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12 mistakes to avoid when designing your brand identity

Brand Identity
min read
In this article

Are you in the process of designing your brand identity? About to start? Or maybe you’re hiring a brand designer to help you with the brand identity design process? Either way, we want to make sure you do it right so that you have an amazing, effective, efficient, kickass brand identity that does what it needs to do. To make that happen, let’s talk about the 12 mistakes to avoid when designing your brand identity.

Mistake 1: Not doing strategy first

The key to an effective brand identity is designing it intentionally. Choosing colours and fonts and other brand elements is fun, but that needs to be done strategically to make sure that they attract the right people, position you in the right ways, reflect you and your personality perfectly, and will work towards achieving your goals.

Without this, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll end up having to redo the branding design process when you realise that you’ve spent all this time making fun stuff, but it doesn’t actually work. It’s not attracting the right people, the trend you based it on at the time is now out of style, or it’s not working for where you’re at in your business now.

To avoid that, you need to start with strategy. Take the time to understand who you are, how you want your brand to reflect you, and what you want it to say. You can then use that information to make sure your visual identity reflects who you are, works for your future goals, establishes your personality, and positions you precisely how you want it to.

Mistake 2: Forgetting your audience

There is no point in creating a brand that you love but attracts the wrong people, or worse, no one at all.

As well as understanding how your brand needs to work for you, you also need to pinpoint your ideal people and know what they like so that you can create something that will appeal to and attract them.

First, uncover who your ideal audience is, and then do some research to understand what they’re into. This could include other brands that they like, how they decorate their home, the clothes they wear, what colours they’re attracted to, what things capture their attention, and other insights that will influence how you can entice your ideal people with your brand identity.

Mistake 3: Skipping moodboards

Just like not doing strategy first, jumping straight into the brand design without doing a moodboard first can result in a lot of wasted time. It’s better to spend the time defining your vibe and refining your visual direction so that you know exactly what you want it to look and feel like before you start spending time on the details of the design.

Without a moodboard, you’re creating things without a plan, direction, or strategy to inform your decisions. That might lead to pretty designs, but pretty doesn’t pack enough of a punch when it comes to branding. Your visuals need to have a clear, strategic direction, and creating a moodboard allows you to outline that direction as well as make the design process more efficient. So instead of guessing when it comes to your brand and designing a hundred different things that don’t work, start with a moodboard.

Mistake 4: Overcomplicating things

In branding, simple is almost always better. When it comes to your logo especially, the more simple it is, the stronger it is. Forget about complicated, detailed illustrations, complex gradients, or other fancy things. Across your brand, keep things simple. A strong, simple brand that leans on core design principles will be much more impactful, help you stand out, and be really effective in the long run.

Mistake 5: Creating a logo that doesn’t scale or apply everywhere well

If a logo is too complicated, detailed, or over-designed, it won’t scale well. This can result in a messy brand that doesn’t look professional and leaves you feeling stuck when you try to use it effectively.

A good logo design needs to look amazing at its smallest size such as your website’s favicon, and at its biggest size, like on a billboard. They also need to look amazing on a plain white background, colours, a pattern, a photograph, or wherever you want to put it. You might need multiple types and formats of your logo too that can be applied in different situations or layouts so you can make the most of your logo.

At Maker & Moxie, our logo is strong, simple, and comes in three different versions and a range of different colour options. Having this system and suite of logo options means that wherever and however the Maker & Moxie logo is applied, there’s an option that will work in that space, it always looks good, and everything is consistent.

So when you design your logo, keep it simple & scaleable.

The three Maker & Moxie logo variations in different colours

Mistake 6: Having too many brand elements

As creatives, it’s hard to choose when it comes to colours, typography, and all of the creative options you could apply to your identity. But too many logos, colours, fonts, patterns or other elements, will dilute your brand and make it harder for you to design things effectively.

It’s better to be known for ONE colour and choose an effective colour palette to support it, than have all the colours in the rainbow. It’s also practically better to choose 1-2 typefaces that you can use in impactful ways to contrast each other, than having multiple that clash and create confusion.

Maker & Moxie is known for our two core colours, pink and orange, and the Dida and Sofia Pro fonts that we use. This enables two things: one, people recognise Maker & Moxie for those things and we stand out so they can spot our work, and two, it’s super easy for me or anyone else using my brand to create assets because they have a clear, limited range of options to choose from. This succinct system of elements means we have the flexibility to create an almost unlimited range of designs, while still staying on brand, consistent and recognisable.

Mistake 7: Not having enough elements

On the other hand, while it’s important to restrict your brand elements to stay consistent, you don’t want to go far and constrict yourself. You need enough colours, fonts, and other brand elements to make sure your system is still flexible and future-proof.

For logos, you’ll want to have a main version and potentially 2–3 alternative versions like an icon, one with a different layout, and a badge option.

For a colour palette, around 5 colours is a good number to aim for, including 1–2 core colours, a secondary colour, and two neutral colours such as a dark grey and light cream.

