Giving Your Brand A Voice
I've done some digging, now what?
In my last post, we went over how I start a passion project. Decide on a topic of interest, do some digging, throw in a survey, compile data, and boom! Time to start thinking about a brand. First things first, what is a brand? This article is has a really good overview of it, but for the most part, I define a brand as:
Consumers' beliefs and feelings towards a company.
A company can guide a brand through a variety of things logos, color palletes, and imagery, but that doesn't matter if at face value, people have a different experience. For example, you're going shopping at a boutique downtown. It's bright and open and super cute. There's flowers everywhere and lots of white. This is how the company is pushing their brand. However, when you go to try on some clothes, the sales woman calls you fat. You are not happy and will likely never return to the boutique again. This is how face to face interactions can shape a brand. Pretty logo and storefront, bad customer service. That's all you'll think about if you ever interact with that store again.
As a company, this is a nightmare. You never want to be associated with a bad experience! That's how you loose customers. Obviously, the answer to this problem is to hire better staff, but in this article I'll be going over how to entice the customer into the shop in the first place or to interact with the company first.
Audience & User Personas
An easy first step is to think about your audience. Who do you want to walk into your store? I'll be using the data I collected from my survey to drive this. With most of my respondents being females, I'm comfortable saying that my audience will be female. Building off of this, I can say they most likely have never visited a cat café, but do own either a cat or dog. So they are an animal lover. For my age group, I don't want to constrict it too much, but I don't really want young children running around a cat cafe. A majority of people were between the ages of 19-25, but I want to be a bit more inclusive, so I'll say ideally 18-45. My target audience is looking like women between the ages of 18-45 who love animals. Pretty generic right?
When we want to get more specific about branding, it's a good idea to develop some brand personas. These are much more specific and meant to help give future designers a guide to how new content should be handled. Here's one of mine for this project. I like to do 3 to really think about my customers and how my design might impact them.
When developing user personas, I like to focus on their personality traits and backgrounds the most. Again, this can really help future designers create new assets for a brand. The picture, name, and age are really only jumping off points in my opinion. Once you develop 3 of these personas, start thinking about places they would visit and why. For example, Mia goes to the dog park a lot. Why? She has 2 dogs. She's also looking for a new brunch spot. Why? The old one is too far from her home and the girls want to try something new.
Now, I can collect images from places she would visit, pair them down, and begin to develop my mood boards. When designing, it's good to create multiple iterations of everything. 3 personas, 3 mood boards, 3 brand directions, 3 logos, etc. This allows you to not only fully flex your creative muscles, but also think about different solutions to your problem and potentially develop something really unique.
Brand Universe & Mood Boarding
I like to design an inspiration and a mood board. The inspiration board is a bit more generic than the mood board. I will put things that inspire my brand or already exist into it and use it to push my mood board to be a little more refined. For both, I'll develop 3-4 words that describe what the board represents. For this mood board, I would use "Elevated, Artistic, and Natural". These words are reflected in the color palette, the art style of the images that I chose, and even the interior and exterior of the buildings that I chose. You can already start to get a feel for the direction that I'm taking my brand.
If you're struggling with finding a direction or are just unsure of how to step into this portion of the process, you can also develop a brand universe. This can help set the tone of voice for your brand as well as set goals for your company. This is generally something that marketers do before they present a concept to a branding team. But if you're doing a passion project, I recommend taking the time to create one as well since it gives you a little bit of insight into your own brand and looks great in a portfolio. Here is a look at the set up of a brand universe board as well as the definitions of each section. The brand extrinsic and intrinsic values should give you some strong insight into which direction to take your mood board.
Some of the extrinsic features of my brand were peaceful, warm, elevated, and inviting. I wanted to take a different approach from many of the current cat cafés that have very bright, happy, open brands. These brands utilize a lot of whites and blues and to me, it feels like they focus more on the cats than the café. I'm looking for more of a balance. Now that I've determined the style I want to move forward with, I begin sketching. I've had a name in mind for a while. "Maü". Cute but also classy. It sounds like a cat, but presents some unique opportunities in the area of word marks. While I was running through names, I started with simply "Cat Café" and then started brainstorming other words that went with that. Some of the other names I could have taken were Coffee Cat, Kafé, or Cofé. Now that my name was decided, I could run through typefaces to begin creating a word mark.
Word Mark Development
I start this process by typing out the name of my brand and then just going through different fonts in alphabetical order to see if I can find something that really speaks to me. You can see here I pulled about 9 fonts from my library. From there I double checked that these were web friendly fonts. This is an extremely important step in today's day and age since pretty much every company should have an online presence. So always double check that your typeface is web friendly.
After doing that, I further narrowed it down to 3 typefaces that I felt spoke to my brand. From there, I grabbed the most unique one and began experimenting. I matched it with scripts and sans serifs, images, messed with the kerning, played with the colors, and boiled it down to a direction that I thought was strong. I then came back to those three words from my mood board. Elevated. Artistic. Natural.
Did the typeface I chose for my word mark represent all three of these things? Honestly, no. I felt like CopperPlate strongly represented elevated and artistic, but was lacking in the natural department. So I decided at add an additional element to my word mark to compensate for this problem. It also helps me create a more versatile word mark since elements of this can be used separately or together. Since I'd been working in 3s, I decided to start with 3 designs. Of course, I think it would be fun to create a library of these designs and create a new, unique one for each cat that is in the café. However, that is something that can be done further down the line. You can also see how I am starting my process of drawing these and finalizing these.
Basically, I'll take these compositions and finalize them in Illustrator. This will create scalable vectors that won't pixelate when scaled up or down. As you can also see, these illustrations lend themselves to a variety of uses from stamps, to enamel pins, to hanging artwork. But I'll go over that in the next article. We'll also go over photography style, creating and finding mockups, and putting together brand guidelines.
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