Why You Need a Brand Board for Your Biz
As a solo creative business owner, it’s not uncommon to DIY everything – your brand visuals included.
Free tools and resources make it super duper easy for just about anyone to build beautiful visuals from scratch. But there is one important thing that solopreneurs, however crafty they may be, have a tendency to forget in the mix… and that’s brand consistency.
Wanna know how to ensure that you're showing up consistently without cross-referencing and copy/pasting your life away? Keep reading!
Consistency Leads to Engagement & Action
If you're wondering if sticking your logo to the corner of every single one of your graphics counts as brand consistency, I’ve got news for you: your logo is not your brand. Sure, your logo is the centrepiece of your brand… but if McDonalds embossed their golden arches on a pastel pink box, wouldn’t you be just a little bit confused?
Your brand identity represents your business from the outside in. It’s not all about what’s on your business card – it’s about being consistently you in everything that you do. Without that consistent look and feel, your incredible offering is more likely to get lost and confused.
Let me give you an example…
As a part of my Pinterest strategy, I scroll through my feed every single day looking for quality content that I can share to each of my boards. Since I don’t have time to click through each individual pin, I search for graphics that I trust will lead to quality content. Typically I will re-pin anything from a brand that I recognize without giving it a second thought – I engage and take action when I recognize a brand that I trust. I also look for pins that are clear, visually appealing, and well-formatted, because I recognize and trust good design.
I never re-pin graphics that are ugly, messy, or hard to read, because I assume that those pins will lead to content that is also ugly, messy, and hard to read.
See what I mean? Consistency and effective brand application establish trust, which then leads to engagement and action.
Start now with a template! Grab two customizable brand board templates in Photoshop and Canva format from my shop:
Consistency also has a direct effect on your business’s bottom line. Think about it: Are you more likely to buy from someone whose website you found five minutes ago, or whose mailing list you've been on for six months?
In order to nurture that sense of trust, you need to show up online and place your content in front of your audience over, and over, and over again – and every single time, your brand needs to be recognizable. This is achieved by using consistent visuals.
Keeping Your Brand Identity Top Of Mind
If you’re freaking out a little bit right now because all of your graphics are a slightly different shade of green, or you’ve never used the same typeface twice, I have the solution for you.
It’s called a brand board.
A brand board is a super simple one-page document that summarizes all of the different visual elements of your brand identity. If you had your brand designed professionally for you, your designer may have given you a brand board for reference, or a more in-depth version of a brand board, also called a brand style guide.
You can think of your brand board as an inventory of everything you need to represent your brand and business visually. It should include things like your logo, colour palette, typefaces, stock images, etc. Collecting all of this visual information and putting it into one document will make it much easier for you to reference the “rules” of your brand before building visual content for your business.
When you use your brand board as a guideline for your graphics, it will be much easier for you to build brand recognition, increase the perceived quality of your content, and – most importantly – foster trust between yourself and your audience.
A brand board can also come in handy when you’re hiring or collaborating with someone, to ensure that the person you’re working with doesn’t mess with your brand identity. For example, whenever I work with clients, I ask them upfront for their brand board so I can make sure that whatever they’ve hired me to design for them matches the look and feel of their brand perfectly.
What if my brand is going through an identity crisis?
Without setting the intention to maintain your brand’s identity from Day 1, it can be easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. Maybe you’ve used the eyedropper tool a few too many times to match your primary colour, or maybe the typeface that was used to build your website isn’t available on the free version of Canva. Don’t dwell on it – instead, set aside some time to figure out where things went wrong, and what your best course of action is moving forward.
Start by looking at everything you’ve got so far – your website, social media graphics, imagery, and digital products – and make note of their similarities. Do you reach for one typeface most often, or use a lot of the same stock images? If so, you’re already on your way to achieving visual consistency, and you should copy and paste those elements into your board to maintain momentum.
On the other hand, if you notice that the shade of pink you use in your blog post graphics has changed over time, or that you’ve been bobbing back and forth between typefaces, this is the time to make a decision and pick just one. Put it into your brand board, and stick with it.
Don’t have a brand board? No worries! You can grab two customizable brand board templates in Photoshop and Canva format from my shop:
If you’re not in love with what you’re seeing, it might also be a good idea to go back to basics and build a Pinterest board full of inspiration for how you want your brand to look and feel. Start by thinking of a few descriptive words that you would use to represent your ideal brand identity – such as soft, bold, energizing or feminine – and type them into Pinterest to see what comes up.
Once your board is bursting with inspiration, take a step back and make note of any patterns. This might help you inform the decisions you make when you’re narrowing down the different elements of your brand board.
Building your brand board
So, what exactly goes onto a brand board, anyway?
1. Your logo and submark (or alternate logo versions)
You likely have a primary logo, but do you also have a variation or a submark? Both of them should be on your board, clearly marked as one or the other.
Don’t have a logo? Skip this for now, or create a temporary fix that you can use sparingly until you’re able to invest in something permanent.
Tip: If you needed a logo, like, yesterday, swipe a pre-made logo pack from Creative Market to help you make do for now. When I launched my business, I was using a placeholder that I whipped up in less than five minutes. With that being said, I highly recommend that your logo be one of the first big investments you make in your business.
2. Your brand colours
If this is your very first time selecting colours for your brand, you may want to do a little research on colour theory first. Certain colours will evoke certain feelings or emotions. Researching colour theory will help you to determine a colour that suits not only your personal style, but the mission and vision of your business. Branding experts know allll about this kinda stuff.
In addition to your primary colour (the colour or colours that you will use most often), you may also include a secondary and tertiary colour, which you will use to compliment your primary colour or draw attention to small details like buttons or quotes.
Most importantly, you need to include the hex code for your colours, so you can copy and paste the exact match every time you create a new graphic or visual. If you plan on working with a designer in the future, you’ll also want to include the RGB and CMYK values for each colour.
3. Patterns or textures
Do you love fun patterns and textures? Pick one or two, and add them to the board. Patterns aren’t a necessity, though, so don’t include them if you won’t use them. If you do, save the images to your computer so you remember to incorporate them in social media graphics and prints.
It’s common to use two typefaces for your brand: One for long-form text, and one for headlines and accents. You can also incorporate a third typeface for decoration.
If you’re a Canva user, you may need to make some tough decisions regarding which typefaces you used on a consistent basis. With the free version of Canva, you’re limited to a small list of options. With the paid version, you can import any typeface that you have available on your computer.
Tip: Not sure what typeface is on your website? Highlight some text, right-click, and select “Inspect.” A box will pop up with a bunch of weird code in it, but somewhere in there you may be able to find the name of the typeface that your web designer used.
5. Graphic Elements or Icons
If you have icons on your home page, or if you have a set of illustrations that you like to incorporate in your visuals, these should also be present on your brand board to help you get a complete overview of your visual elements. Again, these aren’t a necessity – but it’s likely that you’ll have one or two that you commonly use.
6. Images and Inspiration
The images you include on your brand board are a representation of the type of imagery that you will use wherever your brand shows up online. These could be stock photos, Pinterest photos, or your own photos, but they should be a representation of the ideal type of imagery you’ll be using moving forward.
That's it, that’s all!
Not only are brand boards a must-have for business owners taking a DIY approach to their visuals, they’re also really fun to look at. Once you’re done building yours, be sure to share it on Pinterest and then share it with me on Instagram – I would love to see your final result!