And for fonts, stick to 1–2 typefaces that work together and contrast each other well. You can use different weights of those fonts too. For example, one of our typefaces is Sofia Pro and we use the regular, semi-bold and bold fonts.

This small but powerful range of brand elements will give you the flexibility you need to create whatever you want no matter where your business takes you, while still keeping everything clear and consistent.

Mistake 8: Just thinking about the logos, colours, and fonts

We’ve talked a lot about the brand trifecta of logos, colours, and fonts, but a brand is so much more than that. While those design elements are super important, you also need to think about the other aspects of your identity.

Don’t forget to create a plan, strategy, and designs for your photography, illustrations, icons, patterns, textures, and more. These are the brand elements that will take your identity to the next level, but they’re often forgotten. Only when you go to design your website or create content for social media will you realise, “oh crap, I haven’t planned my brand photoshoot, or I never decided what my illustrations should look like!”

This will then lead to last-minute, off-the-cuff decisions that aren’t aligned with your overall brand strategy and will result in a super messy brand that’s full of random assets down the line.

So take the time now to outline and design what your entire brand should look and feel like, not just the logo, colours, and fonts.

Mistake 9: Doing what you “think” you should, what others are, or what’s trendy

An effective brand needs to be TUFF: Timeless, unique, flexible, and future-proof

Leaning into trends, what others are doing, or what you think you should be doing, means your brand won’t be timeless, unique, or future-proof. Instead, it’ll be like everyone else’s, you’ll have to change it when that trend is over, and it won’t support you and your goals going forward.

So when it comes to designing your visual identity, forget about what everyone else’s looks like. Don’t look at anybody else’s Instagram page, or go checking out other people in your industry to see what they’re doing.

There are a lot of brands out there that all look the same, blend together, and don’t stand out from the crowd anymore. That’s because they’ve all done this: followed trends and watched what one another are doing. That’s not the key to a stand out, next-level brand that attracts the perfect people for you, and blending in is the opposite of what we want for you!

So do your brand strategy, stick to the plan that’s going to work for you and your goals, and stay focused on what your identity needs to do for you.

Mistake 10: Not having a style guide

When you’re designing your brand identity it’s normal to be thinking about how you’re going to use it in the immediate future. But you need to think beyond that too. Whether you collaborate with brands or have your work featured in podcasts or magazines, or you end up working with other people to help you build and grow your business, communicating your brand clearly is the key to keeping things consistent.

As the person building your brand, you likely have everything you need to know about your brand stored in your brain, but that’s risky! You might forget things, get distracted by shiny objects or run off in the wrong direction and try some random things that don’t align with your strategy. You also don’t want to miss anything or explain things wrong when you’re working with an assistant, social media manager, or anyone else involved in your brand.

Without brand guidelines, you and the others who work with your brand assets will be confused, guess what they should be doing, and make rash design decisions that don’t align with your strategy. This leads to a whole lot of mess and inconsistency across your brand, which is not what we want!

To avoid this, a brand guidelines document or style guide is just what you need. This will explain what your brand’s about and show the reader exactly how your brand needs to be applied and used to stay on-brand.

Brand guidelines examples from two different brands designed by me when I did brand design.

Mistake 11: Not creating a place to store everything

Similarly, to keep things consistent, you need to make it easy for you or anyone else to access your brand assets. Choose an easily accessible, collaborative tool that keeps things updated like Google Drive, Canva, Figma, or Notion, and store all of your brand assets in there together.

This can include:

  • Logos
  • Fonts
  • Colours
  • Photography
  • Illustrations
  • Icons
  • Profile images
  • Cover graphics
  • And anything else people might need to create things on behalf of your brand.

Make sure everything is up-to-date and named clearly so it’s easy to find what you need.

Mistake 12: Always keeping everything the same

And the last mistake that you might be making when it comes to creating your visual identity that I want you to avoid is always keeping everything the same.

Your brand can and should evolve. You, your work, your skills, and your approach will evolve over time, and to make sure you always feel aligned and excited about your brand, it’s important that your identity represents that.

You’ll also learn a lot about your visual identity as you start to use it, and might realise that you’re missing some elements, or some aspects need to adjust slightly, or there are other changes that could be made to improve how your brand is working.

Just like anything, if you don't make any changes, it's gonna get stale for you and possibly also for your audience. So don't get tied in and stuck on the idea that you have to keep everything the same, always. Don’t be afraid to let things go, grow, and level up It's actually incredibly empowering and effective, and exciting for your audience, when things do evolve, change, and develop as you do.

So make sure to check in on your brand identity regularly. Find out what’s working and what’s not, and add or adjust elements where you need.

Branding or rebranding your creative business is a super exciting process, but it’s one that takes time, effort, and often a big investment. So you want to make the most of everything that you’re putting into it. These mistakes aren’t here to shame you or tell you off if you’ve done them in the past, but instead to help you do the best that you can going forward so that you can build the most effective, intentional, impactful, and aligned brand identity for you and your goals. Whether you’re designing your visuals yourself or working with a brand expert, you can now go forth empowered to create intentionally, and ready to rock your new brand identity!

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May 24, 2023








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