Brand Strategy for Brand Identity Designers: Unleashing Full Potential | Jason Miller | Skillshare

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Brand Strategy for Brand Identity Designers: Unleashing Full Potential

teacher avatar Jason Miller, Freelance Graphic Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (1h 26m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Your Project

    • 3. Discovery Learning About Your Client

    • 4. Finding Industry Examples

    • 5. Competitive Audit

    • 6. Your Client's Inspirations

    • 7. Target Audience

    • 8. Consumer Profiles

    • 9. Visual Style & Tone

    • 10. Brand Messages

    • 11. Positioning & Client Expectations

    • 12. Brainstorming

    • 13. Conclusion Final Cut

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About This Class

For brand identity designers, one of the best ways to take your work to the next level is by focusing, not just on the concepts you’re creating; but the strategy behind them, WHY you’re creating them.

All too often as freelancers, in efforts to ensure the project fits a clients budget – we’ll be tempted to charge straight in with little or no brief, and absolutely no strategy; other than a few ideas floating around in the clients mind. If you’re not careful, that can set you up for failure; as above all else, good design needs to be fit for purpose.

It will make a HUGE difference to the work you deliver. And it doesn’t have to take long.

In this class, we’re going to walk you through a streamlined brand strategy process; you can adapt it as needed, but I’ll be showing you the kind of scope and scale best suited to freelance designers or small studios.

What will we cover in the class?

  • We’ll look at the discovery and audits necessary to ‘get us up to speed’, and provide some context to the strategy.
  • Who is the brand for? Ironically, it’s rarely ever your client. So we need to clearly identify the target audience.
  • Even at this stage the intended look and feel of the brand, it’s style and tone can be planned out in principle.
  • You’ll be shown how to create a clear hierarchy of brand messages, each supporting the other.
  • And importantly, we’ll consider the intended positioning of the brand, and help the client identify the implications and expectations this positioning will create.

By the time we’ve finished, you, and the CLIENT, will know exactly what you now need to create, what purpose it needs to fill. That’s a valuable, and refreshing difference from attempting to ‘come up with something the client will LIKE’ based solely on their personal taste.

Meet Your Teacher

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Jason Miller

Freelance Graphic Designer


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Hi I’m Jason Miller – a freelance Graphic Designer based in London. 11 years and counting!

How do you start building your professional portfolio? Or do you still struggle to consistently produce great results within a reasonable timeframe? Wonder how to scale the entire identity design process down to meet your clients needs/budgets?

The courses, tutorials and resources I’m sharing here are designed to help you answer these, and many other questions students and designers face.

Brand Identity Design, including the logo design process, running a business, and surpasing clients expectations – find it all here.

