The thing I find truly fascinating about visual branding is the layers of meaning that can be brought into the design work.
Layers of meaning and symbolism can of course be used in all types of visual art, but in my opinion, it’s an especially important part of branding.
To be clear, what I mean when I talk about symbolism here is the use of imagery like the illustrations in your branding to represent ideas or qualities.
Symbols can come to mean something in retrospect, and that will be true for imagery used in your branding, that’s true for many big brands and was certainly true for my own logo design. Sometimes the image comes first and it gathers meaning as the brand grows.
But it’s also wonderful to make design decisions from the outset based on what has meaning for you as a business owner, and also what will have archetypal meaning for your customers or clients too.
Again to be clear…
“An archetype is a term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses. Archetypes are defined as recurring patterns of situations, characters, or symbols existing universally and instinctively in the collective unconscious of man.” Citation
When we use imagery that has universal meaning behind it we’re holding up little green flags for our audience that show that we’re the same as them, we think the same, we care about the same things. This is the very start of building up that ‘Know, like, trust’ factor with your audience.
When we add a layer to our branding that has deep meaning for us as the business owner, it means it’s more likely to feel right for us long-term. We do it once, we do it well, and we do it with meaning.
Take this Moth design for Helena Rose Photography; There is a layer of archetypal meaning with the design that like minded people will be drawn to.
The style of drawing, the witchy vibe of the elements, the Moth being a creature that is drawn to the light. This last point makes sense for a photography business where working with light is part of the skill of the art form. These are things that we intuitively understand as humans when we look at imagery, without really thinking about it.
And then we uncover the symbolism of what the design means for the business owner. It’s a deeper layer that might not always be apparent at first glance, but it’s important none the less.
Here the Moth represents the ethical and sustainable businesses that Helena works with; they are drawn towards the light in the sense that they are conscious of the how they impact the world.
If possible, we’re looking for something that works on more than one level, but you can always combine symbols together or weave meanings into other parts of your brand identity.
If you’d like to explore weaving symbolism into your brand identity with me you can can apply to work together in my Signature Branding Package called 🌿The Unfurling.
A question I frequently get asked is how to make sure a brand identity stands the test of time. It’s so hard to work on your own brand identity; you’re really close to it and you see it so often that your own perception of it is skewed from what other people see. People need repetition!
The main thing to note about your brand identity is that people need to be able to identify you again once they’ve seen your branding the once. So there is a little wiggle room for variety, but things always need to be identifiable as being yours. This is where trends can harm you rather than make you necessarily look more up-to-date.
And so here are my thoughts on making sure your brand identity stands the test of time.
Firstly, you’ll need to think about what your brand stands for on a wider level. If you had to pivot and change your product or service, what values or elements of your story and brand would stay the same?
An example is if you’re a jeweller, your work and style might evolve over time, but what inspires you at it’s core probably won’t. What is it that’s at the very core of your brand – the why or how you got here?
It could be a set of values, it could be your story, it could be a number of things. I don’t mean all the rest isn’t important, it totally is…but you want to get right to the heart and work out what’s unwavering.
And so how do you translate that into design?
The fun bit! You’ll want to build these foundational things into your main brand identity – so into your logo and branding elements, your colours, the mix of fonts you use. It’s about finding the balance.
It’s not an easy process, but what I mean is that different parts of your brand foundation can come through in different areas. Always try to see the bigger picture of how things work together.
Not every part of your brand identity needs to convey EVERYTHING. That’s why you have different ‘moving parts’ (logo, palette, font system)
Colour is great for quickly conveying FEELINGS, EMOTIONS, and VALUES. Typography can show if your brand is MODERN, CLASSIC, or RUSTIC.
And logo icons, graphics, and illustrations can actually tell stories, or convey ideas and meaning in visual form. Everything works together to build a picture for your audience.
You’ll want to make sure it’s clear and that the things you’re showing are going to resonate with your audience. BUT at the very beginning you might not know your audience well, so don’t let that bit hold you back.
