6 DIY steps to create a visual identity and logo

One of the first marketing tools you will need to develop for your business is your visual identity. 

Your visual identity is a core component of your overall brand.
When we talk about brand we mean much more than a visual identity, and when we talk about visual identity, we mean much more than your logo.
Brand is the overall promise or experience you give to customers and the set of expectations they have of you. It is what will influence people to choose one product or service over another.
You can refer to my previous blog post about developing your brand story for more information on how to build your unique brand story.
Here we will focus on your visual identity.
What is visual identity?
Visual identity is all of the visual design elements that make up your brand. It includes you logo, but also your brand colours, preferred fonts and style.
A successful visual identity will reflect your overall brand promise.
It is critical that your visual identity is delivered consistently across all communication platforms and touchpoints, whether it is advertising, uniforms, emails, websites or internal memos. This will help to build brand awareness and create a sense of belonging and pride for loyal customers, employees and other stakeholders.
Your visual identity must be clear and represent your organisation in a professional manner that speaks to your target audience. 
Where to start?
Just a word from the wise, visual identity is worth investing in, that is, engaging a professional designer who has a good reputation and impressive portfolio. It is entirely possible to create your own visual identity, but if you get it wrong it can be an expensive mistake to fix later on.
That being said, many organisations when they first start out find it difficult to find the budget for professional designers. There are a few options available to you, where you can completely DIY, or do a lot of the groundwork yourself first, to minimise the budget you need for a designer.
Here I will cover off some points to enable you to DIY or develop the foundations of your visual identity.
From a practical perspective you will probably want to start with your logo, as this will enable you to print your business cards and create the marketing platforms you immediately need such as our website.
Don’t jump into this too quickly, as there are many other parts of your visual identity you should consider first that will influence your logo design.

1. Consider your brand promise and style

You should have already developed your brand story by now and have an understanding of your values, strategic vision, point of difference and key target markets.
Go over your brand story and have it clear in your mind, how you want to be portrayed.
Start researching other logos and brands that portray a similar style of brand or statement that you would like to make.
Remember you want to differentiate yourself from the competition so look at their visual identities as well to make sure you can stand out.
Cut out or print copies of images that give the feeling you want to create. For example, are you going for a retro style, a completely modern style, or something whimsical? Whatever you choose try to keep your personal preferences out of all of these decisions. The visual identity must speak to your key target market, not necessarily yourself.
Also decide if you will have a tagline or short slogan to represent your business and whether it needs to be incorporated into your logo and other design elements such as footers in document templates.

2. Choose colours
Building on the above thought process, consider what colours you would like to use for your business.
Different colours evoke different feelings and represent different types of businesses and services. Refer to my blog post on the meaning of different colours to inform these decisions.
Remember again that the colours should represent your brand and your organisation. They don’t need to be your favourite colours. Where possible you should try to differentiate yourself from the competition.
When selecting your colours you are looking for one or two main colours that will feature heavily in your logo and marketing collateral. However you should also choose supporting colours to give you more choice in design materials. All of your colours should complement each other.
It helps to obtain a basic understanding of colour theory as well as warm and cool tones. You can buy a colour wheel from an art supplies shop to help you. I have also used paint sample cards from the hardware store to get inspiration for different colours and mix and match them with other colours to see if they work well together.
Basic colour theory
There are a number of colour schemes to consider when trying to ensure the colours go well with each other.
Here are some basic themes.
Complementary colour scheme – these are colours directly opposite each other on the colour wheel such as red and green. Used together they have a big impact.
Analogous colour scheme – these are colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel. They can create a harmonious feeling.
Triadic colour scheme – these are colours that are evenly spaced around the colour wheel. This can be a quite vibrant scheme.
There are several other schemes you could use, but it is best to refer to a colour wheel or an expert to better understand them.
Warm and cool colours
You need to decide whether warm or cool colours best reflect your business.
Warm colours are vivid and energetic, and tend to have red and yellow tones.
Cool colours are more calming with blue and green tones whereas white, black and grey are neutral.
You don’t want to mix warm and cool colours (as a general rule) but this doesn’t mean you have to completely rule out whole colour groups. Since most colours are made up of a combination of the primary colours red, blue and green (blue and yellow), it’s possible to have warm and cool versions of the same type of colour.
For example, lime green can be a very warm colour if it has a lot of yellow in it, but it can also be cooler if it has more blue in it. A warmer lime green may suit a gym business as it suggests energy, where a cooler lime might suit a day spa and massage business where you want people to come in and relax.