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1. Introduction: I've created this class for brand identity designers. One of the best ways of taking your work to that next level is by focusing not just on the concepts you're creating, but on the strategy behind the concepts, why you're creating them. Too often as freelancers, we'll be tempted, perhaps because of budget, to charge straight into a project with little or no brief and maybe nothing more to go on than a few ideas floating around in the client's minds. This is going to make a huge difference to the end result you deliver and the value you offer your client. It doesn't have to take long, and it could be scaled in such a way that it becomes viable even for the smallest of clients you have. Let's be honest, this is a huge subject, but my goal is to provide you with something that's immediately usable, so that whether you're an expert at brand strategy or a complete beginner, by going through this streamline process, you're going to get results. Hey, I'm Jason Miller, I'm a freelance graphic designer. Our firm based in London, I've had the privilege of creating luxury brand identity for clients from Australia to Hong Kong to New York. Like I'm sure many of you, I've really enjoyed working from home. I've created a quiet little studio space, which had become my zone. This is where design happens. I'm very proud to say I've been freelancing successfully for over 10 years now, and three of those years with enough clients to make this my sole source of income. What are we going to cover in this class? We will look at the discovery process and the audits necessary to get us up to speed and provide some context to the strategy we'll be proposing. Who is a brand really for? Well, ironically, it's rarely ever for your client. So we need to spend some time investigating the actual target audience for this brand you're creating. Even at this early stage, the intended look and feel of a brand, its style, and its tone, can be planned-out in principle. We'll look at how you can create a clear hierarchy of brand messages to avoid any confusion and give your client a laser focus. Importantly, we'll consider the intended positioning of the brand and help your client identify the implications and expectations this positioning is going to create. By the time we finish, both you and your client will know exactly what we need to create and what purpose it needs to feel. That's a valuable and refreshing difference from attempting to create something your client would like based solely on their personal taste. This is really going to be worth every minute spent. When you're ready, grab your favorite drink, and let's get started. 2. Your Project: As a class project, we're going to create something really valuable, will be a template to guide you through the brand strategy process, and provide a valuable deliverable that you can offer to all your future clients. This template will ensure you cover key facets of the strategy process, which you can then tailor, and customize to fit their needs of each client. As we go through each stage of the strategy process together, you'll be prompted to customize your own template. Now, this is going to be different for each student. Likely different depending on the scale you most commonly work at or perhaps even a region of the world you work in. Having a roadmap of sorts is going to be invaluable as you embark on the journey of brand strategy with your clients. This template will not only save you time, but will illustrate the key questions you need to ask, and the answers that you're looking to find. It can be hugely valuable to refine a client's goals, preferences, and ethos down to something that's so clear and easy to understand. This is a template you'll want to complete and share with each of your clients in the future. Try to go the extra mile, present it as best you can, and please share the results in a project area. I'd love to see what students are able to come up with. 3. Discovery Learning About Your Client: Discovery is the industry term for the time we spend trying to get to know the client's business. Ultimately, the goal at this stage is to ensure you find out as much as possible about your client. This includes their goals, their target audience, brands that inspire them, their key competitors, any the design preferences they may have. Personally, I think a great way to do this without putting too much pressure on your client is a project form. I like project forms because you can fire one across and your client can take a few days if they need to think about it and to find the answers. I find sometimes if you ask these questions in person, the client feels a little bit of pressure to come up with the right answers. If you send it to them, give them some time to complete this, it keeps things nice and relaxed. Here's an example of a project form I like to use and as part of your class project, please create your own project form. I've created something online. I actually sent the client a link and we're able to fill this out to save it and come back to it. Then when they hit Submit at the end, it fires it across a copy to both me and the client. I found whatever you can do as a general rule to make a client's life easier, that's always a good thing. But by all means, to draft this out, maybe start with a Word document. We just want to come up with a list of good questions to prompt the client and to get the answers you're looking for. Really whatever you choose to send, of course, put your own branding on it, make it look nice and professional. In my example here, I gather some personal information about the client if you don't have that already and project details. It's amazing how often when you ask this, you sometimes get a surprise answer. You want to ask the client to articulate the project deliverables. What are they looking for? Which services do they require? Often, even if they've commissioned you, perhaps to work on their brand identity, they may include something in this section that they'll need further down the line and it's really a valuable to be aware of this stage. You can follow up and best it may actually give you some repeat business in the future because you can communicate with your client and say, well, I notice you needed this, this and this, why don't we look at working on that next. This next section here is something you may have already discussed. I put a start date for the project. When would they like to actually begin working on the project? You may have already established for this stage, you may have already started. If not, if you're sending this form across before the project is built in, then it's great to know when will they be ready to commit time and resources to work on this. This next section here, referral source, I think is good for your own marketing purposes to know how you actually got this client, and then you can invest your future marketing bits so you can thank the friend that recommended you. Here we come to the discovery phase. You're asking the client a little about their business. I tend to leave this fairly open. Please in your own project form you're creating, try not to use the exact same wording I have here. Make it feel comfortable as if it's coming from you. I think the more relaxed it feels, the more relaxed the answer your client will give you and sometimes they feel they can open up a little more. If it's too formal, if you use lots of industry specific jargon, again, it can make a client feel a little bit of pressure. In loose terms, what can the client tell you about their business, of a product, for services that they're looking to provide, and for you to create this branding around. Goals and objectives. This is quite a thought provoking question. I like to ask them what are the free most important goals you'd like your business to achieve? You get some really interesting answers here. Sometimes the goals and objectives won't align with the details we're going to fill in later on in this form and that's a great chance for you to spot that. Then say to your client, and I noticed one of your goals was maybe to elevate the perceived value of my brand or to attract hiring clientele. When you look further down, perhaps at their brand messages, you might realize, well, those messages, they're not really going to serve your best interests in achieving that goal. It's really important when they fill out this form, go through it and if you see anything that isn't lining up as a really good basis, then for some feedback or a conversation with your client. Goals and objectives. Demographics, so this is target audience. You may help steer your client here, but it's good to see what they think and who are their target audience. Is it consumers or other businesses, and can they tell you a little bit about the personality of their target audience? I like to pencil in, you can see this descriptive texts of place underneath the heading. Just to explain, demographics, we might immediately understand what that means. But some clients, especially if you're working with smaller businesses, they'll appreciate you giving some examples and explaining that to them. Next comes value proposition, so what's the unique selling point of a company? Sometimes that scares people. They can always think of something unique about them. I think it's sometimes helpful to explain this is the key