1. Does my brand increase my business’s value? If it doesn’t, then it is actually decreasing its value.
2. Does my brand tell my story? If it doesn’t, then it’s just words and pictures.
3. Does my brand differentiate my business from the competition? If it doesn’t, then there is less reason for customers to choose you.
Here are a few pointers to see if you’re on the right path, or if you’re just getting started, things to look out for. Does your brand fit into the left column or right?
Like writing, using metaphor and symbolism is more powerful than literal imagery. Review your brand to see if your logo and collateral are using symbolism to engage deeper levels of thinking, more meaningful messages, and originality.
SYMBOLIC: Evolution Fresh designed a system of abstract colors to represent each fruit used as an ingredient. The result is beautiful, unexpected, and meaningful.
LITERAL: these drink packages literally show what’s inside; the result is boring, unimaginative, generic. They make no effort to stand out as unique products, and if they’re the same as everything else, why not buy something else?
Far more than the other categories here, balance is something that you have to “have an eye” for. But sometimes it’s obvious if something is unbalanced or feels off. If you ever hear designers talk about use of white space, visual weight, the rule of thirds, or compositional harmony, it has to do with balance.
BALANCED: a balanced design can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical and often uses white space to compliment areas that are visually heavier.
UNBALANCED: these designs are cluttered, dense, and hard to look at. The individual elements do not come together as a whole.
Contrast can either be the range between light and dark colors or placement of more important objects near less important ones. It is one of the best tools to create visual interest.
GOOD CONTRAST: these designs use both light/dark contrast and heavy/light elements to draw the eye directly to one area.
LOW CONTRAST: in these examples all the elements are about the same size and level of brightness. Legibility is decreased and it’s not evident what is important.
Another area where some have a better eye for color connections, a simple rule is to limit your brand pallet to 4-5 colors maximum. Use at least one very bright color and one very dark color or one bright color and one dull color in your palette to create contrast.
COLOR HARMONY: these brands add unity and cohesiveness to their brands by limiting the color palette and carrying interchanging colors from one product variation to the next.
COLOR DISCORD: picking a different color of the rainbow for each variation is a common mistake. It differentiates product variations at the expense of losing the brand’s cohesiveness.
We could write entire books about good typography practice—and there are many—which can make an astounding difference in making design that looks amateur or professional. Typography is 25% art and 75% science; there are firm rules that make it appear better or worse. In general, do not use system fonts (like Arial or Verdana), and limit your entire brand to 2 different font families total.
STRONG TYPE: fonts can be just as expressive as photos or illustrations. What style matches your brand? Is it generic or clichéd?
WEAK TYPE: poor type practice includes more than 2 font families, styles that are inappropriate for the feel of the brand, and adding effects that decrease legibility.
The easiest way to create order in a layout is to use a grid or temporary guide lines. Every element that is added to a layout creates invisible lines that the eye uses to link one element to the next. If elements are not aligned properly it creates a disorderly look.
ORDERED: you can often use left, center, or right alignment to easily create order—but if done incorrectly it can look boring.
UNORDERED: when elements are not completely aligned, but close, it creates a sloppy, uneven appearance as if things were randomly placed in the layout without thought.
Uniformity creates a feeling of cohesiveness, familiarity, and professionalism. Repeating your logo and design elements across collateral creates uniformity and brand standards/guidelines keep them in place. There is a line however; too much uniformity can become mundane.
UNIFORM: limiting elements like color palette, fonts, shapes, and layouts creates the feeling that everything belongs to a single brand.
IRREGULAR: lack of uniformity fragments a brand and creates a disorganized appearance. Simply placing your logo on everything does not work.
Hierarchy refers to the order of how the eye views a layout. Done correctly, this means the most important piece of information is the first thing that draws the eye, the second most important is second, etc. It’s tempting to want to highlight everything as important but consider the saying “if everything is bold, nothing is bold.” Make a simple text list of all the content in your project and reorder them with the most important on the top.
GOOD HIERARCHY: there is a clear order of importance in the layout and the eye moves from one element to the next intuitively. The effect draws attention and creates clarity of information.
POOR HIERARCHY: when you often have mere milliseconds to capture a customer’s attention, even one millisecond wasted is important. What is the most important piece of information in these products? Trying to highlight too many elements also creates a feeling of desperation.
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