The Ultimate Guide to Designing a Brand From Scratch

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Brands rule everything around us and we don’t even realize. From CPG to SaaS, brand is arguably the most important element of any business. It makes attracting customers easier and making sales less of a headache. A brand is the window into a business’s soul. 

The big boys make it look easy with their massive budgets and big teams. But for the solopreneur, small business owner, and newbie entrepreneurs, creating a brand isn’t so easy…or is it? 

Good news, friends. Designing a brand can be extremely easy. This guide will show you how to design a brand from scratch in under 24 hours. No design experience required.

Before reading on you should know that this guide isn’t for professional or even intermediate designers. Further, I’m certain this guide will leave a sour taste in professional designer’s mouths. Ultimately, this is for people with little to no experience designing. Doesn’t matter if you consider yourself creative or not. If you need to design a brand quickly on a budget, this is for you. 

Here’s what we’ll go over: 

  • The simple brand design process 
  • How to create your brand’s identity 
  • How to choose and use the perfect color palette 
  • How to create important design elements like logos and marketing creative
  • What the best free, easy to use tools for designing are and how to use them

I turned these into three Design Phases:

Phase 1: Ideas 

Phase 2: Develop

Phase 3: Grow

 
Brand Phases 500x500.png
 

Before moving on, I want to debunk a few myths about designing brand assets…

Design Myth #1: You have to hire a designer to create beautiful brand assets

When you’re just starting out, ballin’ on a budget, you don’t have to hire a designer. You’ve got options. Lot’s of ‘em. Here are a few: 

  1. Use Canva. Hands down the absolute bestest design tool for non-designers in the universe. I’d marry Canva if I could. 
  2. If designing makes you sick or you simply, “don’t have time,” use Fiverr to find a designer. 

Design Myth #2: Designing things requires expensive software

Dude. It’s 2017. “Expensive” software only exists for massive enterprise companies. You’re a solopreneur straight ballin’ on that budget. Options for designing beautiful images on the cheap are plentiful. Here’s a short list: 

  1. Canva - FREE or $9.95/month for some nice feature upgrades. I’ve used this for years and still love it. 
  2. Stencil - FREE or $18/month for PRO. Unlike Canva, Stencil is “built for speed” and allows sharing directly to social media, plus integrations with other publishing apps like Buffer
  3. Design Pickle - $370/month for unlimited design requests. A bit pricey for scrappy solopreneurs, but worth the dill if your business requires heaps of new designs regularly. 

Design Myth #3: You have to be naturally creative to design

Are humans creative by nature? Negative. We’re born with creative abilities, but according to phycologists, creativity is a skill that needs cultivation. The good news is creativity can be learned with some exercise. It’s just like getting in physical shape but instead of training your body, you gotta train the brain!

Starting anything new is challenging, especially creating something from scratch, like a new brand. You just have to start. Don’t keep planning things. Don’t just think about things. Take action and start. 

Start today. 

 
If you're waiting for a sign this is it.
 

Design Myth #4: Creating an entire brand takes a long time

Not with this guide it don’t! You can design all the assets you need to launch a brand within 24 hours using the tools mentioned above. If you don’t think you’re creative, I’m here to tell you that’s complete nonsense. 

“Idea, Develop, Grow” is your roadmap to brand design success! We’re about to dig into those phases in a minute. Patience…

After we do, get into a design platform like Canva and just start designing…

 

 

Alright. Your creative confidence is on the rise. Next, it’s time to understand the brand design process. Hold on tight. Once you know how to create the assets you need for your brand, you’ll be launching like one of Elon Musk’s Rocket Ships. 

 

 

Brand Design Phase 1: Ideas

“Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything” 

-Chris Sacca

But for the sake of starting somewhere, Ideas are important when you want to create a brand. Hell, ideas are important if you want to create anything at all. Without ideas, you have nothing. 

I’m writing this guide for you because I had an idea. And similar to the process I’m using to write this, the process for creating a brand begins with having some ideas about what you want your brand to be. 

There are two actions steps in this phase: 

  1. Competitive Brand Analysis  
  2. Learning the five W’s

The first action, Competitive Brand Analysis, is looking around at your competitors and other similar companies in the market to get a sense of what you and customers like or don’t like. As a new player in your space you’ll want to differentiate your brand from the competition. 

Although, I have seen emerging companies incorporate elements from their competitor’s brand on purpose to be instantly recognizable and associated with already well-established companies. Kinda like what Shipt did by choosing green as their primary color, just like Instacart.   

 
shipt vs instacart (1).png
 

Generally, you want your brand to be different and unique. Getting to know your competitor’s looks will help you do that. 

Next, you’ll write out the five W’s for your business. Notice business is in bold here because, obviously, you need to have a business (product or service) to have a brand. You’re going to analyze your business to inform the development of your brand… 

The five W’s: Who, What, Where, When, Why, of your business are going to help inform your brand’s identity in Phase Two of the brand launch strategy. 

Get these five W’s on paper:

  • WHO is your customer?
  • WHAT are you selling?
  • WHERE will your customers find you? 
  • WHEN will customers need you, WHEN will you be available for you customers? 
  • WHY should people care? 
THE 5 W'S

When I’m thinking about a new brand or helping a brand with marketing, understanding these super basic W’s helps me wrap my head around their business. This step is an essential foundation for the work you’re going to do in Phase 2: Develop.  