selling point, so perhaps not the unique selling point. If they're business and they have lots of competitors doing something similar, they might come up with something ridiculous just to be unique. Well, it's key selling point. What's the key bit of value you're giving you're offering to your clients. In your project form, you might like to describe it that way. Key brand messages. Again, you're likely add to this in the phases to follow, but it's good to ask the client what they think their key brand messages are. I like to allow them to elaborate on any design preferences they may have. It may be colors, it may be a certain style, this gives them a chance to add some details. Then competition, depending on the scope of a project, you may be doing some independent research and letting them know who their competitors are. But often, certainly with an established business, they'll be well-aware of competitors. You can ask from that here. Inspiration, this is a phase, if you look at the lessons to come that we really focus on. But we ask the client what brands or individuals inspire them. That can be really valuable. Often they'll aspire to be something like another brand that they're aware of. If they can mention a few brands here, that feeds the stage we're going to come to later in the process. Brand values. Now, again, you could come up with a different way of putting this together. In fact, if it wasn't in a web form, you could create some chart or graph, and you could allow your client to indicate where they fall on a scale. But the general idea is referring these two extremes to the client and we're forcing them to choose where they think their brand should sit. The more of these you can offer, the better, and it just gets your client to think, where do they see their brand sitting. Again, you may decide to change these, you may recommend your client makes some different choices. But this is a very simple project form. I would say this is appropriate for much smaller scale businesses. You'd want to come up with more detail if you were working with a larger brand. But certainly as a freelancer, often working with individual business owners or a small team, I found these questions, they just provide a nice starting point, they helped me get some of the answers I need before I begin a project. The client usually really appreciates these four provoking questions. Something else you could include in this discovery phase, and I highly recommend you do this with any established business, is to Google them and see what comes up. What have they already put out there? In this example, if I Google my own business, you can look and see what the reviews they have that may indicate some strengths for that business. What presence do they have on the web at the moment. Of course, you could include looking at their website. Have a look on their website, what does that communicate about them? Of course, another great place you can look when you're researching a client is their social presence. By all means, have a look, see what they have up on Facebook. The covariance, the feeds of any industry-specific social networks they're on. Just try to take in what presence they have and what relationship they have with their clients or customers. Really the key at this stage of a process is just learn about your client. Try to understand their business, learn what makes them tick, that will well equip you for the next stage in the process. The better you understand where your client is now, the better equipped you are to guide them in to where they want to be in future. Once this stage is complete and you feel you know your client's business a little better, you're ready to move on to the next stage where we take a look at what others in their industry are doing. 4. Finding Industry Examples: As I mentioned previously, while we don't want our client's personal preferences to be the guiding factor in the identity process, only a fool would ignore them completely. In fact, the key to a successful brand identity project might be described as providing the best possible solution to a brief that your client likes. Because if it's a great solution but your client just doesn't like it, the chances are that solution is never going to see the light of day unless you have an incredibly objective client or your client really trusts you with their life. We need to get the client on board and we need to at least be aware of a client's preferences. That takes us to this lesson where we look at presenting a client with some industry examples. Now, not only is this a great way of gauging and scoping how your client feels about different styles and approaches of design, this is also a great way to get yourself up to speed, and this will build on the research we're doing for the project in general. By looking at the examples of other brands in the client's industry, that really prepares us and that gives us a useful context when we're proposing our own designs and concepts. As part of the class project, please create your own template for this section as well. You may choose to include this all within the same document, or you may, as I've done, like to create a separate PDF. I just present it simply, as you can see here, industry examples and a short description. It is indeed an excellent way to identify design preferences, concepts perhaps worth exploring, and also just red flags, anything we really want to avoid or that the client hates. I'll take you to the first page and you'll see it's just a simple grid of examples that I've pulled really wherever I can find them. We'll look at that in a few moments. I'll give you some suggestions for where you can do this research to make it effective. But in this example here, we're looking at different documentary photographers. You can see, I've tried to pull as varied a selection as I can. We have some very modern bold options. We have some that are the opposite, that are quite decorative and really the wider a range you can present here the better. What you want to ask your client to do, after viewing this document and I literally e-mail it across, I'll give them a few days if needed to consider it. I certainly don't ask them to provide open-ended feedback on all of these. To make it easier for the client and clearer for myself, I will ask the client to let me know three designs that they really like and three designs that they hate. By getting that feedback and they can give that to me. I've numbered the document, so it makes it easy for them. Some clients will mark up and actually write on the PDF. But that way I'm getting a really good scope to gauge the client's preferences. I look for patterns in that feedback. If a client indicated they really hate three logos, and all three of them are perhaps logos that feature bold text or very modern sans serifs, I'll look for the patterns. Quite often a client wouldn't be able to articulate that to you. If you asked them about their preferences and you said, "Is there anything you want me to stay clear of?" They probably wouldn't identify in themselves that they dislike bold text. But knowing that and before you've even started the project, knowing perhaps you need to stay clear of a certain approach, or if you do present it, you're prepared, you're really going to have to sell this to your client, is so valuable and such a time saver. Let's have a look at where I find these and how I recommend going about putting that document together. We can of course, make a Google search. Let's just say for the sake of this example, we're researching a luxury candle brand. If we type in, remember we want to look just at the logos at this point, just at the core of these different brands. If we type in luxury candle logo and we head to the image search, some of the sponsored results can be useful, but if we ignore the sponsored results, you'll notice the results that tend to rank are very rarely the industry leaders. I can see one here, Timothy Dunn. That's definitely a contender and a good example to look at. But some of these, no disrespect to the designs, but they're simply stock examples that happen to have ranked high on Google. By all means, you can pull examples from here. Even a stock example, perhaps someone's created. Still the idea is to just gauge what your client likes or dislikes. But just bear that in mind. You want to provide a mixture of examples. You definitely want to make sure you include some of the industry leaders that they may be aware of. Somewhere I like to look personally is Behance., which is linked to an Adobe account if you have one. If we searched here, luxury candle logos, you get some quite nice creative ideas. These won't be industry leaders necessarily. But I tend to find the quality here is a little higher than when you make a Google image search. You could search for examples on Behance. The last place you might like to search is Pinterest. I'd like to make a search here and see what's most liked, what's on trend, what's popular, and definitely propose a few of these examples. Hopefully that gives you some ideas in terms of where to pull these examples from. Here's another example I've created. Presenting this to your client, it's just a simple grid. I think numbering it helps them and fire it across. Perhaps create a template for the e-mail you use. If you're going to be doing this often and try to stress to your client, you don't need them to spend lots of time agonizing over this. You're really just looking for a very basic bit of direction on what they're attracted to and what they're not attracted to, what they're repulsed by. To give you a very general direction as you start the project together. Having taken a general look at the approach used by different brands in the industry and now hopefully with a better understanding of our client's preferences when they provide us feedback. We now take a closer look at your client's specific competitors in the next stage. 