Typography

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It turns out that what they really wanted was a new or refreshed brand, as they felt the current one was outdated.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

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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

Eight Million Stories, Inc. selects Jill B Gilbert to create a brand for a new school

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

Marvin Pierre is Executive Director of Eight Million Stories, Inc., a nonprofit founded in 2017 to support disconnected youth in Houston, Texas. Building upon the success of Eight Million Stories, he is founding a new school in Houston’s Third Ward. Marvin chose Jill B Gilbert to create a brand for The Justice Hub School that is attractive, edgy and has an urban feel. This project also included development of a brand guidelines document that will grow with the organization.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Design, Education, Graphics, Guidelines, Logo Design, Typography, 0 comments

So, you want a new website… 30 questions to answer before you build it

Creating a new or updated website to reflect your organization’s identity takes a bit of thought and planning.

Your website is an important part of your organization’s identity. A well-designed website reflects well on your organization, and a poorly-designed website can damage your reputation. I know this is hard, but spend time planning your website before you build it. Understand your audience and design your site accordingly. Make the site attractive and easy to navigate.

Whether you plan to redesign your website or are in the enviable position of designing a new website from scratch, take the time to find answers to the following questions to set your website project up for success. You will be glad you did!

Purpose

  1. WHO is your target audience?
  2. HOW will your website serve that audience? 
  3. WHAT is the compelling marketing message that is tailored to your audience?
  4. WHAT problem does your website solve for each type of person in your audience?
  5. WHAT is the site’s purpose, such as informational, e-commerce, blog, portfolio, news, or a combination of several purposes?

Content

  1. What is the clearly defined goal for each page on your website?
  2. Is your Home/Welcome page compelling?
  3. Does your About page describe the problems that you solve in simple and easy-to-understand terms?
  4. Is your web copy geared to your target audience, clear, easy to understand, and free of jargon?
  5. Do you have a landing page that you can use to collect email addresses and create email subscriptions?
  6. Do you have effective Calls to Action that lead your visitors to a desired action?
  7. What legal content do you need, such as Terms of Use, Privacy, Copyright, and/or other statements?

Design

  1. Is your website “look and feel” cohesive, and consistent with your company’s branding and color standards?
  2. Is your website’s navigation clear and easy to use?
  3. Is the site typography easy to read (fonts, type size, type hierarchy, headings, color and contrast)?
  4. Do you use high quality graphics and images on your website?
  5. Do your fonts and images load quickly?
  6. What is your preferred technical platform, e.g., as HTML + CSS, or a Content Management System like WordPress, Wix, or other?
  7. Is your website responsive—readable on mobile, tablet, laptop, and large screen devices?
  8. Can you maintain and update your website in-house, or do you need an outside specialist?

Marketing Goals and Objectives

  1. What business results you expect from your website?
  2. How do you plan to drive traffic and visitors to your website?
  3. What system do you have in place to track visitor behavior and interactions on your site?
  4. How will your organization generate and capture website leads?
  5. Are your site and any blog posts optimized for search engines?

Security and Backups

  1. What systems will be in place to protect your site from hackers?
  2. What tools or systems are needed to address website crashes and spam?
  3. What user and password security measures will your site have?
  4. What is your backup and recovery plan, including on-site and offsite storage?
  5. What is your periodic site audit plan?

Granted, 30 questions is a lot to answer—but take the time to find answers to every question if you want a website that addresses the needs of your audience and yields business results. If you are not sure how to proceed with your website design and build, please consult a professional that understands the technical, marketing, and business aspects of website creation. You will be glad you did!

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Design, Marketing, Standards, Typography, Web Design

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

Develop style guides for your design projects

Whether you are developing a 50-page Website, a small mobile phone app, or an annual report for a corporate client, you should get in the habit of developing a style guide.

Branding and style guides are important for projects large and small. They help to provide consistent messages about an organization and provide a degree of professionalism. Creative Bloq has a good post on this topic, with examples of thirteen style guides for famous organizations.

Client project style guide

The client’s goal was to refresh their brand and their Web site to draw more customers to their wellness practice and retail establishment. I prepared a simple style guide, using Adobe Illustrator. The Style Guide displays the brand, color chips for main and accent colors, typography and usage examples:

Style Guide | Nature’s Garden

Here is how the styles look when applied to a “mobile first” Website design. Note how the colors and the leaf motif are repeated throughout the page. The design works well on a smartphone, on a tablet or on a large HD screen.

Mobile View | Nature’s Garden
Responsive Home Page on Retina Display

University style guide

On a whim, I researched my alma mater’s color and brand guidelines. The Miami University is a nationally recognized Public Ivy, and its brand is particularly important. The brand must convey the Public Ivy experience.

