July 26, 2018

Why your small business needs brand guidelines—and how to create them

Filed under: Branding,Small Business — lidia @ 5:38 pm

Why your small business needs brand guidelines

I was recently designing packaging for a small business and when I requested their brand guidelines, she had never heard of the term. I’m guessing this is common for many small business owners. Or else, you have heard of brand guidelines, but don’t know where to start when it comes to creating them for your business.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines (also sometimes called brand standards, style or identity guidelines or graphic standards) provide a detailed overview of your business’ (or product’s) branding—from the graphic look and feel to the overall voice and tone. It assures that everyone in your organization—as well as outside partners and vendors—are expressing your brand consistently and accurately.

Since many small business owners are managing many (if not all) marketing tasks internally, having strong brand guidelines can make marketing and promotion of your business (or product) much easier as there is always a reference point. Plus, it keeps everyone inside and outside the organization on the same page (literally!)

Why your small business needs brand guidelines

  1. Consistency: It keeps your branding and marketing consistent across all print and online media.
  2. Efficiency: When you have a reference point for your marketing pieces, you can create them more quickly and efficiently.
  3. Professionalism: When all of your marketing materials are consistent and on-brand, it shows people you know what you’re doing.
  4. Convenience: When everything is in one place, it helps your partners and vendors (such as graphic designers, photographers, writers and print vendors) do their job faster and easier—which also saves you money.
  5. Accuracy: When brand details are easily accessible, it helps to avoid costly mistakes such as using the wrong color or font on a printed piece.
  6. Continuity: When everything is in one place, necessary brand assets such as logos or brand colors, can be easily accessed when needed and project delays can be avoided.
  7. Onboarding: New employees can get to know your brand quickly and easily, so they can get to work faster. It also provides them a constant reference as they get acquainted with their new job.

What should be included in brand guidelines

A good set of brand guidelines will assure everything people see and experience related to your small business is an accurate expression of your brand. So, what should be included?

Before getting started, think about how your organization will use the guidelines:

  • What types (and channels) of marketing do you use? (i.e. print, digital, social media)
  • Will your in-house team mainly use them or will you share with outside vendors?
  • If you work with outside vendors, what types of work do they produce? (i.e. brochures, flyers, advertising, email marketing)

At the very least, the following should be included in brand guidelines:

  • Mission and vision statements: including verbiage about how they relate to your overall brand.
  • Logo usage: including sizing requirements, clear space (the space around the logo that separates it from other design elements), logotypes and icons, logo lockups (i.e. if the logo should always appear with another element such as a tagline, date or URL). It’s also a good to include misuse examples, for example: the logo should not be stretched disproportionately or used smaller than ¼”.
  • Taglines: including when and how to use the tagline, and where it should be placed in relation to the logo.
  • Fonts and typography: including allowable primary and secondary fonts for both print and online usage. Optionally, include examples and/or suggested usage for headlines and body copy.
  • Color palette: including primary and secondary color palettes for print (Pantone, CMYK) and digital (RGB, HEX) usage.
  • Imagery: including suggested types of photography and illustration that should be used, as well as when images should be used. May also include recommended website for purchasing stock photography or illustration and/or image guidelines for in-house or contracted photographers.

Depending on your small businesses’ needs, you may also want to include:

  • Voice and tone: including writing guidelines for print marketing, as well as digital marketing such as blogs and social media outlets.
  • Sample layouts: including commonly-used marketing templates such as business cards, stationery, flyers, brochures or print ads
  • Social media guidelines: including an overview of how your brand will be expressed on social media (if available, include an overview of the business’ social media strategy and editorial calendar)
  • Guest author guidelines: including guidelines for writers who will contribute articles to the organization’s website, blog or social media.
  • PR reference: including organization blurbs (ranging from a 5-word blurb to several paragraphs), staff bios, headshots, and other materials that may be needed for PR opportunities. Include filenames and shared drive locations for easy access by all staff members and contractors.
  • Email signature: what should be included (logo, name, title, email, phone number, legal verbiage, other relevant links) as well as the specified format (text, HTML). Have a template handy on a shared drive to supply to new employees or contractors.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it can be as simple or complex as your small business needs. And enlisting the help of a branding designer can make it much easier. Believe me, it will all pay off in the end. As a designer, I know how frustrating it can be to search for logos, color specs and other necessary design elements when working on a project.

Need inspiration or examples?

Sometimes the best way to get started developing brand guidelines is to see what others are doing. A good place to start is by Googling “brand guidelines and [your industry or business]” to see examples.

Or check out this roundup of 80+ brand and identity guidelines from various organizations and brands around the world.