5. Competitive Audit: Competitive audit, that's the industry term for the process of taking a specific look at brands the brand you're working on is going to be competing against. You may remember one of the questions I recommend including on a project form or asking your client, who are your competitors? Some of your clients may know exactly who their competitors are. In other cases, particularly with startups, you may have to do some digging and work out who their competition are for yourselves. But whatever the case, brand identity is always a relative exercise. So we'd be flying blind if we didn't at least consider the brands and the context that this identity is going to be viewed in. That's particularly important if you're working on a brand for a product, you've then really got to take into account the environment that product is going to be seen in. In the document that I present, and again, for your class project, please bear this in mind as you're creating your own template that you can complete for future clients. I'd like to introduce this section with just a short introduction. You can see on the page here, I have the heading competitors and I just explain why it's so important. We're going to take a brief look at them. It's quite important we understand and that we help our client to understand relative positioning. Relative positioning is really understanding who the client is competing against. A tip is to think of it like this. Who is your client directly competing against? Is it geographically limited? For example, if a client is a local bakery and they don't currently have plans to expand, to go nationwide, well, you need to be looking at other bakeries within that local area that they serve. That's fair competition. A bakery halfway across the country is worth perhaps looking at for inspiration, but is not a direct competitor to your client. That said, if your client is an online brand or they have a very wide catchment area, well, then their competition is going to be much wider in scope. We need to understand that and of course, we need our client to understand that. Once we've established the scope of their competition, now we take a look at how the bar has been set, and I'll show you how to do this in my example here across the next few pages. In this example, my client is a real estate brand and they're looking to trade within a fairly localized area in Charlotte. The objective here is really to identify the key messages that are conveyed by the competitor's branding. We want to provide just a few examples of that. I take a few screenshots here. I'll look at the social presence of a competitor. I'll, of course, look on their website. This is really surface level. It doesn't have to be a deep dive. It's really just to help us to gauge, on a base level, what has been done and what opportunities there might be to introduce something different with the brand we create for our client. I put a few key bullet points and again, really surface level stuff. This competitor has a fairly modern look and feel. In terms of their positioning, a little lower end. It looks like they're appealing to people with a mixed budget. They work on quite a large scale and I think that was conveyed in their brand identity. I sometimes give hints of what their color choices might convey. I've made a note to say they've employed some fairly premium photography, which is all part of their brand identity. In just a few paragraphs, I'd like to give some explanation of those points I've made there. In your project, when you're creating your own template, you could just leave this area blank, but perhaps leave space for some key bullet points. You might choose to do it and present it differently. You could even create a graph where perhaps you have different sides of a scale. You could have modern versus traditional at two opposite ends. You could put a little pin to indicate where you feel this competitor lies. That could be a nice idea, but make it unique to you. Try to present it as best you can. Use your own branding so that when you give this document to your client, there's a real sense of value in the research you've done, instead of just conveying it to them verbally or perhaps as text in an e-mail. Let's consider another example, across the page here. This is another competitor we've analyzed. Again, I felt quite a modern look and feel. I've noted that red accents have been used to draw attention to things, but it's a little bit at odds with the luxury feel that this client seemed to want to convey. It seems mid to high end in its positioning and quite simple, but effective. As I put these pages together, just doing this surface level analysis of the competition, we're also making little mental notes and bookmarks of opportunities we might mention to the client later on. Please don't feel daunted by this. There's nothing here that is deep or particularly intelligent. Some of it is really obvious observations, but just laying it out and explaining it objectively like this can really help your client, and of course, help you as you're preparing yourself to work on this project. We'll look at one more example here. This competitor I've put in the notes is fairly modern. Again, it's relative, relative to the competitors we've been looking at. In this particular area of the country, this is a less modern looking brand than the other examples. In this case, if my client wanted to come across as a really traditional, well-established brand, they really wouldn't have to go overboard because their competitors have taken a fairly contemporary approach. Whereas if a competitors who had these very traditional looking heritage brands and my client to, when compared against them, look more traditional, look longer established, well, then you'd really have to pull out the stops. Have fun creating a template for this. The idea is that as you come to this stage in the project, it just prompts you to hopefully drop a few screenshots, examples in, and it triggers you, reminds you what information you want to be analyzing in conveying to your client. It may just be a few placeholders for bullet points, a few textboxes. But it's a great help in speeding up and keeping this process streamlined. Not to mention from the client's perspective, it looks great and it looks highly professional. We've taken a very broad look in the industry example stage, what's being done in a particular industry. We've taken a more focused look at some surface level insights we can be aware of ourselves that we can present to a client about their specific competitors. Well, in the next stage, we'll look at the inspirations a client has indicated to us and what insights we can gain from that. 6. Your Client's Inspirations: These are things that inspire you or might inspire you later in the creative process. These are brands that inspire your client. It may be a brand your client aspires to be in future, it may just be a brand your client thinks is a really good case study aesthetically. Whatever the case, analyzing those indicated inspirational brands provides you with a really useful insight into the mind of your client and their preferences. You can follow along here in the example I have on the screen, where again, I introduce the inspirations and just explain why we're doing this. You recall we ask your client in the project form, or you could ask them verbally to share some brands that inspire them. These don't have to be brands from the same industry, although it's generally more useful if they are. But we're going to learn a great deal from the other brands, your client feels where they would like to be, perhaps a few years from now. Or brands that your client feels have really nailed their brand identity. Our Flickr heads in the example I'm using here, to some of the brands that this client indicated inspired her. I think it's really important to mention, the objective here is not ever to copy these ideas. But what we do want to do is analyze why your client liked each of these examples and look for patterns between the two, or perhaps the three brands they indicate inspired them. If there's a lot of variation between the three brands, again, that's valuable because it shows your client is perhaps quite open to a range of styles aesthetically, and generally that's good news for you. But usually, these similarities, even if they're subtle ones, will flag up design preferences that, provided they're appropriate and they meet your brief, might just help you to head in the right direction initially. In my example here, my client has provided a few fashion brands that she felt really inspire her. In this case, she is a realtor. This was an inspiration taken from a different industry, but she felt if her brand looked and felt like this, she would be happy with it, at least aesthetically. That's a useful indication for me. As for the