Focus on conveying the true essence of your brand so that people can quickly self-select. “That’s for me”, or “That’s not for me”.
The WORDS you use need to be much more rooted in the knowledge of who your client or customer is, and your WORDS are something you can easily tweak as you get more clear on that. Your brand identity is there to show the core of who you are (as a business), what you value and why, so that you attract like-minded people. Then you can have fun with trending things like gradients – as long as not every part of your brand identity is changing with trends, you’re allowed to have fun!
If you need more help with this don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com with your questions, I’d love to help. You can see the branding packages and other services I offer here.
Safiyyah approached me via Instagram and asked me to create a Brand Identity Design for her business and I couldn’t wait to get started working with her!
Safiyyah is a British born artist and textile designer based in Birmingham. She specialises in floral print and pattern, taking inspiration from her original art work.
Her unique watercolour style embodies the magical unexpected beauty and wilderness found in nature, with all its imperfections. Safiyyah’s style encapsulates nature in its entirety as she strives to transport you to a world full of enchantment and beauty through her art.
Her audience for her beautiful nature inspired artwork had grown quickly on Instagram and so she wanted to make sure her website and the packaging for her paintings and products was professional and created a beautiful client and customer experience.
Here is our goal for how the Safiyyah Studio Brand Identity needed to feel.
A BRANDING EXPERIENCE that MAKES YOUR AUDIENCE FEEL ENCHANTED and SOOTHED as they DISCOVER YOUR ART – an identity that is TIMELESS, with an IMPERFECT and APPROACHABLE edge.
This addresses 2 key things to help keep your brand consistent and strategic: (1) how you want to make people feel and (2) what words that you want them to associate with your business.
After we were on the same page about how the brand identity needed to feel, I put together a mood board to show the direction.
After the mood board phase I was excited to dive into the design and I managed to create something Safiyyah loved during the first design round!
I created a unique typography logo, hand-drawn the leaves and branches, and overlaid them with Safiyyah’s own watercolour work and photographs.
I used overlay effects in InDesign so that the different layers of the background somewhat blend together to create this gorgeous textural effect. It bridges the gap between Safiyyahs floral artwork and her landscapes and feels distinctive without taking the emphasis away from her art.
See the process video of the brand identity I designed for her, along with a closer view of all the details below!
Here’s what Safiyyah said about working with me:
Meg from Lemon & Birch was a joy to work with. She just completely understood me and my brand and created something that was full of magic and soul. She helped me create beautiful cohesive brand packaging that evokes a feeling of enchantment!
If you’re looking for stunning, professional branding head on over to my services page to see the packages I’m currently offering.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions, the chat box in the bottom right of the page is the quickest way to chat to me!
When creating a brand design, either for yourself or as a designer for a client, the most important step is getting the right information down on paper at the beginning. Talking on the phone or in person is sometimes important too, but a paper questionnaire allows time and space for reflection.
I don’t work with clients who come to me with a brief as such. They may have some ideas about the direction they want to go in which is great as a starting point, but I’m always wary of working with a client who wants to dictate exactly what they want their logo to look like.
Many graphic designers prefer to have a set brief to guide them and for some clients that is exactly what they want to give and that is fine of course. But the way I like to work is to gather lots of information in the beginning and then let that information guide me on the design choices I make. I’m guided by the persons story, how they got to where they are, and I’m always trying to infuse as much meaning into the brand design as I possibly can.
This is not to say that the client has no say in where the design goes – of course they do! The difference though, is that they are hiring me as a branding expert to steer them in the best direction for their brand. A direction that feels true to their business and who they are, and a direction that will also appeal to and make sense to their target audience/ideal clients.
And so, I thought it would be helpful to show you how I peel back some of the layers with the questions I ask my clients at the very beginning of their projects.
The important things to remember is that the person you’re working with probably doesn’t know the information you need in order to create a meaningful design for them. You are the expert, so you need to guide them.