3. Understand your colour breakdown
Once you have chosen your colours, it’s important to get exact colour breakdowns so the same colour can be replicated everywhere. Just because a colour may look one way on your screen, and when you print it, doesn’t mean it will look the same way on someone else’s computer or printer.
If you choose a specific lime green, you want it to be the same lime green on your business cards, as it is on your signage, as it is on your uniforms. This maintains the integrity of your brand.
This can be achieved by understanding the breakdown of your colours in terms of red, green (blue and yellow) and blue. As a minimum you will want to know you RGB and CMYK breakdowns. Your Pantone or PMS breakdown will also be helpful. You can try and determine the breakdowns yourself using the tips below, but this is one area where engaging a professional designer to help you can be worth it.
RGB – this stands for Red-Green-Blue and is the most appropriate colour breakdown when choosing a colour for computer screens. For example, websites and documents designed to be viewed electronically.
Teal is the main colour for my business and is a cross between teal and turquoise. It can be represented by the following breakdown.
RGB 0-138-151
You can check the RGB breakdown of a colour you use in a word document by selecting the text or background colour in a shape and clicking on ‘format’. When you choose colour, choose ‘more colours’ and then choose the RGB slider.
CMYK – this breakdown is used for printing with ink. It stands for cyan (a blue colour), magenta (a reddish colour), yellow, and key (representing ‘black)’.
The CMYK breakdown for my main colour is as follows:
CMYK 100-0-31-24
You may be able to check the CMYK breakdown for your RGB colour by choosing the CMYK slider instead of the RGB slider in Word, using the same process as described above. You can also try to use an online approximation tool to convert your RGB to the CMYK code.
PMS (Pantone Matching System) – Pantone colors are a result of specific mixtures of ink and can overcome some of the inconsistencies you may get with calibration between different printers that can result in minor CMYK variances. You would use a PMS or Patone colour when you want the colour to be as completely accurate as possible.
You can use programs such as Illustrator or Photoshop to help select a PMS colour close to your CMYK colour. You can find some instructions at this website.
The Pantone approximation of my main company colour is as follows:
Pantone 321C

4. Choose your fonts
Font choice is also important for different communication mediums and can evoke different feelings.
You should try and choose 2-3 fonts maximum (not including the font you choose for your logo) that will be used across your communication materials.
You will want to choose at least one serif font and one san-serif font.
Serif fonts are fonts where most of the letters have little tails, so the words run into each other. Times New Roman is an example of a serif font.
San serif fonts don’t have tails on the majority of the letters. The letters don’t run into each other, it is more like printing than say running writing. Arial is an example of a san serif font.
Generally speaking san serif fonts are great for headings and serif fonts are good for body text, as they encourage the reader’s eyes to flow onto the next word.
The exception is online or on websites, where san serif fonts are more user-friendly. Verdana is a very popular web font.
It’s a great idea to think ahead what fonts you want to use, as well as what size and style of fonts (bold, italics, underline) for specific situations and documents.
You can even create email signatures and templates for documents you intend on using a lot to ensure the fonts are consistently used. You can also develop rules for spacing, bullet point style. This consistency will support you brand and give your communication materials a professional look.
A couple of words of warning though. I recommend choosing popular fonts that would be available to most people when they open Microsoft Word or similar documents. Customised fonts are great in terms of building a unique brand but can cause difficulties if you don’t know how to protect their use and there may be licensing costs.
If a person receiving your communication material electronically doesn’t have the same font, their computer will choose a default font, defeating the purpose of selecting fonts for your brand in the first place.
There are a couple of things you can do to protect your font and the integrity of its appearance, such as converting documents to a pdf file or learning how to embed fonts. However sometimes this isn’t always feasible so it can be better to choose popular fonts.

5. Now design your logo
Once you have figured out all the above, you should be able to work on a logo that represents your brand, using appropriate colours and fonts.
When it comes to your logo you may want to get a professional to design one for you.
A professional designer will create a logo based on your brief about style, colours etc, but they will also give you the logo in different file types such as JPEG, PNG and EPS and on different backgrounds.
Without going into too much detail here, what you need to know is that you will need a high resolution version of your logo for high quality and large format printing, and a lower resolution one for on screen applications such as the website. Some file types also have a transparent background, which works really well for some design situations.
You may also want a colour one and a black and white one or even grayscale depending on where it will be used.
Some organisations have landscape and portrait versions made to suit different design situations. Additionally you can have logos with different background colours eg. One with a white background and one with a dark background, depending on where the logo will be used.
A professional designer will create all of the different versions for you.
However it is possible to create your own logo versions using design programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop.
You can also use DIY logo design online services such as freelogoservices.com, logomaker.com, logoyes.com or vistaprint.com.au

6. Create a visual identity guide
Once you have locked in the above details and have your logo, you should compile the key information in one guide that can be referenced by anyone who needs it. A Visual Identity Guide should be accessible and referred to by staff, printers, designers and marketing officers to ensure your brand is protected.
In your visual guide, outline your style, logo and how it should be used, fonts, colours and colour breakdown and guidelines and samples of how to use all of the above.

There you have it, a DIY guide for developing all or part of your visual identity. To stay in the know about my writing projects and to receive regular writing tips and articles like this, sign up here.
Kylie Fennell
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