competitors, the objective is the same. We want to look at the key messages that are conveyed by the branding. So does it feel modern or traditional? Is it aimed at high-end or is it a more budget-oriented brand? I just generally, in the description, will pull out one or two things I felt work particularly well. For this brand, I really felt the custom over here was really useful. I suggested to my client perhaps something similar, using the initials of her company or the first letter of her brand name could work just as well. Sometimes this stage gives you some ideas, some directions to explore initially in the project. But ultimately, the goal is to, again, at a very surface level, just analyze what it might be about these brands that has inspired your client, and which of these elements you might be able to implement in the identity you create. The goal isn't to copy and mix and match elements. It's really to look for the reasons your client may have like these. It could be simplicity, it could be an understated approach, it could be an elegant approach, so on. You get the idea. What I love about this stage is that, you could spend an hour having a conversation with your client and they might not be able to articulate what they like aesthetically. They might not be able to convey that to you. But by sending these examples with some research around them, you can help both yourself and the client identify exactly what it might be they like about certain brands. To me, this is really one of those game-changing steps that I didn't use to include in the past, and all too often, I'd be flying blind, especially when proposing initial concepts to my client, this was really the first time I would see any reaction to what they like or dislike. Well, including this stage and analyzing very existing inspirations, you have a good idea if you're looking for these patterns, what your client likes, and likely, what they dislike. It does take some time to put this together to analyze these things, but it's going to save you a lot of time in the long run. It means you've got a good idea what your client might be looking for. So we've really good idea of your client's business, their preferences, their competitors. We're now ready to look at target audience in the next stage. 7. Target Audience: Target audience. Really the goal in this stage is to discover who are your clients' clients. In other words, who is your client trying to attract to their brand? Who would they like to purchase their product? Who would they like to work with? A key tip is to consider scale. What scale is it appropriate to work at? On one end of the scale, you could have a short conversation with your client, consider and identify who their target audience is, and perhaps your client will say to you, "Well, I know my audience really well, and I'll put myself in their shoes, and as you present ideas to me, I'm going to try to identify whether my client would like those ideas or not." That's at a very small scale. Somewhere in the middle, you might spend a little bit of time trying to identify the target audience, and looking at brands they like. Brands they've already emotionally invested in. That can provide a really useful insight. At the other end of the scale, if your client does have a budget for it, it can be a really useful exercise to create a consumer profile, and I'll show you an example of a consumer profile I've created with one of my clients. We can create, perhaps, a template for each scenario, so that whatever your client's budget, you're able to accommodate that, and you can at least consider target audience. If there is no budget to spend time considering target audience, well, perhaps you could create a page in the template that simply states who they are, and a very brief description perhaps of their persona, of brands they like, what they're looking for. However, we're going to focus on the mid to higher end of a budget spectrum. In that case, you'll be able to put together a target audience analysis, which we'll consider in this lesson. Then the lesson to follow, for those high-end budgets, we'll look at how you can go about creating consumer profiles with your clients. Let's look first at your target audience. In this example, if a client has a reasonable budget, and we can afford to spend a few hours together, we want to come up with something like this. Please remember to be flexible with this when you're creating your own template. By all means, come up with a different way of laying it out. But we want to include a space where we're going to put literal examples of brands for the particular group of clients have already bought into, or they already associate themselves with. In this example, my client was a wedding videographer, and he wanted to attract a certain type of bride to like his brand. Well, it was very easy to identify the brides, the kind of level he wanted to work with, they all wanted Vera Wang dresses. They all wanted Louboutin's, or Jimmy Choo shoes. By looking at that group of brands, and laying them out on the page, we could begin to spot patterns, and we could begin to see that his brand would need to feel at home alongside these other brands that they've already bought into. It's not to say you now need to create a brand that copies any of these in some way, and there'll likely be some variation between them. But try to think of it as needing to create a brand that would feel comfortable sat alongside these examples. The identifiers can be as simple as the ones I've used here. Female brides that are attracted to luxury, high-end brands, fashion-forward, and they're young adults. It may seem very simple, but this is an invaluable exercise to go through with your client. This may seem quite simple, even obvious, but it's amazing how often the target audience is not considered. Or too often as designers, we instinctively want to design for our clients preferences. Well, taking the time to stop and analyze the actual target audience, that will enable your client to make decisions in future more objectively. We've looked at this on a medium-scale to fit a reasonable budget. Well, what would this process look like if we have a larger budget to play with? That's exactly what we'll look at in the next lesson, where we look at consumer profiles. 8. Consumer Profiles: Great news. Your client has a sufficient budget, you can set some time aside and go through consumer profiles with them. What does this process look like? What's involved? Well, let's dive straight into it. This does take a little time. It may be that you create a template similar to the one I'm going to show you here, and you complete this with your client. Again, a very valuable exercise. Consumer profile is hypothetical personality profile of the kind of individuals we want to attract to the brand, and they may be different. In this example here, we have Brad and a little about him, but we also have Sarah, and we have Ayisha. I like to try to make this feel as realistic as possible, I'll even drag in a stock picture. Obviously, you don't need to license it. But so that we can really try to use our imagination and scope out a persona for these individuals. Let's run through the headings that I like to include in this. You may include some additional ones in your own example, you don't have to use these, these are just ideas. But I think at the very least, it's good to consider the age, sex, and general background of an individual, you might also choose to think about their marital status, what kind of hobbies, and definitely, the brand affinity. What brands do they already love and identify with? We've taken a look here at expectations and desires. These aren't yet specific to your brand, this is just in general. We identified for Brad is someone that career really matters to, he aspires for career success. Because of that success, he's often a little stressed, he's very driven, and spends a lot of time working with his business. He would like to have more time to spend with his family. You can see, we're just making these details up, but it's amazing using your knowledge of people, the relationships you have, you can usually create a fairly accurate profile hypothetically. Now, and I'll mention this just here is a tip, if your client does have a budget, it can be a great exercise to take this document once you've finished it, and actually test it. You can do that, if a client has a budget, by getting hold of a consumer survey. Those surveys would just backup and establish the answers real people have given to these kinds of questions, so you can make sure that that aligns correctly with your assumptions. But if we continue with this example, I also look at obstacles and objections. Again, this isn't yet specifics of a brand you're creating, just in general, this character has no time for lower priority activities, his time is valuable. He wants to make his own choices, he believes he's self-fulfilled, he's his own boss, and he's opposed to exterior suggestions. This is the kind of person who if he sees something and he thinks he wants to do it, that will be reason enough, he might be less inclined to take a recommendation seriously, or a testimonial. You can also come up with, at a very base level, why this person might like your brand. Again, it's hypothetical. You just put your head together with a client, and it's almost a bit of a problem solving exercise. Given