Need help creating your brand guidelines? If you can’t tell, I love creating them. Let’s chat!

June 20, 2018

3 Ways Your Organization Can Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

photo by pexels

The Summer Solstice, in agricultural terms, is a time when crops are in full growth and approaching harvest. But why let farmers have all the fun? Here are 3 ways you can use the energy of the Summer Solstice to assess and foster the growth of your organization.

1. Conduct a branding audit

How has your organization grown in terms of branding? Is your brand accurately telling your story? Is there room for improvement? I suggest to my clients that they perform a branding audit at least once per year, and this is the perfect time to do so.

Download my Branding Checklist.

2. Make a list of this year’s highlights

We’re all accustomed to making “to-do” lists, but how about making a “done” list? This is a list of your organization’s growth and accomplishments. Some ideas are: program highlights, speaking engagements, events, press mentions, new services or programs, growth in membership or supporters, etc. I actually recommend doing this on a regular basis. Personally, I keep a note in Evernote and I update it monthly.

3. Review your marketing campaigns to-date

Make a list of this year’s marketing campaigns, along with the results for each. What were your successes and why? (Don’t forget to add them to your “highlights” list) What areas of improvement are there? How has your organization grown or moved forward this year?

Download my Marketing Campaign Assessment template (Google Doc)

However you decide to celebrate the Summer Solstice, I encourage you to step back from the daily work of promoting your mission, and admire the growth of your organization. You deserve it!

 

June 18, 2018

Recap: A to Z of Design blogging challenge

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

For the last 4 years, I’ve been participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge—a daily blogging challenge during the month of April.

Last year, I started a series called A to Z of Design (including basic design terminology for non-designers) but work/life got in the way and I never finished it. So this year, I restarted the series and I’m happy to say, I finished it!

Read the A to Z of Design and learn design basics—everything from A (alignment) to Z (zip)!

See my past A to Z blogging series’, A to Z of Being a Mom in Business and A to Z of Branding.

June 15, 2018

Creating a better world for my children—one design at a time

Filed under: Biz Mama — lidia @ 9:15 pm

Lidia Varesco Racoma on CWC

I spend a lot of time interviewing moms in business for my online community Biz Mama, but I rarely share my own story so I was thrilled when Creative Women’s Co. (a Chicago-based group that hosts intimate gatherings for creative women entrepreneurs) asked to interview me.

Read on to get a peek into my creative inspirations, what a typical day looks like, and why I do what I do.

01. Introduce yourself.

Hello! I’m Lidia Varesco Racoma of Lidia Varesco Design, a branding and marketing design studio in Chicago’s West Loop. I help education-focused organizations such as nonprofits, associations and entrepreneurs share their mission and make an impact. I also outfit kids in good design with my line of baby and kids apparel, typebaby and have an online community for moms in business called Biz Mama.

02. Summarize your life in a few sentences.

I’m a mom of two—kids and businesses (my kiddos are 2 and 6 years old) and my husband is also a creative (writer) so I am creatively-challenged and inspired in both my work and home life.

03.Tell us about your education background.

I graduated from the graphic design program at Columbia College Chicago and was lucky to have talented professors working in the field, as well as an amazing internship at a small design studio that turned into my first job. This helped pave my own career path.

04. How did you start your business?

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I always knew I wanted to have my own business. I had an amazing mentor at my graphic design internship-turned-first-job (thanks, Robin!) so after getting a few more years of experience, I took the plunge and started my design studio in 2000.

05. What inspired you as a creative woman?

I am inspired by what I see around me. I’m a very visual person, so I need to be constantly surrounded by images and words (technology has made this much easier and neater!) Now that I have kids, my children also inspire my creativity as well as my problem-solving skills.

06. What was your first job ever? Any funny or memorable story?

My first job was in middle school as a receptionist at our local church rectory. It was by far the quietest, least stressful job I’ve ever had. In high school and college I worked in retail, which provided many opportunities to hone my customer service skills.

07. If you can build a million dollar company, what would it be?

Basically, I want to help create a better world for my children. I want to help as many organizations as possible get their message out so they can focus on making a difference. I do this by offering nonprofits and other small- to mid-sized organizations the type of strategic design they would get from a large agency but in a more affordable, accessible and personal way. I also aspire to grow my Biz Mama online community and bring more awareness to the many amazing mom-owned businesses out there. We are all in this together!

08. Walk us through your day.

I start off my day with breakfast and getting the kids ready. After I drop off my son at school, I work in my studio until school pickup time. Evenings are generally family time, but I catch up on work or social media in the early morning or evenings. Weekends are generally work-free zones.

