Have you ever run across a competitor’s website that was so compelling, it made your samasitu website seem dull and unprofessional in comparison? Just what is that x-factor that makes some websites stand out? It could be the skill of the designer. More likely it comes down to something else: Branding.

What is Branding?
Branding is not simply having a logo designed or picking a color scheme or font. Branding is a formal process that starts with defining your brand’s core values and ends with a comprehensive messaging framework and visual style guide. The resonance and harmony between the narrative and the supporting visuals can speak to a target audience on both a conscious and subconscious level.

Branding That Doesn’t Work
Any web design project is likely to include some branding-related questions. The problem is that without the self-discovery that is a focus of a formal branding project, the client is unlikely to have the context with which to answer these questions in a meaningful way. In my experience, what usually happens is the client will answer the questions to the best of their ability, off the top of their head, and really only fully engage in the project at a more concrete phase, such as reviewing visual concepts or mock-ups. This may result in a satisfactory outcome, but if they are in a highly competitive space, up against established brands, the design will probably not be effective enough to compete. At that point it is time to take a more serious look at branding.

Branding for Small Business
For small businesses, a web design process can be daunting enough. Adding on a full branding project can often be too time consuming and expensive. For that reason I created a 24 page branding workbook that can be downloaded here: TP Designs Branding Workbook. Complete the workbook at your own pace and when you finish you will have a messaging framework for your brand. You can take that messaging framework to your next design project, and it will give the designer much of the information they need about your business. You can start the visual design process with mood boards to fine tune the visual elements that will be support your brand’s narrative. After the project, have the designer create a visual style guide. That style guide should define the use of all visual design elements such as logo, typography, color, iconography, backgrounds, etc. The visual style guide can be expanded to include guidelines for creating social media posts, marketing emails, PPC landing pages, and assets or content for any other marketing platforms your brand will appear on.

With both a messaging framework and a visual style guide in hand, you can avoid reinventing the wheel with each design project, and be more sure that the outcome will be consistent with your other brand assets. This consistency and repetition is critical in establishing your brand in the mind of your target audience.