And if you’re not a designer but are looking for someone to work with you on your branding, hopefully this will help prepare you for the experience a little!
Maybe this sounds like a super obvious question, but it really is necessary to ask it. Like I just mentioned, your client might not realise that this would be really useful information for you to have.
If your client is using their personal name for their business then maybe this won’t give you any nuggets of wisdom, but if they have chosen something other than their own name it can give you a wealth of information to start with.
An example of where this simple question really paid off for me is with a recent client of mine – Caroline, see her website here.
When Caro first booked in with me her business was called Blue Cicada Photography, but she wanted to rebrand to bring herself more into the centre of the business. She wanted to rename the business to her own personal name, the short and sweet ‘CARO’.
On the surface it didn’t seem like there would be any meaning to find from asking the question, but upon reading Caro’s questionnaire she surprised me with some beautiful information that really helped steer the direction of the project.
An extract from Caro’s questionnaire is below:
Is there any special meaning behind your business name?
There is [meaning behind the name Blue Cicada Photography] but I feel that I have moved on from there and that my business has evolved to be more about me.
It’s funny because recently, someone pointed out that cicadas stay in the dark until they shed the skin that protects them as they are growing.
Once it is done, they go in the sun and sing their heart out. I feel like this is me now. Enough staying in the “dark”, I feel more ready than ever to celebrate my business, who I am, what I can do and the skills that I have been working on for the past 20 years.
After reading this I knew straight away that although the Cicada was not going to be in Caro’s business name anymore, the imagery was still something I wanted to explore and perhaps keep in the new branding because it represented the history and story behind Caro’s business.
So this is a few questions in one, but sometimes I like to ask questions in groups to get my client thinking about not just each question, but how each question/answer interacts with each other. The three questions are separate, but they are also linked and there is probably some crossover in the answer for each.
I also mention that these questions might warrant a long answer and I make sure to say they can write as much as they like which allows the client to feel a bit more free.
Asking the questions together is almost prompting them to reflect and think more deeply and answer in long form rather than with a couple of sentences.
I love reading this section of the questionnaire the most because it really helps me to understand the persons history and the driving force that lifts them. Often, because the answer is longer than a paragraph I can pull out or highlight small sentences that feel like they could take me somewhere – as in they might be a starting point for imagery to explore for the logo and branding.
An example is a simple sentence I got from my client Katie when she was explaining her story is “I love the magic of translation” (she is a translator and copywriter). This gave me the idea that we could add a sprinkle of magic into the branding, nothing over the top, just a little something extra.
I don’t particularly like the word ‘competitors’ because I think if you have a strong and defined brand then the notion of competitors sort of fades into insignificance. Your brand can be so unique that for your ideal clients or customers, you are the ONLY choice for them to go for. I can write much more on this subject so let’s save that for another blog post!
The word competitor is easily understood by all though and most people will have a few businesses that they know they are somewhat similar to, so I do use it in this question.
Asking follow up questions like ‘What are they doing well/not so well’ helps me to understand what my client views as ‘good’ and ‘not for them’ in terms of business and branding. It’s always so interesting to see the answers to this question and it really helps to know who we need to differentiate their business from.
Often, clients might say a business is similar to them in terms of services, but they want to have a much different feel to their brand so that they’re attracting a slightly different customer. They may often describe this other businesses brand in words and so it gives me a benchmark and an understanding of what words they use to describe different ‘vibes’. This is really helpful because words sometimes mean different things to different people.
After working through all the answers my client has given me, having pulled out various snippets that stand out, I will head over to Pinterest to begin to find some imagery that feels like it matches with all the information and come up with a visual direction for the branding.
This is such a fun part because I will get to try various combinations of colours and imagery to see what feels right. This is where words lead to images and images lead to more images and I’m sent down a wonderful rabbit hole!
I try to look for inspiration not just from branding that has already been created, but from other sources, like book covers, magazine layouts, beautiful artwork, tiled patterns, interior decor, and nature (to name just a few).