Brand Design Phase 2: Develop

You’ve done the competitive research and looked in the mirror at your business. Now we can design a Brand Identity and start creating! 

Designing a Brand Identity could be a huge project. We’re keeping things simpler. ‘Phase 3: Grow’ exists for a reason. You can always rebrand at a later time, if necessary. But you’ll want to at least understand the fundamentals of designing a brand identity. But first a…

DISCLAIMER: If you have spare time, are building a “big business” beyond being a solopreneur, then it’s probably worth spending more than 24 hours designing your brand identity. 

There’s seven key elements to brand identity design: 

  1. Clear purpose and positioning 
  2. Thorough market research 
  3. Likable brand personality 
  4. Memorable logo 
  5. Attractive color palette 
  6. Professional typography 
  7. On-brand supporting graphics 

By now you’ve done enough market research to help you get clear about your business and brand’s purpose and positioning, so let’s skip to the third element of brand identity design- brand personality. 

Your brand has to be likable for people to care. So a good place to start in discovering your brand’s personality is to think of your brand as human. If your brand could walk, would it have swag? If it could talk, what would it say…? Think about the personalities of brands you personally enjoy for inspiration.

Put into action: 

 (Image: Fabian Geyrhalter)

(Image: Fabian Geyrhalter)

Next, associate the keywords you chose for your brand with one or more Brand Archetypes. Consider the archetypes your brand's personality type(s).

 (Image: Fabian Geyrhalter)

(Image: Fabian Geyrhalter)

In the end, brand likeablity comes down to one question- do YOU like your brand? Design it until you love it. 

Design a Logo

There’s more than one way to skin a cat…

There’s also more than one way to make a logo! Which could actually halt people’s progress because of paradox of choice. Womp. 

 

 

Choose a logo maker and go for it. In the early stages you can always upgrade your logo, no problem. All else being equal, here are some suggestion for getting a killer logo made, based on budget: 

  1. Canva - free. Not sure what else to say about Canva besides it’s an absolute must have for scrappy solopreneurs. I mean, you already have Canva, don’t you? The downside is you have to design your logo yourself. But the good news is Canva supplies some pretty sweet templates to start with. 
  2. Fivrr- $5 minimum. Find freelancers to design a badass logo on the cheap. 
  3. 99designs- $299. You make a request for a logo and 99designs summons it’s minions, aka wildly talented designers, to earn your business. Up to 30 designers will send you logo renditions and you choose whichever you like best. 

Your logo isn’t going to make or break your business but its pretty darn important if you want to attract people and look professional. Getting your logo right is the firs step in not looking like an amateur.

Choose a Color Palette

Moving right along. It’s time to choose some colors for your brand. The pros call these colors a “palette.” It’s a range of colors that are aesthetically good looking together. 

Before choosing, just like in the previous steps, consider who your audience and customers are as well as your brand’s personality when choosing your color palette. 

You may be able to get away with choosing random colors that work well together. But doing so is silly considering all the beautiful color palettes you can find on the interwebs. These color palettes are pretty rad. Surely you can find a nice one for your new brand…

Take your color palette and load that bad boy into Canva for maximum productivity and cohesive brand awesomeness! 

Just recently Canva launched a Color Palette Generator. Just upload a photo and Canva will pull the colors to design your custom palette. Whoa. 

Canva Color Palette Generator

Choose Your Typography

The right typography will draw your audience in whenever they find you and help you tell your story with energy and good vibes. Canva has a badass interactive tutorial that teaches how to choose the right fonts/typeface/typography. It’s free. 

Google has also built a massive directory of open source designer web fonts.  You’ll definitely discover some rad font combinations here.  

Another great place to explore unique designer fonts is Da Font. Not as interactive as Google Fonts but you’ll find some gems here for sure. 

Typography brings out your brand’s personality. Choose wisely and have fun with it. 

Supporting Graphics

You may have noticed a correlation between your brand’s personality and important elements like the logo and typography. Well, supporting graphics aren’t any different. They have to be consistent and professional. 

Canva has heaps of graphics and design templates. Use them and have fun with them! 

If your customers are plumbers, you’re not going to have a bunch of spaceships and computers as supporting graphics. And if your customers are astronauts you probably don’t want a vintage/retro feel about your brand and supporting graphics. 

Astronaut Plumber.jpg

Choosing and using on-brand supporting graphics is common sense. Use yer brains and choose some cool supporting graphics that make sense for your audience. And have fun with it. 

Brand Design Phase 3: Grow

By now, you have everything in place for your new brand to look and feel like the real deal. #Winning 

This last phase, Grow, is meant as a reminder to evolve and re-evaluate your brand soon after your launch. Could be three months after, could be six months after. Put a date on your calendar and stick to it. 

Some items for you to ponder during this re-evaulation period:

  1. How has my target audience reacted to my brand?
  2. Is engagement with my brand (business) where I need it to be to hit my goals? 
  3. Consider how YOU feel about the overall brand. You still into it? 
  4. Ask for help- look to your network and ask the smartest people you know how they feel about your brand and how they’d improve it

How can you tell when your brand is ready for an update? If your business has evolved or your brand is just outdated, it could be time. 

 

Ready to creatE A brand PEOPLE LOVE? download our free "Brand Creation Checklist" to quickly guide you through the process.