09. What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

The highlight of my career was having my design work featured in HOW Magazine (twice!) I’ve been reading HOW since I was in design school, so seeing my work on their pages is an honor and a thrill.

10. Share a quote/advice that you’d like to tell the 25-year-old you.

Don’t rush—you’ll get there. I still have a tendency to try to do too much too fast, so I would encourage my younger self to be patient and know you have plenty of time to achieve all your goals (not to mention, the new ones that will come along!)

This post originally appeared on the Creative Women’s co. blog

Learn more about Creative Women’s Co here.

If you are a mom in business, visit my Biz Mama page to submit an online interview.

May 15, 2018

How smart is your social media branding?

Filed under: Branding,Marketing & Promotion — lidia @ 1:15 pm

How smart is your social medai branding

Social media is a smart way to promote and increase awareness for your organization or nonprofit. In fact, social media may be the first point of entry for a prospect or supporter, so you want to make sure your branding accurately tells your story.

What is social media branding?

Social media branding is how your organization is perceived on social media. This encompasses both visual (logo, imagery) and verbal (writing, voice) but for now, we will be focusing on the visual aspect.

Keep it consistent

One of the first steps to social media success is having well-designed and consistent branding throughout. You want people to easily recognize your organization or nonprofit wherever they may find you on social media.

Design a smart social media brand

The first step is to claim your page on all the major social media channels (even if you’re not using it yet): LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest (just to make a few). Ideally, you should choose the same username for all social media channels.

Then, you need to upload the required images, which usually includes:

  • Profile
  • Header
  • Cover
  • Background

You can use the same or similar images for each social media channel, but be aware of the different sizes and specifications required by each. Whatever you do: DON’T just drop in your logo or stretch it to fit!

TIP: Sprout Social has a great “always-up-to-date” social media image size reference here.

Have some fun with it…

With many of my logo design clients, I will create a custom version of their logo specifically for social media purposes. And since you are not limited by paper size or ink colors, you can get creative with it. For example, Facebook now offers business pages the ability to upload a video profile image.

Bring more awareness to your events or programs

You can also create custom social media graphics, headers or profile images to promote special events or programs within your organization. And don’t forget to create a custom hashtag for the event too.

Your social media branding can—and should be—constantly evolving. How well are your telling your brand story?

I know it can be overwhelming keeping up with ever-changing social media specifications and the myriad required images for each channel. Let me help! Check out the social media branding we’ve designed and then give us a call.

 

 

May 10, 2018

DESIGN DEMO: Tracking

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , — lidia @ 2:14 pm

When you are typesetting a presentation or other large design, it’s always a good idea to adjust tracking (letter spacing) as large gaps between letters can be more noticeable at large sizes.

May 2, 2018

A to Z of Design: Z is for ZIP

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , — lidia @ 3:47 pm

A to Z of Design: Z is for ZIP

A ZIP (Zone Information Protocol) file is a file format that compresses multiple files into a smaller, more manageable size. ZIP files are easily restored by clicking to unzip the file.

I always recommend creating a ZIP when sending multiple files—especially if sending font files as they can get corrupted in transfer.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

May 1, 2018

A to Z of Design: Y is for yard

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 5:06 pm

A to Z of Design: Y is for yard

Ok, so we don’t actually use yard measurements in graphic design, but I had to stretch my creativity to find a design term that starts with Y!

Back when I started out (ahem, before computers took over), graphic designers had a unique measuring system that was all our own. It consisted of points and picas and I loved it because it was based on multiples of 12 (and therefore easy to calculate in your head).

Points are still used for measuring type sizes (as well as things like paragraph leading) however picas have gone the way of agates (another design measuring system, which was slightly before my time). I was a pica holdout for quite some time, however I finally gave in and reluctantly started using inches.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

A to Z of Design: X is for x-height

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , — lidia @ 11:18 am

A to Z of Design: X is for x-height

X-height is the distance between the baseline (the line a letter sits on) and the top of a lowercase letter, excluding ascenders and descenders (the parts of the letters that extend up or down). The name comes from the fact that x-height is measured by looking at the height of the letter “x” in a typeface.

Typefaces with large x-heights may appear crowded when used in body copy, and will need extra leading to assure legibility.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

April 30, 2018

A to Z of Design: W is for weight

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 3:24 pm

A to Z of Design: W is for weight

Weight is the range of a typeface stroke’s width. Most type families are available in weights of Normal (or Regular), Semibold, and Bold. Some also include weights such as Light and Extra Light or Heavy and Extra Bold.

The weight of a typeface is especially important to consider when designing a print piece with small type as too light of a typeface could be illegible.

Weight should also be considered when designing for the web as light type weights can seem to “disappear” on computer screens or mobile devices.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

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