The University uses different reds for print, Web and merchandise use. Several formal and informal logos are available for these uses. The use of certain “vintage” logos requires special permission.

The branding guidelines include logos, colors, typography and graphic elements. They encompass Web, print publications, social media, photos, use in athletic programs and more.

How people – alumni, students, future students, faculty and staff, fans, donors, and the public at large – feel about Miami University directly relates to the University’s success. In a sense, the brand speaks on the University’s behalf without saying a word. It represents who we are and what we stand for. It is the visual representation of our reputation.

Miami University Brand Guidelines

Here is the “M” spirit mark often used on sportswear and signs.

The Miami University Spirit Mark

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Graphics, Guidelines, Logo Design, Marketing, Standards, Typography, Web Design

Will bespoke typefaces replace Helvetica?

Bespoke typefaces are on the rise

Definition of Bespoke

More and more big companies commission their own typefaces, rather than relying upon the thousands of fonts readily available for marketing their goods and services.

Recent, notable bespoke typefaces

2018

This month, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) introduced its bespoke Unity font.  Depending on who you ask, some designers love it, and others hate it. Coca-Cola has used a script logotype for decades, and a while back introduced a serif font with the word, “Coke.” Unity is a departure; it is a sans-serif typeface family with several weights.

Coca-Cola’s Unity Typeface

2017

In 2017, IBM rolled out its bespoke typeface families, named Plex, and YouTube introduced YouTube Sans.

IBM Plex Typeface Family
YouTube Sans Typeface Family

2016

In 2016, Apple introduced San Francisco typefaces at its Worldwide Developer Conference. These fonts were inspired by Helvetica, and were developed for ease of reading on small screens like the Apple Watch and iPhone, as well as on iPads and Mac computers. The same year, CNN introduced CNN Sans—also modeled on Helvetica.

Apple’s San Francisco Typeface Family
CNN Sans Typeface Family

2015

In 2015, Google rebranded its famous “G” using a proprietary font called Product Sans. Product Sans closely resembles the Futura typeface. Google rolled out Roboto In 2013 for the Android OS. Also in 2013, Mozilla rolled out typefaces for its Firefox OS, called Fira Sans and Fira Mono.

Google Logo, 2015
Roboto Typeface
Mozilla’s Fira Sans Typeface Family

Why use a bespoke typeface?

It’s all about branding. We are bombarded by thousands of advertisements each day on smartphones, tablets and computers. We see an ad for a fraction of a second before engaging with the brand or discarding the ad. According to Envato, having a recognizable logo is not enough. Companies must stand out from the competition using logos, colors, copy and typography. This is where custom typefaces come in.

Branding requires notable logos, colors, copy and typography. “Bespoke fonts offer brands more control over their identity, and in some cases can even save them money in the long run.”

–Envato

Will bespoke typefaces put an end to Helvetica?

Helvetica (Neue Haas Grotesk) was developed in 1957 by Swiss typographer Max Miedinger and became the de facto standard of international typeface design in the mid-20th Century. It remains popular today—Helvetica Neue is the default Mac font—because it is both readable and legible at many different sizes and weights.

Helvetica is not going away anytime soon. It is still the favorite of many designers because of its versatility and simplicity. Just make room for the new, bespoke typefaces to coexist with Helvetica.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Design, Graphics, Logo Design, Marketing, Standards, Typography

Style matters

Importance of style

Branding and style guides are important for projects large and small. They help to convey consistent messages about an organization and provide an insight into the organization. Creative Bloq posted  examples of thirteen style guides for well-known organizations, from Adobe and Apple to Firefox and Urban Outfitters.

Case study

I attended The Miami University in Oxford, Ohio—established by a charter signed by George Washington and founded in 1809—not the much newer school in Florida. I researched my alma mater’s brand guidelines and found that Miami uses different reds for print, online and merchandise. The Web site provides guidelines and downloads of formal and informal logos in different styles and sizes for print, Web and merchandise use. Certain “vintage” logos require special permission from the University.

Here are examples of school “marks.” The formal signature is used on official stationery and for formal publications; this is one of several. Informal signatures are used for merchandising, sports, and other purposes. 

The Miami University Formal Signature
The Miami University Informal Signature
The Miami University Spirit Mark

Miami’s branding guidelines also include Web standards. It was interesting to see the fonts used. I learned about a new font, Promesh, which looks good on athletic wear and athletic posters. You can download Promesh One and Promesh Two here.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Branding, Corporate Identity, Marketing, Typography, Web Design