this persona that you've hypothetically created, why might they love your brand? What possible reason would Brad have to download, in this case, this particular fitness app? Well, he might download it if it's efficient and a convenience means of stress release for him if it presents a new challenge and if there's a competitive element to it. Again, completely hypothetical but it's so valuable to go through this exercise if you can. Across the page, a little more. This is now very specific to the way this hypothetical persona might interact with your brand. What makes him look for a health and wellness app in the first place? Or it could be, why are they interested in walking into a bakery? Why do they need a wedding videographer? Well, in this case, this individual would not be looking for the app, he would need to be shown it. There would have to be some kind of active marketing. Passive marketing likely wouldn't work on him. Now, it's worth mentioning, this begins to touch on marketing strategy. Although there's a synergy between the two, we are focusing on brand strategy and there is a difference. What's the difference between brand strategy and marketing strategy? Well, I'll actually let Google answer that for me. If you Google that precise question, the answer you'll find is your marketing strategy is the vehicle that delivers your tailored customer facing brand message. Your marketing strategy and tactics can change based on customer data, successive campaigns, etc. Your brand strategy is the cornerstone of your overall business plan. Now, I really like that explanation and I think it's true, marketing strategy is much more specific to a method someone is going to use in future. Where they're going to decide to advertise? How they're going to spread the word? Brand strategy is much more I think about the why. Why someone cares and would be interested in taking the time to work with or looking to your brand? Marketing tends to be a little more about how. But the two certainly draw on each other, and it's good to have an awareness of both. That's for next heading, awareness. How might this individual become aware of a brand? We've given some examples there. You might consider what they're ideally looking for, and this is in this specific specific brand. In this case, for this app, this individual is looking for something accessible, convenient, easy to download, you get the idea. Why do they choose to use the brand? Again, you can come up with some reasons. Why might they share or return? This is quite important. What would move this person not just to become a customer or a client, but what would move them to actually become almost an ambassador for the brand you're creating? What reason might they have to actually recommend it to others? You can see the exact same steps we've repeated for a few different personas. The more different they are, perhaps, the better, just so you're looking at this from different angles. But one thing you want them all to have in common is they would potentially be interested in the brand you're creating. We've created another example here for Sarah, and we've completed different answers together, and the final example here. Really, by the time you end of this exercise, you've given some serious thought to real reasons hypothetical individuals might have to invest in the brand you're creating to be attracted to it. That's such a valuable exercise for any identity projects. Identifying who you're designing for and simply asking the question, "Would they like this?" is crucial and it's amazing and to me, shocking how often that simply doesn't happen. All too often, the client only ask themselves, "Do I like this?" or they may ask for feedback from a completely random mix of people, perhaps, friends and social media, family, and decision by vote never works. At best, a client would just find out what category their friends fall into. If your client have the budget for you to create consumer profiles with them, you really are going to see a difference when you come to analyze your concept at a later stage. It may seem like a time-consuming step, but anyone that's worked at a larger scale on brand identity knows just how valuable this step can be. You do need to put a little time aside for this, but it really helps you to anticipate the kind of response your proposed creative solutions are going to receive based on the target audience. Whichever scale you've worked to in identifying the target audience, you are now well-prepared to move on to the next phase of the process which is looking at the visuals, especially the tone and the style we're going to be aiming for. 9. Visual Style & Tone: The goal of this stage is to plan out the intended look and feel, and that we're going to lean toward later in the creative stages. Why include and set a brand strategy phase? Well, because it's invaluable to get a response from your client based on what you're planning to do before they start to focus on the details, on the sketches, on your aesthetics later on in the creative process. It can also help you to very easily flag up whether the style you're looking to create makes sense on paper, whether there are any contradictions there you need to iron out. In my example here, and again, as you're creating your template and as part of a class project, please come up with a different way of laying this out if you like. I like to create something where the bolder and a larger word is for more weights we want to assign to it. Again, I think that makes it really useful visual aid. The client can look at this and they'll give you feedback. They'll say perhaps, "I like this, but I think it needs to be more youthful." I want to make that a more prominent aspect of the tone, etc. If you've been following the lessons up to this point, you may well have been fed a lot of the information you need to create this page. I put a little description underneath to explain just what this is for and what we're trying to achieve here. That's one of a few parts of this template. But I think I actually include for every client, so I don't need to rewrite that explanation every time. But the actual words we have in this visual aid. Some of them may have been fed to you by the client in the project form. Some of them may be insights you've gained as you've looked at the client's competitors, you may have realized there's something you need to convey in the tone to remain competitive or there's a gap, an opportunity that none of the competitors were conveying something, and it's a really a good idea to provide a cross in this brand. Again, depending on the scope you've worked to and when you've looked at target audience or even created consumer profiles, you'll want to look at some of the common things that client is attracted to and looking out for in that target audience or that consumer profile, and you'll want to make sure some of that is included here. If it's apparent your target audience is really obsessed with luxury, that's very important to them, well, that needs to be conveyed. This stage is really just making sure everything so far aligns. You're not presenting anything groundbreaking. It's more going to be a useful aid as you move forward using your own layout and that can be whatever you think conveys this in a way that's easy to take in at a glance. Start feeding these values in. Try to make them fairly broad terms. So things like simple or complex, playful or serious. If they can be descriptive words that are either end of a certain scale, that's more useful because it helps you to really gauge and fine-tune where on that scale you're aiming to position this brand. Once you have the first draft, you want to do two things. First of all, flag up any contradictions. This may have happened because your client has given you an aspect of a visual tone that they think is important. But then when you've analyzed their target audience, you've realized, well actually, this is really something the target audience isn't looking for. For example, if you ended up with a word simple, but then you also had complex, well, the two clash, you can't really represent both of those together. Then also as you look at these values, just flag up anything you believe the target audience may not like. You could choose to flag that up, perhaps by putting something in a different color and then a little note alongside it. The idea is to then discuss that with your client and just mention to them, I think we should reposition this, or we should adjust to that. That's the idea of this, it's just an aid to help you with the positioning. So without so much as a sketch, you've mapped out, at least in theory, the intended style, look and feel that you'll be aiming to create in future. There's great value in taking the time to plan this out beforehand. So with this as a checklist, you'll be able to refer back to in future. You're now ready for the next stage, which are to actually focus on the brand messages and what they communicate. 