Although branding and website design is my jam, it’s usually one of the biggest things that non-designers say is holding them back in business.
If you’re a creative entrepreneur running an online business, there’s a good chance you spend some time obsessing over design. And it warms my heart to know that you’re serious about building an awesome visual brand because it matters. After all, people notice nice logos, they spend time on well-designed websites and they share eye-catching social graphics.
Whether or not you’re ready to work with a designer to take your visual branding up a notch, I want all creatives to have the resources they need to build a cohesive brand image. It’s important for me to share my tips and tricks because I know it can be a whole lot easier to attract your ideal customers when your image accurately represents what you offer.
That said, I have 15 things you can do to DIY your way to a tastefully-designed visual brand.
These tips will help you move forward with foundational stuff so that you can establish a branded look for your creative business, even before you’re ready to take things to the next level with a designer.
Oh, and you can use this post like a checklist. A cohesive visual brand will encompass pretty much everything I cover in this post. To make things super simple, download this 15-step checklist and keep it handy as you work on designing your look.
How to design your own visual brand:
Let’s start here to set you up for success.
1. Clearly define your brand personality and style.
Sometimes it can be helpful to list a few words (i.e. fun, friendly, bold, simple) that define you or your business. This list of 3-5 words are core elements of your brand’s identity and should be reflected in every design choice you make moving forward.
2. Align your look with with what appeals to your target audience.
Make sure your visual identity is inviting to your ideal customers by considering the colors, images and even other brands they already prefer. If you’re not sure if the look you like will be appealing to your audience, try the first tip listed here.
3. Keep it simple when it comes to designing your logo.
For non-designers, I recommend going the text-only route to keep things easy. Stick with two fonts (like a sans-serif + serif combo, or script + sans-serif/serif) and one color. This is pretty much a no-fail plan for DIY-ing your way to a solid logo.
4. Don’t overthink things.
Call it the curse of creativity, but it’s way too easy to get all wrapped up in wanting to convey every last element of your brand with each design choice you make. When you start worrying about perfection or abstract stuff like “artistic meaning”, you lose momentum. Go with your gut and get feedback when you really need it.
5. Make a simple style guide.
You can do this on a Pinterest board or just save some images into a Google doc. Nothing fancy. All you need to include are specific colors, fonts and maybe image types or patterns/textures — just the basics visual elements of your brand. Need help finding inspiration that fits your ideal image? No problem, here are three ideas.
Web design decisions can be a beast, but the tips below will make them a breeze.
6. Decide how you want your site to function.
The whole point of having a website is to serve and appeal to your ideal audience. Start with a service mindset when you’re deciding how you want your site to function. What will people actually DO when they arrive on your website? Set it up so it’s simple to use and make it easy for your ideal audience to clearly understand how you can help them.
7. Determine if you need your site layout to be highly customizable.
If you’re a photographer whose primary goal is to display a nice-looking portfolio, then you’ve got a sea of easy-to-use website design options available to you. But let’s say you’re a life coach who wants to sell infoproducts, run a blog and give clients a place to book calls online — you might have to dig a little deeper to find something that fits your needs. Feel like you could use a little help with this step? This post is a good place to start you in right direction.
8. Ask for recommendations regarding themes and templates.
Facebook groups are great for sourcing advice on this sort of thing. Make a post in a group full of creatives. Briefly explain what you do and what you’d like to include on your site. End your post with a question like, “Does anyone have a recommendations for a theme or template I should use? What about a good place to purchase themes and templates?”
9. Have high-quality images on-hand.
Here are some options for getting good images: have a photographer take some for you, take some yourself (even use your phone — I’ll show you how) or you can use stock photos. Unsplash is a great place to start if you decide to go the stock photo route.
10. Check that your theme can be customized to fit your brand.
When I’m picking themes, I always go with highly customizable options that can evolve with a person’s brand. A good example of a really customizable theme is Divi by Elegant Themes (aff link).
Join the conversation and communicate your value with stunning, straightforward social media graphics.
11. Aim to serve on social.
This is more of a mindset/strategy tip but it’ll set you up for success as you work on your brand image for social media. Decide on 2-3 ways you’re going to deliver value to your followers. Will you entertain them? Inspire them? Inform them? Motivate them? Whatever value you decide to deliver, pick 2-3 post types (per channel) that’ll will actually deliver that value. For example, maybe you decide you’re going to inform your audience with a Facebook post about a new, how-to blog post on your site.
12. Communicate your value right away with cover photos.
Your cover photo should act a little bit like the home page of a website — it should let people know what you do. In fact, my Facebook cover photo is the exact same as the banner image on my home page of my site. This keeps things consistent and recognizable.
13. Create templates for most shared images in your industry.
A lot of people share quotes on social media. So if that’s your thing, I would create a graphic template in Canva to quickly share quotes. Another great way to help your brand stick out is to create a template for blog images. If you need some help here, check this out.
14. Keep post graphics clean and simple,
A SUPER clean and simple look will be seen by more people. You audience has to spot your social posts in a busy, moving feed. The less you have “going on” in your graphics, the more recognizable they will be. Your best bet is big, readable text on a relevant background.
15. Create a consistent look across all post types.
The goal here is for followers to see your social posts — and stop scrolling because they want to see your stuff. This means they have to know your look, and that comes down to consistency. If you love using neon backgrounds — make sure you’re doing so at least 80% of the time. If you’re into geometric shapes, animal prints or vintage images, same thing — stick with it 80% of the time. Just keep it consistent.
Once you complete the steps covered in this post, you’ll have DIY-ed your way to a cohesive visual brand. Don’t forget to download my 15-step checklist here so that you can keep it handy while you’re designing your amazing new visual brand.