Brand Journey: Part One

Part one of my series on the Gatlin Paper Co. branding process focuses on a super fun part of each project: the Brand Inspiration Board.

The word “brand” is thrown around a whole lot these days and is often misused. A brand is the impalpable essence of a company, a blog, or a venture. A designer cannot create a brand, only help the client articulate it. The brand identity is the arsenal of design elements that express the brand to the market. When I build an identity, the very first visual articulation of the brand is the inspiration board. It is a grouping of images that my clients and I collect which attempts to capture the aesthetic of the new brand. It is the first step in finally nailing down its wispy, hard to describe, and abstract “feel.”

During the onboarding process, I send each new client a link to a worksheet that asks questions about their mission statement, ideal client, design preferences, and also asks them to list keywords that they feel best describe their business. I have found that it is very helpful for both myself and my clients to have all of this information written out in one place, giving some cohesivity to the creative direction right off the bat. I focus on their keywords in particular when looking for supporting images for the brand inspiration board.

Since you have joined me on my own branding journey, I’d like to show you how this process played out for Gatlin Paper Co.

Here are my keywords for the business:

Let's see how this translated into the brand board:

(None of these photos are my own)

(None of these photos are my own)

As you can see, the board doesn’t have logos or typography, business cards or design elements-- it has a pictures of meat and cheese for heaven’s sake. Yet somehow the viewer gets a sense for the things that are important to myself and to my brand: paying attention to detail, finding visual harmonies, celebrating understated beauty, and experiencing the interplay of light and texture.

I refer back to the Brand Inspiration Board throughout the whole branding process, measuring my work against this “mood” that was created at the beginning of the process so as not to veer too far to the left or right. It is from the board that I pull color schemes, shapes, and inspiration for design elements down the road. In the next post in the series I’ll unpack the second step of the process: designing a logo.

If you had five keywords to describe your future business or blog what would they be? If you currently have a business or blog, do you feel like your branding is a good representation of your five keywords and ideals?

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