As a Design Solopreneur I know a thing or two about start ups and owning an SME, not just from my own direct experience, but also form the experience of working with many such companies and individuals. Over the last 15 years or so I’ve learned that one of the things that features way down the list of priorities for the majority of of Start Ups and SME’s is branding, and more essentially the importance of having brand guidelines. But its never too late to start putting things right so below are my 6 Brand Guideline Tips Every SME or Startup Should Follow.
Consistency, consistency, consistency… thats not a tip, that is an essential. In order for any brand to become established and recognisable it must be reproduced with consistency across all media platforms and marketing channels. Your brand cannot look one way on your business card, another way on your brochure and a completely different way on your website, in all cases your logo should be clearly identified as being your business. So now lets look at 6 Brand Guideline Tips Every SME or Startup Should Follow in order to ensure consistency, trust and recognition.
When you’re in startup mode it is very easy to de-prioritise your logo and branding in order to concentrate your finances on your product or service, but this is a big mistake. Having a professionally designed original logo doesn’t have to cost a fortune, so it really is better to hire the services of professional graphic designer to handle this work from the very start.
Too often I have come in to work with SME’s who have gone down the road of either doing the logo themselves, or getting a relative who has MS Paint (or some equivalent) on their computer to do it. The net result of this is that you have an uninspiring logo that neither sets you apart from the competition or makes you stand out in a world that is overloaded with visual content.
Worse still on the list of mistakes that start ups make is deciding to go down the route of using a cheap logo design website. These websites can charge as little as €1 for the logo you download, so just imagine how may versions of this logo they have to sell in order to make any real money from the design. Got that figure in your head? Well thats how many people are also using your exact same logo, quite literally there can be thousands of other businesses using the same brand as you.
If you want to stand out, then set aside some money for your branding and promotion and bring in the pro to do it for you, in the long run this will bring so much more benefit and value to your business. Where possible try to enlist the services of one designer who can provide all your graphic and web design needs going forward. If you can find a gem like this then there is no need to read on over my next four tips as your super designer will do everything you need to keep your Brand in line. As outlined in point one above you logo should be unique enough to make it stand out from all the other white noise, and also set you apart from your competitors. Most logos use a unique signifying device or emblem to do this. These take many forms, and in general either try to capture the product or service of the company or attempt to accentuate the company name, (think Apple or Twitter).
With your Emblem design the best work is a mixture between simplicity and creativity, try not to over do it by attempting to pack too many symbols in one small space, this will only lead to complications down the line when it comes to resizing your logo for different uses. If I asked you what colours where in you logo would you know? Would you tell me they are green and yellow, red and white etc.? If I asked you what their CMYK or their RGB values were, would you know? Most people don’t and they don’t keep a record of them anywhere which leads to your brand being reproduced incorrectly across deferent media.
Most Logos get designed either using CMYK colours or Spot Colours and these colours should be used on other areas of your design board when designing something for print. However when moving to design for web it is good to convert these colours to web safe colours using the RGB values. When designing your brand guidelines always ensure that you know the corresponding RGB colour for your logo to ensure it gets reproduced faithfully on your website.
Also something key to bare in mind when it comes to colours is how your logo will reproduce on different backgrounds, for this reason you should at least have two colour variations of your logo (your main version and its inverse), as well as a light mono colour and dark mono colour version. Similar to Colours above fonts are another common issue for SME’s and Start Ups when it comes to branding, but they are a little trickier and may even land you in hot water. Do you know is your logo font Serif or Sans? Do you know the name of your font? Again these are essential things to know if you want to keep your brand in line, and stop it from becoming what I term an “Exploded Brand” (one that uses different colours, fonts and emblems across various media platforms, leaving many irregular pieces in multiple locations).
Why I say that your font may land you in hot water, is because, similar to the use of images fonts can be subject to copyright laws. While I offer no legal advice here I would recommend that it is something you learn more about. Depending on the emblem and/or font used in your logo it may not always fit in well where there is a lot of other information being shared in the same space. What happens in this instance is that your logo can get reduced in size to the point where the writing or emblem are illegible. In this instance your brand has been reduced to insignificance and can lead to it seeming to be devalued… your brand should never be devalued.
For this reason it is important to set clear guideline on the minimum size that your logo can be reproduced at. For example, as a basic rule of thumb I tend to not like having any of my client logos being reproduced at less than 100 pixels in width, an that there should be at least 10 pixels width all around to ensure other information isn’t framed in on top of it. PSD, EPS, AI, PDF, JPG, PNG – some of these file extensions you will know, some you won’t, some you will be able to open without specific software, some you won’t, some you will be able to use in print and web, some you won’t. Know the difference between your file formats and their uses and ensure that you have a version of your logo in as many formats as you need.
When it comes to keeping versions of your logo always ensure you have master copy high resolution versions that can be edited, for example an 8bit png file may be ok to use for web, but try to use it on a high resolution print production and your brand will look like a video game from the 1980’s. I generally recommend that you should have your logo in high resolution EPS, PDF and JPG, if you have these then any good designer worth his salt will be able to work with them.