10. Brand Messages: Brand messages, this is the most important stage in the entire brand strategy process. It's the combination of everything you've done up to this point; all of the research, the insights you've gathered, the competitors you've analyzed that lead you to this. You need to, often together with your client, refine this down to a few key offerings; things that make their business unique, things that will make it attractive to prospective consumers. Does all that sound daunting? Well, try looking at it this way. What would you say is the most unique key reason a client might want to use this brand? Well, that's going to be the primary message. What's the key reason someone would want to use this? If you have a look at the example I have here, this is for a client who provided exclusive access to events that you couldn't simply buy tickets for, you had to go through someone, you had to be someone to get invited to certain events, and so this is an example we use to follow along. The key reason people in my client's case here would want to use their brand is because of the exclusivity. They wanted access to these high profile, exclusive events, like fashion week and the Oscars, and so the brand itself had to look exclusive to attract them. I'll just stop here and explain the layout that I've chosen to use for this page. As you create your own template, you could do something different, but I think a key is you must create some hierarchy, and I've even put that as a subtitle for this page, hierarchy of brand messages. What do I mean by hierarchy of brand messages? Well, a fundamental of brand identity is that, for example, the logo as a singular brand element, it couldn't possibly convey reliably every brand message on the page we're looking at the moment. You couldn't design it in such a way that these ideas are immediately burned into someone's brain. You could maybe pick 2-3 of them and have those come across in the logo, but there may be other elements that there are better platforms, better mediums, better ways to get those messages across using. If you simply scatter these messages and you create no order, no hierarchy to them, it can be confusing which of these messages is most important to convey. By creating a hierarchy, we're letting the client know that the primary message that needs to come across all the way through the brand, it needs to come across in the logo, in the color palette chosen, in the font choices, in the tone of writing and copy that's used, whereas other messages, and this is where I've labeled the column to the right, supporting messages, well, they may come across in more subliminal ways. They might come across written literally in marketing material, they may come across in the stock images that are selected. One of the messages, for example here, is reliable. Well, that may be something that comes across by showing a banner on the website with the reviews that this brand has. You're not going to be too specific here and actually tell the client which element of a brand they should use to convey which message, but what we are going to do is try to give them some order and organization. Let them know which messages are more important, which messages we need to make sure come across first and foremost, and which we're almost looking for opportunities to get across in supporting material. If that's a little overwhelming, if you feel daunted by that, don't worry and don't overthink it at this stage. The more you do it, the easier it will get, and the more brands you work with, the more feedback you have from clients, the better equipped you'll be to advise them on this. But for now, perhaps the following suggestions will help you to organize this. As we discuss the primary message, that's the key, most unique reason someone might want to use this brand. They might be attracted to it. What about the key messages? Well, you could ask these kinds of questions to identify what the key messages are. You could ask, how can you be sure of that primary message? What factors convinced you this is the case? Why do you feel this is the right brand to use? The answers to those questions are a great place to start for the key messages, and even better, if the answer to all those questions are the same. In the example I'm showing here, the events company that provides access to very exclusive events and works with a very exclusive client base, we identified that the key messages would support and validate that primary message. If a brand didn't feel on trend, if there wasn't a high degree of professionalism to it, and if it didn't feel really high-end, the primary message really was going to fall flat. So where your key messages can backup and can bolster that primary message is even better, and that lends itself to the kind of pyramid structure you want to give this hierarchy of brand messages. To help you to identify good supporting messages, well, try asking yourself what other strengths does this brand have? What else would they like their customers to realize, to notice, to pick up on? What other reasons might there be for someone to choose them? Again, in the example here, if they have a reputation for being trustworthy and reliable, if they could name-drop the fact they're well connected. We want to get across that they're international and not a local brand, and we want to get across that they have an upstanding reputation. That's the theory behind this. But to put it into practice, if we look at this example, if we were to pick up on the supporting message, international, and we decided that had to come across in the logo itself, well, that might lead you to logo concepts that feature some globe or airplane to represent international travel. But really, we don't intended that to be a supporting message. It could be as simple as a tagline that says, "We work globally." Once you've established a clear hierarchy of brand messages, it's going to be much easier for you and the client moving forward to identify how suitable the solutions you come up with for brand identity really are, and this is something the client can save and use years into the future for their marketing efforts as well. I think it's important to note that this part of a brand strategy, more than any other, has to be open to the client's feedback. I actually like to name this document brand strategy proposal so that when I send it to the client, rather than them feel I'm trying to tell them exactly what they have to do, they can see this is open to discussion, and this is what I'm suggesting. This is from my professional points of view, stepping back and looking at their brand the way I think we should try to convey these messages. Well done. Once you've completed this stage and you've created this clear hierarchy of brand messages to present to your client, then you're ready for the next stage, which really ties into this, and that's the positioning of your brand. 11. Positioning & Client Expectations: The positioning, really comes down to this. In the context of other similar businesses, where does your brand need to be positioned? Just as we touched on earlier in the process, this needs to be done relatively. When we compared competitors, we were thinking about relative positioning, this is where we now really decide where we want this brand to sit. For example, in terms of how modern the brand is, it doesn't need to feel modern if it's viewed alongside Apple. In terms of how luxurious the brand is, it doesn't necessarily need to look luxurious if it's positioned alongside Prada or DNG. It will need to look luxurious, alongside its competitors, or modern, alongside its competitors. Not only we considering how it's positioned in terms of those values, we also consider where it's positioned in terms of price point. In fact, the positioning in terms of price point, is one of the key elements that we want to establish, at this point in the brand strategy. Will this brand be V Value option for those who are very budget conscious? Or will it claim to offer the best, the most premium service? Or will it fall somewhere in the middle? That's something you need to establish here, and even discuss with your client before even making that suggestion, or propose it, to your client. Base perhaps on the research you've done, and your understanding of their business. You see, in the template I've created here, and this is an example I've created, for the same brand we looked at in the previous lesson, and this is a exclusive events company, I include a little summary on the left with some explanation, and then I have not just positioning, but I also have client expectations. It's really important to communicate the two, to your client and a relationship between the two. What is that relationship? Well basically, depending on the way you position this brand, that's going to have a certain implication. Clients will expect something, because of the way you've positioned it. For example, for this brand here, because we're positioning it as very exclusive and far from mainstream, a client is now going to have the expectation, that they will gain access to exclusive events. If a positioning doesn't line up, with the ability to satisfy these client expectations, then your client may experience lots of bookings, lots of interest in their brand, but they'll be getting negative reviews, will be getting negative feedback, because it's almost false advertising. You really want to make sure here, that you're crafting a brand, and you're creating expectation, that the brand is going to have a reasonable ability, to satisfy. If you don't understand this yourself, and you don't communicate this to your client, you'd really be doing them a disservice, and they could be creating a brand, making promises their business won't be able to keep. To provide a hypothetical