Getting the name right is one thing. Getting the look of the name right is another.
And that’s where the design of your brand – from your logo to your website to your business cards – comes in. Visually, your branding is your opportunity to have an identity in what are often very crowded industries – without it you might as well be a name in a phone book. As Amy Christer, Theatre Programmer and Producer at Leicester’s The Y Theatre, puts it:
“In a competitive (and creative) market it’s vital to create a brand that is recognisable and stands out among the rest.”
For those designing brands for a living, being derivative is a sin, as designer and photographer Ross Underwood warns. “Statistically speaking, in a world where a consumer’s attention span was measured at an average of 8.25 seconds in 2015 (source: statisticbrain.com), a company needs to stand apart from the competition,”he says. Ross has this advice: “Design can achieve a great number of things for a company. Becoming noticed and recognised visually is just as important as having a positive and profitable reputation.
A decision on a brand, a logo, or even a name for the company and what typeface it’ll be presented in can be a blessing or a curse.
In my experience you can’t stand out with gimmicks, as the design needs to instantly engage and tell your consumer the kind of business you are. Choose subtly over brashness, as anything complicated will lead to confusion for your consumer. You want to create intrigue, as this leads to a positive reaction, which in turn will create revenue. When designing brands myself, I tend to start at the boldest and most outlandish design possible, and dial it back inch by inch until I reach the right look and tone.”
Many in the arts industry would agree that a brand is more about personality than flogging one’s wares, especially as your brand will be competing against all those other brands with fantastically creative and innovative creators at the helm. As Joanne Wdowiak of branding and website design company a dozen eggs says: ““Branding is just as important in the creative industry as in any other sector – perhaps even more so.
Establishing a strong brand is vital in expressing who you are, what you do and who you do it for.
For many of us in the creative industries, the visual aspects of a brand should be a strength and a passion.”
The visual aspect of a brand is crucial for a creative business, as it’s the window dressing through which people see your service or product – without a physical window to dress, a virtual one is the medium through which you grab attention, make a statement, lure customers and use design to showcase your creativity.
Back to Ross Underwood, who warns that, although communicating those key messages should be about being relevant in terms of trends, it’s important not to follow the herd. Especially not one full of either well established or low quality competitors (and every herd is likely to have both). “Although keeping up with current trends is key to having a successful marketing campaign, one should never imitate design,” he warns. “This is the pitfall many start-ups have when marketing themselves. It tends to decrease value in the product instantly and represents them as a ‘cheap knockoff’ over their more professional looking counterparts.
Take inspiration yes, but remember these words: innovate, never imitate.”
If you’re an artist or performer, getting the look and feel of a project right puts you ten steps ahead in your marketing strategy. As performance poet Rob Gee can testify: “In terms of marketing to audiences (mainly fringe festival audiences in my case), I’ve learned that if you get the title and image of your show right, you can sell out a good-sized venue without flyering”. That’s one hardworking brand doing its job properly.