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What is branding? How can I reflect myself in my brand style? Do all the pieces need to be similar? Those were the many questions I asked my teachers when I was studying graphic design. I never understood the concept of brand style until I did this exercise. Learning how to use storytelling techniques and to create a visual message is the center core of branding, in my opinion. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. In today’s post, I’m going to show you the exact AH-HA moment of the power of brand style using a simple brainstorming technique to get your juices flowing.

Oh gosh, branding is such a big word. I myself didn’t understand it when I was studying it college. I thought that every piece must look alike and there was that with something in common. Nope, I was totally wrong. I learned this through a project I did in college.

BRAINSTORM EXERCISE

Through this exercise, I learned HOW exactly to transmit my ideas to visual components. We had to pretend that our favorite music band was going to play a concert in our town. They hired us to create their brand identity system. CAN I SAY THE PRESSURE WAS ON, ha-ha. Our project was to create a new brand identity using their music style as a reference. I am a country girl. I grew up in the south mostly. So, it was natural for me to choose The Lummieers.

THE CATCH

The rule was to only use their music beat and lyrics as a guideline. Nothing else. I couldn’t use their image brand profile, logo, style, nothing. The idea behind this was to get rid of a preconceived judgment of them and just work with what they gave us: music beats and lyrics. Kinda like WE as designers were the judges on THE VOICE, and we had to envision the music visually to pass to the next round.

BREAKING DOWN the music jam BRAINSTORMING PROCESS in 5 easy steps

First: I picked out 1 song that I love. You know what I’m talking about. That one song that you can’t get out of your head, no matter how hard you try.

I chose “Flowers in your hair”.

Second: I listened to the music with all the bells & whistles. While listening to the song, I started to jot down whatever popped out of my mind: drawing, doodling, words. My pencil did the thinking for me.

Third: Once I listened to the music, I started to highlight words and drawings that stuck out to me the most.

Fourth: I solely read the lyrics as if I was singing at a karaoke bar with a mic. I wrote down the first word that popped into my mind: rustic.

Fifth: I solely listened to the instrumental part of the music. Closing my eyes, I could picture myself as going through the emotions. I could picture myself being that girl with flowers in her hair, romancing about the man she began to love through the up and down journey of life.

Below you will see EXACTLY what I wrote in my notebook when I finish this brainstorming jam process:

Flowers in your hairs, when we were young – sunlight, grass, summer, colorful, daisy, running through a mellow with my dog. Summer sweet tea., happy go lucky, feeling the dirt between my toes, smelling freshly cut grass.

These became the tone words that will inform me every decision I made to moving forward.

Writing down these phrases, words, and doodles, I had enough of a brand vision to proceed onto the next task at hand: Creating a brand style.

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TRANSLATING BRAINSTORM INTO BRAND STYLE

After doing this exercise, I realized that I had embodied the emotions of the band The Lumineers. I will soon discover that this was how storytelling comes into play when creating a brand style.

Let’s define what exactly is a brand style.

“A brand style guide is the primary visual DNA”

So, in other words, brand style is a way to use visual language to express its personality and connect with its audience.

Once I had my words and phrases down on paper along with the 5 senses:

Words/Phrases:

  • Down to earth
  • Summer in hair
  • Sweet
  • Graceful
  • Wholesome

5 Senses:

  • Smell: Fresh grass
  • Touch: Roughness of dirt in between my toes
  • Sight: Bright sunlight shining through the flowers in my hair
  • Hear: Laugher
  • Taste: Summer sweet tea

MOODBOARD: COLORS + IMAGES ARE THE WAY TO GO

Now that I have my words, it is time to create a mood board. But wait! What exactly is a mood board anyways?

The easiest way to define a mood board is an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of texts, etc., intended to evoke a style or concept

The simplest way to use Pinterest (or even a simple Google search) to find images with tone words is to search pin words with a tone word, with a combo of what they do.

I tended more towards the Natural & Warm color palette. Tones of moss green, olive green, terracotta, golds, and browns give a real earthy feel to this new brand style. In my mind, I saw a girl with flowers in her hair running through the grass mellow laughing in a small town, with the sun shining from behind. A sense of familiarity, the outdoors, simple, cozy warm colors.

Once I had enough imagery, I proceed in narrowing down my choices of images. Narrowed down my pins to 12-15.

What do I mean by narrowing down my choices:

2 images per each tone words. So, in that way, I made sure each image brings a unique value to the mood board.

The goal here was to step away from the obvious and create a systematical clarity for your brand style. A system not too like one another but not too wide; just the right amount. And yes, just like how Goldilocks was finding her way around the Bear’s home, the same situation applies to creating a unique branding system.

TAKEAWAYS

It was a learning process but I’m thankful that I went through it. I learned

  1.  A brand identity is NOT a replicate one main design element duplicated many times in different shapes and forms.
  2. Create the obvious without judgment. It can and it SHOULD be the worst thing you ever created. And then put it aside. Get it out of your system.
  3. Don’t be afraid to use different methods of brainstorming. Sometimes mind mapping works like charms, and sometimes it doesn’t. Take it from Designer Ellen Lupton’s book: Beyond Brainstorming “Working within the constraints of a problem is part of the fun and challenge of design” 
  4. Create a story in your head when you are looking for images/colors/words when you are creating a mood board to inspire you:
    • What do they struggle with?
    • How do they want to feel?
    • What are their quirks traits?
    • What energizes them?
    • What drains their energy?
    • Where does their motivation come from?
  5.  When you are finding yourself stuck on inspiration, use your own experience to create images. And then jot down an emotion. If your story involves overcoming a situation, maybe you’ll want to use images for your brand style of someone reaching the top of a mountain. Pull from the themes of your story to help inform your visuals.
  6. Most important: Trust yourself. Believe in your story and your experiences. Your message will come across visually. It’s important to know what you want to share with your audience, and why you want to share it. Your messaging goals should examine why, what, when, and how.

GET INSPIRE

How do you get inspired by your brand? Do you use a unique brainstorming technique? Listen to music? I’d love to hear in the comments. Also, be sure to click the graphic below to sign up to learn more about my music jam brainstorming technique to use for your brand style.

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Author: Creative Halcyon - Vittoria Daelli

Vittoria is the brand + web designer behind Creative Halcyon. She helps creative entrepreneurs ditch the brand and website shame and step into their role as a CEO by crafting a brand that will capture their ultimate goals in their business. Creative Halcyon's mission is to leave some positive impact on the world.

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