scenario, for example, imagine your creating brand identity for a car service. You create branding that looks incredible, it looks luxurious, and it creates an expectation from the client, but when they book this car service, a Bentley or a Porsche is going to show up for them. But instead, a rusty old car comes. Naturally, that's going to create disappointment. It creates this mismatched expectation. That's the simple way to illustrate how important it is, to try to line this up correctly. If it feels like this is going way over your head, just start with the basics. Really simple stuff. Would you like to attract people looking for the cheapest price? We're looking for the best, and prepared to pay for it. What compromise of price and quality. Just try to think through logically, perhaps put yourself in the shoes of the consumer, and reason these points out, as you consider them. To give you another example here, I've positioned this brand as premium, and that means there will be, the expectation from the client to pay a premium. Thanks to the branding we've created, someone will be prepared to pay more for this service. That also means, as I've noted, there'll be an expectation of a very high level of customer service. They'll expect, very sleek, and professional branding across the broad. When we look at the website, membership cards, e-mails, because we are paying a premium, they're going to really expect that all of this is of a very high standard. I think the best tip I could give you at this stage in the process, is to be humble, and be honest, to ask your client to give their direction on this, rather than just propose it yourself. Especially if you're not very comfortable, or familiar with this yet. Read books, and try to learn, and understand, and really become an expert, on this part of a process yourself. You'll be bringing so much value to your clients. Your solutions are going to be ten times more viable, as a result. If you don't yet have the confidence, of the knowledge to really give deeper vice, as far as positioning is concerned, make a collaborative stage. Work through with your client, reason it out, put yourself in a consumer's shoes, and you'll be amazed the difference it makes. Just going through those stages and processes will make to the end result you'll get, for each of your projects. Well done for making it this far, there's one stage that remains, and that's brainstorming, potential ideas we'll be using in the creative stages. 12. Brainstorming: This is an exercise, but you might think better suited to the creative part of a process itself. But I actually like to include it here and I present it to the client as part of the brand strategy. Basically, the idea is to scope out the concepts you might use in their visual identity in written form. Instead of sketching a particular idea, you simply use a word to symbolize it. A great advantage of this is it's much easier to get objective feedback from your client. It's much easier to be objective when you look at the words and your own imagination fills in the gaps than it is when someone looks at a sketch. You can see an example I've created here which ties in with my branding, and please create your own example so that you're able to use something similar for your own template. I like to use these colored hotspots to indicate the key areas stemming off from the brainstorm, and I use size to represent which ideas are trailing off from which key branches. You could do something completely different, you can present this really in whichever manner you think is best. Now, why include this at the brand strategy stage? One advantage is you get to scope out your client's reaction to certain ideas without all the noise of the actual style, the execution, your style of sketching, you're just getting a reaction to the roar of ideas themselves. There's really no judgment here, you can literally jot down any possible link, good or bad, to the brand, its products or services, or the experience it's trying to create. It's also a really useful exercise in preparing yourself for the creative stages to follow. Really, by this point, armed with the intended visual tone and style you're going to be setting out to achieve with some of the ideas and concepts written in your brainstorming exercise and with the key prime messages you know you need to communicate, you couldn't be better prepared to start the creative part of your identity process. The advantage is once you share these things with your client, is that they'll feel better prepared and they'll really feel they've been apart of this branding process with you. Here we go. Audio looks good, the video looks good, focus the camera, audio sync now, and this is the book I'm beginning for brainstorming. Brainstorming. No. I might actually say the word, I can just describe it. Here we go. This is an exercise that you might think better suited to the creative part of a process itself, but I actually like to include it here and I present it to the client as part of a brand strategy. Basically, the idea is to scope out the concepts you might use in their visual identity, but in written form. Instead of sketching a particular idea, you simply use a word to represent it. A great advantage is this is far more objective. It's easier to get objective feedback from a client based on ideas you've just noted. A great advantage of this is it's much easier to get objective feedback from your client. It's much easier to be objective when you look at a word and your own imagination fills in the gaps than it is when someone looks at a sketch. I can take what I want from that and then the end. Don't tell me this is over bookend. The bookend for this will be, really, by this point, armed with visual style of the tone, with your brand messages, made out by clear hierarchy, and with some of the ideas and elements you might explore from your brainstorming exercise, you couldn't be better prepared to now get started on the creative process itself. The advantages if you share this with your client, they'll also be prepared and they'll feel they're taking this journey along with you. A lot. Let's try and leave it. Let's focus it so it's at the bookend, for the end of the brainstorming video. By this stage, you'll now be really well-prepared. No. How did he say it? Let's listen again. Really, by this point, armed with visual style of tone and with your brand messages laid out by clear hierarchy, and with some of the ideas and elements you might explore from your brainstorming exercise, you couldn't be better prepared. A lot. Let's try again. Really, by this point, armed with the intended visual tone and style you're going to be setting out to achieve, with some of the ideas and concepts written in your brainstorming exercise, and with the key prime messages you know you need to communicate, you couldn't be better prepared to start the creative part of your identity process. Get started on the creative process itself. The advantages if you share this with your client, they'll also be prepared and they'll feel they're taking this journey along with you. The advantages once you share these things with your client is that they'll feel better prepared too and they'll really feel they've been apart of this branding process with you. It's excellent and we'll leave it there. 13. Conclusion Final Cut: By this point, you've created a huge amount of value for your client. You might think, particularly if you're working at a small scale, that the strategy you've created and proposed is quite obvious or simple. But please don't underestimate how hugely valuable it is to your client to take everything they thrown at you, to organize it, and to refine it down to something that's clear and it's easy for them to understand. You've made something that's tangible, you've helped them to organize their thoughts. You've created a clear hierarchy of brand messages, and you'll both be focused and know exactly what you need to convey, and perhaps how to convey it. If you've written a description around this in the document you present to your client, your client will also understand that conveying these messages is not something a logo alone would be able to do, but it's the combination of their entire brand identity. Not only that, but you now both have a checklist of thoughts that you can refer to as you engage in the creative stages of the process. Think of it as the most comprehensive brief you've likely ever had. It means that while your client is still going to have to make that final decision, you've shifted the emphasis from following a vision or an idea in their heads, to some clear, measurable objectives, that you're going to set out to reach together. Automatically, instead of hearing that all too familiar, or this is my favorite concept, your conversations are going to revolve around which solutions best meet the brief, and best address the brand strategy that you've created together. To designers, I think this is an exciting and a refreshing change, so much so, I'd recommend pricing this as attractively as possible, make it a core part of your process, and convince your clients that it's essential. Before long, you won't want to embark on any brand identity process without including a strategy workflow. That's certainly been the case for me. I really hope you've enjoyed the class. Please leave a review if you did. I hope to see you in the next one.