Something I’ve found that just isn’t talked about by other brand designers is exactly what makes a brand identity feel impactful and evocative.
To look at this we need to look at the core principles of what makes design (as a whole) impactful. Branding is about creating something that’s true to the business and the clients and customers the business wants to attract. But also, in simple terms, it’s about really great design.
There’s one key design principle I’ve identified that’s at the heart of impactful work. It’s the principle of Contrast. For example, shadow and light, colour contrast, empty space and filled space, size contrast.
I wrote a post about how and why contrast works as a branding principle in the linked posts below so have a read of those if you’re new round here.
- How to create soulful branding for your small business
- 4 steps for creating a strong and evocative brand identity (91 Magazine blog)
In essence, the principle of contrast is used in all areas of design – interior design, architecture, music, all creative fields. In a world where we’re increasingly craving something a little different, getting inspired by those outside our own industry can lead to stand-out design that pushes the boundaries in our fields.
Weaving contrast through different areas of your branding and business
After identifying this key branding principle, I wanted to talk to some fellow small business owners about this idea and see how they use it themselves. I’ve come to the conclusion that the idea of ‘light and shadow’ is a key thing we can tap into for all aspects of building our brands and running our businesses. It can show up in so many different ways.
In their own words, I’ll share how some of my clients and small business friends use the principle of Contrast in their brand and how the idea can be taken further too – to the core of what they do.
Contrast can help us create a brand identity that feels alive. Contrast can help us create work that is striking and evocative. Contrast can help us run a business that feels balanced and doesn’t lead to burn-out.
How my client Safiyyah uses the principle of contrast in her artwork
“When I started painting, I mainly used pastel colours and stuck to a similar tone. But I noticed that I wasn’t ‘loving’ my results. Looking back I felt like there was something missing but at the time I just couldn’t pin point it. So I decided to try experimenting with different colours during my explorative painting phase. It was during this experimentation that I realized the importance of contrast and how it can bring a painting to life.
Incorporating contrast and playing with darks and lights has made a huge impact on my work, not just in terms of gaining more traction in selling my art, but also in terms of the overall look and feel of my paintings. By using value to create flow and tell a story through my art, I’ve been able to create a cohesive and engaging Instagram feed. I know my paintings need a backdrop and they sit very well with my moody floral photography in my feed, which I have always had a passion for capturing even before I started to paint.
My process involves planning and adjusting intuitively with colours, contrast, and scale. This approach helps me create art that is both visually appealing and tells a story. It helps the eye travel around the page and each flower gently guides the eye to the next. I’m really happy with how my art has evolved, and I’m excited to keep creating and improving.”
Safiyyah Choycha – Safiyyah Studio
How Kimberly uses this branding principle in her photography
“I create products for which scent plays the biggest role so selling online can always be challenging. Instead, I try to highlight a feeling or a mood that the scent evokes in order to give people an idea of the way one of my products might make them feel.
The idea of creating contrasts to bring life into your brand really resonated with my own experience. I had some photography experience in the past (shooting interiors) but I had never done product photography before and so when I started my business in 2021, that was its own challenge.
As a small maker, I was doing everything myself including my own product photography. Every tutorial I found online advised not to shoot in bright sunlight – the shadows that were cast would be too harsh and softer light was preferable but I was never really happy with my product photography. I knew my products were lovely looking (I had worked so hard on the branding to get that right) and I had plenty of styling experience from my interior days, but I felt like my product photography just felt flat – it was as if it was missing something although I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I began following some photographers on Instagram hoping to pick up some tips or inspiration and I noticed the photos I was always most drawn to were the ones which comfortably played with light and shadow. And so I decided to toss out that rule of shooting only in a softer light.
I began experimenting with shooting in bright direct sunlight, playing with the shadows the textures created and embracing those light/dark contrasts. Once I started to do that, I realised how much more life my photographs had. Those feelings I was attempting to evoke became so much clearer and stronger in my product images. I’m slowly working through my entire product collection to reshoot everything in this new style.”
Kimberly Duran – Swoonworthy Scents
How my client Tee has woven this idea of contrast right through to the core of her company, and how we built this story into her branding
“HUSTLE has long been a word that resonated with me. It can get a bad wrap, but in my mind, HUSTLE means leaning into high, positive energy and activity, the DOING.
I wanted to explore a counter energy to sit alongside the HUSTLE, something to balance that high, go-go-go energy. Still positive, but one that allowed me and YOU to rest, recharge and reflect. One that gave us permission to BE.
Our company name HUSTLE + hush represents my belief that we need both HUSTLE and hush (in our own unique, dynamic ratio) to be our most brilliant, authentic, wonderful selves.“
The Venn diagram sitting in the heart of the logo represents both the hush and the HUSTLE energy and the space within us that exists in the intersection between the two.
Tee Twyford – HUSTLE + hush
Read more about the meaning behind the branding on the HUSTLE + hush website here.
Does this branding principle resonate with you? I’d love to know if you can identify areas of your business where you’re already using contrast. Join us in the Tree House Community (it’s free) to chat! Sign up here.