike about your competitors’ brands? Your graphic designer should create a brand that stands out from the competition, at the same time keeping in mind that you are going after the same audience. 

9. Which existing brands do you admire or want to emulate?

If you are a tech startup, do you admire the designs of Apple, Dell, or Microsoft?All of these are quite different, yet recognizable worldwide–and each has gone through a transformation over the decades. What do you specifically like about the brands you admire?

10. What do you like and dislike about your current brand?

Knowing what you like and dislike is valuable information that will help you to launch your new or refreshed brand. You may think the colors or typeface are outdated, or you may think you want to start over with a new design. Either way, this is a great opportunity to enhance your overall brand strategy.  

11. What is your decision making style?

When you embark on a branding initiative,  your graphic designer will ask you to make a series of decisions, from design choices like brand style, images, color and typography (fonts) to technical choices like file formats, resolution, and the size your brand will be displayed. Where you are on the scale from Decisive to Indecisive will impact your ability to meet project objectives, scope, schedule, budget, and timeline. 

Do you make decisions quickly? Do you make decisions based on feelings or facts? Do you get bogged down in “analysis paralysis?” For a description of business decision making types, read more here

When I say, “You,” I really mean “you and your key stakeholders in this branding effort.” I recommend that you seek input from your key stakeholders before reaching key project milestones, but I do not recommend building your brand “by committee.” 

 

The Justice Hub School | Original Brand
The Justice Hub School | Original Brand

Spending time to answer these eleven questions–including input from key stakeholders–can better position you for success in your branding initiative. Credit to 99 Designs for their original post; I added my perspective to their eleven questions.

Is all this effort worth it? Clients who understand the importance of branding say it is. If branding is new to you, So You Think You Need a New Brand might provide some insight. 

As always, if you lack the internal resources to do a branding project, seek outside help. And, if you don’t know where to start, seek advice from a graphic design professional that also understands business and marketing issues. You will be glad you did.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Branding, Color, Consulting, Corporate Identity, Design, Graphics, Logo Design, Marketing, Typography, 0 comments

Mississippi Park Connection selects Jill B Gilbert for graphic design work

iMac with screenshot of Mississippi Park Connection presentation slides
Custom, branded presentation template for Mississippi Park Connection

Mississippi Park Connection needed a custom, branded presentation template to convey its mission and message. They selected Jill B Gilbert to design the template. “The challenge was to understand Mississippi Park Connection’s needs, and find a style to complement the organization’s three pillars—habitat restoration and tree planting; paddling the Mississippi River; and youth education,” says Gilbert. MPC is thrilled with the presentation template, which includes over twenty customized illustrations that will appeal to diverse audiences, from prospective board members to volunteers and Park visitors of all ages. 
Read more about the project here.

“Jill was wonderful to work with. She responded positively to our initial feedback on a design and came back with an update that accurately met our needs and vision while incorporating her professional expertise in PowerPoint and graphic design. She is prompt, communicates efficiently, and pushed the project along at times when I felt overwhelmed. We now have a well designed, branded, and functional PowerPoint presentation that will bring cohesiveness to all our presentations. Thank you Jill!”

–Callie Sacarelos, Communications and Marketing Manager, Mississippi Park Connection

Mississippi Park Connection is the nonprofit partner of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (U.S. National Park) and has headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the start of the river. 

 

Jill B Gilbert is a graphic and web designer with years of experience creating impactful marketing communications for both digital and print platforms, for large corporations, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. 

 

the nonprofit partner of Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Branding, Consulting, Corporate Identity, Design, Graphics, Illustration, Marketing, Standards, Typography

Should you build your own website, or hire a professional?

If your organization’s website needs a major refresh, you can hire a professional or build it yourself. After all, thousands of free and paid website templates are available, and website building tools are better than ever before. TV and social media ads make it look so easy to build a website! Let’s look at some of the questions to answer before you make a “build or buy” decision.

Website “build vs. buy” questions

What are your objectives? Why do you want to change your site? You may want to refresh your site because it is outdated, because your company is growing or adding products or services, to start a blog, to add the ability to sell products or services online, or for other reasons. Think about the technical and financial objective you want to achieve.

What types of changes do you need? You might be thinking of a total new look and feel, a change to the website structure, or both. Maybe you need a media library to easily store and retrieve images, videos, etc. You might need entire new features, e.g., a blog or e-commerce capabilities. You simply might want a new website that is easier to maintain in-house, rather than hiring a web professional to make changes each time you need them.

How is your current website built? Is it written (coded) in HTML + CSS, or is it built on one of the new platforms like WordPress, SquareSpace, WIX, or other? If it is an HTML site, you will need to know how to write code. If it built on one of the newer platforms, you may be able to build your own site; it may look professional but, depending on your HTML know-how, the site can be a mess behind the scenes. Yes, you read that right! This is because you cannot refresh these sites just by applying a new theme. Many of the current “drag-and-drop” website themes have widgets, code blocks, and other complexities. These site elements may not work in the new theme without a lot of tweaking.

How tech-savvy are you? If you are a lover of things tech, and the first of your friends to get the latest electronics, and you are committed to doing site updates yourself in the future, then building a website may be for you. If you use computers, social media and smartphones every day, but rarely update your electronics or software, this is a warning sign that you should speak to a web designer. But read further…

What is your timeline? If you need it quickly and can effectively plan and build a website, then do-it-yourself might work for you. Just keep your project objectives in mind, spend adequate time planning, get advice as needed, and go for it! If you need it quickly, don’t even consider slapping something together quickly to get a new, improved website up and running. This will do more harm than good. If you have a reasonable timeline, then you have plenty of options, both do-it-yourself and professionally-built.

What will it cost? First, think about the value that the website updates will bring to your company in terms of new clients, more business, and better market penetration. Second, consider the total cost to your organization. This is a cost-benefit issue, not the price tag to get the site up and running. If web development or computer coding are not your core business, you may find yourself spending hours updating the website yourself, at a significant cost to you in terms of lost revenue, missed marketing opportunities, missed new clients, etc. Third, what are the ongoing maintenance and update costs for the next three to five years?

Congratulations! If you have read this far, you now have more questions than answers! At the least, you understand some of the “build vs. buy” issues, and the many choices available to you. If you still have questions about what is best for you, please consult a professional. A short discussion could save you hours of time and a stack of money.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Consulting, Design, Guidelines, Web Design

Experience imparts value

As a consultant, it is interesting to see if prospective clients want a “second set of hands” or if they want advice to help them address a business need. In my past life as a management consultant in the software business, I sought the second type of assignment. The more problem-solving, the better.

In my role as a freelance creative professional, I still seek, and truly enjoy, “value-added” assignments where I can solve problems. I am still a consultant. The difference is, now I have lots of business and marketing expertise plus I have an eye for, and possess, Web and graphic design skills.

Image credit: Freepik

A beginning consultant brings skills, an experienced consultant brings value.”

–Jeffrey Zeldman

Web design guru Jeffrey Zeldman says that an experienced consultant brings value. To survive as an independent consultant at any age, and to remain meaningful in the digital design world, you must bring something different to the table. You must bring value.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Consulting, Design